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Patriots Past Success Has Broken This Fanbase

The New England Patriots have dominated the NFL for the last 20 years. I’m not going to run through the accolades, but you know what it is. They’ve been the Final Boss at the end of every season. So much so that the Super Bowl almost turned into the “What Team Gets To Play The Patriots” Bowl. And while that unprecedented success was a treat to sit through, it’s had some lingering side effects that aren’t so great. Us New England Patriots fans have had it easy. Call it “Spoiled Fanbase Syndrome” if you’d like. The Patriots past years of success has utterly broken their own fanbase.

Patriots Nation has always prided themselves on being a knowledgeable group with a good grasp on what’s going on. As a part of said Nation, I think we’ve done that pretty well in living up to that standard. But this season (and last year to an extent) I’ve seen a bit of a change. A metamorphosis from a sensible fanbase to a group that overreacts and overexaggerates things to the point where we have people calling for Belichick’s head.

No seriously, there are actually people in this world that think Bill Belichick should be on the hot seat. Nevermind the fact that he’s in a rebuilding year with a rookie QB, revamped offensive and a shotty offensive line amongst other factors. We can’t bring up the facts here because that will shoot down this blasphemous argument.

Sure, these are mostly tweets from random people online, but make no mistake, this is the narrative floating around New England and their horrid radio stations. Bill Belichick is on the hot seat because the game has passed him by or because he’s not winning like he did with Brady. How does that make any sense? People who feel this way do understand that bringing along a rookie QB takes time, right?

I want to bring it back to that ‘rookie QB’ fact though. How long does it take teams to find their next franchise quarterback nowadays? Years? Decades if you’re a real bottom of the barrel team. But the Patriots have done so in one year. It took Bill Belichick one season to move on from Tom Brady, put up with Cam Newton and then draft Mac Jones. I’d say that’s a non-hot seat type of success, but who am I, right? And if you’re one of the Mac doubters out there, I don’t even have time for that nonsense. If you’ve watched these games, you know Belichick has found the next franchise QB in Mac Jones. That’s not up for debate whatsoever.

This is where the Tom Brady Effect comes into play in my eyes. Having the GOAT for so long has jaded the way Patriots fans think quarterback play should be.  Brady is a once in every Eon type player. Bill Belichick can’t run the team the same way he did with Brady because, simply put, Mac isn’t Tom. I know that seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised. I see fans getting mad left and right that this offense isn’t running smoothly or they aren’t putting up number they believe the team should be putting up. And to that I say, once again, Tom Brady is no longer here. You have a rookie QB who is 6 games into his career. Calm down. These things take time. In fact, it took time with Brady himself!

Sometimes I like to imagine what the narrative around Brady would’ve been had twitter been around in the early 2000’s. Tom would’ve gotten crucified by so many of you who overreact and expect instant results at the hardest position in professional sports. Patrick Chung said it best after the Cowboys game:

You can also look at it this way too: Bill Belichick retooled his entire team in one offseason. That’s incredible. He lost guys like Julian Edelman, Patrick Chung, Jason McCourty, Adam Butler and Joe Thuney. All pretty vital cogs in this machine. He went out and had the most expensive offseason anyone’s seen and replaced all those guys and then some. He went out and brought in players like Matt Judon, Jalen Mills, Trent Brown, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Ted Karras, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Van Noy, Davon Godchaux and more. Regardless of how you think the money was spent (another overreaction by this fanbase), Bill Belichick revamped this entire team in ONE offseason. But sure, tell me more about the hot seat.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not blind. Some of the players have contributed to varying degrees. But on the whole, every guy has played their part well and impacted this team in a net positive way. There are very few other GM’s in this league that can go out and do what Bill did last offseason in finding his franchise QB, drafting young impact guys and retooling his entire team. Take your hot seat and put it somewhere else, please.

Then we have to touch on the play calling because I see fans with steam coming out of their ears with this. Not going for it on 4th downs, kicking at times when fans don’t think they should or calling plays that make you scratch your head will do that I guess. Side note: when it comes to the play calling, Josh McDaniels is the one who needs to firmly plant himself on this hot seat. Not because I want him to “let Mac cook”, but because I want him to stop calling runs and screens at inopportune times. This blame should fall on the OC, not the HC.

Now let’s attack the lack of going for it on 4th down. The Pats have only gone for it on 4th down THREE times this season. That puts them just behind Seattle as the least amount of attempts. This is where I can see where the frustration comes from. Belichick does need to be more aggressive, but I don’t think that’s grounds for any hot seat talk. Honestly, I’m not even sure it’s grounds for any valid criticism. I feel like it’s something that should be brought up but not held over his head. Many of you act like going for it on 4th down is a sure thing when it’s far from it. Also, it’s not like Belichick just now started playing a little more conservative either.

We can talk about kicking the field goal against the Bucs as opposed to going for it on 4th and 3 at Tampa’s 37 if you’d like. When you have a chance to take the lead against Tom Brady late in the game, you do it. We’ve chastised opposing teams for passing up late points against the Pats for years, let’s not change it now just because we were on the wrong side of it. I’d rather talk about the Cowboys game anyway and the 4th down that everyone is talking about.

It’s 4th and 3 on your own 46 and you decide to punt it away to try to pin the Cowboys deep and let you D hold them. I’m sorry but I’m not seeing what’s wrong with this? The Cowboys have Greg Zurlein as the kicker who, as we all know, has earned his nickname Greg The Leg. Let’s say you go for it on 4th and don’t get it, okay? The Cowboys would then need a mere first down to get within range for a game winning field goal. When the Pats D has had issue stopping the Cowboys offense all game, why would you give them a shorter field to work with as opposed to kicking it and making them work? Now, of course, we all know how the game ended, but the outcome doesn’t change the fact that Bill made the correct decision.

Nelson Agholor missed one that would’ve give the Pats a first down and kept their drive going (facemask anyone). What happen if, on 4th down, something similar happens? Or what if the offensive line, who was getting manhandled all day, gets beat and Mac gets sacked? And this isn’t Belichick “coaching scared” as that’s the new buzz phrase you’ll hear now. Belichick clearly has confidence in Mac, but the risk you take going for it on 4th in that situation just isn’t worth it. This was Belichick looking at the game and deciding that making the Cowboys earn multiple first downs was better than making it so one conversion get’s them in FG range.

Will a Mac Jones led offensive eventually give Belichick the confidence he once had in Brady? I vote yes. But we aren’t quite there yet, and that’s okay! Again, that’s not to say Bill doesn’t deserve critique. Kneeling the ball with a minute and a half left and one timeout is frustrating. I understand you’re getting the ball back after the half and you’re already winning, but still. That’s annoying to sit through as a fan. Who knows what would’ve happened, but you would’ve liked for them to try something, anything there.

I’ve blabbered on for far too long now, but I think I’ve gotten my point across. Patriots fans need to face a hard truth: This team is a year or two away from being contenders. This is still a growing team with a ton of young guys. There are going to be a lot of tough losses here and there, but that’s the gig. Every developing team goes through these bumps and bruises. It’s clear this team still believes in themselves though, and that’s a very good sign!

Justin Bethel said it best there. This is a good team with a bad record. And a lot of that is due to self-induced growing pains. Whether it be play calling, mental errors or physical mess ups, this team has been competitive in every game they’ve played. I think that’s the part that a lot of fans are looking past. The Patriots just forced an OT with a team that many say are Super Bowl caliber. That’s real good! I don’t do moral victories and a loss is still a loss, but I don’t think there’s reason for this absurd “sky is falling” outlook that so many of you have.

If you can recalibrate your brain a bit and understand that this is a growing team, I promise you you’ll see the light. Not the blinding light that causes you to never criticize this team at all and think everything is always sunshine and rainbows. That’s a dangerous way to root for a team. While the future of the Patriot’s is extremely bright, you still have to care about the present. But there’s a giant gap between getting angry over a loss and saying that Belichick has lost it/this team sucks/whatever else you want to say. It’s tough to admit, but the Pats aren’t winning it all this year. Of course we’ll still root for them like we believe they have a chance, but you have to keep that truth in the back of your mind.

So when a tough loss like this happens, it’s okay to get upset, sure. But remember that this team is building towards something. When you drive by a construction site, you don’t say the workers are horrible or the foreman is bad because it’s done getting build quick enough for you. If you see an artist creating something, you don’t go find another one when you’re only looking at the outline and not the finished product. When you look at this Patriots team, don’t think all is lost because there’s some bumps in the road. The success will come. Let the workers work and you’ll see.

(Featured Photo Credit www.bostonglobe.com)

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Mike Sullivan (@msully5433 on Twitter)

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