This is a first post from a long time reader who has followed the Pats since Plunkett was at the helm. My devotion in the last 5 years has been practically religious because I think we are blessed to witness true greatness, and that doesn?t happen often during a sports fan?s lifetime. Here are my thoughts on the Pats and I apologize if they are somewhat derivative of what others here have said before. This is a great site and I have learned a lot especially from those who have played or coached and see things on the field that are just incredibly insightful. I wrote this last Thursday (i.e. before the Colts game) but I think it still stands and may be a break form the barrage of negativism that can occur here after a loss. I promise they won?t all be this long. While other teams play poker, the Pats play chess. They minimize risk and chance and this is perhaps a core mission in managing a modern NFL franchise successfully under the cap. Greatness comes from a large and stable middle class. Most teams (and pundits) think that teams with more superstars will determine success (a rule that sort of works in the NBA). While a superstar will create mismatches and require double teams, so does having all your players capable of high (though not elite) play. A large mistake that adversely affects the cap or the draft causes years of struggle (e.g. Buffalo, Miami). Going all in for an aging superstar (e.g. Culpepper) is an example. Signing good players that fit your system to small contracts has much more upside and minimal risk. Additionally, an extensive middle class improves your special team coverage and blocking, the third component often ignored by pundits and some GMs. A star returner or gunner on the field with a bunch of scrubs may provide highlight film material but not dependable and consistent results. A recent post showed that all Pats WRs rank between 60-90 across the NFL. That may sound mediocre but matched against any defensive secondary (with a shut down corner and a few spare parts), 4-5 good WR sets will always create mismatches. I think this was nicely shown last Monday against the Vikings. I would suggest this is exactly what the Pats strive for. This of course requires a QB that can make the reads and perhaps the one position where good (but not great) may not cut it. All the posts on trading for Randy Moss made no sense because a single superstar can be countered by game plan. 4-5 good WRs (for the same money as 1 superstar) cannot be countered. Strategically, this is also important that teams that depend on single stars are vulnerable to their loss through injury and free agency. The Pats have survived both and thrived where many other teams have their seasons ruined by the loss of one or two players. In order to succeed with a large middle class, the Pats draft is for innate unteachable qualities. All teams draft for freakish athleticism and production. The Pats also draft for smarts, work ethic, and passion, which I would argue are also not teachable by the time someone is drafted. Drafting individuals with these innate qualities generates a coachable young group that is affordable and given the time to develop and show leadership before they are given a greater share of the cap (elite class) or else they leave because for more money (Branch, Givens). You can?t game plan against a shape shifter. This is where smarts come in. Most teams develop a single core competence (great defense: 2000 Ravens, ball control running 72 Dolphins, passing machine current Colts), the Pats are chameleon-like based on their good but not great middle class. The can morph into what the other team handles most poorly. They run against a porous run defense (Cinn this year) and pass against a stout run defense (Minn this year). On defense, I cannot pretend to understand the intricacies of BB-inspired game plan, but suffice to say we?ve seen down linemen vary from 0 to 9 in recent years. This can only be executed when football smarts are as highly valued as freakish athleticism. Players that can adapt and excel in a completely different role (Vrabel, Brown) are valuable to this team but would not be well utilized by others. This strategy also has the benefit that the pool of player that fit the Pats system are different than other teams and hence such players tend to be more available either through the draft or free agency. Vrabel is a great example, but I don?t recall a lineup of other teams vying for him when he left Pittsburgh. At some key positions, you need to be great. As in chess, he who controls the middle, controls the game. It is no surprise that the positions that BB locks up to elite class contracts generally play in the middle: QB, C, 3-man DL, MLB, SS. The fact that they buy into the team concept is also critical. The fact that Brady and Bruschi left money on the table, sets a clear example to the rest of the players. When your leadership puts the team winning ahead of everything else, the rank and file cannot but do otherwise.