When any team in the NFL is playing as badly as the Patriots are, they are guaranteed to be flooded with negativity and endless scrutiny that evolves into baseless rumors and outlandish gossip. They have certainly been the victim of that this season, and it will continue and likely get worse if more losses pile up over the remaining six weeks of the season.
Although the team in its entirety is bashed for their performance each and every week, atop the list of those the fans and media have primarily focused on is Bill Belichick and how a third mediocre-to-bad season in a row could lead to his eventual exit from New England. Some of it is warranted and comes with the territory, but in some cases, it has gotten a bit out of control, which those within the organization are beginning to notice.
Because of that, some players have spoken out against the criticism of their head coach, whether by explicitly shutting down whatever the latest rumor is suggesting about Belichick or publicly supporting him when speaking to the media, they're making their voices known.
And that's what Jabrill Peppers did ahead of Sunday's matchup with the Chargers, passionately defending Belichick while blaming himself and his teammates for not following through with what he's coaching them to do every week.
"We’ve got one of the best coaches to ever coach, and he comes in week after week telling us what we have to do to win this game, who we have to stop, how we have to go about business. And time and time again, week after week, it comes up in the game exactly how he said it, and we don’t capitalize on our opportunities."
Peppers isn't the first one to state the way the season has gone should not be solely resting on Belichick's shoulders, emphasizing the need for the team to be held more responsible for holding a 2-9 record through 12 weeks. And although he's not wrong, Belichick can't be completely off-limits, either.
He continued to express his disdain for all being said about the coach this season, mentioning his legendary resume as a reason he doesn't deserve the type of criticism he's been receiving. Peppers also continued to place blame on the team, reiterating that Belichick is still the same coach he always was and tells them the right things to do, but they're failing to execute how he coached them.
"I don’t like that, man. Bill’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had — one of the best coaches to ever coach, period. We’re not getting it done for him. Week in and week out, he comes in here every week and tells us what we have to do to win this game, and when it comes up in the game and we don’t do it, in every phase of the game, how can you blame Bill? That’s on us."
He certainly makes a fair point. Coaching is fundamental (obviously), but even if the coach is calling all the right plays and preparing the team for any possible scenario in a game if the players don't retain the information or fail to execute come game time, that's not the coach's fault, it's the players.
The problem is that no one outside the team will ever know who is to blame, especially when watching a team like the Patriots, who are known for keeping their drama within the organization. You'll never hear Belichick or any player outright blaming anyone but themselves for a bad play or a loss, an admirable trait that remains instilled in this team.
But a bit of that seems to change when a coach like Belichick is involved, as Peppers continued to push back at the harsh criticism he has been on the receiving end of this season while also defending himself and his teammates against the constant barrage of negativity surrounding the team as whole.
"I don’t really like (the Belichick criticism). I don’t really listen to the outside noise, but I don’t like that. People aren’t in this building. These guys work hard, leave late, (spend) time away from their family to try to put us in the best position to maximize our talents and make plays, and we’re just not doing it. It pisses me off."
It's one aspect that many fans and members of the media tend to forget. At the end of the day, the people you're reporting on and sometimes saying pretty ruthless things about are human beings trying their best to do their jobs and maintain a career for themselves and their families.
Although that's not something reporters are told to keep in mind when revealing news and whatnot, it should be considered far more when it's getting to the point of personally insulting a player simply because they performed poorly in a game.
Fair and warranted criticism is just that: fair and warranted. Taking it beyond a level that is likely considered inappropriate and unprofessional is never okay, and, unfortunately, that's becoming more of the norm right now.
Hopefully, the Patriots are doing what Peppers claims to be doing himself: ignoring the outside noise. In an over-saturated sports market like New England, it's hard to escape hearing everything, but it would be best for the team to tune it out as much as possible, especially with a month left of games to play.