Doubly happy to play Super Sunday
McCourty twins Devin (safety) and Jason (cornerback) boost Patriots’ defense
ATLANTA – Finally, something that can stump Bill Belichick.
The Patriots’ icon of a coach undoubtedly possesses one of the sharpest minds in NFL history, with a knack for quick adjustments and resourceful personnel moves, but I guess he’s human, too.
For all of his greatness, Belichick sometimes can’t immediately figure out who’s who.
Was that Devin McCourty or Jason McCourty?
“Bill still doesn’t know,” said Devin, the Pro Bowl-credentialed safety who has played for Belichick only since 2010. “If it was up to Bill, we’d walk around with our jerseys on all day.”
The McCourty brothers — Devin wears No. 32, Jason No. 30 — are not only the first set of twins to play in a Super Bowl but the first twin teammates in the NFL since Gene and Tom Golsen toiled for the Louisville Colonels in 1926. Talk about a fresh twist for the Patriots franchise’s ninth Super Bowl appearance under Belichick.
Jason, a 10-year cornerback, was obtained from Cleveland last spring in a trade that also involved swapping lateround picks. The trade reunited the identical twins on the football field for the first time since 2008 at Rutgers and fueled a season-long journey filled with personal markers and the occasional mistaken-identity moments.
Brian Flores, the linebackers coach and defensive play-caller who is pegged to become the Dolphins’ coach after Super Bowl LIII, has had multiple ID episodes in the heat of games.
“You know, 30, 32, it’s happened in games from time to time,” said Flores, recalling their chatter on the sideline. “I’d say, ‘ Dev, we’ve got to get back our double,’ and I’m really talking to Jason.”
This must be some new type of double coverage. Although most of their teammates are said to know them apart, even Matthew Slater, the wily veteran of a special teams captain, has been tripped up.
“There have been a couple of times in the huddle when I’ll look up and see 3, and not see whether it’s 0 or 2, and call out the wrong name,” Slater said. “They gave me a hard time about that. But I know them apart now. I like Jason better, anyway.”
Of course, Slater has been a teammate of the elder McCourty throughout the safety’s entire NFL journey. He has known him well and could always sense the closeness of the twins.
The McCourty twins, who grew up in New Jersey, tragically lost their father, Calvin, a former Army veteran, to a heart attack when they were 3. They were undoubtedly influenced greatly by their mother, Phyllis Harrell, who goes by the Twitter handle @MamaMcCourty.
“Their dynamic is so special,” Slater said. “I think I’ve seen a whole new side of Dev this year. Not that he hasn’t appreciated the years he’s had in the past. It’s just the unique sense of joy that he has … to be able to share this with his brother. He’s so happy that Jason’s been able to get a taste of winning and success after nine years of grinding away.”
Until this season, Jason had never played in an NFL playoff game, while Devin has won two Super Bowl rings and is gearing up to play in his fifth Super Bowl on Sunday against the Rams.
No, not everything has been equally distributed for the twins. After eight seasons with the Titans, Jason played the 2017 season with Cleveland, enduring a 0-16 campaign that is about as polar opposite as you could get from the dynasty that his twin has enjoyed.
This was also the season the McCourty twins, 31, were able to spend Christmas together for the first time since Jason’s rookie year in 2009, with their wives (Michelle and Melissa) and the five children between them. Jason and his wife, Melissa, hosted.
“We did a family Christmas picture on the couch downstairs and everybody was crying,” Jason said. “It was a terrible picture, but probably the best Christmas we’ve had in years. We never got to see each other on Christmas and Thanksgiving. So to have that, for my Mom to come up and hang out, to be able to see each other’s kids, to actually do gifts and not do it through FaceTime, that was awesome.”
And now the banner season ends here.
Of course, while Jason never played in a Super Bowl, he’s been a participant during Super Bowl week in spirit and in actions. He routinely came to the Super Bowl site and spent the bulk of the week helping Devin attend to details for family arrangements, in addition to additional quality time.
So in a practical sense, Jason has Super Bowl experience, too.
“I’d come out to the game on Tuesday,” Jason said. “So we’d probably meet up and go eat. He’d tell me what he just did. So I’ve kind of got a lot of the nuances.”
Including the sting of Super Bowl losses. They say that twins can feel the pain of their twin, which might explain why Jason seemed so sincere in maintaining he never wants to see his brother suffer through the devastation of a Super Bowl loss.
If it happens again against the Rams, at least they will be in it together.
Which brings back the memory from two years ago, when the Patriots were trailing the Falcons 28-3 in Super Bowl LI. Jason was watching on TV.
“I was gone,” he remembers. “I was pissed off. And it’s crazy. I wasn’t a Patriots fan, but I remember being in the stadium when Dev lost in Indy (against the Giants), and just how hurt he was after that game. I don’t want him to go through that anymore. But I was superexcited when they made the comeback.” He actually turned off the TV? “I didn’t shut it off,” he recalled. “I just walked out of the room. I eventually came back. I had to cool off.”
Imagine the emotions that could spill over on Sunday, which could be quite the sequel to their embrace on the field at Arrowhead Stadium after winning the AFC title.
Jason already knows the advice from his twin brother: Enjoy the moment.
Patriots twins Jason McCourty, left, and Devin McCourty appeared at Opening Night for Super Bowl LIII.