Freaking Out Over the Patriots Using Virtual Reality to Coach Up Drake Maye is Stupid Even by Boston Media Standards

So far, the Patriots offseason program has begun innocently enough. A new head coach. A new offensive system to install. A whole new quarterback depth chart to teach it to. Including Jacoby Brissett who has plenty of experience in it. And Drake Maye, for whom it's all brand new. So there was no real reason to be shocked when both Eliot Wolf and Jerod Mayo each casually mentioned one of the tools at their disposal his team is making use of is virtual reality. This being 2024 and all:

As Tom E. Curran pointed out, there's nothing necessarily new about this. Teams around the league have been making use of VR headsets since at least 2015. Not New England. Because from 2015 until very recently, the Pats were being run and quarterbacked by old dogs who didn't need new tricks. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady had super computer brains capable of processing any situation faster than any simulation could ever hope to. But that doesn't make what Mayo and Alex Van Pelt are doing a novel approach by any means. 

You just wouldn't know that by the freakout that took place across the board of Boston sports media:


Holy moly. Different coach. Different system. Different QB. But the insane, ignorant, wrong-headed overreactions by these contrarians remains the same. 

For how many radio hours over how many years did we listen to them insist the game had passed Belichick by? That HC Bill's approach was too old school and they needed to move on from him? To bring in some fresh blood who can keep up with the times and relate to modern players? Now the Pats are doing exactly that. And it's just as wrong as it was when Bill was showing them old footage of Lawrence Taylor and telling stories about his days coaching special teams under Tommy Hudspeth. They got the change they've been screaming for and now hate the change they got. This franchise simply cannot win with these rodeo clowns. 

A few important points about them using VR that the talk show intelligentsia is missing. Probably willfully.

First, that the virtual reps Maye will be getting aren't instead of on-field reps. They're in addition to. The NFL has a development problem at a lot of positions now, because they keep limiting practice time with each passing year. For instance, it's murder on offensive linemen because of the lack of contract drills in camp. And anything you can do to simulate game conditions is golden. In the case of quarterbacks, being able to have them strap on a visor to visualize different looks they'll be facing when the bullets are flying could be invaluable. 

Second, Maye is precisely in the age group that grew up staring at a screen. His fully formed brain is already hardwired for this tech. Whether he was holding a Nintendo DS, a GameCube, playing Wii or a PS2, he's been processing information from 2-D images to 3-D spaces since he was eating Mac & Cheese shaped like Spongebob. As was Jayden Daniels, who benefited immensely from VR at LSU:


Third, when I was doing sports radio in Boston I asked Belichick about this report out of San Francisco that said the 49ers consulted with the Psych Department at Stanford about the best way to teach younger players in today's NFL. And they were told that, for instance, they should program in more breaks in team meetings because young brains need time to check their messages and social media accounts and will start to lose focus if they don't. I asked it thinking I was lobbing him a softball he could hammer out of the park because it was so ridiculous. He got all of it, alright. Just not in the way I assumed. He said there's a lot of validity to it because people's behavior, culture and environment change, and you have to adapt to those changes. So for instance, he could never conduct the kind of meetings they had in Indy and Detroit when he first broke into coaching. Or hand someone the kind of playbook they used to get back in the day. Everything evolved onto software and video in a way that made it all easier for current players and coaches to grasp. And would continue to. And this conversation happened right around the time VR was first coming into use. This news just proved he was right. 

Finally, I'll close with this. If you've got a problem with people using VR simulators to practice being good at their jobs, you're about 60 years too late. Have these people never seen Apollo 13, where the crew was put into basically an analog version of a simulator in order to practice all their maneuvers? There's probably not a living person who's ever flown in a jet that wasn't piloted by someone who logged a thousand hours in a flight simulator before they ever got behind the controls. For fuck's sake, they're starting to use VR to have med students practice surgery instead of just having them dissect animals and cadavers. Like a virtual game of Operation. But somehow the notion of training up Drake Maye how to identify the Mike or spot the difference between Cover-2 and Quarters is too preposterous for the geniuses who went to Connecticut School of Broadcasting. 

What a media market. Maye, Van Pelt, Mayo and Wolf need to bring this franchise back to its former glory, if for other reason than to make the doubters eat their words the way Brady and Belichick always did.