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So during an after dinner discussion this week, my wife asked me a question that I simply could not answer well enough to justify a "true" definition to satisfy her curiosity.
"What exactly IS the meaning of the 'Patriot Way?' " she asked. Seeing as how she has been a diehard Cowboy fan her entire life, I quickly realized that I was not going to be able to even come close to properly explaining this well enough; as it was more than obvious to me that 'her' team does things quite differently.
Initially ignoring it for fear of an improper answer, it led me to thinking a bit about it for a few minutes. Many different things crossed my mind, from the intense dedication from the owner and his family on down to the front office and coaching staff, to all of the 'lesser known' and smaller things that continue to make this team successful.
It is management leadership at its finest. Not only did the owner actually spend time on the metal bleachers of Schaeffer Stadium as a regular-Joe fan, he pretty much rescued the organization and saved the franchise. Sure, there are other family owned franchises in the NFL, but how many can say that their entire family, including wife and son are as involved as this one? Just the thought alone that they are more interested in putting a consistently winning product on the field while also keeping an eye toward the future, as opposed to simply being satisfied and turning an immense profit speaks volumes about where it all starts.
This successful machine obviously starts at the top, but the whole world knows where it leads to after there. We are currently in the prime years of what likely may be the most successful head coach in NFL league history. On top of that, the staff that he has built around him has proven to be just as intense as he is. The "Patriot Way" is about Dante Scarneccia. It's about Pepper Johnson, Matt Patricia...Ernie Adams. These guys do not need a "title" to define them. Much like Belichick, they don't need to be in the limelight to feel good about their success. Outside of New England, I would venture to say that not too many people even know about these guys; yet every year the other 31 franchises consistently raid our coaching staff trying to find their own answer to the riddle.
When you consider the practice squad and 53 man roster, there are over 60 individuals on this team that mimick the acts of their head coach on many levels. From the intensity and desire that Belichick creates, all the way down to the reserve positions on the practice squad that still contribute during the gameplanning and practice sessions for the upcoming games, this team reeks everything Bill Belichick. Everyone must be prepared at all times. Anyone can play at any given time, and they must be able to get the job done. Depth is a key issue, as Belichick realizes that injuries happen all too often. Building good depth at all offensive, defensive and special teams positions is a must for any Belichick coached team. In a cliche that we've heard many times, "the whole of the team is much greater than the individual sum of the parts." This phrase is extremely important in New England.
With almost 20 of the 53 man roster being comprised of undrafted free agents that were passed up by all 32 teams, Belichick has proven that teamwork and pride are way above 'talent' level. Our coach is not afraid to give less talented players a chance to succeed. Hell, he practically makes a living doing it. There have been multiple times in life where we've all rooted for the little guy, the underdog, in many situations. It's good to know that the coach of the New England Patriots does the same thing. Arrington, Fletcher, Love. All undrafted free agent signings. Carter, Anderson, Ihedigbo. All cast-offs that were practically given up on. Versatility speaks loudly on this team, as Wilfork moves around the line, playing all 3 downs. McCourty plays both corner and safety, and the same goes with other players such as Sterling Moore and Julian Edelman, who actually plays all 3 phases of the game. That is the "Patriot Way."
Belichick does not let divas run this team, and carefully meshes different types of backgrounds and paths into one working component. Is there any other team in the NFL who would have such strong habits and beliefs to be able to quickly cut their #1st round draft pick at a position of need, because his desire to win as a team does not match his talent level? Is there anyone else in the NFL who would rather turn to the actual streets to find a player who may be less on talent, but believes more in the concept and spirit of the team? We've heard all year about the no-name players, the horrible defensive statistics, and yet...here we are again.
If the defense can hang on one more game, we will see a real defintion of peaking at the right time down the stretch; gelling and believing in each other and the versatility of the schemes and fronts, with Belichick truly making lemonade out of a proverbial barrel full of lemons. It's no coincidence that the defenses who were lauded all year long are no longer in the tournament, yet the 'embarassment of the league' is playing on the final Sunday with a chance to prove to everyone what exactly, the "Patriot Way" is.
The ability to fly under the radar, the ability to get the job done when no one else thinks that you can...a team made up of little guys, players that were never supposed to see a football field, let alone play at the pro level; showing versatility; Showing the opponent respect at all times, even when they are making themselves look foolish by trying to start a war that isn't played on the field; managing free agency and the salary cap, even when it means letting go of some of the well tenured players; film study; situational football; practice, practice, and even more practice...
THESE are all things that represent and define "The Patriot Way."
While we all try to continue to tune out the worthless media stories about Giselle and her letter to close friends and family, (I would hope that my wife would do the same) irrelevant stories about parade predictions and how the game is a "clear mis-match that favors the Giants on every level," try and think of what the "Patriot Way" means to you..
Patiently waiting to defend the next "bubble" player in this summer's training camp.....
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That question's come up quite a bit this week during Patriots player interviews Sirius radio. After hearing a few guys talk about their experience, a couple threads got repeated: A big component is preparation. There's a high level of attention to details, from technique to film, both from coaches and players. One vet (don't recall if it was Waters, or Rosie Colvin talking about his time with the Pats), was surprised by the amount of preparation done by rookies. ~He~ felt look a rookie in comparison. In early, out late.
High level of expectations all the way through the organization, and those high expectations are embraced by all. Instead of vets having to corral the new guys, the new guys are right there along with the vets working *hard*.
Other posters covered "team" already, and the mantra of "Do Your Job." Not sure if it was in Chung's interview, but Belichick says regarding being drafted 1st round, last round, signed off the street: "I don't care how you got here. It's what you do when you're here." So again, performance on the field, consistency or dependability of performance, trumps talent potential. You have to perform.
I think Waters was impressed by the overall professionalism, the considerable attention to detail, and top to bottom culture of winning. He said "this is a place every player should experience."
Sup, its all about "accountability". Its a word that gets a lot of lip service in professional sports, but with the Pats organization,(from top to bottom) there is TRUE "accountability". It allows BB to cut the likes of Moss, Haynesworth, Merriweather, AD, etc Yet at the same time rely on the likes of Sterling Moss, and James Iheadibu.
I don't think that we appreciate what it means when BB says that the Patriot experience is NOT easy. Brian Waters said the thing he noticed most about the difference in his Pats experience is the amount of preparation that is required. You have to REALLY buy into the system to play here, and you are not a bad person if you can't. Its not for everyone.
You have to be willing to be coached. You have to accept some "tough love". You have to be willing to do things your agent might not think is in your best personal interest. Check your ego at the door. Check your flamboyant personality there too. And if that's not enough, you have to be willing to accept the fact that you will NEVER break the bank at contract time
So what do they get in return. That get a set of bosses that TRULY appreciate their efforts. They get the best facilities, the latest technology, the best coaches, and the knowledge that everyone else in the organization is working under the same "accountability" that they are. AND they get wins.....lots of them
That's the Patriot way. Its not revolutionary. You'd think it would be SOP for the entire league. HOWEVER while it is fairly easy to describe, it is EXTRAORDINARILY hard to implement. How do I now, because if it was, everyone would be doing it. Even the several attempts to transplant the "system" in Atlanta, Denver, KC, and Cleveland have met with very mixed and sometimes disastrous results. You can't just write down protocols into a "how to" book.
Fortunately for us, the Patriot Way is fully ingrained to the team DNA by now, and is very likely to survive after the passing of Bob Kraft and the retirement of BB
I'd also include that BB works hard at acquiring players who love football. He's not looking for a good/great football player nearly as much as someone who can't live without football (with the necessary talent, of course).
I think it comes from Mr. Kraft. Leadership, character and vision come from the top. He wants to win championships. I don't think all owners do because championships are expensive (bonuses, rings, et al).
As an Apple employee I know about working with a visionary and a man truly dedicated to success and quality.