Some talking heads are ripping the Patriots once again filling up the dead air space called talk radio and TV. “How dare Belichick put such an inept team on the field this year, totally devoid of talent on offense and defense? Belichick shows no respect for Brady and the relentless ebbing of his terrific skills as he approaches middle age.” We are not talking golf or chess here. This is football, the ultimate in demand of physical prowess. Something those in their late thirties no longer have in abundance, particularly after 16 grueling games per year, not counting playoffs, which, in the Patriots case add almost two full seasons. The hundreds of sacks over Brady's pro career has to have taken their toll, as well.
Let's take a step back for a moment and clear our heads of disappointment and frustration of the recent painful loss. What is the underlying objective, year in and year out of the Patriots business? Yes, business, that is what it is, and what it needs to be to be successful. Bob Kraft has told us this. He has said the Patriots need to be run as a business for the team to achieve consistent success. Consistent is the key word here. They need a plan, a model, and they need the discipline to stick with it. We also know coach Belichick fully subscribes to this business model; otherwise he would have left the Patriots long ago.
I think any objective fan (is that an oxymoron?) will consider the Patriots business record over the past 14 years of Belichick's tenure here as successful. Fannys fill all the seats, buy the hot dogs and beer and jerseys, meet payroll and payoff the notes on razor stadium with more than a few dollars left over for Bob's pocket.
Moreover, what makes the business a success? Is it wins on the field or a positive balance sheet?. Which comes first, business or wins on the field? No need to think about it, Bob and Bill have already told us. First is a plan, and second is the discipline to stick to it, despite what talking heads and some distraught, frustrated and impatient fans may think.
True, we have lost two Super Bowls. Granted, we have lost the last two conference championship games. But, we have won more games than any of the remaining 31 NFL teams over the fourteen years of Belichick's leadership. Patriots have averaged 12 wins a year over 14 years. Now this is consistency. We averaged 8 wins during the 4 years of Parcells, and 9 wins per year under Pete Caroll. And lest we forget, we averaged 6.5 wins per year for 30-odd years under our favorite (not!), Billy Sullivan. Albeit, in fairness, half of those Sullivan years were 14 game seasons, thankfully. My god, who can ever forget 1990, one win, fifteen losses and minus 265, point differential. Yuck! The Patriots have had 13 straight winning seasons under Belichick (even though Bill still has no clue on how to draft wide receivers and defensive backs). He has gone to five Super Bowls and made the playoffs 11 times in 14 years. He has skillfully traded draft picks so that the average draft value, according to the Don Shula value chart used widely for trading among NFL teams, for the Patriots is for the equivalent of an 8 win, and 15th. round draft position team rather than the 27 or 28 draft position for a 12 win team that they are. This draft strategy is part of the above mentioned business plan. It has allowed Bill to build depth and flexibility into the team at a reasonable cost. Depth and flexibility also are key elements of the plan.
For all those instant-gratification, what-have-you-done-lately people, let's have a little perspective here. Bill Belichick (Bob Kraft and Brady) are the best thing to come to Boston since Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. (Sorry Bobby Orr) My apologies as well, to Auerbach, Russell, and Bird.