Monday, January 21, 2013

Last Night of the Patriots' Dynasty

Sometime in the next 5 years, a sportswriter from the Boston media will publish "The Last Night of the Patriots' Dynasty". It might be titled differently, but the book will be an NFL version of Buster Olney's great "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty". Olney used the 2001 and 2003 World Series defeats to explain how the Yankee dynasty that had won multiple titles in a few years had changed significantly to be competitive but lose in World Series. The Patriots have been going through the Yankee process for years now, and one writer will capture it. Using inside sources, hours of interviews and a timeline of front office decisions, they will write a great book. I won't read it because it is pretty easy to see how the Patriots suffered a similar fate as the Yankees.

Let's review the similarities of their rise and success....

Yankees + Patriots
 Coach Identified with team that players love - Joe Torre/Bill Belicheck
 Young, "clutch", and handsome superstar who wins early - Derek Jeter/Tom Brady
Both teams won championships with core built through player development
Built success on specific competitive advantage - Yankees' pitching/Pats' Defense
Had 'closer' in tight situations that no team could match - Mariano Rivera/Adam Vinatieri
Home Field Advantage in playoffs - Yankee Mystique/January in Foxboro
Added pieces to add to advantage - Yanks traded for Clemens/ Pats grabbed Washington + Harrison
They always seemed to get the 'lucky' bounce or call just when they needed it (understatement).
I might add that a big difference is the deeply homoerotic nature of the Patriot fan embrace of Tom Brady compared to the benign love of Derek "The Captain" Jeter. That is not the end, and it is why some writer will pop out a great book on the Patriots' descent. It's not a descent, just like the Yankees did not fall, but neither team wins titles with that horseshoe shoved up their rear like they once did. How many games did the Pats or Yanks win during their streaks that they had no business winning due to something 'weird'? Both teams made the playoffs consistently after their runs, but the magic was gone. It was not the same. The mystique had worn off. How did it happen?
Similarities of their 'falls'....
Yankees + Patriots
Coaching becomes different - Torre waffles on retirement/Spygate for the Pats
Build team through free agency - Yanks sign every star over 30/Pats splurge on Roosevelt Colvin + go after older guys after Dillon experiment
Add player counter to what team 'stands' for - A-Rod/Randy Moss
Few if any stars developed internally - Yanks had Cano/Pats have had too many failures to list
Lose touch with competitive advantage - Bullpen gets shaky + pitching gets older/Pats forget to play defense as original defensive pro bowlers get old, leave + retire
Offseason woes - Annual Yankee FA splurge/Pats annually trade 1st rd pick + let good veterans go
Change identity - Yanks become team of all stars/Pats go from great D to great O
The Horror - Yanks blow 3-0 lead in ALCS to Red Sox/Pats blow 15 pt lead to Indy in AFC
 The Doubt - Is Jeter/Brady really that 'clutch'?
Home Field Advantage Gone - Lose do or dies at Yankee Stadium/Pats lose to anyone at home now
Team Goes Corporate - Have you seen the new Yankee Stadium?/Pats ruin tailgating by building money trap
If the author were to follow the Olney model, what two games would he use? We have now entered a time where the Patriots lose in the playoffs as favorite on an annual basis. There are so many games to choose from, but there are two which the author could use as anchors as they weave through different problems that caused other losses. The two are the Super Bowl losses to the Giants. Even if the Pats' identity was already significantly down the super offense road and veterans were long gone, that first loss tot eh Giants was an amazing upset that would not have happened to the Pats of old. Hell, the Pats had continuously pulled wins out of their asses that season to start 18-0. The second Super Bowl loss was an upset, but enough people doubted the Pats after several years of trip ups versus good defenses. There is a symmetry that is just too perfect not to use.
The story isn't over for the Pats yet. Brady is 35, and Belicheck + Brady could stay in place for 3-5 more years. Thing is, fans now know when Brady isn't sharp in a game compared to old days, and Belicheck has been outcoached on occasion. Still, this book may never be written if the Pats win one more title. I feel it will be written. Brady is now older Brady, they only had a running game for one year with Dillon, and the defense is a mess. The NFL adapts quickly, and it seems quality defenses know what to do against the Pats now. The Pats's defense also can't get the stops or turnovers when they need them unlike their old days when it "just happened". Another damning change, the entire defense has one pro bowler (Wilfork) compared to the old days when the defensive line had 2 (Wilfork, Washington, Warren or Seymour), as did the linebacker corps, and the defensive secondary. These are not the same Pats. The only people left still believing it are the diehards (started cheering in 2002) on my Faceborg feed. Yankees' fans know the syndrome because they lived it. Happy Patriots Schadenfreude day!

1 comment:

asdf said...

I'm from Baltimore, and I gave those guys no chance both of the last two games. There is something about this year though. Talent wise they shouldn't be able to do it, but they are doing it. And not through flukes, but somehow their play has elevated above their talent throughout the playoffs.

Maybe there is something to Ray Lewis's last ride.

They are underdogs again, but I'm tire of going with my head instead of my heart. Ravens all the way.