Love, Hate or Respect?
Whether you love or hate the New England Patriots, you have to at least respect what they have done. You could look at their 2004 season and the fact that they will be returning to the Super Bowl in an attempt to win their third championship in four seasons and you would still only be seeing a part of the picture.
The Patriots are playing the best football that many of us have ever seen or may see in our lifetimes. I don't remember Lombardi's Packers and it wasn't until later that I realized just how good the Steelers were in the late 70's and early 80's. You can throw the Redskins and Cowboys into the mix as well. All of the teams that you choose to prop up as "dynasties" have had one thing in common. They dominated their era. While the debate will linger as to whether the Patriots are a dynasty, I would simply ask 'who cares'? Why the need to apply the dynasty label? Why not just sit down and watch this team play once and then tip your hat to a team that plays like just that, a team. No individuals, just a group of guys who have been drinking the Kool Aid that Bill Belichick has been offering whoever wants it. I would challenge you to find an area of their game in which they don't do well. They may not be great, but they are solid in all aspects of their game.
Belichick doesn't force himself on you like Bill Parcells, Brian Billick or the one-time NFL coach Steve Spurrier but rather avoids the spotlight and allows his team to do his talking. He has been labeled a genius by the media but you will never hear him say that. Belichick doesn't rely on a complicated system that requires its players to erase all they have been taught in football, nor one that has to have superstars to succeed. The Patriots don't have a roster loaded with Pro Bowlers or future Hall of Famers. What they do have, is a group of players that have bought into the team first mentality and they have seen the success that it has brought.
While some will look to give Belichick all the credit for the Patriots success, that may not be entirely accurate. Now, don't get me wrong, he does deserve credit but so too do the players and coaches around him. The players, several of whom could use their successes to find more lucrative deals with other teams, instead choose to stay in a system that rewards them in a way that no amount of money ever will; with football immortality. Ask any player who has ever played in the NFL what the ultimate measure of success is and they will say, winning the Super Bowl. Not making more money than the gross national product of several countries, but winning the Super Bowl. It is that glue that has kept the core of this team together for this incredible four year run. That in itself is something to marvel at, in the era of free agency, the Patriots have maintained same approach every season and in turn, they have found success on the field and in the front office.
The Patriots may not be the self proclaimed "America's Team" but their team approach is winning over football fans all over the world. Those who choose to hate this team because of their success are missing a great show. Personally, I rooted hard against them when they played the Steelers but that is because I am a huge fan of their rookie quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. The fact that they beat the rookie wasn't a huge surprise; however, the fact that they soundly beat the number one offense and number one defense on consecutive weekends was certainly impressive. I, like many others, will be watching the Super Bowl and hoping for a good game first and for a Patriot win second. There is something satisfying about watching a team play fundamentally sound football and yeah, watching them beat up the Eagles on a national stage wont hurt either.
This article was released on 2005-01-25.
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