Photo credit: Keith Allison
Author: Joey Carr
You either love or hate the New England Patriots; there’s really no in between when talking about this sometimes controversial but always consistent NFL franchise. If you love them, you’re more than likely from New England or a surrounding area. If you hate them, you’re pretty much from anywhere else in the country. They’ve been given the nickname “The Evil Empire” by some of the haters, which was already given to the New York Yankees after their reign of tyranny over baseball. They’ve been accused of countless violations of the league’s rules, but have really only broken one, and are known as one of the most annoying teams in the league. However, if you take a look across all of professional sports since 2000, no other team other than the San Antonio Spurs have been nearly as consistent as the Pats. They’ve won 4 Super Bowls, had numerous Pro Bowlers and All-Pro’s, and so many Division Titles you can’t count them on your fingers. So the question I’m posing is how have the Patriots stayed so good for so long? The answer: an amazing balance between change and stability.
Stability and change aren’t usually paired in the same sentence unless you’re talking about an antonym for one of the words. However, like on many other occasions, head coach Bill Belichick has found out a way to balance out two things that shouldn’t go together. In regards to the “change” aspect, the phrase, “Next Man Up” defines the Patriots as a team better than any other phrase out there (with the exception of “Do Your Job”). For example: in week 19, the Patriots lost breakout running back Dion Lewis to a torn ACL in the second quarter. In the next quarter, backup running back Brandon Bolden comes in and catches a 20-yard touchdown pass, something that Lewis had grown accustomed to. Another example: the offensive line of New England is something that isn’t getting talked about too much but it was one of the more revolutionary things happening in football today. Instead of keeping a core group of offensive lineman out on of the field drive after drive, the Pats carry multiple extra linemen, and rotate them all game long. No other team in the NFL has been able to crack this or duplicate it, and it seems like such a simple idea. But the amount of work that has to be done to make this idea work is staggering; Tom Brady and the running backs have to develop a rapport with each linemen and linemen group so they can know what to expect when running a play. And while it’s had its kinks, Tom Brady hasn’t been sacked nearly as much as he was last year.
In regards to the stability aspect to the Patriots success, the only thing you need to look at is the head coach and quarterback. The one thing both of the positions have in common? They haven’t changed since 2001. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will go down as the best head coach-quarterback duo in NFL history, and for good reason. They’ve been with each other for 15+ years and have yet to have a losing record together. That is truly spectacular. Every team in the NFL has had at
least one losing record since 2001, and every NFL team has had a different quarterback and head coach since the turn of the century, but not the Patriots. That amount of stability is something to marvel at. You see coaches and players bicker all the time (see Greg Hardy’s clipboard incident) and the fact that the Patriots haven’t had a noticeable locker room or sideline dispute all these years in just mind-boggling. The Patriot Way has been in effect ever since Belichick took over, and has stayed the persona of New England for the entirety of Belichick’s tenure, and that stability is one of the bigger reasons that New England has stayed so good for all this time.
There isn’t one NFL executive or coach out there that will tell you New England, while controversial, hasn’t been the best football team of this generation. “It’s almost unfair”, said Rex Ryan in one of his latest press conferences. Tom Brady isn’t getting worse with age, but better. Bill Belichick is only growing smarter and coming up with new ways to be stable by constantly changing his team. No one else in football does it better than New England, and if Tom Brady stays true to word that he wants to play another 10 years, the hatred for New England is definitely going to remain.
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