Stars aligned

I’m a New England Patriots fan.  There I said it.  Some people love them, some hate them.  Whatever your view, you can’t argue with their record this season.  11 wins, 2 losses – one of the best records in the NFL right now.

What amazes me, is how people can still be amazed that a team can do so well WITHOUT the help of big-name stars.  Stars may grab the headlines and highlight reels, but quality teams win games and championships.

In a recent article on, it was again pointed out that – gasp – an NFL franchise is collecting wins with rookies, cast-offs and the undrafted.  So what?  Just because their talent wasn’t immediately apparent doesn’t mean they can’t contribute.

What I found really interesting was when Randy Moss, a future Hall-of-Fame reciever, was released by the Pats earlier this season, just how many people felt the Pats were done.  Throw in the towel – the season is over.

So why didn’t that happen?  I think a couple of key factors are at play:

  1. The players are an extention of their coach.  Love Bill Belichick or hate him, you have got to give him props for the loyalty and dedication his players have for him.  He’s gotten that respect by expecting really high levels of performance out of each player.  And if you aren’t meeting the standards, he’s not afraid to give you some time on the bench to think about it.  The Pats defensive unit was pretty weak in the beginning of the season.  Belichick said, “if you don’t produce, you don’t play.”  He builds in the desire to play and excel, not just the technical skill.
  2. The team is humble.  At 11-2, and the first team to clinch a spot in the play-offs, you might expect the players and coaches to gloat a little, show some pride for their accomplishment.  If you did expect this, you’d be dissapointed.  Listen to a news conference and they “haven’t done anything yet.”  The goal is the Super Bowl, and there is no use getting too excited until that goal is reached.
  3. They don’t get involved with drama.  How many “stars” have you heard trash talk, insult or blame others?  Probably too many to count.  Another way that the Patriot players are an extention of their coach is that Belichick doesn’t say much.  He doesn’t put others down or engage in pre-game verbal shenanigans with others.  It’s not his (or his teams) style.
  4. The Pats don’t tolerate whining or distractions.  Randy Moss whined after the first Pats game, and his off-field antics were becoming a distraction.  In the Patriots playbook, that means it’s time to go.  This action sends a clear message to the rest of the team.  Message recieved.

In closing, I have to admit that I have not always been a Belichick fan.  When he was the coach of the Cleveland Browns (my team until they didn’t exist), he benched Bernie Kosar, a fan favorite and a Cleveland icon.  Even though Belichick later admitted he could have handled it differently, I certainly didn’t agree with the call.  I now see that he was looking out for the long term heatlh and success of the team – which is a tough thing to do with stars in your eyes.

Thanks for reading!

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