It's come to my attention that a Barstool contributor has asked a rhetorical question:
To say this in the way Michael Corleone put it to Connie when she wanted his blessing to marry Merle, I don't know this Nicky Smokes. I don't know what he does. I don't know what he lives on. But I want to be reasonable here.
I'm not going to go all ad hominem at one of our own. I won't break out a ruler and unzip about how the newest member of the Stool's ever-growing Smokes family just got elevated off the practice squad and I've been helping to pay the bills around here since Dave was pulling the paper edition out of a Gutenberg press and piling them into the back of an Astrovan that had a thousand bucks worth of unpaid parking tickets in the glovie. Just because I've forgotten more of my own Patriots blogs than any other living soul on the planet has ever written doesn't automatically make me right in what I'm about to say.
What makes me right is the fact I'm right. So the question has been asked …
It's funny how the rest of the football world is accusing Patriots fans of being delusional about their team when they're the ones who have been deluding themselves for almost a quarter of a century now. Let's take it in chronological order, shall we? Beginning in January of 2000:
- Bill Belichick can't run a franchise.
- The Patriots have no shot now that Drew Bledsoe is hurt.
- Belichick sticking with Tom Brady over Bledsoe will tear the locker room apart.
- The Tuck Rule was made up and had never been called before.
- They got lucky against the Rams.
- They'll never win another title.
- Brady can't carry a team.
- Their defense got away with murder in the playoffs against Indy and the rules need to be changed.
- They got lucky against Carolina.
- They got lucky against the Eagles.
- Winning three Super Bowls in four years doesn't make you a dynasty.
- Ten seasons without a ring means the dynasty they never had is over.
- They cheated with spy cameras.
- They cheated by manipulating the scoreboard in the playoffs against Baltimore.
- They cheated with illegal formations in the playoffs against Baltimore and the rules need to be changed.
- They cheated helmet radio jamming devices against Pittsburgh.
- They cheated with deflated footballs.
- Now that the footballs are between 11.5-13.5 psi, they'll never win again.
- They got lucky against the Seahawks.
- They got lucky against the Falcons.
- They got lucky against the Rams again.
- They could easily be 0-9 in Super Bowls.
And that is just the Trader Joe's sample counter version of the list, to give you a taste. I could've taken a much deeper dive, but I made my point. That Patriots fans have been pushing back against this "It's all over and you're going to suck now" narrative since before this Dynasty began. Every step of this journey has been taken on a bridge where you have to answer riddles from the trolls who live beneath it. And proving all the doubters wrong time and time and time again has been one of the true pleasures of this epic quest. Not to mention a nice way to earn a living for some of us.
Now we're in a new phase. One that is admittedly more of a challenge, but echoes back to the beginning of that list:
- The Patriots have no shot to win now that Tom Brady is gone.
These are unchartered waters, clearly. This will be the fourth season we've had to navigate them. So it's only natural that the charts have sea serpents and "There be monsters here" on them.
I can deal with that. Because you don't simply lose the GOAT for good and bounce right back like it's nothing. Sure, there have been cases when Bill Russell gets replaced by Dave Cowens who gets replaced by Larry Bird. Or Babe Ruth begets Joe Dimaggio who begets Mickey Mantle and the winning never stops. But it's much more common to wander in the wilderness the way the post-Jordan Bulls or post-Gretzky teams did. Acknowledged.
But that's not an argument. Like the financial people are legally obligated to say, past performance does not predict future results. Brady is just the latest in a long line of indispensable Patriots we couldn't live without. It's a list too long to shoehorn in here. (I have a life outside of simply defending this team from attacks, believe it or not.) One that includes players on offense, defense, special teams, coaches and executives. And survived them all. There's no arguing that Brady is the least dispensable of them all. But as DeGaulle was fond of saying, "Cemeteries are filled with indispensable men." (Ol' Charlie was not the guy to invite to your Labor Day cookout.)
But let's dispense with the history lesson and the indispensable talk and address the current reality we find ourselves in. The question of the Pats relative measurement on the Suck Quotient.
They're coming off an 8-9 season. Does that qualify as "sucking"? In no way, shape or form is that acceptable. Not by the standards of Mr. Kraft, who has made his feelings extremely known. And certainly not according to Belichick, who gladly would commit war crimes (figuratively speaking) if it meant seeing another banner drop above the southeast corner of Gillette.
But to look at a sub-.500 record and missing the playoffs and just defaulting to "The Patriots suck" is the worst sort of lazy, perfunctory, Skip Bayless-style hottakery. And it ignores the fact that they were two colossal mistakes away from their second straight 10-win playoff season. This one by Rhamondre Stevenson that cost them a win over one of the NFL's Final Four teams:
(I'll also argue the play should've been blown dead for forward progress.) And this one from Jakobi Meyers, which retired the trophy for Worst Play in the History of Tackle Football:
But that's on the Patriots, obviously. Those plays counted. There's no mulligan. They're part of the permanent record which is on file in the Principal's office.
But teams that "suck" aren't two dumbass plays away from double digit wins and a Wild Card spot. And if you're going to tar them with that epithet, what word do you have left to describe Houston, Arizona, Chicago, or Denver? Not to mention most of the last 50 years or so of Nicky Smokes' Dolphins?
The 2022 Patriots had major issues. Beginning with major incompetence on the offensive coaching staff. A huge disconnect between the coaching and the second year QB who thrived under the previous coordinator as a rookie. A thin depth chart at the skill positions. The worst special teams imaginable for a franchise that invests more in those units than anyone else ever has. Everyone of those problems has been addressed. Meanwhile a defense that was Top 10 in the league in virtually every major category adds a slew of promising rookies to add to the last two very successful draft classes.
So, no. I refuse to acknowledge suckiness of any kind, in any degree. This probably won't change any hearts or minds. But then it never has in 24 years of making this case. When I'm wrong, I'll be man enough to admit it. But trust me, being right all the time never, ever gets old.
Kiss the Rings. And the next one.