Tearing Up the Playbook #2: Let's Be Honest, the Pats Are Pretty Cool

by Sam Stockton | 1/23/17 2:15am

I think I have to preface this by saying that by no means do I consider myself a New England Patriots fan. I repeat, I am not a Patriots fan. That being said, I am a football fan, and as a football fan, it is impossible to deny that the Patriots are an impeccable organization.

The thing about the Patriots is that if you overlook the hate and jealousy that fans of just about every other franchise have, you will realize that the Pats are and always will be the coolest franchise in the National Football League. Allow me to explain.

From a purely analytical perspective, the Patriots play the most interesting game in the league. Its schemes on offense and defense are intricate and fascinating. Its willingness to deploy one player at a number of different positions is unparalleled.

The cast of characters, even excluding the obvious Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick and Rob Gronkowski, is fascinating.

Take wide receiver Julian Edelman, for example, a former community college quarterback who took his first ever snap at receiver in the NFL. Edelman’s story is a captivating one, from cutting his teeth in the NFL as a special teams player before emerging as a devastatingly quick receiving threat and Brady’s favorite target.

As if that weren’t enough, he played cornerback for the Patriots for a while when injuries thinned out the secondary.

Take Matt Patricia as another example. You might not recognize the name, but I’m sure you’ve seen him patrolling the Patriots’ sideline with his thick beard, backwards ball cap and pencil behind his ear. Patricia is New England’s defensive coordinator, but his background is a degree in aeronautical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Overall, the characters that make up this team are the perfect blend of overachieving underdogs like Edelman and bona fide legends like Brady. They will have this feel for as long as Brady and Belichick stick around.

Of course, eventually both of those men will move on. To some, this may seem like a let down, and on some level it will be, but that doesn’t mean the Patriots won’t remain a fascinating team to watch. Once either Belichick or Brady retires, it will be interesting to see exactly how the other fares without him, and how the team will fare without both.

Granted, this mystery will only last for so long, but again, it won’t be the end of the allure of the Patriots. At this point, once Belichick’s and Brady’s impact are no longer directly felt on the team­­, the Patriots will have built up quite the tradition — a tradition that includes a coach and star player rising out of nowhere to become the best to ever, as Belichick puts it, do their jobs. On top of that, for football fans of my generation, this meteoric rise occurred right before our very eyes.

I was born in 1997. Belichick was hired in 2000. Brady was drafted the same year. New England won its first Super Bowl in February 2002. Over the course of my lifetime, the Patriots grew from a good but not great team to the most dominant dynasty the league has ever seen.

I’m not sure there is another fan base in the world that can say that they witnessed this kind of rise, but every football fan my age can say they watched it happen in New England.

Musings of the Week:

1. I love Theo Epstein, and, if you don’t recognize that he is a baseball mastermind, I’m not quite sure what you’re looking at. At this point, you may well be saying “That’s nice, but why are you thinking about it now?” Well, this week, it came to my attention, via a fascinating interview on David Axelrod’s podcast, that Epstein’s grandfather and great-uncle wrote the screenplay to “Casablanca.” How wild is that?

Epstein is not only a living baseball legend and perhaps the greatest executive in all of sports but also the descendent of the writers of one of the most iconic films in history. I don’t know what the Epstein family is doing to raise their kids, but I know they’re doing it well.

2. One of the challenges of having a Monday column during NFL season is that I have to turn in my articles before I know what happened in the week’s games. The point being, I have no idea what happened on championship Sunday as of press time.

Regardless of the outcome of the games, I believe that the Patriots should only play Gronkowski for two games a year: the American Football Conference title game and Super Bowl. I get that this sounds crazy, but let’s just state facts.

Fact one: Gronkowski is the league’s most dominant player when he’s healthy, but the way he plays puts his body at tremendous risk.

Fact two: the Patriots are a pretty safe bet to get to the AFC title game every year, as long as Brady and Belichick are together. Based on that, why not keep Gronk healthy so that for the two biggest games of the year, the best player in the league is on your side.

3. Again, I don’t know what happened in the game at this point, but I still don’t think Aaron Rodgers is as confident in this team as he has been in he has been in past Green Bay Packers squads. What is my evidence for this, you might ask?

Well, a confident Rodgers believes so firmly in his team that he is willing to grow out that goofy handlebar mustache. That mustache sends a message. If you have such a ridiculous ’stache, you are going to be lampooned if you lose, but if you win it’s awesome. Ergo, Rodgers would only grow out that ’stache if he had no doubt that the Packers were going to win every game it played. Bearded Rodgers thinks the Packers can beat anyone; mustached Rodgers knows that the Packers should beat anyone.