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The Patriots Got Absolutely Destroyed in the NFLPA's Annual Report Card

There's a legend in the Thornton family that we often tell at family gatherings. And it's one that I have referred to a time or two while raising my kids. The story goes that my brother Jim was in elementary school and got a lousy grade for Conduct on his report card. To which John "Bud" Thornton said to him, in his booming, Greatest Generation Navy veteran voice, "Even a moron can sit there with his hands folded, and his mouth shut, and get an 'A' in Conduct!!!

Not to disagree with the man who singled-handedly won the war in the Atlantic, but would that it were that easy. Some of his sons lacked his discipline. And were drawn to the siren song of making our idiot friends laugh with our juvenile, Lowest Common Denominator nonsense. One of us even made a career out of it. Because no matter the principal's threats about Permanent Records following you the rest of your life, there were no consequences to aggravating your 5th grade teacher with your tomfoolery. And making the cool kids laugh spared this fat kid with bitch tits and glasses a whole childhood of swirlies. 

But some report cards do count. Some are important. Even vital. And flunking out can cost you dearly. One would be the NFLPA's annual survey of its rank and file members about their working conditions:

Source -  1,706 of our players provided information to share with one another about their current club, to not only help them make important career decisions, but also help raise standards across the league.

Our goals were to highlight positive clubs, identify areas that could use improvement, and highlight best practices and standards.

And if you're invested in the Patriots attracting free agents to New England, the news is not much better for you than it was for Bud Thornton's sons:

Overview

The New England Patriots finish the year ranked 29th in the team surveys. The results point to club management that has not been keeping up with changing times; as in most categories, the player responses highlight outdated facilities and stale services.

The number one issue for the players is the weight room. It ranks last both in quality of equipment as well as size. The Patriots are the only team in the NFL with a majority of players feeling that their team’s facility is worse than places they could train offsite. In the training room, respondents feel the treatment options are not cutting edge and they lack both equipment and staffing that are offered elsewhere as standard.

The players feel the facility has needed significant renovations for a while now, which explains the low grade for club owner Robert Kraft on the question about players having confidence he will invest in their facilities.

These ones especially hurt:

Treatment of Families     F-    30th

  • They are one of 12 teams that do not provide a family room during games 
  • They are one of seven teams that do not provide daycare support for players’ children on gameday 
  • They are one of only four teams that do not offer either a family room or daycare 

Weight Room    F   32nd

  • The players feel the quality of their weight room equipment is below average (32nd overall) 
  • The players feel like they do not have enough space in the weight room (32nd overall) 
  • The Patriots are the only team in the NFL with a majority of players feeling that their team’s facility is worse than places they could train offsite 

Ownership    D+    27th

  • Club owner Robert Kraft receives a rating of 6.9/10 from Patriot players when considering his willingness to invest in the facilities (27th overall)

Now, a lot of these bad grades have already been addressed. Bill Belichick, with his 6th-lowest overall grade and next-to-lowest ranking when it came to being "efficient with players time" and "listening to the locker room" has been replaced by Jerod Mayo. The 31st-ranked strength coach has been replaced by Brian McDonough and is joined, non uncoincidentally, by Deron Mayo.  So problems solved, hopefully. 

But "Treatment of Families"? "Weight Room?" And by extension, "Ownership"? These feel like big deals. This is getting to the heart of players' experience walking into the facility every day, and especially on game day. I mean, we all agree Jerry Jones is a lizard person. But when you're a free agent with a family and trying to decide which teams to visit and you hear Dallas has a safe place for your wife to bring the kids to while you're on the field, and that facility gets an A-, that's going to go a long way toward making the decision for you. Happy wife, happy highly coveted free agent entering his prime, and all that. 

And the weight room? That's pretty much essential, is it not? Being worst in the league in this requirement of the job is like being a Silicon Valley tech company and putting Power Mac G4 Cubes at every workstation. To hear the players describe it, it sounds like they'd be better off paying 10 bucks a month for Planet Fitness. Which at least provides the added benefit of a Lunk Alarm [tm]. 

Which brings us to ownership. You can count me among those who regard the Krafts as among the best owners the game has ever known. I'm speaking as a fan who can't ever forget how awful the old stadium was and how the Sullivans were always drowning in debt. And they not only saved the team from moving, they build a stadium with their own money and put a Dynasty in it. But my opinion doesn't count because they're not trying to sign me to come to Gillette and catch touchdowns. Perception, no matter how unfair, becomes reality. In a league where a substantial portion of owners are Lucky Spermers and the lesser sons of greater sires who inherited all they've ever owned, it's a tough look to think there are only five owners considered worse by the players. 

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Now granted, all this could be the result of the previous coach not being interested in addressing it. Because he wanted players whose focus is on chasing rings, not rugrats. But that ship has sailed. Besides, players have options now, and you've got to keep up with the competition. If Elon Musk wants to hand out pink slips at X because he's got a bunch of people on staff more interested in the Meditation Room, the wine dispenser and sunset games of Cornhole on the roof, than helping him turn a profit, that's his perogative. But Mayo needs better athletes if we're going to compete.

What's really terrible about it is what an easy fix this is. Knock down a few walls, buy some toys, paint some cartoon characters, rainbows and unicorns on the walls, and hire some charming, highly responsible women interested in watching kids for a few hours on Sunday. Knock down a few others walls and put in some weight benches and ellipticals. And boom! You've gotten yourself to B+ faster than a kid drawing a "-" across his D+.  All for the price of probably four square feet of the new scoreboard. 

I just hope it's not too late to turn this perception around. If it is, then they'll be forced to pay a premium for talent that's going to cost a lot more than a day care center and a bigger gym.