When Robert Kraft took over the New England Patriots in 1994, there was a certain “expectation” attached with him, and later Bill Belichick. The Patriots have continued to live up to this expectation in the 19 years following Kraft’s purchase of the team. In essence, this expectation is “always be ready”. Nothing ever seems to throw off this football team, and Bill Belichick gives this expectation a solid base.
The main reason I am writing this article, is because I have seen countless pieces written by numerous writers and reporters saying the Patriots will stumble in this upcoming 2013 season. They say because the Pats cut Hernandez, lost Welker, and will be without Gronkowski’s services for a little while, New England will be facing a drop-off in wins. I find this statement ludicrous. I could honestly find 20 different reasons why the Pats will be fine just based on the players that they have on their current roster. But I want to take a different approach. Here are four examples of the Patriots “being prepared” in a time of change, and adversity.
1. Bledsoe To Brady (2001)
If Robert Kraft buying the New England Patriots was not the defining moment of this franchise, then this event was. When New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis delivered a bone crushing hit on Bledsoe during the second game of the 2001 season, the Patriots franchise was changed forever. But at this time, I don’t think this is how ‘Patriots Nation’ felt. If anything, everybody thought that the franchise was changed forever in a very bad way. The Patriots had just inked Bledsoe to a 10 year contract, and he was supposed to be the face of the franchise going forward. Nobody knew that the backup, Tom Brady would soon rise to the top of the NFL and become one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. At this time the Patriots were without their star and leader, and I don’t think there was anybody that said at this moment that the Patriots would do just fine with Brady leading the team (well maybe Brady’s mother, but that’s it). But Belichick and company regrouped, and facing one of the franchises biggest moments of adversity, they responded, and they responded in a big way.
2. The Brady Show (2006)
I may have beaten this example to death, but I always jump at the opportunity to share this 2006 season. The Patriots were coming off three Super Bowl victories in four years, followed by a successful, but very disappointing 2005 campaign (anybody remember Champ Bailey?). The Patriots mildly blew up their roster, and Tom Brady was left with a pathetic group on offense. I don’t think there were very many ‘football experts’ that thought the Patriots would advance to the AFC Championship game and find themselves 30 minutes away from the Super Bowl. But the Pats defied the odds once again and surprised most of the league. Much of this was just Brady himself. This man carried this offense throughout the whole year, and then nearly got them to the Super
Bowl. This just goes to show you that when you put Belichick and Brady together, it doesn’t matter who surrounds them, these two guys know how to respond when they find themselves in a tough situation.
3. Brady’s Knee (2008)
The first two examples were some tough times for the Patriots. But they can’t even begin to compare to this awful day in Foxboro. When Brady went down, I think that everybody, including Bill Belichick started freaking out a little bit. We are not talking about losing a young, up and coming tight end (Aaron Hernandez) or a very productive slot receiver (Wes Welker). This was Tom freaking Brady. The best quarterback of this generation, and one of the best of all time. This is the one guy that the Patriots had fully invested in, over the last couple of seasons, and the one guy that was worth it. I had given up hope for that Patriots team. I am a die hard Pats fan, but I didn’t think there was any possible way they were going to do anything without Brady behind center. But yet again, the Patriots answered the bell. This time they plugged in Matt Cassell, and he led the team to a 11-5 record, and nearly to a berth in the playoffs.
4. Moss and Welker to the TE’s (2010)
This last example loses its effect a little bit, now that the ‘Boston TE Party’ has been broken up. But it still is impressive how the Patriots transitioned so quickly. After the record breaking 2007 season in which Randy Moss went bananas on the NFL, the Patriots offense fell into a little bit of a rut. They either tried to force it over the top to Moss, or dumped it to Wes Welker underneath, and without a running game it got a little tough to do this. Belichick and company knew that this wasn’t going to work and they had to change. When I think about this, it really must have been tough for Bill to move on from that type of offense after their 18-1 season. But Belichick cut bait with Moss and then basically start from scratch. He drafted Gronk and Hernandez in the 2010 draft, and almost instantly he had another very effective offensive game-plan. With these two tight ends in the fold, the Pats were able to run the ball effectively, and while the defense was still in their base package, they would pick them apart with mismatches. This is yet another example of the Pats being ready to move on, and still be effective as a team.
When you think about these four events, it really puts this 2013 Patriots team into perspective. This is a team that has their star quarterback, and he has a very talented supporting cast. While they may not have the talent of last years team, they certainly still have what it takes to compete in the AFC. They will have to change some things because of some lost personnel, but based on what has happened to this team in the past, and based on how the Pats responded in those events, this Patriots team will be just fine.