Celebrating What Is

mwonow

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I'm sick to death of monitoring a half dozen threads to react, angrily, to yet another attack on the NEP.
 
So...I'd rather have a thread that celebrates the reasons I love rooting for this team.
 
Here's a start: BB's latest press conference: http://www.patriots.com/news/2015/09/13/bill-belichick-conference-call-transcript-913
 
First up, staying rooted in the idea that it's a long season, through which improvement should be expected. Living in Toronto, I've always wondered why local fans don't expect the same of their hockey team (and I think that with Babcock as coach, they'll start to see it) - but teams that look the same 75% into the season as they do 25% should ask why their coach doesn't talk like this: "I thought [Grissom] had some good plays, did some good things. There are certainly some things he needs to work on. You could say that about just about everybody who played, regardless of what their previous status or level of previous experience or anything else was. We did some good things, but we all have a long way to go and we all have a lot of things we can improve on."
 
And here's another example, from a response about how the Pats found Dion Lewis. The whole answer is great, but here's just the end: "Different circumstances, he could've easily been on our roster last year, but it turned out that he wasn't, but I don't think that really affected our overall evaluation of the player. Again, you can only keep so many guys, and sometimes they slip through the cracks like that or guys get injured and miss a year and then they come back and resurface the next year. Sometimes they end up having a bigger impact than others, but we try to track those guys as best we can, as I'm pretty sure all teams in the league do."
 
Coaching up players week by week, keeping a shadow roster just in case...I mean, you expect teams to do this, but I believe that the Pats are just plain better at this kind of thing than many other teams are.
 

Was (Not Wasdin)

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How about postgame speeches:
 
Rex
 
"I bet we end up playing this team [Colts] again, down the road.  I have a funny feeling we will."  Already talking playoffs after one freakin' game.
 
vs.
 
BB 
 
"Good win... way to grind it out...We need everyone to play better....gonna be a long week, need everyone to get rested, it's going to be tough up in Buffalo."  Keep focused on the next game, no calling his team a playoff team. 
 
It drives me nuts when coaches talk about goals of winning a division, or a conference, or whatever.  in any sport.  Every time I hear BB say something simple and focused in terms of focusing on winning the next game in front of you, I wonder why every coach in the league cant do it.  
 

ifmanis5

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'Celebrating what is' becomes a lot better if you were there for Scott Secules, Hart Lee Dykes, Reggie Dupard, 'Hello, I'm Victor Kiam,' Ray Berry jotting down notes on the sidelines etc.
I expect this thread to drop like a stone but make no mistake, enjoy what you have now. It is fucking rare and so very great.
 

mwonow

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ifmanis5 said:
'Celebrating what is' becomes a lot better if you were there for Scott Secules, Hart Lee Dykes, Reggie Dupard, 'Hello, I'm Victor Kiam,' Ray Berry jotting down notes on the sidelines etc.
I expect this thread to drop like a stone but make no mistake, enjoy what you have now. It is fucking rare and so very great.
 
I was - and I'm not sure if I consider Ken SIms or the "Stupor Bowl" (and the Camarillo era generally) as the bottom, but for sure, it was a very, very long trough. And I'm okay with this dropping like a stone, but I'd like to take a bit of time away from the kvetching to give the rare/great some air time...
 

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It all begins with Robert Kraft.  My goodness what that man has done for the franchise is nothing short of legendary, and that's NOT including the titles (seriously read his bio if you haven't already for some reason).
 
I haven't been a fan for as long as some of you as I was born in '74, so my earliest Pats memories are from the early 80s.  Lived through awful years to be certain, but everything changed once Kraft bought the team.  It's been a ridiculous ride since, and one that we will likely never see again in the NFL.  Celebrate!
 

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I agree that a simple celebration is in order. I'm not a gung ho Pats fan, but I've been following them since Steve Grogan was quarterbacking, and they never even came close to what they have had now for a decade. And BB is the central figure in it. He is one of the best characters in all of sport. So humble, yet so calculating and utterly professional. It wouldn't have come to pass without supportive and likeminded ownership, nor without Tom Brady under center, but BB is the tie that binds. I love the way the team remains focused and together, playing for each other. I love how they so often find a way to score points when they are seemingly overmatched.
I imagine it's similar to what it would be like to support the San Antonio Spurs. Since Popovich took over, with the aptly dubbed Big Fundamental, they have been a model of understated success in a difficult league.
It's such a relief to put aside the bluster and bravado, the fronting that pervades professional sports these days, and appreciate people who know and love a game, and manage to excel at it. BB fits the bill. He's the ultimate straight man, and by lulling his audience to sleep, he finds a way to bring some much needed humor to the proceedings.
 

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I was in at the very beginning - White Stadium, Butch Songin, Tom Shonta, ushering at Harvard Stadium, Jack Nicholson and his office at the Harvard Square Mens Bar, you name it. Kraft for all his occasional stumbles has been a miracle for a franchise that was stumbling it's way towards relocation. Once he learned how important it was to hire right and get out of the way, it's been a joy ride on the Duck Tour float. That's BB, his coaching staff (Mangini excepted) and his admin people.
 
Boston fans are incredibly intense.  So are fans of other teams, but we tend to agonize endlessly, micromanage our expectations in public, and perennially dwell on our history. Also, we migrate out to other towns while retaining our Boston loyalties, which aggravates the locals. I put that down to the dense student population, many of whom come here as fans of other teams, but drink the Koolaid and leave like they were born in Southie.
 
Anyway, enough navel-staring. If we're going to be hated elsewhere, let it be for our successes, not our annoying characteristics.
 
Edit: Chuck Shonta, not Tom. Tom is for Yewcic
 

NortheasternPJ

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Stanley Steamer said:
I agree that a simple celebration is in order. I'm not a gung ho Pats fan, but I've been following them since Steve Grogan was quarterbacking, and they never even came close to what they have had now for a decade. And BB is the central figure in it. 
 
The scary thing is it isn't a decade, it's nearly 15 years at this point. That's not including the 8 years prior with the Bledsoe era, which was still better than league average with a Super Bowl appearance. 
 

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Poulsonator said:
It all begins with Robert Kraft.  My goodness what that man has done for the franchise is nothing short of legendary, and that's NOT including the titles (seriously read his bio if you haven't already for some reason).
 
I haven't been a fan for as long as some of you as I was born in '74, so my earliest Pats memories are from the early 80s.  Lived through awful years to be certain, but everything changed once Kraft bought the team.  It's been a ridiculous ride since, and one that we will likely never see again in the NFL.  Celebrate!
 
This is key. Look at what the Cowboys were starting to build with Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones and Jerry pulled the plug on it because he didn't want it to be all about Jimmy. They won one more with Jimmy's roster and then it's been back into the wilderness. It would have been fascinating to see whether Jimmy could have kept it building or if it would have fallen apart anyway, but Kraft could easily have gone down that road, particularly if he listened to the "BB is so arrogant" "They hate their coach" noise.
 
I also agree that in the lens of the the previous 25 years, this is even more special. The Pats had the #1 pick in the draft FOUR times in the pre-BB era. And Bledsoe was the only one that panned out. And you'd think the Sullivans would have been the low point ownership-wise, but along comes Victor Kiam.
 
I remember going to a game in 90 or so, a Saturday game against the Redskins. There were probably 18,000 fans in the stadium and 15,000 were Washington fans that had made the drive from the DC area.
 
This will not last, but I am going to enjoy it for as long as it does.
 

Tony C

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The contrast in re celebrating what we have struck me in contrast to Tomlin whining about the headsets. It was really much like the Harbaugh whine about formations.  What you saw in contrast to Harbaugh was that BB was looking at god knows how much film to know what Alabama and Tennessee had done with formations (not to mention Kelly/the Eagles) and putting it into use at just the right time. Harbaugh was flummoxed by it. In short: instead of doing the hard work to prepare he whined and whined -- which is the worst of both worlds in that you're both unprepared and you give your team an excuse. Same with Tomlin. You see with BB that when the Pats experienced issues with headsets you, one, didn't hear boo about it -- no complaints/no excuses -- and, two, it became a focal point of preparation. Tomlin, like Harbaugh, in contrast was unprepared and then gave his club an out/an excuse by not putting the responsibility on his players. 
 
The Pats are really a model of professionalism and discipline: keep your eyes on the prize and don't be distracted by obstacles works in virtually all facets of life, not just football. It's amazing to be following a club that epitomizes that in action.
 

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Patriots in the Belichick/Brady era have 9 of the top 116 seasons in NFL history according to Elo performance ratings, including the single two best seasons by Elo (2007 and 2004).
 
http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-best-nfl-teams-of-all-time-according-to-elo/
 
So 9 of 12 of the past seasons (including all of the past 5) have been in the top 5.6% of performances throughout NFL history (2047 total NFL team seasons). This is the real reason why other fans (especially AFC East rivals) hate the Pats. It has to be utterly disheartening to go head-to-head with this type of success.
 

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It has been an unbelievable pleasure to watch this team over the last 15 years. I watch most national games and some regional, and I am amazed at how much better-coached the Patriots are than any other team out there. Last night's Denver-KC debacle was a perfect case in point. Belichick wins that game 99 out of a hundred times with the exact same personnel, and likely wins it easily. Andy Reid, celebrated Super-Bowl appearing coach, completely and laughably butchers it. This is not to single that one game out, but to point out that watching shit like that in other games brings a smile to my face, reminding me of how good I have it as a fan. His press conferences are hilarious, his film breakdowns are must-see TV, he is a historian of the game, and frankly, I love the fucking guy.
 
And then there's that Brady kid. Good game manager; I doubt he'll ever amount to much more than that.
 
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Bergs said:
It has been an unbelievable pleasure to watch this team over the last 15 years. I watch most national games and some regional, and I am amazed at how much better-coached the Patriots are than any other team out there. Last night's Denver-KC debacle was a perfect case in point. Belichick wins that game 99 out of a hundred times with the exact same personnel, and likely wins it easily. Andy Reid, celebrated Super-Bowl appearing coach, completely and laughably butchers it. This is not to single that one game out, but to point out that watching shit like that in other games brings a smile to my face, reminding me of how good I have it as a fan. His press conferences are hilarious, his film breakdowns are must-see TV, he is a historian of the game, and frankly, I love the fucking guy.
 
And then there's that Brady kid. Good game manager; I doubt he'll ever amount to much more than that.
 
Touching on your last sentence, but it really is the other piece of our magic decoder ring.  Belichick never puts us in a position to fail by blowing timeouts, calling ill-timed gadget plays, getting cute with the clock, etc.  But on the rare instances when we are behind in the last few minutes, Brady gives us a real shot at winning.  I was at the Cincy game in the rain a few years ago.  Horrible receivers (this was before Gronk came back), near hurricane conditions, terrorizing pass rush, jacked up crowd.  In the face of all that, Brady still gave us a reasonable chance to pull it out.  The fact that we didn't was actually somewhat surprising to Pats and Bengals fans alike.
 
Contrast that to last night.  Did any KC fan have real confidence that Alex Smith would lead them down the field for the winning score?  I realize I am not cracking any new codes here, but having preternaturally gifted leadership on OR off the field, let alone on AND off, is a rarity in the NFL.  Somewhere, Rod Rust and Marc Wilson nod knowingly.
 

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blueguitar322 said:
Patriots in the Belichick/Brady era have 9 of the top 116 seasons in NFL history according to Elo performance ratings, including the single two best seasons by Elo (2007 and 2004).
 
http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-best-nfl-teams-of-all-time-according-to-elo/
 
So 9 of 12 of the past seasons (including all of the past 5) have been in the top 5.6% of performances throughout NFL history (2047 total NFL team seasons). This is the real reason why other fans (especially AFC East rivals) hate the Pats. It has to be utterly disheartening to go head-to-head with this type of success.
 
This level of sustained success without being able to spend your way to it is truly impressive. Of course everyone thinks the Pats cheat. Because the other option is to think they are just better and smarter. And who wants to think that?
 

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blueguitar322 said:
Patriots in the Belichick/Brady era have 9 of the top 116 seasons in NFL history according to Elo performance ratings, including the single two best seasons by Elo (2007 and 2004).
 
http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-best-nfl-teams-of-all-time-according-to-elo/
 
So 9 of 12 of the past seasons (including all of the past 5) have been in the top 5.6% of performances throughout NFL history (2047 total NFL team seasons). This is the real reason why other fans (especially AFC East rivals) hate the Pats. It has to be utterly disheartening to go head-to-head with this type of success.
And, the 2004 team was predicated on a power running game with a dominating defense, while the 2007 team had the unstoppable passing attack. This dawned on me while reading the Denver thread about Kubiak being brought in to run "his" offense. What is BB's "style"? He doesn't really have one. He obviously has the defensive reputation but since 2007 his teams have won more because of their offense. Yet another testament to his greatness is his ability to adapt his team to play to the strengths of the players he has rather than force a style regardless of the players he has.
 

LogansDad

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What is BB's "style"? He doesn't really have one.
 
I was having a conversation about this with one of the guys who works for me yesterday (a reasonable Broncos fan, which is weird), and I think this is a really good point.  I think maybe, what he and the Patriots do better than perhaps anyone out there, is go out and find the right players that they want for their team (team first, winning is more important than personal gain, and all that).  Then, they evaluate their team, and build a "style" that fits the players that they have.  It's really the complete opposite of what almost every other team seems to do, when they try to find the right players for their "style".  
 
Meanwhile Rex Ryan continues to try to build a team that can beat last year's Patriots, the Colts continue to draft Wide Receivers, and the Ratbirds continue to employ criminals.  And the Patriots cheat.
 

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LogansDad said:
 
I was having a conversation about this with one of the guys who works for me yesterday (a reasonable Broncos fan, which is weird), and I think this is a really good point.  I think maybe, what he and the Patriots do better than perhaps anyone out there, is go out and find the right players that they want for their team (team first, winning is more important than personal gain, and all that).  Then, they evaluate their team, and build a "style" that fits the players that they have.  It's really the complete opposite of what almost every other team seems to do, when they try to find the right players for their "style".  
 
Meanwhile Rex Ryan continues to try to build a team that can beat last year's Patriots, the Colts continue to draft Wide Receivers, and the Ratbirds continue to employ criminals.  And the Patriots cheat.
I agree with the above.  What I also see BB doing is evaluating his teams weaknesses, trying to improve through the draft and free agency if he can at those positions, but if he can't he improves other areas to try and compensate for that weakness.  As an example this offseason the market was super high on CBs so he tried to improve his pass rush.  Other years he's tried to reinvent his offense around a strength that sort of fell in his lap, like having two great TEs and figuring out how to get them on the field at the same time while also using them to exploit defensive formations that would be required to stop them.  (If only AH could have just not murdered people!)  He also is constantly trying to figure out ways to use the rules to his advantage and use formations that other coaches haven't thought of or seen before.
 
He is also a cap master.  He never seems to overpay or put his team's future cap in jeopardy for the present.  He seems to be more interested in long term success and multiple potential super bowls than trying to win this year.
 

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I have mentioned this before, but throwing out Brady's rookie year on the bench and his knee injury season, if the Pats get to SB 50 then Brady will have made it to the Super Bowl in 50% of his playing seasons. Just astounding.
 

mwonow

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LogansDad said:
 
I was having a conversation about this with one of the guys who works for me yesterday (a reasonable Broncos fan, which is weird), and I think this is a really good point.  I think maybe, what he and the Patriots do better than perhaps anyone out there, is go out and find the right players that they want for their team (team first, winning is more important than personal gain, and all that).  Then, they evaluate their team, and build a "style" that fits the players that they have.  It's really the complete opposite of what almost every other team seems to do, when they try to find the right players for their "style".  
 
Meanwhile Rex Ryan continues to try to build a team that can beat last year's Patriots, the Colts continue to draft Wide Receivers, and the Ratbirds continue to employ criminals.  And the Patriots cheat.
 
Piling on a little here, but one of the interesting things to watch is how the Pats build teams that can morph across styles to capitalize on the weaknesses in their opponents' rosters.
 
So against Indy, the Pats go big and run heavy, pounding the middle of the line. They might go that way against Buffalo too, but that seems unlikely - it seems more likely that they'll spread out and try to neutralize Buffalo's D-line. 
 
It seems like an obvious way to go, but many teams have a style that they use, more or less regardless of situation. BB's not like that - his roster has flexibility built in, and he and the coaching staff find ways to use that flexibility to attack different types of weaknesses. To use a boxing analogy, people like to say that "styles make fights" - some guys are better off fighting sluggers, others are better off facing defensive boxers. BB can use different approaches, which must make life hard on the "other guys"
 

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When I think (and read) about Belichick in the fraternity of NFL coaches, I think of Robert McNamara recalling his time as the first president of Ford Motor Company:
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1B-SnlnelI
 

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You can make a (good) case that NFL QB is the most important position in professional sports (along with maybe starting pitcher and goaltender in hockey).  You can make a (good) case that NFL head coach is the most critical of all the professional sports coaching positions.
 
You can make a case that Brady and BB are the greatest of all time at their respective positions.
 
That doesn't even take into consideration the roster management that BB is responsible for
 

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Ralphwiggum said:
And, the 2004 team was predicated on a power running game with a dominating defense, while the 2007 team had the unstoppable passing attack. This dawned on me while reading the Denver thread about Kubiak being brought in to run "his" offense. What is BB's "style"?
Jeet Kune Do. Be the water.
 

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AlNipper49 said:
You can make a (good) case that NFL QB is the most important position in professional sports (along with maybe starting pitcher and goaltender in hockey).  You can make a (good) case that NFL head coach is the most critical of all the professional sports coaching positions.
 
You can make a case that Brady and BB are the greatest of all time at their respective positions.
 
That doesn't even take into consideration the roster management that BB is responsible for
Yes, which is why we may not see the likes of this now 15 year run ever again. And depending on TB's glide path, we may never see BB w/o Brady ever again.

Edit. Saint Rehbein
 

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That the guy who was on the field with a stopwatch for Tebucky Jones's pre-draft workouts realized he should get out of the coaches' way should not be underestimated.  That could not have been an easy piece of humble pie to swallow.
 

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drleather2001 said:
Look what popped up when I was farting around looking at old Pats coaches:

http://proxy.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/020118
 
That is a great piece.
 
Meanwhile, we're basking in the afterglow of a game where the Pats went to visit the self-appointed new bully on the block, and absolutely kicked the daylights out of them. Our team played to its strengths and the opponents' weaknesses. Rexy's team self destructed - I'm not even sure if the Bills were better or worse than the Fryar knife game. Whatever crap the NFL throws at the Pats...it;s a lot easier to take with BB and TB12 at the head of the league's best team. 
 

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That's another Patriots tradition: We never get time to savor the moment.
This line really stood out for me. Some things haven't changed since the bad old days...
 

mwonow

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So here's BB after beating the Bills:
 
(about Aaron Dobson): "All the questions about any specific players, it's all going to be about the same thing. I thought we did a lot of things well as a team. I think individually we had a lot of plays that were good plays and some individuals that had good plays, but I don't think we were consistent enough really in any area. We left a lot of plays out on the field."
 
(about seeing "good things out of your players in terms of development"): "We've just got to do a better job of it for 60 minutes, that's all. It wasn't anything that [was] just one guy or one play or one formation or whatever. It was just, at times it was good and at times it wasn't."
 
Not to go all SJH or anything, but...can you imagine Rexy (or Harbaugh) offering this kind of view following a win in a hyped game against a division opponent? 
 
One of the reasons to feel good about the Pats is, health permitting, they're always better later in the season than they are at the beginning - and BB's approach is the biggest reason why.
 

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If he's releasing the ball immediately, a blitz isn't doing much but taking guys out of the secondary. Not surprised by those #'s at all.
 

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Considering the other 2 are now closed is it safe to assume this is the new catch all Brady masterbation thread?

The getting the ball out quick is such a beautiful thing, and having all his receivers on the same page, making the same reads is breathtaking to watch. I think a healthy Gronk extends Brady's career multiple years.
 

mwonow

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GeorgeCostanza said:
Considering the other 2 are now closed is it safe to assume this is the new catch all Brady masterbation thread?

The getting the ball out quick is such a beautiful thing, and having all his receivers on the same page, making the same reads is breathtaking to watch. I think a healthy Gronk extends Brady's career multiple years.
 
Nah, it's team wide. For example, I loved the quotes about Gronk's leadership, both on the field and in terms of keeping football fun for his teammates: http://www.patriots.com/news/2015/09/23/gronkowskis-leadership-underrated-923-notes
 

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Drewdawg's post from the DFG thread. Holy shit that pro-rated 16 game


Here's some cool Brady stats--since halftime of the AFC title game:

completed 72.3% of his passes for 1,213 yards, 13 TD, 2 INT and a 117.5 rating.
Pro-rated to 16 games: 72.2% completions, 5,542 yards, 60 TD, 9 INT, 117.5 rating

http://www.coldhardf...lategate/34434/

And from facebook:

Quote
Sick Tom Brady data. The Patriots are 15-7 (.682) when Brady passes the ball 50 or more times. Every other team since 1960 has combined to go 100-386-6 (.209).
The Brady Patriots have singularly won 13 percent of all the 50-attempt victories during the past 55 years of professional football.
Quote

Brady is the career leader in 50-attempt games (22), 50-attempt wins (15) and 50-attempt winning percentage (.682). Nobody else even close in any category.
 

GeorgeCostanza

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Excellent Brady fellatio piece

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000566828/article/tom-brady-is-cementing-his-status-as-the-greatest-qb-of-all-time?campaign=fb-nf-sf14596827-sf14596827

There are quarterbacks who have had bigger numbers and there are those old-timers who will always have their fans (like Johnny Unitas and Otto Graham). Please remember this isn't meant to be a knock on them. It's just that, at some point, somebody new was destined to come along and claim his place as the best of the best. That honor now belongs Tom Brady, who is making it quite difficult for the next aspiring legend to ever supplant him.
 

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I was looking at some DVOA data today.  Including the current season, the Patriots have ranked in the top 5 in special teams DVOA for five straight years.  They've been in the top 8 in special teams DVOA in 12 of the 16 years of the BB era and never ranked below 16.
 
One part of the explanation is clearly that we've had two very good kickers during the BB era.  But I wouldn't exaggerate that too much - both Ghost and Vinatieri had their down years in terms of FG conversion and Patriots special teams DVOA didn't plummet.  What is really impressive to me is that, above average kickers aside, there really isn't too much of a talent difference on special teams between franchises.  You might have a slightly better kicker or a slightly better punter or a particularly good return guy but the talent gap between top players and replacement level guys is very narrow compared to other positions on the offense and defense.  And beyond those few specialists everybody is basically dealing with the same level of raw talent on the rest of their special teams units.  Special teams is probably the area of the game in which coaching and execution, compared to talent, is most important.  For the Patriots special teams units to rank in the top quarter of the league year after year after year is really impressive.  From what I can tell, there's no other franchise like that, although Baltimore and Seattle have both been pretty good recently.
 

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
I was looking at some DVOA data today.  Including the current season, the Patriots have ranked in the top 5 in special teams DVOA for five straight years.  They've been in the top 8 in special teams DVOA in 12 of the 16 years of the BB era and never ranked below 16.
 
One part of the explanation is clearly that we've had two very good kickers during the BB era.  But I wouldn't exaggerate that too much - both Ghost and Vinatieri had their down years in terms of FG conversion and Patriots special teams DVOA didn't plummet.  What is really impressive to me is that, above average kickers aside, there really isn't too much of a talent difference on special teams between franchises.  You might have a slightly better kicker or a slightly better punter or a particularly good return guy but the talent gap between top players and replacement level guys is very narrow compared to other positions on the offense and defense.  And beyond those few specialists everybody is basically dealing with the same level of raw talent on the rest of their special teams units.  Special teams is probably the area of the game in which coaching and execution, compared to talent, is most important.  For the Patriots special teams units to rank in the top quarter of the league year after year after year is really impressive.  From what I can tell, there's no other franchise like that, although Baltimore and Seattle have both been pretty good recently.
Why do you think there's little difference in special teams talent between franchises? I haven't done an investment piece on special teams yet, but I'll be shocked if the Patriots don't rate as a team that invests heavily. Matt Slater is making $2 MM a year. Gostkowski is the highest-paid kicker in the NFL. They used a fifth-round pick on a long-snapper this past draft; a couple years ago they used a sixth on Nate Ebner, who didn't even play defense in college. Brandon King is another guy on the roster that basically was a special-teamer only in college. Brandon Bolden is the highest-paid running back on the team even though he barely plays on offense. I could go on and on.
 
It is clear to me that a) the Patriots value special teams contributions more than most teams, b) that translates (along with, as you mention, coaching) into better special-teams execution than most teams, c) that special teams excellence has a substantial impact on field position and winning games.
 

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Super Nomario said:
Why do you think there's little difference in special teams talent between franchises? I haven't done an investment piece on special teams yet, but I'll be shocked if the Patriots don't rate as a team that invests heavily. Matt Slater is making $2 MM a year. Gostkowski is the highest-paid kicker in the NFL. They used a fifth-round pick on a long-snapper this past draft; a couple years ago they used a sixth on Nate Ebner, who didn't even play defense in college. Brandon King is another guy on the roster that basically was a special-teamer only in college. Brandon Bolden is the highest-paid running back on the team even though he barely plays on offense. I could go on and on.
 
It is clear to me that a) the Patriots value special teams contributions more than most teams, b) that translates (along with, as you mention, coaching) into better special-teams execution than most teams, c) that special teams excellence has a substantial impact on field position and winning games.
Relative to offense and defense, I don't think there is a ton of difference between teams in special teams talent and I think its mainly concentrated in a few specialists.  For any given special teams play, the vast majority of the guys on the field have a roster spot for other reasons.  The Patriots put a much bigger onus on special teams play than other franchises and the ability to play, and play well, on special teams clearly factors into a bunch of their roster decisions.  But other than kickers and the occasional guy like Slater, I'm not sure that players like Ebner and Bolden really have more innate talent for special teams than other players around the league.  Maybe this depends on what we mean by "talent."  Sometimes its hard to tell where talent ends and coaching or being put into position to succeed begins.  Mainly I think guys like Ebner and Bolden are coached up really well, they embrace this part of their job as really important, and they're willing to do what it takes to excel at these tasks.
 

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
Relative to offense and defense, I don't think there is a ton of difference between teams in special teams talent and I think its mainly concentrated in a few specialists.
The market agrees with you, in the sense that obviously special teamers are paid less and drafted less highly than their peers. On the other hand, Belichick seems to have identified this as a market inefficiency where he can overpay special teamers slightly (in terms of both money and draft picks) relative to the market and translate that into an on-the-field edge. Doesn't this sound like a Moneyball-type play? If most of the other teams consider special teams an afterthought, a savvy GM can snatch up elite special teamers just using late-round picks or contracts in the $1-2 MM range and get a small but significant advantage.
 
Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
For any given special teams play, the vast majority of the guys on the field have a roster spot for other reasons.
This is hard to measure, but looking at the last Patriots game, they played 341 special teams snaps (31 plays * 11 players / play) and 132 of those snaps were taken by players who did not play on either offense or defense. Many of those serve as game-day backups, of course, so it's fair to argue that they have a "roster spot for other reasons." But a big part of their roster spot is special teams, and that's true even for guys like Jordan Richards who play on defense but have a larger role on special teams. I'd say other than 30 or so key offensive and defensive contributors, special teams is likely more of a consideration for who is on the roster and who is active than offense / defense.
 
The Patriots also value special teams contributions from some players who play large roles on offense / defense, whether that's Edelman and Amendola in the return game or McCourty and Chung on coverage units. How often does Belichick say that a draft pick "contributes on all four downs?"
 
Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
The Patriots put a much bigger onus on special teams play than other franchises and the ability to play, and play well, on special teams clearly factors into a bunch of their roster decisions.  But other than kickers and the occasional guy like Slater, I'm not sure that players like Ebner and Bolden really have more innate talent for special teams than other players around the league.  Maybe this depends on what we mean by "talent."  Sometimes its hard to tell where talent ends and coaching or being put into position to succeed begins.  Mainly I think guys like Ebner and Bolden are coached up really well, they embrace this part of their job as really important, and they're willing to do what it takes to excel at these tasks.
Whether you or I consider that "talent," the Patriots value it enough to use a draft pick or modest contract rather than just assume they can grab someone off the scrap heap and coach them up to do the same thing.
 

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Super Nomario said:
The market agrees with you, in the sense that obviously special teamers are paid less and drafted less highly than their peers. On the other hand, Belichick seems to have identified this as a market inefficiency where he can overpay special teamers slightly (in terms of both money and draft picks) relative to the market and translate that into an on-the-field edge. Doesn't this sound like a Moneyball-type play? If most of the other teams consider special teams an afterthought, a savvy GM can snatch up elite special teamers just using late-round picks or contracts in the $1-2 MM range and get a small but significant advantage.
I don't disagree at all. Its just that the distribution of talent between teams will have a much smaller variance than the analogous distribution for offense and defense.
 
This is hard to measure, but looking at the last Patriots game, they played 341 special teams snaps (31 plays * 11 players / play) and 132 of those snaps were taken by players who did not play on either offense or defense. Many of those serve as game-day backups, of course, so it's fair to argue that they have a "roster spot for other reasons." But a big part of their roster spot is special teams, and that's true even for guys like Jordan Richards who play on defense but have a larger role on special teams. I'd say other than 30 or so key offensive and defensive contributors, special teams is likely more of a consideration for who is on the roster and who is active than offense / defense.
I don't disagree with this either, although that number (30) seems low to me.
 
Whether you or I consider that "talent," the Patriots value it enough to use a draft pick or modest contract rather than just assume they can grab someone off the scrap heap and coach them up to do the same thing.
Right. But even with all the investments the Patriots might make in this regard, the talent differential between them and other teams still pales when compared to, say, the talent differential between the best and worst offenses. Therefore, coaching and execution likely play a larger role than in other phases of the game..
 

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
Right. But even with all the investments the Patriots might make in this regard, the talent differential between them and other teams still pales when compared to, say, the talent differential between the best and worst offenses. Therefore, coaching and execution likely play a larger role than in other phases of the game..
I'm not sure why you think the talent differential "pales" compared to O/D. I'm also not sure why it logically follows that coaching is more important (I'm excluding execution because execution is inextricably linked to talent and coaching). Isn't it entirely possible that coaching is the thing that is less important in special teams, not talent, or they're both less important? Chuck has done a great job shedding light on some of the variations in tactics on special teams, but I think even he'd acknowledge that there are fewer ways to say, punt the football than there are to pass it.
 
EDIT: BTW, if you (or anyone) has any ideas about how we could quantify talent vs coaching (in special teams or elsewhere), that would be a pretty fascinating study, one I'd be interested in looking into. I feel like in the absence of data we're kind of talking out both sides of our asses here.
 

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Super Nomario said:
I'm not sure why you think the talent differential "pales" compared to O/D. I'm also not sure why it logically follows that coaching is more important (I'm excluding execution because execution is inextricably linked to talent and coaching). Isn't it entirely possible that coaching is the thing that is less important in special teams, not talent, or they're both less important? Chuck has done a great job shedding light on some of the variations in tactics on special teams, but I think even he'd acknowledge that there are fewer ways to say, punt the football than there are to pass it.
You don't think the difference in talent between Tom Brady and Kirk Cousins is wider than the difference in talent between Matthew Slater and some other cover specialist?  Or between Ghost and whatever other kicker?  I said that coaching and execution is likely more important with special teams, with a big part of execution obviously being tied to coaching.
 

 
 

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
You don't think the difference in talent between Tom Brady and Kirk Cousins is wider than the difference in talent between Matthew Slater and some other cover specialist?  Or between Ghost and whatever other kicker?  I said that coaching and execution is likely more important with special teams, with a big part of execution obviously being tied to coaching.
 
 
 
I think BB has said something along the lines of that he gives the ST coaches virtually free reign to pick among the "regulars". Occasionally it goes sideways (Gronk, Vrabel, others, I'm sure, that I can't remember).  But over the long haul, it -- and having a few specialists like Slater, Bolden and Ebner  -- results in high-quality ST play.
 

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Morgan's Magic Snowplow said:
You don't think the difference in talent between Tom Brady and Kirk Cousins is wider than the difference in talent between Matthew Slater and some other cover specialist?  Or between Ghost and whatever other kicker?  I said that coaching and execution is likely more important with special teams, with a big part of execution obviously being tied to coaching.
Quarterback is a different animal and obviously (much) more impactful than any other position. But I think we're kind of conflating talent and value - the quarterback touches the ball so much that slight differences in talent can play out over the course of the game into massive differences in value, where a special teams player (or frankly, any non-QB O or D player) isn't going to have the same number of opportunities to affect the game. But obviously both talent and value matter here. If Slater is twice as talented as the next-best gunner in the league, he's still not nearly as valuable as Aaron Rodgers (or probably even Cousins). Some of this is reminiscent of the JJ Watt MVP discussion last year, where you had people arguing Watt was the "best" player in the league if not necessarily the "most valuable."
 
joe dokes said:
 
I think BB has said something along the lines of that he gives the ST coaches virtually free reign to pick among the "regulars". Occasionally it goes sideways (Gronk, Vrabel, others, I'm sure, that I can't remember).  But over the long haul, it -- and having a few specialists like Slater, Bolden and Ebner  -- results in high-quality ST play.
Do you have a quote on this? I'd be surprised if it's literally true, because what I've seen is that as players take larger roles on offense / defense (especially young players) the Patriots dial back their special teams contributions - this is true even week-to-week. As one example, Jamie Collins led the team in special teams snaps his rookie year but only plays on one, maybe two units now that's he a full-time regular.
 

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Super Nomario said:
Quarterback is a different animal and obviously (much) more impactful than any other position. But I think we're kind of conflating talent and value - the quarterback touches the ball so much that slight differences in talent can play out over the course of the game into massive differences in value, where a special teams player (or frankly, any non-QB O or D player) isn't going to have the same number of opportunities to affect the game. But obviously both talent and value matter here. If Slater is twice as talented as the next-best gunner in the league, he's still not nearly as valuable as Aaron Rodgers (or probably even Cousins). Some of this is reminiscent of the JJ Watt MVP discussion last year, where you had people arguing Watt was the "best" player in the league if not necessarily the "most valuable."
 
I agree that there is some conflation of talent and value in this discussion.  I still don't believe  that Slater is more talented vis-a-vis a league average gunner than Brady is vis-a-vis a league average QB.  Anyway, I think this discussion is petering out.  I'm not sure we really disagree about much anyway.