October 14, 2006
Patriot Fans Spoiled? Some Are
By:  Stan Jaksina
PatsFans.com Fan Columnist

This has not been easy to examine, but after the tsunami of negativity after the Denver loss and the volumes of complaints after the Miami win, it seems something is quite amiss. Mp>There are many ways to look at this issue, from the obvious to the larger picture to a more close up view of it. Mostly this rant is food for thought, to absorb, read and really think about or at least to consider. But it's also informational.

It does irk me when there is criticism and a total lack of perspective; so called knowledge with negativity the total driving force.

In many ways, I'm saying that some need to move back many steps, take a few deep breaths and just enjoy the ride or at least some of these football seasons. Some need to do that, and certainly it is OK to be critical, but there needs to be a real balance of thought.

Also, this is not at all directed at the bulk of Patriot Nation, for many know and understand how incredible these past few years have been and how unlike these years are as compared to the rest of Patriot history.

Many I am sure will dismiss my words, but that is fine. I expected many to do that and I also know others may not care at all.

I do think it is important to know who makes up Patriot fandom and how long they have been fans of the team. I think the bulk of them, probably between 35 and 55 percent, became fans in the Belichick era and probably another 15 to 30 percent came aboard when Parcells was brought in. I'd estimate between 20 to 35 percent were Patriot fans prior to that and that smaller number is understandable given Patriiot history.

For some years, this team was totally irrelevant, more like a footnote, while other times, the team actually gave hope to fans. But whether that optimism was only for a few games or for better seasons ahead, it was never ever enough to make it to the top. Whether it was the blowout in San Diego, Ben Dreith's flag in Oakland or the pummeling in New Orleans against the Bears, the team always fell short; always disappointed.

I am sure that is why many fans disappeared and stopped supporting the team. If one can imagine the worst of the Saints, the Cardinals and the dredges of the NFL, the Patriots were even worse at times.

Those fans saw and experienced the ineptitude of the front offices, the poorly coached teams and the sometimes lackluster players. Don't get me wrong, there have always been some outstanding players throughout the Pats history, from Hamnnah and Haynes, to Plunkett and Parilli and many, many others. There were also character issues, from the drug parties in the 70s to the sexual harassment of a female reporter to the many wild activities of Irving Fryar ro many other stains of character. Thankfully, those days are over and Robert Kraft has ingrained the importance of charity and community service into the current players.

Every decade has had a team headed for destiny, respectability and stardom but the teams always ran into obstacles, slipped and stumbled, or had weird things happen that would negate the strong efforts and bring on disillusion a and dissatisfaction, instead of triumph. In many ways, it was much worse then the supposed cursed Red Sox.

Those Patriot fans of old I believe have a greater grasp of what these last years have meant and truly savor this Belichick era. They have seen teams of full of hope that unfortunately led only to greater disappointment, but know this is the real deal. They have seen the team in deep valleys when the team was laughable at best as well as the many attempts to climb up to respectability only to always fall short.

This perspective is needed in viewing the last six years of Patriot history to fully appreciate what this team has accomplished.

Three Lombardis in five years.

I know many have enjoyed this and love to jump on the bandwagon of a winning franchise and that is fine. When it changes, they will take off for the next winning franchise and don those team's jerseys. Dolphins, Steelers, Cowboys, Niners, Broncos, Patriots. Everyone loves a winner. Frontrunners always will exist, but lack context for making real criticism.

Twenty one straight victories.

I am sure many of the fans of the team now, would hardly have been fans in another era of the Patriots. One may think the front office makes many mistakes, but picks of Chris Canty, Eugene Chung and Hart Lee Dykes? And those are only first rounders in the near past. One may think the Branch fiasco has shown the front office to be stingy, but one must also recall how offensive lineman, Lane and Rucci were given piles of money that only fouled up the team's salary structure. There was Hannah and Gray who walked out and a coach that was suspended in the last game of a season before a playoff game. If there's reason to be critical now, years ago it would have been 100 times the intensity and with a much better reason. I doubt many fans would have stuck with the team without frustration overflowing.

Fifty Four games and counting without losing two straight games.

If, 25, 35 years ago anyone would have told one of those old time Patriot fans what this franchise would become now, I think they would have wondered what drug one was using. Few remember how the team was basically homeless, moving from Boston University to Fenway Park to a small Boston College stadium to Harvard before a small and shabby stadium became home to the team in 1971. Many more remember how the team almost moved to St Louis and how Bob Kraft saved the day at the last minute.

Solid ownership with a first class stadium,;a smart and savvy front office that knows when to extend with mega money and when to hold the line; super coaches that know how to get the best out of players and to develop young ones who are far from the blue chip mold; players that work hard and improve over time and will do anything it takes to win. It's like a dream franchise in all respects. It is what any fan would ever want from a team. And what a transformation it has been over years!

Those that are relatively new to this team have hardly seen and experienced the worst this franchise has produced. They only have seen the pinnacle, the absolute best, so perspective has to come in other ways. I do think many new fans do understand the history, but for those that haven't and wish to,there are several options.

1---There are many older fans who have seen much of that history and who would love to share their thoughts and experiences.

2---There is also a book that might aid in this. It is far from a definitive Patriot history, but Michael Felger's book does chronicle a number of incidents in the past, so one can truly get a flavor of the wild ride this franchise has been on.

3---One can even look at NFL record books and peruse year by year to see the ebb and flow of optimism and the few peaks when the team was on the right track, as well as the valleys of hopeless teams.

Unfortunately, at some point in time, this team may revert to the past and when and if that happens, the worst of the team now may be better than the best then. This is all to just point out that the past years are maybe more like warm and sunny days in a Maine winter. If you think you have experienced a real Maine winter by those days, you had better be prepared. It's also to point out that the issues now are closer to nitpicking than the larger ones in the past eras.

If you are still not convinced of this, my suggestion is to adopt an NFL team to follow.over the next year or so. Look at that team closely and get to understand all the ins and out of what is going on with that team. My guess is that what you will learn is that there are other teams that make many more mistakes with their transactions and salary cap policies than the home team. Compare that teams mistakes and miscues to what is going on with the Patriots and see what team is more competent, both short term and long term. And don't pick the Eagles or the Steelers, as they do similar things to what the Pats do.

It may make one think a bit about all the criticism now and how it is small hills as compared to mountain ranges with other teams or at other times.

But please do not get me wrong, I don't want to have everyone getting the face paint on and jumping up and down mindlessly with pom poms for a team that is 0 and 16, but neither do I want fans to be so critical that they bury all the admirable accomplishments of this team. There is such a thing as being critical with reasonable thoughts and ideas without slamming the team like it is a punching bag. It's all about balance and recognition and appreciation of what is good and what can be better.

This Patriot organization from the top down always strives to improve in any and all areas. Bottom line, what I think is important is that fans need to enjoy the time that this team is competing at a top level and not miss it. Getting caught up in negativity basically distracts one from the big picture and from enjoyment and is never good.

But then again, at this point, maybe some Red Sox fans are discovering football for the first time and taking their miserable negativity that they share about that team and projecting it to the Patriots. The news on that one is that this Patriot team is FAR from the Bosox in every way! Fellowship of the Miserable? The Patriots are not for you! Learn about football, about the history of the team and understand that this is NOT the Sox and repeat that a hundred times over before every game.

The Patriots won last Sunday and yet with all the negativity around that, one might have wondered why it was like that. Spoiled Pats have struck again.

"McDaniels is a horrible coordinator; worse than poor. There's no pass rush and the secondary is full of holes. Kneeling down at the end of the game deserves booing. Brady is playing worse than ever and the wide receivers are pitiful."

I remember when in the lean years, a win was really celebrated whether it was by one point or thirty or whether it was a win with great plays and style points or an ugly victory. And that is where the spoiled ones comes in big time. It's truly embarrassing to hear all of it; actual booing at the end of a game that the team has won?

And then there is the moronic fan who is so critical that he claims he's just saying what Coach Belichick is saying. Yes, one is mouthing words that CoachB is saying, but with a millionth of his knowledge. One is a fan, not a coach and not a very bright fan at that.

If anyone is critical, it is CoachB, who strives all season long for a perfection that will never happen. It is that search for perfection in every facet and phase of the game. He wishes it from himself, from his players and coaches and from the front office and that is part of what makes him one of the best. He's never satisfied and always strives for improvement. He also instills these values in players' minds as well, so everyone is on the same page. It is one of the traits that championship programs have.

A detailed analysis of games and of a deeper look the salary cap, is always a great thing for fans and learning and becoming more knowledgeable is always needed and welcomed.

Unfortunately, It is those with limited smarts about a topic that are usually the loudest and most annoying.

As for this particular game, some answers are pretty simple.

"There's no pass rush and the secondary is full of holes"-----With Harrington's quick release and the short passing scheme, it's pretty hard to get a solid pass rush going. As for the secondary playing poorly, they played off the receivers a bit, more a bend don't break mode at times. They kept the receivers in front of them, but with second half adjustments, they doubled up on some receivers at certain times and basically shut the Fins out. What's so bad about that?

"Brady is playing worse than ever and the wide receivers are pitiful."-----The offense is more run oriented this year so far and Brady has not had a really breakout game like many want to see. The offense is a work In progress and in time, Caldwell, Gabriel Jackson and the newly acquired Gaffney, will get routes down and help Brady be more comfortable. That takes time and is more essential later in the year than now. Yes, having a offense with all guns a blazing would be great to have now, but patience is needed. The offense even with stumbles is still highly rated, but look for improvement in the next games.

"McDaniels is a horrible coordinator, worse than poor." Firstly, if anyone knows anything about how the Patriots develop their gameplan, it is done by a group of people looking at it play by play. When Weiss was here, that is how it was done and I do not think that has all of a sudden changed. Brady, I am sure, has a lot of input, but it is a group decision not just McDaniels. There is also thoughts that the team has wanted to keep these division games more vanilla and to not show everything so early, saving wrinkles and certain plays for games that are more important. Those that think "his" plans are so bad, never complained about the offense last year when it seemed to be so much smoother.

"Kneeling down at the end of the game deserves booing."-----Simply put, these fans are idiots. In my world, they'd be booted out of Gillette or better yet, totally embarrassed by the knowledgeable fans around them.

Spoiled fans who lack knowledge and any perspective; it's really annoying.

And what is so interesting is that in Patriot history, there have been offenses that have marched up and down the field and at the same time have had defenses that have been extremely strong.

In the 60s it was Parilli, Nance, Burton, Coclough, Cappeletti, Morris, Neville,Neighbors on offense; Dee, Eisenhauer, Bouniconti, Addison, Felt, Hall and Shonta on defense.

In the 70s it was Grogan, Cunninghan, Johnson, Calhoun, Stingley, Vataha,Francis, Lenkaitis, Hannah, Gray and Jordon on offense; Adams, Hamilton,Bishop, Nelson, Hunt, King, Hayjnes, Fox and Beaudoin on defense.

In the 80s, it was Eason, Collins, James and Tatupu, Morgan, Fryar,Dawson, Brock, Holloway and Moore on offense; Sims, Veris, McGrew,Tippet, Clayborn, Lippett, James and Marion in defense.

In the 90s it was Bledsoe, Martin, Meggett. Jefferson, Glenn, Coates, Armstrong, Rucci and Lane on offense; Eaton, Collins, Slade, Johnson, Law, Clay and Milloy on defense.

If many of the new fans saw them over the years, they'd never really think of complaining at all. The units looked good and yet, the one thing they did not have was the knack for knowing how to win games. A team can have players that shine as individuals and have all the style points in the world and yet, lose. That is something to be said for these Patriot teams; they know how to win and what it takes, whether it is offense, defense or special teams. THAT by far is what makes this era so special and why these teams are so different than those of past decades. Many of those teams looked good and yet lost, while this team just wins, ugly or not.

It's time for some to take a deeper look at this Patriot team and where it is at in the context of it's past history. The extremes can be avoided, the chicken littles that go running around in circles when the team has a small bump in the road as well as the blind homers who will root strongly and say little when a team whatever is happening on the field. But those extremes need to be adjusted a bit for where an organization is in the grand scheme of things. When a team has been successful in many ways, elevating a bump to a mountain is not all that smart, and closer to idiotic. On the other hand, when a team is constantly near the bottom of a division and when one is celebrating back to back wins, not questioning what the front office and coaches are doing is more the moronic thing.

Three Lombardis in five years; 21 straight victories; 54 wins and counting without back to back losses. I think accomplishments like that need to be appreciated and put into context. In many places, this excess negativity would be laughed at.

Spoiled fans? Yes, there are some, unfortunately; many just don't get it.

Some might think I'm just a kool aid drinker, but if looking at this with knowledge and perspective means that, so be it. If others wish to complain and miss the parade, it's their loss. Drink up, in years, not only will there might not be kool aid, but water might be scarce as well.

There is something special about Tuesday nights now, a show at 7 PM on radio (or the net) at ESPN Boston. It is the Troy Brown show and it's not just a football show or even a sports show, but a show where Troy talks about everything across the spectrum. It's a change of pace that all Patriot fans should listen to.

 Stan Jaksina
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