Why do the New England Patriots win so much?
I have been a New England Patriot fan my entire life, going back to when I was about eleven-years old watching the Dallas Cowboys destroy the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl 27. My team was awful that next season at 5-11 and as a few years went by and we got a little better, just getting to the Playoffs seemed like a Super Bowl to me. But when the Patriots, led by Drew Bledsoe and coached by Bill Parcells, made Super Bowl 31 in the 1996 season, things changed. For the first time in my life, I really contemplated what it might be like to actually win the Super Bowl, something that simply seemed destined for other teams up until that point. I would not find out then, as Desmond Howard ended all hope with his kick return for a touchdown after the Patriots had gotten within six points. In all honesty, experiencing that loss was a good thing, because when my team won, the feeling was so much better in my opinion than it would have been otherwise.
I never imagined winning a Super Bowl without Drew as the quarterback and I loved Drew Bledsoe. He was a statue, but if you gave him time to throw, he could carve up a defense. When he went down in the 2001 season, I thought the season was over, especially when the Patriots went 0-2 that game. Little did I know that my life as a Patriots fan would forever change because of that Mo Lewis hit. Second year player, Tom Brady, took over and the rest is history. Things didn’t come without some bumps for me as a fan though. As I watched Adam Vinatieri’s Super Bowl 36 winning kick sail through the uprights, I couldn’t celebrate. I was focused on the clock, which should have had a second or two left, but was allowed to run out (there was seven seconds left before the kick). And then, my confliction came. My team had won the Super Bowl in a monumental upset of Kurt Warner and the Saint Louis Rams, otherwise known as the Greatest Show on Turf. But the Patriots had won a Super Bowl with Drew Bledsoe as the backup. And in the offseason, they traded my favorite player. Being older now, I understand why the move was made, but at the time, I was gutted. I thought they should keep Drew at least another year in case Brady didn’t work out. All these years later, Drew Bledsoe is still my favorite player due to nostalgia, while Brady is now the consensus greatest quarterback of all time (If you really want Montana, I won’t argue with you).
But as a Patriots fan, things are hard today. Everyone hates the Patriots and even as a Patriots fan, I can understand why. There is simply the fact that they win a lot, which breeds jealousy and contempt by itself, but there is also the fact the organization was mired in two cheating scandals. Most Patriots fans I know are assholes and bandwagon people who came on post Super Bowl victory. They don’t understand that the ride will end and someday, the Patriots will be 2-14 again. This is why I relish every victory, as you don’t know how long it will last or when it will come around again.
But there is another trend I’ve noticed as a Patriots fan: the excuses that people come up with for why they win. They have come and gone over the years and some even made sense for a bit until they were disproven and another theory took its place. I want to look at some of these things in this article and then go into why I believe the Patriots keep winning and if you agree with me great, and if not, maybe it at least gives you a different look of things and from a fan who is not going to just hammer you with pro-Patriot propaganda.
They only won the first Super Bowl because of the made up Tuck Rule.
This is pretty popular on message boards and comment sections more than anywhere else in my experience. This is of course referring to the Divisional Round game in 2002 which Charles Woodson appeared to cause Tom Brady to fumble the football in the heavy snow. The call was overturned on review due to something called the Tuck Rule. The fumble would have allowed the Oakland Raiders to kneel down and advance to the AFC Championship Game, but instead, the Patriots went on to win their first Super Bowl.
I remember watching this game in the dorm room next to mine at college and to us, it was a fumble. The game was over. But then on the review, it got overturned and Adam Vinatieri kicked the most amazing kick in NFL history, a 45-yarder to tie the game in a near blizzard with a ball that must have felt like a stone off his foot. He probably makes that kick one time out of twenty five. I know a Raider’s fan and to this day, he tells me it was a fumble and it was a fumble, except it wasn’t.
The Tuck Rule was put in place to eliminate the gray area on a quarterback fumbling. If his arm was moving forward, it wasn’t a fumble whether he was intending to throw or tucking the ball back to his body. It was used very little, but oddly enough had gone against the Patriots earlier in the year in the game against the Jets in which Bledsoe got hurt. To this day, some fans still think that this rule was made up on the spot in order to either A) screw over Al Davis yet again (Something he apparently believed wholeheartedly) or B) to give the Patriots a win as a post-9/11 Patriots team was good for the league. That is simply not true. It was the rule:
NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2. When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.
I get the anger over this because the rule was stupid. Brady got hit as he was tucking the ball back into his body and fumbled, the Raiders recovered the ball and should have won the game. When the replay happened, the Raiders were so shell-shocked that they never recovered. Some are still recovering. Some players truly believe that the Patriot’s Dynasty should have been theirs. They believe Jon Gruden would have stayed and they would have gone on a run instead of getting to the Super Bowl the next year and getting blown out by the Gruden coached Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
SpyGate was why the Patriots won all those rings.
A Patriots fan gets testy about Spygate because people bring into question the validity of the three Super Bowls the team won in 2001, 2003, and 2004 and there is no basis in truth to this claim. The Patriots were caught cheating; in fact, they were caught spying on other teams. But where is the truth?
The Patriots had been collecting tapes of opponents’ defensive signals since 2000 (or before the rings), but which was legal until a September 2006 memorandum sent to all the NFL teams making certain spots in the stadium illegal to film from. This alone means that the rings are valid, as taping the signals was legal and was something other teams likely also did. Taping signals actually is still permitted even after the memorandum, but only in certain areas of the stadium. Belichick ignored that last part and continued taping from the now-illegal spots.
Spygate became what it became for several reasons. The first was simply that it was a recent three-time Super Bowl champion. In fact, the New York Jets (The team who blew the whistle on Spygate) actually had the same offense after the 2006 memo and were not punished for it, as Commissioner Goodell (and Former Jets Intern) did not feel the Jets were a threat to the competitive balance to the league. This means that since the Jets were the Jets, it didn’t matter (much like other minor cheating offenses we see every few years from teams that have not won anything). Another reason the story blew up was the punishment, which was $250,000 to the team, $500,000 to Bill Belichick, and the loss of their first round draft pick. Many people think the penalty stems not for the crime itself, but for the embarrassment to the league the situation caused and because the league felt that Belichick was thumbing his nose at them. The third reason Spygate blew up was reported that there was a tape of the St. Louis Rams’ practice before their Super Bowl 36 loss to the Patriots. This became accepted as fact even long after it was proven to be false. I still see people who say it was true. And lastly, what about the tapes themselves? Roger Goodell destroyed all the evidence. Why? What should have been on them should have been no more than a view of the game or opponent sideline. As a Patriots fan, I hate that the tapes were destroyed because that bit of intrigue made everyone see what they wanted to imagine on those tapes. Marshall Faulk of the Rams still believes he was cheated out of a ring because Goodell did not just come out and say, “Look, they shouldn’t have done this, but this is all it is.” But to think there is anything worse than just seeing the game or the sidelines from a different angle would be wrong because before they were destroyed, Goodell showed the film to media members, so if there was a bombshell on them, it would have been reported.
As far as the spying, one might be surprised that stealing a team’s signals is still completely legal and teams still tape every game they play. It is the location that matters and Belichick thought he was the smartest guy in the room and got hammered for it. Even Goodell admitted that the taping did not affect the outcome of the games, as it was something that could not be looked at until after the game, just like the film from every camera in the stadium that records each game.
As for what effect this had, the Patriots proved to be better after Spygate then before, both short and long term. In the season after Spygate, the Patriots wanted to prove to the world that they were not cheaters and this motivation got the Patriots to the first 16-0 Undefeated regular season in league history. They went through the Playoffs and came up just short of winning the Super Bowl and that team is still considered by many to be the greatest team of all time. From the 2001-2006 seasons, the Patriots were a combined 70-26 in the regular season, which equates to a .729% winning percentage. In the years since Spygate, they have gone a combined 126-34 as of the 2016 season, for a winning percentage of .788%.
18-1. How does that feel Patriot-boy?
That David Tyree catch still haunts my nightmares. Thanks for bringing it up.
Deflategate! Ha! I knew there was a reason they were winning all those games again.
I really can’t believe I have to talk about Deflategate. Hasn’t enough been written about this? Deflategate was a nightmare for us all. Something that is a minor infraction (a $25,000 fine in the rulebook) ended up costing millions of dollars as it dragged through court not even to challenge whether or not Tom Brady was guilty, but if Roger Goodell had the ultimate authority to essentially do what he wants (By the way, apparently he does). The Patriots were fined again, another draft pick was taken away and Tom Brady ultimately served a four game suspension and to this day no one knows what happened, if anything.
In the 2014 AFC Championship game, the New England Patriots crushed the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 45-7 and soon afterward a report surfaced that the Patriots had under deflated balls (insert sophomoric joke here). Ryan Grigson, the General Manager of the Colts at the time (since fired for not knowing how to actually be a General Manager) alerted the NFL of his suspicions before the game and instead of simply saying to both teams, “Hey, we’re watching. No funny business.” the NFL decided to catch the Patriots.
What happened next will make a great ESPN 30 for 30 documentary as there was false reporting by typically reliable sources, a question of which of two gauges were used and then the idea that somehow, the people in charge of the NFL did not apparently know that air escapes footballs both in cold weather and during use (Something I discovered when I was nine years old in my front yard). We had broken cell phones, shady stadium workers with ominous nicknames and an “impartial” report that was paid for by the NFL. In the end Goodell looked bad, Brady looked bad, and everyone suffered to some degree.
I had a hard time with this one because the Super Bowl was two weeks after the incident and it was hard to get excited about the game when you weren’t sure if your team was engaged in cheating or not. Yes, every team cheats, but you still don’t want your team to be caught doing it and on the field no less. Would the Super Bowl win even mean anything? It turns out it really did, but at the same time, I knew I would forever be confronted with the “You cheer for cheaters” label. I ask some of those people what they would do if their team was embroiled in two scandals that ultimately proved to be much ado about little and were the only team they grew up watching. People divorce their wives before their football teams.
It doesn’t really matter to me whether you think Brady cheated or not, nor does it matter to me how big a deal that air pressure is unless you’re from Green Bay (I bet Aaron Rogers regrets that comment about liking to overinflate his balls past the legal limit). What matters is this: as the case wore on, more and more people went from believing Brady was guilty as sin to at least believing that he was mistreated by Goodell and the NFL offices, who were caught in lie after lie about the ordeal.
And what did Brady do with those properly inflated footballs? In the Super Bowl two weeks after the deflategate game Brady became the first quarterback to overcome a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and win. He threw for 328 yards and 4 touchdowns against the number 1 defense in the league and defending Champion Seahawks. Not too shabby because you know those balls were tested probably a hundred times. In the two years since? Well, Brady has thrown for 64 touchdowns to just 9 interceptions and is averaging nearly 300 yards a game. In fact, his numbers are better after Deflategate than before, with the 7 interceptions in 2015 (just 2 in a suspension shortened 2016), the least he threw since his MVP 2010 season and the 36 touchdowns (28 in 2016) were the most since having 39 in 2011.
Brady’s performance is the biggest indicator that the PSI levels in the footballs didn’t matter. Maybe he did have them deflated. I don’t know, but if he did, it would make sense for his numbers to drop even a bit (combined with the fact that he is now 39), but they have gone up instead. People also assumed the Patriots fumble rate, which was the lowest in the league for the five years before deflategate would also go up, but they still led the league in that category in 2015. People forget that Belichick will not put players on the field who fumble unless he has to (See Steven Ridley) and that he is notorious for practicing outside no matter what the conditions, both of which are huge motivators to ball security.
Damn it, they are in the Super Bowl again. Well, it must be nice playing in the AFC East
Yes, it is actually. But seriously, every division has its good years and bad. The Jets had a few good years under Rex Ryan and the Dolphins even made the playoffs this year, but the AFC East has truly had no team that was any good for more than a year or two. But the teams also don’t tend to be awful for long stretches like the Browns or the Rams. Mostly, the AFC East teams are in the 8-8 to 6-10 range. Also to be pointed out that many people I see make this claim end up being in Divisions worse than the AFC East, including Earl Thomas of the Seahawks, who forgets his division this year was a dumpster fire. Taking out the Patriots, the AFC East was 22-26 for a .458 winning percentage; while taking out the Seahawks, the NFC West was 13-34-1 for a .276 winning percentage.
That is just one year of course, but people discount the AFC East so much in part due to the Patriots dominating that division so consistently. Since the divisions were realigned in 2002, the Patriots have won the AFC East thirteen out of fifteen years, with the Jets and Dolphins each claiming a lone crown (the Patriots lost tiebreakers in both cases). This leads people to believe that the rest of the AFC East are chumps who can’t rise up, when the truth is, it’s hard to rise up when the lead team in the division consistently puts up twelve wins or more.
If one were to move the Patriots to the hardest division each year, would that really make a difference? Instead of going 5-1 in the division, they might go 4-2 or maybe even 3-3 some years. They might slip from a one seed to a two some years, but overall, they would still have plenty of success. People forget, your division only makes up 6 out of 16 games and the good teams are supposed to rack up the wins against inferior division opponents.
In truth, the AFC East has not provided the best competition for the Patriots, but that’s certainly not the Patriots’ fault. They are simply taking advantage of the fact that for many reasons, these other teams cannot keep up. The best quarterback in the division besides Brady in all this time was probably Chad Pennington. Let me say that again: in over fifteen years, the best quarterback that three teams could roll out was Chad Pennington. There is validity to the argument that the AFC East is a bad division, it’s just not as bad as some people want to believe, with teams that build defensively to stop Brady as opposed to offensively to keep up with him.
They don’t play anyone good and get a bye to the Super Bowl every year.
I just want to point out that this was literally said to me the day after the Patriots beat down the Pittsburgh Steelers in this year’s AFC Championship game 36-17 by a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is now where we are: every other argument that people have made has seen the Patriots keep winning, so now, people are finally just saying their own team is not any good.
The argument to this is simple. Every team gets a schedule that is rotationally based. You have your six division games, 4 games against an AFC Division on a rotational basis, 4 games against an NFC Division on a rotational basis, and the remaining 2 games come against the two teams in the same conference who finished the same place in their division as you did. This is to promote parity, as people who finish last get a last place schedule, which should give them a chance at more wins. This isn’t college football, where you can schedule your games and play most of them at home. Everyone has the same resources, same salary cap, and plays the same schedule maker. You can only beat who is on your schedule, but I have recently seen that the Patriots never play anybody talk. That is the last excuse left.
To be fair, there is truth to that this year, although it is not absolute. The Patriots only played one good quarterback all year and lost that game (a nail biter to the Seattle Seahawks). Even going 4-1 against playoff teams saw a litany of bad quarterbacks on the other side of the field, as even against the Steelers in the regular season, Ben Roethlisberger did not play.
Here is the thing: they were the best team in the AFC and are many seasons. The best team is meant to get the easiest path to the Super Bowl as outlined in how the Playoff bracket is formed. The top seed automatically gets the lowest seed remaining in a home game. Some years that is actually a bad thing, as many wild card teams are better than the lowest division winner, but it was not so this year. The top seed is supposed to have the easiest path.
Alright, so you tell me why the Patriots win all the time.
There are many reasons for the fact that the Patriots are going to their seventh Super Bowl of the Brady/Belichick era with the chance to win ring number five. I’ll list a good amount, but the biggest reason is continuity and I can’t stress that reason enough. Having the same head coach delivering the same consistent message of holding everyone accountable and doing their job year after year and always having his players buy into it while the quarterback comes in every year like he is competing just to get on the field cannot be understated. Peyton Manning was every bit as good on the field as Brady if not better in many regards, but he did not have the drive that Brady does. The assistant coordinators often stay many years and are promoted from within, so even when a new one pops up, it is simply someone who was already in the organization. Continuity makes things easier as you’re never having to adjust to a whole new philosophy.
Nobody picks up unwanted players and turns them into stars like the Patriots. How many All Pro’s do you think Brady has played with on Offense? The answer is five and two of them were linemen. The others were Randy Moss for about two seasons before he went back to the Vikings, Wes Welker, and Rob Gronkowski. Brady is always throwing to guys nobody has heard of. Take Wes Welker, one of my favorite Patriot players. The Patriots played the Dolphins twice a year and couldn’t cover him, so they traded for him. No one really knew who he was, but for the Patriots, he was a star. This year sees a similar story with Chris Hogan, who was gotten from the Bills (AFC East teams really need to stop trading their players to the Patriots). This has been going on for some time and more often than not, these kind of players work out, but if they go to other teams, they fizzle out. Was Welker the same in Denver with Peyton Manning as he was with Brady? Exactly.
The Patriots are one of the few teams that will tear up a playbook from week to week. How often have you heard, “This is who we are and we’re going to go up against them with what got us here.” It’s admirable in a way, but also not very smart. What comes to mind is the Pittsburg Steelers. They played a zone defense under former Defensive Coodinator Dick Lebeau and Tom Brady would constantly shred it. Lebeau never changed the defense up against the Patriots, even for a series here and there. This is utter stupidity and even though Lebeau is no longer there, the Steelers are doing the same thing. In the past six games against Pittsburg, Brady threw for 22 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. You never see the same thing from the Patriots. If they are playing the Colts, you see them run the ball over and over again. Against the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49, Brady came out throwing. A star in one game may not even be utilized in the next. This makes it hard for teams to prepare for. This versatility alone gives them an advantage over every other team in the league in addition to the fact that the Patriots like to utilize players who can fit into multiple roles when needed.
It has to be said that having one of the best head coaches and quarterbacks together for so long has to top the list of reasons as well. It seems to only happen once a generation where a great coach and great quarterback lead a team to continued greatness and no tandem has done it longer than Brady and Belichick. One can argue who means more, but they are each vital to the teams’ success. I don’t think Tom Brady would be considered as the greatest quarterback of all time without Belichick coaching him, but I also don’t think Belichick gets to where he is without Brady.
By this time there is a psychological effect as well. Some teams are beaten before they even step on the field due to the Super Bowl victories. When some teams play the Patriots, it has to be hard to convince those players they can win. Sure the Broncos and Ravens and teams like that think they can win (Since they have on several occasions), but it’s another thing convincing the Texans that they can win a game without being absolutely perfect. Knowing you can’t make a mistake is oftentimes what leads to a mistake.
My brother-in-law hates the Patriots, but after they got to the Super Bowl this year, he said, “I’m just resigned to this never ending.”
All right, you have some good points, but I still hate the Patriots. So let me ask, How about that Eli to Manningham throw?
Son of a bitch.