All is not well in New England football land after yesterday’s undressing by the AFC’s undisputed best team, the Jacksonville Jags. And the problems for the Patriots start with #12.
As Brady screamed for his teammates to “Do your job” yesterday, I can’t help but wonder how many of them mumbled “You should have done yours”.
Tom Brady- Le Cap’s all time favorite athlete by a landslide- has spent the last 18 years humble-bragging (and the last 18 months just bragging-bragging) that the reason he has been so good is because he “has the answers to the test”, makes “sacrifices” and “gives up his life” in order to succeed. He has implied, and outright said, that the dedication to preparation is key, and that it starts for the upcoming season almost as soon as the last season ends. He has long put interests of the team ahead of himself, on and off the field; and that attitude from the team’s leader and best player certainly has helped define the notion of “The Patriot Way”- a concept as tangible as an eye-roll inducing intangible can be. But things have changed as of late down on Route 1, and my fear is, it’s something they ultimately may not be able to overcome.
This offseason, Brady decided that “optional” workouts- a distinction largely considered around the league as just ‘CBA language’- were in fact very optional…and he would opt out of them. Even though he remained in the area during the most of the May-July workouts, he decided to skip them. In a (probably orchestrated) development that should surprise no one, another prominent (and under contract) player, Rob Gronkowski, immediately followed suit. Gronk even doubled down, hosting perhaps the douchiest motocross press conference ever held, AT Gillette Stadium, and trolling the team during it. Not a stretch to think he was emboldened by the sudden turn to a “Me First” agenda by his buddy, Tommy.
In general, the tone and tempo of the workouts changed this year too. There was less intensity, less work, and less of them. Perhaps this was planned no matter who was/was not there…or maybe it was as a result of the stands taken by #12/#87.
Now, was yesterday’s loss directly due to the fact that these two skipped workouts? Is the team doomed because of it? Is it…all over for the Patriots???
Of course not. I fully expect this team to win 11-12 games, be contending for the AFC Championship, and largely be controversy free. They are just too well-run an organization, and the NFL has too many bonehead coaches, for the Patriots to suddenly end up in the shitter.
But, I think this does have an impact.
When the team has had to overcome adversity in the past, they have been able to more often than not. To a man, they attribute that to their hard work and preparedness…well, what if they aren’t doing as much hard work???
When it comes down to nut-cutting time, and the team needs put its trust in its prime-time guys- Belichick, Brady, Gronk- will it be as unconditional???
When Brady and one of his receivers make one of their famed (and inevitable) “adjustments”, to convert a season-altering 3rd or 4th down, we usually hear them call back to the hours they put in all spring and summer together…does that suddenly not matter????
And that’s the point. None of this means that Brady suddenly falls off. That he’s not one of the best 2 or 3 players in the game. It’s just the little things that the team, and Brady himself, have always received praise for- and attributed their own success to- aren’t happening any more.
Working hard year round either matters…or it doesn’t. You don’t get to have it both ways.
You can’t build your career on these pillars, then cut them out, and then act like you still worked as hard.
If I’m being honest, I think Brady deserves some concessions. “Veteran days off” during camp and the season. Let him have his “trainer” around whenever he wants. He should spend time with his family…good for him. Whatever. But let’s stop pretending he’s the same team-first guy he was. And let’s hope it doesn’t help bring about the end….