It's time to celebrate New England's success.
This afternoon was the last straw. I was scrolling through Facebook, and there it was: A meme about the Patriots preparing for the Super Bowl. It featured a ball being deflated, a referee being paid off, a cameraman filming, and a masked man stealing playbooks. I love a good meme as much as the next person, but these jokes about the Patriots have become tiresome, and quite frankly, infantile. “But they cheated”! Yeah, and so does everyone else in their own way. The Patriots just got caught. I know, you think Tom Brady is smug and cocky. Guess what? You pretty much need to have that to succeed in professional sports. Oh, Bill Belichick is a soulless grump? That's his shtick. That is part of his success. Do I find it annoying? Yep. But he is going to an 11th Super Bowl (including two as Giants DC), while I am writing this article. Need I say more?
I get it, people develop a hate for very successful teams. I dealt with being a Giants fan in the 70s, and again in the 90s, while the Cowboys were winning NFC East Titles and Super Bowls, while we plain stunk. But I also admired and appreciated what made those Cowboys teams great. We all need to take a breath here and appreciate what the Patriots have done, controversies notwithstanding, because we will probably never see such an extended level of excellence in the NFL again.
Do you want to see someone else win the AFC? I have a suggestion: Tell your teams to beat them! Tell your owners to hire the right General Manager to draft talent and sign useful free agents. Tell your General Managers to hire the right coach, who in turn should hire the right assistants to cultivate that talent. Tell your coaches to develop a culture of on-field execution and discipline, that the little things matter so you don't beat yourself. The organizational culture should be Super Bowl or bust every year, that your are playing to win instead of playing not to lose. All of your teams have had opportunities on the field year after year, and just don't figure it out.
Have the Patriots had some luck along the way? No doubt, going all the way back to the “Tuck Rule game against the Raiders. But what they have done with that luck is impressive. In that “Tuck Rule” game, they still had to get Adam Vinitieri to nail the tying field goal, in blizzard-like conditions, to even get it to overtime. Oakland still had a chance to stop them, but didn't. Fast forward to yesterday: Brady throws what appears to be the game clinching pick, when Dee Ford was flagged for being clearly offside, keeping the drive alive. They still needed to get into the end zone, which they did.
Speaking of the Dee Ford play, here is my next point: How often have you seen the Patriots make such a critical mistake in a playoff game? You probably haven't. They are incredibly disciplined. Very rarely, will they beat themselves.
It is obvious that this discipline is what Bill Belichick demands of his players and staff. He will give you the game plan, and if you execute it properly, you will win. This is the heart of the Patriots success. Heck, he went 11-5 with Matt Cassell as his QB in 2008! NOBODY game plans for the opponent better than Belichick. He makes in-game adjustments better than anyone. If you saw the game yesterday, you could see Belichick made changes from the first game, in terms of defending the KC offense. The Chiefs made a grand total of zero adjustments from game one, and certainly none in the second half yesterday. Again, the Patriots are always better prepared than their opponent.
Then there is Tom Brady. Do I think he is the greatest QB of all-time? He's way up there, but not sure. What I will say is that he a great leader, and super clutch. He is also usually the smartest player out there. He is the perfect QB for Belichick because he understands what the coach wants for any game or situation. Plus, his will to win is extraordinary. If you make a mistake, he will make you pay dearly. Additionally, as we have seen for years, it really doesn't matter who his offensive personnel is, he still runs the offense with a surgeon's precision.
Let's just stop all the Patriots hate already. This is a run of football excellence that needs to be celebrated, especially since it has been accomplished in this era of free agency. Because when Brady and Belichick walk into the sunset, maybe even together, everyone will ask “where are the great teams”? No one will have an answer.