“Shakespeare but with football”: Director Matthew Hamachek Unpacks “The Dynasty: New England Patriots”

Director and executive producer Matthew Hamachek calls The Dynasty, the 10-part docu-series now streaming on Apple TV+, “Shakespeare but with football.”

He’s not overstating it. As Dynasty charts the rise and fall of the six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots over the course of 20 years, dazzling on-field highlights are deftly layered with the documentary’s themes of male ego, betrayal, the price of success, and the corporatization of sports at the expense of players. The result is textured, riveting drama designed to appeal even to viewers with little interest in football.

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in “The Dynasty: New England Patriots,” now streaming on Apple TV+. Courtesy of the New England Patriots.

“If you are making something for fans, then you’re probably not getting to the core of what story is because that’s just hagiography,” says Hamachek, who co-directed and produced the Emmy-winning, two-part HBO documentary Tiger, which delivered a similar revealing look at the rise, fall, and epic comeback of golf legend Tiger Woods. A veteran editor, his credits include the acclaimed documentaries If a Tree Falls, Gideon’s Army, and the Oscar-nominated Cartel Land.

The Dynasty offered a unique creative opportunity, he says. “I felt it was important that this would be an unvarnished telling of the New England Patriots story and that it would not come from any one person. It wasn’t going to be [head coach] Bill Belichick’s story or [quarterback] Tom Brady’s or [team owner] Robert Kraft’s story. I wanted to let the 70-plus people we interviewed tell it from their perspective. And we had to get into all of it: Spy Gate, Deflategate, Aaron Hernandez …. At its core, this is a human story; to tell a human story, we have to get into all of it, including the fact that it fell apart at the end.”

Bill Belichick in “The Dynasty: New England Patriots,” now streaming on Apple TV+. Courtesy of the New England Patriots.

Hamachek and his team over two-plus years examined more than 30,000 hours of video footage and audio files from the Patriots organization’s archive. Although much of the material was covered in series writer Jeff Benedict’s bestselling book of the same title, the documentary, which is nominated for a Critics Choice Real TV Award in the Best Sports Show category, goes deeper. Besides never-before-seen footage, Hamachek and his crew conducted 70 new interviews with former players, coaches, sportswriters, family members, and NFL officials for a more detailed story.

Drew Bledsoe in “The Dynasty: New England Patriots,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

From the opening episode, “Backup Plan,” the series traces how the New England Patriots evolved from a struggling team to a powerhouse franchise. The episode’s climax is the devastating knee injury that sidelined star quarterback Drew Bledsoe, one of the series’ candid on-camera interviews, and the ascension of backup quarterback Tom Brady. As coach Belichick takes the risk of sticking with the untested, sixth-round draft pick Brady, the episode builds suspense leading to the famous “Snow Bowl” win against the Oakland Raiders in episode 2.


By the time a dynasty is established, the Patriots have become the New York Yankees of the NFL: no longer a scrappy underdog but a soulless machine with a struggle for control between Brady and Belichick. The Dynasty doesn’t shy from covering controversies; besides accusations of cheating in Spy Gate and Deflategate, episode 6, “At All Costs,” details the miscalculation of signing the troubled Aaron Hernandez. The theme of fathers and sons echoes throughout the series, nowhere more tragically than Kraft’s unwavering belief in Hernandez until the player was charged with murder.

In conducting the face-to-face interviews, it probably helped that Hamachek, who grew up in Washington, DC, wasn’t a Patriots fan. “I wasn’t sitting on the couch with my dad when I was 12 years old remembering this team,” he says. “It was more like, ‘You tell me what was important.’”

Covering two decades of on and off-field drama was a tall order, and Hamachek credits the Dynasty team of editors led by Dan Koehler for the layers of storytelling. Information from the interviews often changed the direction of the narrative, and sometimes an entire episode had to be recut, he says. “It was a great group. They fell in love with the process and wanted to get it right even when [the story] was constantly shifting and moving around. Everybody bought into the idea to make it as perfect as we could. There were a lot of 3 and 4 a.m. nights.”

Rob Gronkowsi in “The Dynasty: New England Patriots,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Some of the most entertaining and insightful commentary comes courtesy of former players, including Bledsoe, Adam Vinatieri, Tedy Bruschi, Rob Gronkowski, Ty Law, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Randy Moss, and Malcolm Butler, who offers candid thoughts on the controversial penultimate episode “Breaking Point” in which Belichick inexplicably failed to play Butler in a big game.

Sports journalists Howard Bryant and Michael Holley, who wrote his own book on the Patriots, are particularly insightful. Sportswriter Nora Princiotti offers a unique perspective on the tenure of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who replaced a suspended Brady following Deflategate, musing that their ensuing rivalry was possibly as much about good looks and charisma as it was about talent.

The on-camera interviews are particularly revealing, especially Hamachek’s questioning of tight-lipped Belichick, who emerges as the drama’s villain, communicating volumes with his body language, facial expressions, and silence.

Bill Belichick in “The Dynasty: New England Patriots,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

“It was important, especially in Belichick’s case, that if he didn’t want to answer, that the editors leave it in to show that he did have the chance to comment and that there wasn’t something else he said we weren’t showing. It was important to give him the opportunity to comment on the record,” Hamachek says.

He credits the Dynasty crew for its preparation and research prior to the interviews. “We had 50-plus people working on the archives, so when [subjects] sat down in the chair, we could say things like, ‘Do you remember this particular moment in the locker room?’ It showed them that we had done our homework, which is one of the comments Bill Belichick made after his interview. He came up to me and said, ‘It’s very clear how well-researched you are,’” Hamachek says. “Coming from Bill Belichick, that’s as good a compliment as you could possibly get.”


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Featured image: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Robert Kraft in “The Dynasty: New England Patriots,” now streaming on Apple TV+. Courtesy of the New England Patriots.


Loren King

Loren King is an entertainment journalist whose features and reviews appear regularly in various publications and online. She is past president of the Boston Society of Film Critics and lives in Southeastern Massachusetts. You can follow her on Twitter: @lorenkingwriter