With all of the coverage leading up the Super Bowl, one thing that may have been overlooked was the fact that a team not participating in the game was on many people’s minds: the New England Patriots. The official “Team of the Decade” was looked at as a model franchise, a team that won the right way, and were vindicated for the controversies that surrounded them along with their success. It started with the Saints’ head coach Sean Payton discussing how he studied the Patriot model while trying to build up the Saints to contenders. Payton, like Belichick, comes from the Bill Parcells coaching tree, and that bond clearly links the two together.
“You’ve heard me talk about the Patriots and paying attention in our industry to the organizations or teams like New England and really study closely the reason they were successful. I think it’s pretty good business practice to do that. You start with the team aspect of trying to get players that put the team ahead of their own accomplishments, their own itineraries. That’s easier said than done.”
Next, Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams discussed the tremendous respect he has for fellow defensive mastermind Bill Belichick. The two used to see each other twice per season when Williams was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
“I think the world of Bill Belichick. I think he’s one of the all-time best coaches. With he and I, there’s a respect factor there.”
Former Oakland Raiders QB Rich “The Cannon” Gannon reminisced about the Snow Bowl playoff game, infamous for its “Tuck Rule,” that helped launch the Patriot Dynsaty.
“I’ll say this about that game, though. We had plenty of chances to win that game. We had some opportunities in short yardages situations, we couldn’t get it done. We couldn’t get off the field on defense. [The tuck rule play] didn’t help our cause, but it’s not the reason why we lost.”
Did you hear that Jon Gruden? Gannon also talked about his feelings towards Tom Brady, from his time playing with him in the Pro Bowl following the Pats’ first Super Bowl, to his development into a future Hall of Famer.
“I think people were still taking a wait-and-see approach with him. But he’s clearly developed. He’s exceeded a lot of expectations. I really respect guys like that. They put so much into the game. The way they prepare, they make everybody around them better.”
Finally, what was to me the most shocking pro-Patriots statement during Super Bowl week, came from former Steelers head coach Boll Cowher. The constant impression I got from Cowher was that he didn’t particularly care for the Patriots. “The Chin” was a consistent foe during this time with the Steelers and the Patriots beat his Steelers in two AFC Championship games en route to Super Bowl victories. Not only did Cowher pick the Pats to be his Team of the Decade over the Steelers, but he went so far as to defend the Pats for the SpyGate business. Here’s a compilation of his comments.
“You go back to the body of work and the consistency, and I think New England clearly is above everybody else. They never had that one down year. They’ve been on the brink from when they first won until 2001 until this past year they were in the playoffs. They’ve been the most consistent team. The humility that they won with, that’s what set them apart. I learned a lot from their ability to respect an opponent every week, to not get caught up with it. … I remember taking a lot from the way the New England Patriots handled success. To me, they epitomize that. How you handle success and not get caught up in it makes them role models.”
Here’s the SpyGate quote. It’s quite interesting as Cowher admits to his own attempts at “cheating.”
“Listen, there’s people stealing signals all the time before that. You have ways to hide those things. We had wristbands for our defense. I remember trying to get offensive plays and see what the formations were. Everybody knows. You’re trying to gain a competitive edge. Did that go beyond it? To a degree. Do I think that helped them win football games? No. You still have to go out and play the game. I still have a hard time believing that was a difference in a game.”
Pretty interesting stuff. So why write about this? As fans, we feel a collective sense of accomplishment when our team has success, even though we never take a snap. We put our emotions into every game and sweat out the ends of the close games, clench our teeth when a big play is developing, and say our prayers when the kicker sets up to kick the game winning field goal. In that, it’s nice to see when other people recognize what your team has accomplished, something you feel deep in your heart. It’s what still pumps up Steelers fans since the 1970’s and the 49er fans since the 1980’s. Now we Patriots fans can have the same feeling about our team.
The next decade will be turbulent for sure in New England. By the end of the decade, we will see the end of the Tom Brady Era and possibly the end of the Bill Belichick Era if he decides to retire after Brady goes. The pairing of two men like that may never happen here again. While we still have them, let’s give hell here in New England so that we can reminisce about another decade of dominance!