THIS is an article about the New England Patriots.
Actually, no. No it isn’t. This is an article about how the rest of the AFC has been complicit, in making the New England Patriots seem better than they really are.
I’m not going to harp on the cheating and the scandals. Me railing about the worst kept secrets in pro sports, would totally undercut what I’m getting at here. This is not about attacking the legitimacy of New England’s achievements. Nor is it about questioning the credibility of the current NFL for their stance on all things Patriot.
In fact, let’s banish that for the duration of this article. For the sake of argument, lets say that every call, score, win, and division crown in the last nineteen years were ALL gotten by 100% legit means. Let’s say that the Patriots earned it all, and that they are really as good as advertised.
Let’s say that the rest of their conference, simply isn’t a match for them.
That very statement is a problem. Saying that the Patriots are that good, invalidates nearly half of the sport of pro football. It makes the rest of the AFC superfluous. In fact, if that statement is true, then the Owners on the Competition Committee, need to take a very hard look at what is going on here. Because it means that the sport is broken.
The Patriots have employed a single coach for just one year shy of two decades. There is plenty of film on what the he likes to run on both sides of the ball. There are a ton of former players who have cycled through that team, who have then carried intel to their new teams.
The coach’s offensive system isn’t a mystery. The basic tenets:
*Run on early downs, to eat clock and set up manageable 3rd downs.
*Attack the middle of the field with short to moderate passes, to punish and dissuade blitzing.
*Protect the QB by spreading the defense, so that he knows pre-snap where to quickly unload the ball.
*And run it all through a favorable mismatch, or the exploitation of an opponents weakness.
For example, here is a play in classic Patriots style:
ESPN diagrammed this, this year like they were explaining cold fission. Meanwhile I figured this out over a decade ago, just by watching it on television! However, the rest of the AFC, especially the AFC East, has yet to figure out how to stop it. Nor have they decided to employ these tenets themselves, to become just as dangerous. Mentally it seems that they’re asleep at the switch.
Bah! Maybe I’m being short-sighted and not giving enough credit to their QB, who has been there almost as long as the coach. As time has gone on, he’s clearly become a stronger, faster athlete, right? That’s why his numbers are better than they were the year before, every year.
Except that’s not the case. Year in and year out, the QB hovers around 30 touchdowns and 64% accuracy, with exception of an extreme outlier in 2007, where he somehow threw 50 touchdowns, and had an accuracy mark of 69%. (Neither of which he’s ever approached again. For some reason.)
So how is it that the rest of the AFC can’t catch on to two people, doing something more or less one way, for two decades? Don’t misunderstand, there have been challengers.
The Colts had a couple runs when Peyton Manning was there. Denver also had a couple runs under Peyton Manning. The Steelers have had a few under Ben Roethlisberger. But by and large, the rest of the conference has been playing Dizzy Bat for 20 years now.
It’s not like the Patriots load themselves up with the most talent. They never have the most dangerous receivers. They never have the league’s rushing leader. They’ve built a few solid contributors out of other teams cast-offs. They’ve even been up and down on defense over the span.
So it’s not like talent is what’s bailing them out. Their offensive scheme isn’t a mystery, and their defense is trash at times. So what is it? Perhaps it’s other team’s stupidity?
The Patriots are less a product of doing anything great, and more product of other teams being wasteful, slow to learn, and slower to adapt, to what is almost mind-numbing repetition. The mere fact that New England has been challenged by less than a handful of conference rivals, but repeatedly challenged by the same ones, only drives home my point: The AFC is trash and the Patriots are simply fortunate enough to play in the most remedial division, of a shit-show conference.
Today the upshot of all of this is, most of the country is already shrugging over the upcoming Super Bowl 53. Ticket prices have fallen as Los Angels fans are way too fickle to travel cross-country, like (Saint Louis) real fans would. Patriots fans are simply bored from going so much.
It’ll be interesting to see what the domestic television ratings are, and if announcers and media types, try to hype how high the rating were in foreign markets. (As if NFL fans care about how many Hondurans watched a game that we tuned into for the commercials.)
I’m not saying that the Patriots suck or aren’t good, but if the Patriots were truly as good as advertised, the coach and QB’s record in Super Bowls would be 8 – 0, not 5 – 3.
Real team dominance looks like 4 – 0 in the Super Bowl. Right Joe?