New England Patriots: Beating the System
The New England Patriots. Tom Brady. Bill Belichick. These are names that will go down in NFL history. No, American sporting history. No, sporting history in general. Following their stunning comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, these three claimed their fifth Super Bowl ring. But how has a team gone from having no success and being the joke of the league to being the most successful in the new millennium?
The Patriots weren't always the dominant team we see today. In fact, they didn't have a Super Bowl appearance until 1986, Super Bowl XX, where they lost to the Chicago Bears. Boston was struggling in sports, minus their success in the NBA, and the Patriots were there to make up the numbers. The team were beginning to be known as chokers. In the 1979 season, the team went from a 7-3 record to losing their last four games and missing out of the playoffs. The following year had similar fortunes, beginning 6-1 before finishing 10-6 and again missing out of the playoffs.
In 1993, Robert Kraft, the current owner of the franchise, bought the struggling team. His goal was to bring New England its first Super Bowl win. However, fortunes didn't change too much in the next couple of years. Average records saw the Patriots miss the postseason until they finally made it to their second Super Bowl, Super Bowl XXXI.
However, they suffered another loss. The Green Bay Packers won their third title in a 35-21 game. It seemed like the name of chokers would never leave the Patriots.
After two struggling seasons, Robert Kraft made the best decision of his life. He welcomed a man who would go on to be one of the greatest coaches of all time, Bill Belichick.
Beating the NFL
Most teams aim to build a team that can win one Super Bowl, and this is how the NFL is built as well. The league doesn't like dominance and they have built measures to ensure a balance. Teams that did well get later draft picks. They also get a tougher schedule based on the previous season's results. This is all done to avoid repeat winners.
This type of system is proven to work as seen with the Denver Broncos in the last couple of years. They won the Super Bowl in the 2015 season yet couldn't make the playoffs this season. They finished third in their division behind the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders.
So, how have the Patriots beat this system? They made it to the top of the mountain and stayed there despite many attempts to push them off. They may not always be Super Bowl contenders but they have been present in the AFL championship match for the last 6 seasons. Many will also claim that the NFL, led by Roger Goodell, have tried to set the Patriots back following their banning of Tom Brady for six games at the start of the season. But even they can't do anything to stop this wrecking ball. Here are the four main reasons for their success.
Probably the main reason for any success the Patriots have encountered. Bill Belichick, who comes from a family of coaches, has taken a poor franchise to be the number one team in the NFL.
He has run the team very professionally. Every coach follows his strategy. Every player follows his rules. And if you don't? You're on the first plane out of Boston. Take Jamie Collins for example. He was arguably the best defensive player on the roster. A falling out with Belichick over wages saw him traded to the Cleveland Browns. He went from being a possible Super Bowl winner to a member of the franchise with the worst record.
Belichick's vast experience across all aspects of the game allow him to be able to change a team's strategy depending on who they're playing. He can even do this mid-game as seen with the win over the Falcons. His attention to detail has helped make his players the most versatile they can be. They can go from a power running game to a passing game within a matter of a few plays. This makes them the most difficult team to go up against. They don't have one game plan, they have many.
Belichick knows what you're going to do before you do it. He's the most forward thinking, adaptable, and vicious coach this league has ever had. His studying of the game has made him better than anyone at knowing the business and maintaining a successful NFL roster. He is the greatest coach this sport, and maybe others, will ever know.
On his first day with the organization, Tom Brady stepped into Robert Kraft's office and proclaimed, "I'm [the] best decision this organisation has ever made." Quite a statement from a man that had just been picked in the 199th round in the 2000 draft.
He only got his opportunity as QB after Drew Bledsoe picked up an injury mid-game against the New York Jets. This gave him his first taste of NFL action. It's fair to say that he hasn't looked back since.
Brady has since played in 7 Super Bowls, winning five of them and claiming MVP in four. For a man that many teams turned away, this stat is astonishing.
It can be strongly argued that he is not the best player to have played in his position, in the past or currently. Some are stronger, like Steeler's quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Some are quicker, like Russell Wilson of the Seahawks. But none have the drive, determination, and motivation that has made Brady the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time.) You know if you have Brady on your team, you've always got a chance.
Drafting the Undrafted
Brady isn't the only player on the Patriots roster who wasn't an opening round draft pick. As the table below shows, several key members of the squad were lower round picks or not picked at all. They have proven to be big players in the team's success. Malcolm Butler got the game winning interception at Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks. Danny Amendola scored the game-levelling 2-point conversion in the most recent Super Bowl win.
The coaches and scouting team very rarely seem to draft or trade in great footballers. More so, they bring in great athletes. Chris Hogan was originally a lacrosse player before converting to football. All they need are players that are willing to commit and go with the Patriots and Belichick way. People say that anyone can be thrown into the Patriots system and with the amount of former failures and lower draft order success, this is hard to deny.
Significant Patriots Players 2016 Season
University of Michigan
2000 6th Round
College of San Mateo
2009 7th Round
University of West Alabama
2014 4th Round
It is the Nation vs. Patriots Nation. That's how it's viewed in New England anyway. Either you support the Patriots or you want them to lose every step of the way. This has come through many forms. There is their general success but their ruthlessness and win-at-all-cost mentality leaves many teams and fans disliking this franchise.
Before deflategate, there was spygate. The Patriots were accused of secretly filming the signals of the defensive coaches for the New York Jets. Fines were handed out, with Belichick being fined the largest amount by the NFL to a coach in history. The Patriots would still go on to make the Super Bowl that year, though they lost to the New York Giants.
This ruthlessness is shown throughout their play and preparation. Deflategate? Let's not get caught up in this too much because there still isn't substantial proof to say that they actually did lower the air pressure in the balls. Their previous actions were enough to make people convinced it happened.
We've discussed how ruthless Belichick can be with throwing players out, but play calls and tricks of the trade cannot be ignored either. It can be as big as going for fourth downs or two point conversions when they don't necessarily need them, or simply the never-say-die attitude they showed at their latest Super Bowl win.
The Patriots have made a home in the head of every player and coach in the NFL. Every team is worried when they play them. It doesn't matter if you're on a terrible run or the best run of your franchise's existence, the Patriots will always find a way.
The Story is Ongoing
15 years after their first Super Bowl win, this story is far from over. Many people have now given up the argument against Brady being anything other than the greatest quarterback of all time, but there is still time to further cement his and the franchise's dynasty.
It's still incredible how they have broken the NFL's system and created this legacy that will be remembered and spoken about for years to come. Love them or hate them, the New England Patriots have proven to be a team for the ages.