“THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value." - Thomas Paine, Common Sense
I know I've quoted this before. Because in "times" like "THESE," few thoughts could be more perfect. Change "country" to "team," and "tyranny" with "NFL," and "patriot" with "Patriots," and Paine could've been talking about the first month of the 2023 season. For all I know, I used it after Tom Brady's 34th career start:
… the same way I'm using now, after Mac Jones' 35th
But it's not what I think. My loyalty is not in question. As hard as it is to have just seen the worst blowout for this team in the 21st century, and to watch them drop to 1-3 for the third straight year, I'm not about to turn sunshine Patriot. I am he that stands by it. These colors don't run.
What matters is what the guy in charge says. He built this empire out of the ashes of the Pete Carroll years. And he's the one all the summer soldier ingrates want fired. What counts is the message he sent to them and, by extension, his players and staff today on his contractually obligated WEEI appearance:
Source - Belichick was asked about the tough start to their 2023 campaign, and why Patriots fans should feel optimistic about the direction of this organization given their recent struggles:
“Well look, I’m just really concerned about doing the best job I can for our team and I’ll do that every week,” the head coach told the show. “That’s what I can control, that’s what I’m going to do. So that’s what I’m going to focus on.”
So why have the results not followed?
“We just weren’t able to play well enough,” Belichick explained. “We’ve played four games: three games we turned the ball over and lost, one game we didn’t turn the ball over and didn’t get sacked and won. I think we know what the formula is, we’ve just got to do a better job of it. Defensively and the kicking game there are things there too that we need to improve on. We didn’t really have a very good day in the kicking game and defensively there ar some things we can do better there too. What we can do is keep working hard, keep fighting, and improve in the areas we need improvement and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Points well taken. All of them. When his team takes care of the football, protects the quarterback by blocking well, picking up blitzes and getting the ball out quickly, they win. That formula has been perfected, time-tested, foolproof, and mother-approved. The kicking game can only be improved with repetition and experience, which they'll get plenty of, unless we start seeing more touchdowns. And his defense needs to improve. How they'll do it without their two best players in Christian Gonzalez and Matthew Judon and Jonthan, Jack, and Marcus Jones still out with no return in sight remains to be seen. But that's what the great ones do; they figure it out.
The thing is, I know he'll get killed for striking this positive tone. By the same people who spent years killing him for taking a firehose to the optimism whenever his team would get on a roll over a 20 year span. But he does them for the same reason. To get the focus on improving this week in order to be ready to beat next week's opponent. The way to do that is to tear them down when the get to high and build them up when they're too low. His players don't need to be told they sucked yesterday; they lived it. They don't need to hear how there's no hope. That's coming through every screen they own, the sound system in their cars, and the voices in the stands.
Belichick has seen and heard it all over his 49 years in the business. And while this will be his greatest challenge since navigating the chaos of the Browns move from Cleveland to Baltimore on his watch in 1995, no one has ever been as skilled at finding a way for a downtrodden, defeated team filled with doubts and making them believe in themselves again. It's not about speeches and pep talks. It's about him doing the best job for his team. That's what he can control. That's what he's going to do.
And all I can do is say I trust him to get it done. So put me down as being optimistic Bill Belichick will get this situation straightened out. And that for those of us who stay the course with him, the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph will be. Just never forget I stood my post when others turned tail and ran. And should I not survive, when you speak of me, speak well.