The New England Patriots “system”, run by Bill Belichick is not easy. It requires a player to be smart, selfless, dedicated, and hard working. Some players succeed and thrive in this environment, others drop out because they can’t hack it. Some transfer and some are sent away, finished or not.
The ones that finish have a much easier time, generally, than the ones who weren’t a fit for the system.
One only needs to watch five minutes of a press conference to realize that as a coach, Bill Belichick is not easy to please. He’s ornery, short, and cross. Sort of like a super-secretive mob boss with a Napoleonic complex.
But that makes him a good coach, possibly one of the best ever. His players don’t make excuses, they are quizzed on their opponents, they are expected to understand the game of football and their place in it.
If you can’t handle that, the Patriots will simply replace you with someone who can. Sentiment has no room in New England, you have to have the right stuff year in and year out or you’re gone.
It’s a rather harsh system, but has produced some great people, on and off the field.
Reigning MVP Tom Brady went down in 2008, and back-up to the stars Matt Cassel stepped in, and the Patriots still won 11 games.
2008 is a testament to Belichick University, and the New England system. It is built so all the parts are interchangeable and replaceable. They just have to know what to do.
Some of the players in the organization have fully grasped this concept and are well on their way to succeeding in life outside of football.
Rodney Harrison, the most recent graduate of the Patriots, is already making waves as a commentator. He’s frank, honest, and doesn’t give a flying fig about Farve. It’s refreshing to find a talking head who still has a pair.
He’s already one of my favorite commentators, not just because he’s one of my guys, but because he’s the tamer, friendlier, Curt Shilling of the NFL. Curt will tell you exactly how he feels and what he thinks about a situation. Rodney will do the same, but he’s a hair more tactful than Curt.
Then there’s Mike Vrabel. Vrabel went to the Cheifs with Cassel for a second round pick this year. He’s getting older, and a bit slower, but this was not an easy trade to understand. Vrabel, despite some of the physical problems, is likely a future coach. Or at least an analyst.
He’s a quick wit, but all that football humor comes from a deep understanding of the game and the ability to learn the game as he plays it.
The Patriots will miss his presence in the locker room, certainly, but Vrabel should be destined for great things. Whether its as an analyst or a coach, Mike should continue with the game mentally when he can no longer play physically.
There are a few graduates who are still waiting for some final grades to see if they’ve passed:
Matt Cassel. He may be flash in the pan as far as pure talent goes, but there’s a lot to be said about what he learned as Brady’s back-up and as the starter in the Patriot’s system. If he remembers half of what he learned in New England, and the Cheif’s O-line protects him consistently, he’ll be a decent QB.
Then there’s Josh McDaniels. The rookie head coach of the Denver Broncos was brought up in the Patriots organization, and is attempting to run Denver the same way. That didn’t work out with Jay Cutler, but you have to wonder if maybe the rest of the team will start bucking under.
If McDaniels manages to get that locker room under control and starts to make moves to improve the team, he’ll be up there with Harrison.
The hardest thing for McDaniels now will be in trying to run the Broncos the way the Patriots are run. That system didn’t happen overnight, it has to be built. If he can get Marshall to stop bucking for a trade and settle down to play, he’ll be taking a step in the right direction.
Then there are those who have failed. Most of them never played enough snaps in the NFL to even matter.
The New England system is a unique one.
On one hand it is an incredible learning environment. You will come out of the organization with more football knowledge than you cam in with. On the other, its a ruthless and heartless mob. No one is safe from the ax, expectations are high, and lack of preparation is not accepted
The “university” is all about winning, and the Dean is one ornery, smart, slightly obsessive, and somewhat profane perfectionist named Bill Belichick.