January 28th, 2015
Updated: In addition to L.B. point in the comments, Galley Brother B.J. adds the following dissent:
I think people forget a very important fact when talking about the Patriots dominance over the last decade, the rest of the AFC East is terrible. The Bills, Jets, and Dolphins have been horribly run for the past what 15 – 20 years? Just being competent pretty much guarantees the Patriots a division title and home play-off game every year.The Bills, Jets, and Dolphins have 9 combined playoff appearances since 2000 that’s tied for the lowest for a combination of 3 teams in the same division with the Jags, Titans, and Texans. So, the Patriots are tied with the Colts for the easiest division for the past decade and a half.The division victory as the minimum for your season makes it really easy to look good.
JVL almost gets to another important point here, but not quite: The adorable dilemma in which the same group of fans is forced to square the circle between being a) Patriots (Yankees) fans, and b) simultaneously belonging to “Red Sox Nation.”…that almost zen-like state of self-deception where the majority of the ’04 and ’07 WS teams were juiced to the gills, yet A-Rod’s a cheatah.
The greatest trick that Brady ever pulled was not allowing himself to be drawn into the clutches of his New England fanbase. (recall when he wore a Yankees hat as his kids were playing in the Boston Public Garden? Zut Alors!!!) No doubt he took note of what happened to Nomar, Terry Francona, et. al. on their way out.
JVL — Be aware that a couple of stats profs have taken to Deadspin (yes, I know) to pick apart that SharpFootballAnalysis article on the Pats’ lack of fumbles that you referenced in your piece. Take a look:
I think your broader point about Belichick looking to “hack the NFL” wherever he can is undoubtedly true, but it appears much of the Pats’ success at reducing fumbles is simply due to having Tom Brady at QB. (As the first article linked above notes, the Colts posted similarly low fumble numbers w/Peyton Manning as QB. Brady and Manning have the quickest releases, and thus lowest sack-taking rates, among almost all their peers, which goes a long way toward reducing fumbles.)
As to the broader point about the Patriots, I find myself in a similar spot as you. I usually root against them because I loathe the Boston fanbase, and I do think Belichick’s a cheater type. At the same time, I can’t help admiring their sustained run of success, and as a Michigan grad, I’m a huge fan of Tom Brady. His time at UM overlapped almost exactly with mine, and I watched as he was forced his senior year (1999) to platoon the starting QB job w/golden boy Drew Henson, a Michigan kid with a cannon for an arm who’d already been on the cover of SI as a two-sport high-school phenom. Lloyd Carr essentially gave Henson half the starting job to keep him from bolting school for the Yankees farm system (they’d already drafted Henson as a third baseman and gave him a big signing bonus). Brady would play the first quarter, Henson the second, and then Carr would choose the second-half QB based on who played better. Brady never complained about this, and ended up playing the second half of most games, including all the games down the stretch, and led Michigan to some amazing 4th quarter comebacks that year. Anyone who witnessed his amazing competitive fire in college isn’t surprised at the success he’s had in the NFL. As for Henson, he eventually flamed out in Triple-A because he couldn’t hit pro curveballs, then tried to make a comeback in football (he ended up w/the Cowboys in the post-Aikman wilderness) and flamed out there, too — he lost his roster spot to another plucky competitor of lesser pedigree, some undrafted kid named Tony Romo. Last I read, Henson is now a hitting coach in the Yankees farm system (though admittedly, made a ton of money as a player, even though he never panned out in either sport). Meanwhile, Tom Brady is a gazillionaire with three Super Bowl rings and a supermodel wife. Talk about revenge…
This Super Bowl almost qualifies as an Asteroid Game for me — I can’t stand Boston fans, and I hate the Seahawks too for a variety of reasons (Richard Sherman’s big mouth; their borderline illegal, grabby secondary play; the documented prevalence of PED use in that organization; and Pete Carroll’s general d-bag nature.) But I’ll probably root for Brady to get that fourth ring, putting him in the same company as Montana and Bradshaw.