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New England Patriots News 02-07, Putting a Bow on the “Patriot Way”

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
6 months ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

New England Patriots News 02-07, Putting a Bow on the “Patriot Way”Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-07 and AFC East notes this week. 

Super Bowl Game Day! Unfortunately, it will be the last football until training camps begin in July. It doesn’t look like, at least for now, that teams are going to get back to a normal off-season of OTAs, minicamp, and such. But we can hope for the best.

Please check out our draft profiles as we inch closer to the 2021 NFL Draft. 

Have you checked out our team news feature for all 32 teams yet? It is a great resource to keep up with what is going on all across the NFL. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

Devin McCourty: The Patriots’ safety, and always one of the most respected members and spokesman for the players, said what a lot of New England is feeling watching both Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in the Super Bowl for the Bucs. 

“To watch those two guys leave our team and bring everything they’ve learned to Tampa, a team that didn’t make the playoffs last year and now is having an opportunity to win a world championship, it’s been awesome to watch,” McCourty said on Friday. “And obviously, a little bittersweet because you would rather those two guys suiting up with you on Sundays.

“But it’s still awesome to see those guys going out there and doing it again. Obviously, for Tom and his legacy and what he’s done in this league, he doesn’t have to do anymore. But to continue to watch him and his greatness, and continue to get better and better each year, it’s just unbelievable.”

“I think as a team, organization, we moved on. But you lost Tom Brady. You lost the best quarterback in the NFL. You don’t just replace that. You don’t just make up for that. We definitely felt that. We lose Tom, we don’t have an offseason to even begin to try to process that, and prepare and get ready. The guy’s been the best quarterback in the NFL for the last two decades.”

Patriots Opt-Outs All Back? Yes…says DMac – Also, courtesy of Devin McCourty, who was appearing on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast, he and the team expect the four main opt-outs from 2020, Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Brandon Bolden and Marcus Cannon to all return in 2021. 

“From my understanding, they’ll all be back,” McCourty said. “I just can’t wait to be back around those guys. Even outside of football, just seeing them every day, seeing their nice faces.”

“Listen, we don’t have a lot of those guys that were in all these playoff games and all those Super Bowls. Our team’s transitioned a little bit. I’ve played in five Super Bowls, we don’t have that many guys that have played in the four Super Bowls or the five Super Bowls. It was a learning experience I think this year for a lot of guys. Even for me in year 11.”

Willie McGinest- The former Patriots great spoke about how he wasn’t rooting for the Chiefs to win back-to-back Super Bowls on Sunday. And at first glance, that statement would lead one to believe that it was because his Pats team was the last to do so. But McGinest said he was rooting for his former teammate Tom Brady to win his 7th ring. More from McGinest below.  

4th & 2 Podcast – If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Russ, Derek, and I recorded a podcast last Friday and talked about the Super Bowl, Senior Bowl, and “the QB Question”. 

Russ Francis/ Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

“The Patriot Way” Is All About the Team and Belichick Not Just Brady:

With the Super Bowl tonight, we’ll see Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski suiting up for another team. And as we’ve heard ad nauseam, the NFL is a business, and not every star player ends up with the team that originally drafted them. And for the Patriots, two of the very best who ever played at their positions are now gone and trying to do with Tampa the same thing they did in New England.

Also ad nauseam, we’ve been subjected to “Was it Bill or Was it Tom?” It is a stupid argument that will never satisfy the people who reside on one side or the other. Like politics, one side will just try to outshout the other. The bottom line is, either would have been successful alone but neither would have ever reached the heights that they did without the other. 

The Belichick-Brady era and this dynasty was truly something to behold. The Patriots under Belichick have remained steadfast in his philosophy about building a team, which has been dubbed “the Patriot Way” and even today, two decades later, there are still misconceptions about that.

The fact is, the Patriot Way should really be called, “the Belichick Way”, there is a right way and a wrong way about building a football team that is constructed for the long run. And from 2001-2019, the Patriots have far and away blown away the rest of the league in terms of staying competitive for a Super Bowl. A down year for the Patriots has been 10 wins or in the case of 2018, 11 wins. And yes, this was written up all fall as a down year, despite the fact that they won the Super Bowl. Let that sink in a second. The narrative for 2018 was a down year for the Patriots and yet they brought home a sixth Lombardi Trophy. 

But among some of the people taking sides, there has been a palpable effort to denigrate Belichick, his GM skills, drafting, and now even his coaching decisions. Which is patently ridiculous. 

The part that always gets mentioned is that some analysts will point to the Patriots roster and say “Team A has better personnel up and down the roster” and at that point, it becomes part of the GM Bill. They don’t get it, have never gotten it, and most unfortunately never will get it.

To quote Belichick, “It’s not about collecting talent, it’s about building a football team.”

And this one from Belichick is perhaps the most frequently overlooked but arguably most important.  “On a team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.”

Belichick has always kept an eye on the long-term goal of not just building a winner, but maintaining it for the long haul. This is why they A) rarely if ever overpay for veteran players who are looking for the huge payday and B) they’ve done their shopping with many players who aren’t considered top players but will fit a role in the Patriots (read Belichick) system.

On the subject of players who may have been considered “busts” or only mid-tier, Belichick, rather than focusing on what they can’t do or trying to force them to do what the team wants, he’s learned what the player DOES do well and puts him in a position to succeed. Belichick once spoke about the mistakes some coaches make when trying to squeeze a player into a system where they may not be the exact right fit.

“You definitely go through a stage, most coaches do, where you see a good player and you get enamored, you really like what the player does, but then when you put him into your system, it’s not quite the same player that he was in another system. He has some strengths, but you can’t utilize all those strengths. If you try to utilize all his strengths, you end up weakening a lot of other players who are already in your system.”

“A sense of humor is a huge thing with us. You’ve got to be able to laugh. You’ve got to be able to take a dig, give a dig — that sort of thing. And [you have to] feel comfortable in your own skin that you don’t have all the answers.”

Part of this philosophy is by design. Belichick knows how to build a football team and knows what will or won’t work. And part of it is by necessity. Because of their success, the Patriots were always picking in the #30-32 range in the NFL draft. You’re not going to find too many Khalil Macks or the next Randy Moss in that range very often, if at all. And the draft, as Belichick knows, beyond the first half of the first round is oftentimes a crapshoot. 

Some players take longer to develop at the pro level and some peak in college and never work out. The second round is where the team has frequently taken chances on some players. Many of those have blown up in their faces. So, yes Belichick has swung and missed on many of those. This is why the Patriots would rather package picks and move down further to amass more selections which gives them a better chance at hitting on one of their prospects.

Belichick has a penchant for finding veteran players that fill a complementary role rather than being superstars and fit the team-first mentality. This is why players like Kyle Van Noy and others that they’ve added in the years before have nearly always filled valuable roles for the team in their continued success.

One of the more prevalent myths that surround Belichick and one we hear often is “GM Bill is hurting Coach Bill,” as if this is a no-brainer. And it is as wrong as rain on a wedding day. Drafting is just a part of team building. Finding veteran free agents that fit into your system and the salary cap is another. And so is finding UDFA talent after the draft.

Look at some of the players who have played valuable roles in the past 15 years and many of those players joined the Patriots as UDFAs. Randall Gay, Mike Wright, Gary Guyton, Brian Hoyer, Dane Fletcher, Brandon Bolden, Josh Kline, Ryan Allen, Malcolm Butler, Justin Coleman, David Andrews, Jonathan Jones, Jacob Hollister, J.C. Jackson, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Jakob Johnson, J.J. Taylor, and Myles Bryant.

No doubt it has been fantastic coaching but it has also been having an outstanding eye for talent. Talent to fit your team, your system, and your locker room. Once again, for the people in the cheap seats, have they hit on everyone? Of course, not. They’ve had plenty of whiffs. However, Belichick and the now Texans GM Nick Caserio have done a fantastic job of assembling a scouting staff that has been able to identify talent that is out there that nobody else has seen and identifying the players that want to win championships. And that is the final piece of the puzzle.   

“For a team to accomplish their goal, everybody’s got to give up a little bit of their individuality.”

Lots of teams make noise and spout the old clichés about the “team-first” mentality and such but much of what you hear is just that, noise. Belichick has said this also in the past during the draft process.

“We’re looking for people … [who] have gotten over themselves, and you can tell that pretty quickly,” Belichick said.

“You can talk to somebody for four or five minutes, and you can tell if it’s about them, or if they understand that they’re just a piece of the puzzle. So we look for that.”

Not many players are willing to give up their individuality, their stats, and their quest to get paid the most at their positions to win a championship. That’s another reason the Patriot/Belichick way has lasted so long. They are like a chameleon, they can change their identity from week-to-week and adjust accordingly to create mismatches against their opponent.

A receiver could have 15 targets one week and be the team’s go-to guy and the next to be relegated to a mere decoy if the coaching staff feels, that they need to go run-heavy and throw the ball elsewhere. If a player can’t handle that, he’ll either not sign here or soon find himself being released to take their talents elsewhere.

So, you say…where’s Brady??? 

Brady is the final piece of Belichick’s “Patriot Way”. If the Patriot Way is the Belichick way, then Brady is the epitome of personifying everything the coach is looking for in a leader, on the field, and in the locker room. Brady was the guy who glued together all of what the coach was preaching and led by example in doing what Bill himself said is the hardest part in team-building …buying in.

Having a QB, the most important position on the football team, who is the best to ever play his position and do it for so long has made Belichick’s job of sustaining excellence for so long much easier. Brady bought in hook, line, and sinker. And if the GOAT is buying in, then if you weren’t, we have a place for you in Palookaville.

Brady was the outlier in the draft process. The guy no one including Belichick had the slightest idea would have ever thought would become the player he has. 198 players were selected before Brady in the 2000 draft, and the Patriots passed on him through six rounds. Brady outworked everyone and continues to do so, albeit inside the Bucs clubhouse. 

And Brady had become the perfect foil for Belichick. We’ve all heard about the Monday film sessions where Belichick, as Tedy Bruschi as said, would “MF everyone”, even in big victories, pointing out mistakes in the endless quest for perfection. He frequently picks on plays made by Brady. The point being, if Brady’s going to get roasted, then you had better also “Do Your Job” better than anyone else.

Brady has also totally bought into (read make Bill’s job easier) the team-first mentality by frequently taking team-friendly deals where he took far below market value to allow the team to spend more on supporting cast members of the team. He was not even in the Top 15 list of highest-paid QBs in the league in 2018 when the Patriots won their latest Super Bowl.  

Shawn Springs told a story in the Athletic this week when he recounted coming into Foxboro in early March for a free-agent visit on the morning after a blizzard. He arrived at 7:30 in the morning and found Brady watching film in the Patriots’ QB room all alone. That sealed the deal for him.  

Willie McGinest checked in Friday and had this to say: “It’s not an issue,” he said about the “Is it Brady or Belichick that was the Patriot Way”. “It’s only an issue to the people who don’t understand it.”

“From a player’s point of view, if you don’t have the players buy-in, then the system and the blueprint doesn’t work, it doesn’t really matter,” McGinest said. “And on the other side, if you don’t have a great system or blueprint in place, you can have the greatest players and it would be unorganized, it would be undisciplined, and it would be selfish.”

“When people try to divide what was put in place and what was so special, I don’t jump on that bandwagon,” McGinest said. “I just know that everybody needed each other equally. It was one big family. I think it still is family, but in business, sometimes things change.”

The change no one wanted to see happen did in 2020. Belichick has always said that he’d rather part with a player a year early than a year too late. He’s usually spot on with that… but two notable exceptions were Richard Seymour and of course Brady, who with improved weapons had an outstanding season and shows no signs of being done. 

So, Belichick and the Krafts tried a power play with no backup plan in place and are now watching the QB that gave them so much for 20 years, take another team to the Super Bowl tonight. Calling it a mistake is like saying the Titanic had an ice issue. 

They needed each other and fed off of one another. Yes, the Patriot Way was Belichick’s but it would’ve never worked unless Brady was the point man for it. 

NFL Super Bowl 2021, Who is Your Winner?

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. 

Conference Championship Week:     2-0

Season Total: 169-86-1

Last Season:  162-93-1

Super Bowl Prediction:

While my head tells me the Tampa Bay defense can’t hold up against Kansas City, I’ve learned what folly it is to bet against Tom Brady. So, I’m going to take Tampa Bay on a last-second field goal that will put Brady at #7, and the usual suspects can point at the score and bemoan that Brady was pulled out by a kicker again. 

Tampa Bay 31-30

_______________

“So, how was your week?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 


Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Danny Amendola New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots QBs Rob Gronkowski The Patriot Way Tom Brady


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