New England is the team to hate among football fans that don’t adore the Patriots. But for the Patriot Nation football is a season of fun as New England has the recipe for success and head coach Bill Belichick is the Emeril Lagasse of the sidelines.
The Patriots have had and still have some great football players but everyone knows, especially the guys who put on the uniform, that Belichick is the mad scientist behind it all. He only demands one thing out of his players: Perfection.
He will take care of the rest. Belichick is well known for finding players no one has ever heard of and turning them into another key piece to the puzzle. Before last season no one ever heard of Danny Woodhead and now he is a key component in an offense that registered a 47 percent third down efficiency rating, second-best in the NFL.
Belichick has also made a name for himself as the supreme psychologist, bringing in the league’s baddest bad boys and turning them into model citizens. Randy Moss and Corey Dillon are prime examples as both thrived in the Patriots’ system.
This year the head guy did it again when he signed Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco. In the Belichick system there really is no risk because he probably has two bus tickets in his desk drawer just in case it doesn’t work out.
Belichick looks more like bumbling TV detective Colombo but he is a sheer genius when it comes to the X’s and O’s in the game of football. Team owner Robert Kraft couldn’t have found a better football mind in the game to run the show.
The Patriots will no doubt have a little added incentive this season following the death of Myra Kraft, the owner’s wife, who was one of the most respected women in the NFL. I could see Robert Kraft raising the Super Bowl trophy in her honor when the season is over.
Belichick spent a better part of 15 years in the NFL as a trusted assistant coach under another sideline master, Bill Parcells. He was the defensive coordinator when the Giants beat the Bills in the Super Bowl and followed Parcells to New England and then to the Jets.
When Parcells retired they held a press conference to announce Bill Belichick as the new Jets head coach. In true Belichick form he used that forum to announce his resignation refusing the job and then signed with New England.
The infuriated Jets were awarded a first-round draft pick as a result of Belichick’s move. A few years later the Jets filed charges with the league and the Patriots were fined for filming the Jets sideline during a game.
A rivalry was born that could mirror the Red Sox and Yankees. Last week, Belichick struck again by signing away Shaun Ellis from the Jets—the same first-round draft choice that they lost 10 years ago.
In his first season as the head guy the Patriots went a miserable 5-11 in 2000. Since then the Patriots have been to the playoffs eight times over the next 10 seasons reaching the Super Bowl four times while winning three and compiling a 14-5 postseason mark with eight AFC East tiles.
Last season the 14-2 Patriots led the NFL with 518 points scored and were fourth in points allowed at 313. They were knocked off by the Jets, 28-21, in the divisional playoffs and Belichick has had seven months to prepare to right the wrong.
How do the Patriots stack up for this upcoming season? If the first preseason game was any indication, a 47-12 win over Jacksonville in which the Pats converted 11 of 19 third downs, it should be very entertaining.
Tom Brady is coming off another MVP season, having thrown for 3,900 yards and 36 touchdowns. BenJarvus Green-Ellis established himself in the backfield, rambling for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns. Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Brandon Tate will only have more opportunities when defenses are stretched trying to cover Chad Ochocinco along with the double tight end set of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
Brady was pressured in the pocket during the playoff loss to the Jets and the Patriots went out and solved that issue using their first-round pick on Nate Solder, who stands a mere 6-foot-8, 319 pounds. With veteran Matt Light and franchise player Logan Mankins in the fold the Patriots offensive line could be the best in the league.
There’s no doubt that the Patriots will put points on the board but the biggest improvement will be on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots boasted one of the youngest defenses in the league last year and that was exploited in the playoffs.
The signing of Haynesworth and the maturing of youngsters Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham will help the defense greatly. Belichick, a three-time NFL Coach of the Year in 2003, 2007, and 2010, thrives on putting together intricate defenses that will be the key to another AFC East title and a run at another Super Bowl.
Patrick Chung in only three seasons has emerged as a leader in the locker room and on the field, leading the defense with 96 tackles last year. His presence will stabilize a defensive unit that may very well dominate the league in 2011.
What makes the Patriots a dangerous team is a system that has been in place for 11 years and a host of veterans that know what’s expected of them: Perfection. In the past five years, the Patriots have compiled a gaudy 63-17 record with four AFC East crowns.
As for my prediction on the season—the Patriots will win the AFC East over the Jets and return the favor from last year by knocking off the Jets en route to another Super Bowl appearance.
It certainly would be nice to exact a little revenge on the Giants, who ruined a perfect season in 2007 in the Pats’ only Super Bowl loss under Belichick. But my money is on the Philadelphia Eagles as a possible opponent. Stay tuned next week for my take on the Giants and why they won’t be in the Super Bowl.
Ken Morse is a contributed sports wittier for the Citizen’s News.