Much talk has been made about “The Patriot Way” during the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era in New England. A group of ragtag no namers led by a third string quarterback who was a backup in college turned into the class of the NFL overnight in the 00’s after their miracle upset against the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl thrust the team and their head coach into the spotlight. With many lauding Belichick’s ability to create a team of high character, “team first” guys as the reason for the beginning of their dynasty.
With that dynasty and three Super Bowl wins has came an extremely long leash and blind eye when it has came to bringing in risks and distractions into his football team. Now after two weeks of a media windstorm in New England, it appears that Bill’s luck with savvy risk taking has finally ran out, and the Patriots camp is turning into a soap opera that even they can’t control.
Starting in 2007 with the drafting of safety Brandon Meriweather in Round One of the NFL Draft, and making the blockbuster trade with the Oakland Raiders that brought Randy Moss to New England from. Meriweather kicked an opponent in the head during an on-field fight at the University of Miami who just happen to be the most notorious bad character schools in the NCAA, and Moss’ is the guy who is best known for “Straight Cash Homey” and mooning the fans in Green Bay.
These moves ended up working out as the Patriots went 18-1 with Moss and went to another Super Bowl, further adding to the mystique of the Patriots organization as Moss’ career rejuvenated. Many ignored the fact that Moss mailed it in for his entire stay in Oakland with bad quarterbacks and a bad attitude forcing him out of town and attributed Belichick with the ability to fit typically selfish players with checkered pasts into his high character organization.
With Moss’ declining and the Patriots championship window slightly closing yet again, the was dice rolled for another time on Aaron Hernandez in the fourth round. Hernandez joined Rob Gronkowski as the Patriots new tight ends who both came with risks with Hernandez’ failed drug tests being the biggest concern ahead of Gronk’s back problems. Still the pair resulted in a third revival of the Brady/Belichick era as the tight ends exploded onto the scene giving the Pats a new strength in the passing game.
Now reports have surfaced that Hernandez told off veteran receiver Wes Welker before he even played a down for the Patriots with the Boston Globe reporting the two got into a film room dust up in Hernandez rookie season. With Hernandez murder investigation bringing even more negative attention to New England it is becoming more and more clear to everyone that the “Patriot Way” the mainstream media shoved down our throats is a farce.
In fact Belichick takes risks at an extremely high clip, trying to buy low and bring steals into his organization to give the Patriots an edge in taking players that are being ignored for whatever reason by the rest of the league.
In 2011, Belichick took risk-taking to a higher level, using a third-round pick on much-maligned quarterback Ryan Mallett and then, after the lockout, sending mid-round picks to the Redskins and Bengals, respectively, for defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and receiver Chad Ochocinco.
In 2012, a seventh-round flier was taken on cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who was charged with assaulting a police officer only days before the draft. During the 2012 season, Belichick traded for cornerback Aqib Talib, a former first-rounder who had more than a few off-field predicaments in Tampa.
Then came the unexpected waiver claim on tight end Jake Ballard (ACL) and, most recently, a trade for running back LeGarrette Blount and the decision to bring Tebowmania to town. Now doesn’t that seem like the cast of characters you would expect from the Bengals, or their AFC East rivals in New York?
Belichick is sticking to his blueprint to take risks and buy players low, whether due to injures, health problems, off-field issues, or perceived distractions, but it seems that his magic is running out as he increases the amount of times he steps up to the table to roll the dice.
In some cases it works, but now it seems like the Patriots are just riding on a perceived “good reputation” that most of the NFL’s organizations are not afforded. They have earned it by winning with class, but at the end of the day each NFL team is the same regardless of how people want to perceive them and the Patriots are slowly learning the hard way that in a league that has athletes with discipline problems, it happens to the best of everyone in the NFL. “The Patriot Way” was never there, their luck has just ran out and they now have two huge distractions on their hands for 2013 in Hernandez and Tebow. It is your move Bill.