Pats Not Smarter, Just Less Stupid


1190301653Hardly a quarter goes by in a Patriots game when a talking-head analyst doesn’t say something along the lines of: “The Patriots are smarter than everyone else.”

The collective TV wisdom being that no one in the NFL ever does anything dumb, so if something works it must be brilliant. And the media loves to bestow genius upon the winning coach as opposed to blaming a loss on plain old ineptitude. (Odd that such genius never seems to last beyond one year. Witness such short-lived eras of enlightenment as Marvin Lewis, Sean Payton, and our favorite, the Mangenius himself, Eric Mangini).

If you’ve taken time to read the voluminous library being built around the Patriots dynasty (start with Michael Holley’s Patriot Reign and work forward) you will come to a few noticeable conclusions. One, there is a method to everything the Pats do from scouting to game-planning to media relations. And, two, it’s not so much brains as it is common sense.

Former Patriot backup lineman Ross Tucker (a Princeton grad, no less) has an interesting piece on SI.com (link via Boston Sports Media) about the Patriots’ methods. Tucker writes that the Patriot gameplan revolves around the entirely basic idea of figuring out what another team does well, and then forcing them to do something else. Brilliant!

Tucker also reiterates what is at the heart of Holley’s tome: That the Patriots have an organizational blueprint and—here’s where it gets tricky—they stick to it. They like players who put the team first and are singularly focused on their profession. Of course!

And when they do go outside their comfort zone (see: Dillon, Corey and Moss, Randy) they trust that the players on hand will police the situation or the offending party will quickly become part of the waiver wire. In other words, you won’t see the Patriots beholden to a star player’s quirks, the way the Bengals are to Chad Johnson.

Yet so few teams can accomplish a great season even once, let alone sustain a level of exceptional play. A long time ago, in another era, the great writer Dan Jenkins summarized what makes a good professional football coach. Every team in the NFL has studs, but the trick is to get them all moving in the same direction at the same time.

Doesn’t sound like genius to us, but then it’s a lot easier than saying on TV that Tom Coughlin choked away his chance at immortality by going conservative and cowering like a child who’s afraid of the dark.