- Bill Belichick: He’s still here, and still the best head coach in football after all these years. Not even the asinine Deflategate scandal could slow down the Patriots dynasty, and now they’re looking for their second straight title and third in four years. (sound familiar?)
- Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis: Well, not every Belichick disciple was a winner. After this game, Weis took a head-coaching job with Notre Dame, where he was paid handsomely to restore the Fighting Irish to their glory days. That… didn’t really happen. Despite making a BCS bowl his first two years, Weis’ tenure hit diminishing returns and he got fired after going 35-27 in five years. He’s been out of coaching ever since a disastrous stint with the Kansas Jayhawks, where he went just 6-22 before getting canned in 2014.
- Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel: Like Weis, Crennel was an in-demand head coaching candidate that year, joining the Cleveland Browns after the Super Bowl. He went 24-40 in four years in Cleveland, though he did deliver the franchise’s best record since its revival at 10-6 in 2007. After a brief stint with the Chiefs, Crennel joined the Houston Texansas in 2014, where he remains to this day.
- Other notable assistants: Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia were on staff in 2004, because apparently time is a flat circle in New England. In 2005, Eric Mangini got promoted from defensive backs coach to replace Crennel as DC, before jumping to the New York Jetsjob one year later.
Players of note
- Tom Brady: Still going strong at age 40. I think we all know his life story at this point.
- Corey Dillon: After spending his first seven years with the Cincinnati Bengals, Dillon was traded to the Patriots and had his best season at 30 years old in 2004, leading the league with 1,635 rushing yards. He was a difference-maker in the Super Bowl with a touchdown and 75 yards. That was pretty much the last hurrah for Dillon, who got released two years later and retired in 2007. He finished with 11,241 yards and four Pro Bowls in ten years.
- Deion Branch: The Super Bowl MVP went on to set career highs the next year in catches (78) and yards (998). The Seattle Seahawks were impressed enough to trade a first-round pick for Branch in 2006, but he never quite reached the same heights again. Branch eventually hung up the cleats after a Patriots reunion in 2011 and 2012.
- Benjamin Watson: The Patriots’ first-round pick in 2004, Watson played just one game his rookie year while dealing with injuries. He went on to be a quality tight end weapon for Brady before heading to free agency in 2010, where he had runs with the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, and Baltimore Ravens. Watson is one of the few players from this game still active today.
- Tedy Bruschi: One of the Pats’ most beloved leaders at the time, Bruschi made his first and only Pro Bowl in 2004. He suffered a stroke shortly after this Super Bowl, but came back to play nine games the next year and won Comeback Player of the Year in 2005. Bruschi retired after the 2008 season and was voted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2013.
- Richard Seymour: A dominant defensive linemen, Seymour made the All-Pro first team three straight years between 2003-05. The Patriots traded him to the Oakland Raiders in 2009, where he continued to offer solid production for four more years. Seymour retired with 57.5 sacks in 12 years and made the Hall of Fame semifinal ballot for the first time this year.
- Mike Vrabel: Another steady contributor on a loaded Patriots defense, Vrabel ended up with 57 sacks and 11 interceptions in 14 seasons. And of course, as mentioned above, Vrabel was a mainstay on goal-line offenses, catching 10 touchdown passes in his career. Vrabel entered the coaching ranks shortly after retiring in 2011, spending three years at Ohio State before joining the Texans as linebacker coach in 2014. Vrabel was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2017 and just scored his first head-coaching gig with the Tennessee Titans.
- Vince Wilfork: Wilfork was just a rookie in 2004, but he started the game and was already showing flashes of potential, which culminated in five Pro Bowl appearances. He even had hair during this time!
- Rodney Harrison: Harrison was a controversial figure at the time, being voted “dirtiest player” multiple times in an SI poll of fellow NFL players. So naturally, he joined the Patriots in 2003 after a long run with the San Diego Chargers. Harrison was a major playmaker in the Patriots’ secondary, picking off McNabb twice in this Super Bowl victory. He retired in 2009 and has been working at NBC ever since.
- Adam Vinatieri: Currently the oldest player in the NFL, Vinatieri is still one of the league’s best kickers at age 45. In a strange twist of fate, he’s now spent more seasons with the Indianapolis Colts (12) than the Patriots (10), despite being synonymous with New England’s first run of titles in the 2000s. Vinatieri is a certain Hall of Famer whenever he decides to call it quits.