My Take on the New England Patriots
I bet you've been wondering about my thoughts on the New England Patriots. Around here, everyone says the sky is falling. They want to run a certain QB and a certain coach out of town. Boston sports media (the worst part of Boston sports) are angry about something but who knows what, and Boston sports fans (the second-worst part of Boston sports) are ready to take a dive off the Zakim bridge. Here's what I think.
I've been following the Patriots since 1970. I was at the first regular season game held in Foxboro in 1971, with rookie QB Jim Plunkett making his debut. I've seen a lot of shitty Patriots teams, a lot of shitty patriots coaches, a lot of shitty Patriots players, and a lot of shitty Patriots games.
But I never cared about that because they were my team. They had the bitchingest uniforms and I loved watching them play. When they occasionally became decent (1976, 1978, 1985, 1996), it was awesome. When they became a dynasty, OMG it was the most amazing thing in the world.
But the thing about dynasties is that they don't last. Every dynasty falls at some point, and sometimes they hardly ever rise again. The Cowboys, the Steelers, the 49ers, they were on top of the football world for a while but they all fell to earth. So it is with the Patriots. After a while, you just run out of magic juice. You have to expect, and accept, that there will be fallow years (yes, plural) before they rise again.
Is it true that Belichick is no longer a great coach? No, I don't think so. But back in the day, he was more innovative than anyone else; the problem is that over time the other teams learned from him. It used to be he was the only one to defer when winning the coin toss. Now everyone does it. That's a minor example but indicative of the fact that the rest of the NFL has studied the Patriots success and incorporated some of those once-radical ideas into their own systems.
Is it true that Mac Jones is not the QB of the future? Yes, that part is true. Even in the Brady years, we won with sub-par QBs. The year that Brady was injured, Matt Cassell nearly took them to the playoffs. But they had great skill players to throw to; Mac does not. They had a pretty solid offensive line most years; Mac does not. But Mac is not a leader and he has a spaghetti arm and is jumpy in the pocket and can't connect with anyone down the field. Last year's offensive coaches did a disservice to Mac, but he's just not ever going to be an elite NFL QB.
Which brings us to Belichick the GM. Not good at all. He used to rely on a lot of people, such as Ernie Adams and Scott Pioli, who are no longer there to advise him. He's way too beholden to certain college coaches and in his search for maximum value he sometimes gets players with minimal upside. What he has now is a team comprising mostly players who haven't won with him and so they're not listening to him, the coach, as they should. They make dumb mistakes and get stupid penalties because they're not buying in. I think there's also a leadership vacuum in the locker room. Matthew Slater is a top-shelf guy but when do you ever hear his name during games anymore? He preaches well but he's not the star player that commands attention anymore. David Andrews is hairy and sweaty and he also talks a good game but his fellow lineman clearly don't fear him. Hunter Henry as a captain? Who's going to listen to him?
Tom Brady was the key, the GOAT, the great eraser. We were always in the game with him at QB, but he was a once in a generation player, and even he couldn't lead the Patriots to a wild card win in his final year. The Buccaneers have learned what's like to go from Brady to no Brady. It ain't pretty. We'll never see another TB12 but that doesn't mean we'll never be a strong team again. Everyone just has to realize that the dynasty is over because that's the nature of dynasties. There are some good players who are playing hard this year. Hopefully they continue to mature and become reliable playmakers. The winning ways will return at some point, but we have to all understand that 6 Super Bowl wins is outrageous. Unheard of. We've gotten more than our share, but that doesn't mean we don't deserve a good product for our money. Hopefully that will come in the next few years. In the meantime, let's look forward to a good draft pick.