Brady and the Patriots Rebound, Other Week 5 Thoughts

For the first time in a while, I was legitimately happy to see the Patriots win last Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t necessarily rooting for them, and I definitely would have preferred a tight, competitive game. But despite the fact that the Patriots have been authors of god knows how many blowouts at Gillette over the last decade, you could tell that this victory meant something more for them (or at least it seemed to), especially for Brady.

After the Patriots were blown out by the Chiefs on national television the Monday Night before (one of the more lopsided losses of the Brady/Belichick era), the media went apeshit. All sorts of questions started to arise about Brady’s level of play, whether or not he was in decline, if this was the end of the Patriots dynasty, etc. “Reports” even started to arise that there was disconnect between Brady and the Patriots organization, and that he might finish his career elsewhere.

Brady and the Patriots of course flipped the script at home on Sunday, winning by 26 points after losing by 27 the week before. Could I be overreacting in thinking that this win meant more to Brady and the Patriots than most other wins might? Could I simply be subscribing to the media narrative? The Patriots are a professional NFL franchise. They are always concerned with winning on a week to week basis, as are most, if not all NFL franchises. Playing Football is what these guys do for a living. The media is just noise. What “everyone is saying” after a win or a loss shouldn’t impact what happens inside an NFL locker room.

And yet, a few things I saw on the past two Patriots broadcasts indicated otherwise to me. With a lot of NFL players, the emphasis put on “body language”, confidence, leadership, and other psychological traits/indicators is, for the most part, irrelevant or overblown. When “analysts” say cliches like “(Player X) was rattled today”, “Player X didn’t really care, didn’t want to win”, etc, it’s usually an indicator that said analyst doesn’t really understand the football reasons that a win/loss occurred. But Tom Brady is a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve more than most. Unlike flat-liners like Eli Manning and Joe Flacco, When Tom is playing well, when he is confident, it usually seems to show in his facial expressions and his sideline demeanor.

I’ve seen Tom frustrated and rattled before. But against the Chiefs, he seemed more detached than frustrated. He just seemed very separated from everything that was going on. Sunday Night was an entirely different story. Obviously he played very well and was tuned in to the max from the start. But during the post game interviews, during which after these types of wins, Tom and Bill almost always give very modest, business-like, answers, Tom seemed to show more emotion than I usually see from him in these situations. He seemed genuinely happy and relieved, almost like a little kid. He mentioned what a long week it had been. He also seemed especially hyped up and ecstatic on the sidelines during the game. All of the sudden, I found myself happy for Brady. Tom was no longer the big, bad guy that many, including myself at times, have often looked at him as. He wasn’t the overly-dramatic, two faced (aggressive on the field, polite during interviews), god-like leader of a team that smashes its opponents on a regular basis and has been idolized by the media on a regular basis. He was just a regular, emotional guy, who was happy to be in the situation he was in, happy to win a game in the manner that he did after there had been so much doubt and negativity cast upon him and his team in the week past. Despite all the shit I’ve endured from Patriots fans over the years (you would think they were the ones that beat us in two Super Bowls…) and despite the heaps of ridiculous and often inaccurate praise I’ve seen repeatedly dumped onto him by the media over the years, I once again found myself rooting for Tom Brady.

As I mentioned earlier, after the Chiefs loss, the media basically shat on Brady. Of course the Patriots rarely lose and almost never get blown out. The Chiefs are a good team, but they certainly don’t seem like a great team (although always hard to know this early in the season). These factors combined definitely contributed to the mass media reaction. Nonetheless, the amount of negativity towards Brady and his career seemed a little ridiculous to me. I’ve often been critical of Brady over the years, but the loss seemed more like a systematic issue to me. Not only is the team talent level an issue, but we don’t really know what the Patriots offense is at this point, what their identity is. I know the gameplan is often week to week with Bill, but it’s very hard to evaluate Brady when you can’t even tell what they’re doing on offense. Additionally, there have been plenty of times over the years where Brady has been deserving of blame but the media hasn’t given it to him. It really comes back to the issue of the Quarterback getting too much praise when the team wins and too much blame when the team loses.

But putting Brady’s actual performance aside, I think the past week speaks to what has become a much bigger issue in the NFL. Again, I could be totally wrong on this, but it seems that the media is having way too much of an influence on teams, coaches, players, and most importantly, fans. There’s always an overreaction to every game. What really happened was two weeks ago, the Patriots lost, and last week, they won. But with the media, every outcome turns into a giant long term statement about the player/team. One week a quarterback is the greatest of all time, the next he’s terrible. We cannot be making definitive statements based on single games. The NFL doesn’t work like that. And while the media probably doesn’t have nearly as big as an impact as I’m making it sound, the pressure they put on players and coaches seems like it may indeed have some impact. (If not directly, the attitudes at least influence the fans, who then influence the team.) Coaches are getting fired far more frequently than before, even though it can take years to build a winning program. And the era of giving a Quarterback a few years to develop is over; it seems like every week a team loses there is a question of whether or not there should be a Quarterback change (often there is), even if the issue is far more complex. There are Quarterbacks that played back in the day of no 24/7 media coverage that had nice, long careers, who wouldn’t last a year in this age of constant media scrutiny.

I’m speculating here, and I admit that it is unlikely that the media has that much of an influence on professional teams and players. But it has no doubt influenced me as a fan and how I look at the game. After a win or a loss, I shouldn’t be asking long term questions about the future of certain players. I shouldn’t be drawing long term conclusions about the state of a team after a great victory or a blowout. And yet, I often find myself thinking this way.

Furthermore, the mainstream media is not very smart. They are incorrect more often than not, and are incredibly biased as well. They highly criticize some players and franchises but give others a free pass for just about anything. I’ve been following the NFL for long enough and have found enough reliable sources that I can usually see through the frequent media misinterpretations and figure out the truth about certain players and teams. But what about the common/casual football fan? If they buy into what the mainstream media is selling, their beliefs about the NFL will often be false. There is a good chance that when certain players retire, the general perception about them will be incorrect. This has already happened in the past. For example, say I gave out this survey to a random but large selection of Football fans in America:

1) Historically, is Tony Romo a good player in 4th quarter situations compared to his peers? What about Philip Rivers? Aaron Rodgers?
2) Statistically, who are the best playoff Quarterbacks of all time?

I’ll just leave it at those two not to get too off topic for now, but the point is that most would answer these questions incorrectly. And no, I am not wrong to be using objective terms such as “correct”, “incorrect”, “right”, “wrong”, “true”, and “false”. Opinion is valid to a certain point, but Football is not like artwork or television preferences where anyone’s opinion can be correct. You can make a statement and be wrong, and this happens quite frequently in today’s world.

By the way, most of my Football knowledge has come from–besides observation and critical thinking, the solution to avoiding commonly held fallacy in all aspects of the world, let alone Football–the following two people:
Scott Kacsmar, https://twitter.com/FO_ScottKacsmar
Greg Cosell, https://twitter.com/gregcosell
Please check them out!

Anyway, that got a little long (they usually seem to…) but I’ll wrap things up with the following: Will the 2014 Patriots win the Superbowl? I don’t know, but probably not. They’re always a tough out at Gillette and after a loss, but significant questions about the team still remain. If they couldn’t win the Superbowl with some of their best teams (2007, 2010), why would they with one of their worst? Regardless, it was nice for me to see Brady and the Patriots win in the manner that they did after everything that had happened the week before.

~~~

PHEW! That took longer than I intended. Anyway before I go, here are some other thoughts on Week 5. I’ll do my absolute best to keep them short and sweet, but no promises!

Quick Hits

-When the “report” of Jim Harbaugh’s job being in danger came up during the offseason, I figured it was just offseason bogus that had come about because there’s really nothing to talk about during the offseason. But I’m absolutely shocked that it’s still being thrown around. I don’t know what’s happening in the league (neither does the media, usually), but I find it incredibly difficult to believe that one of, if not the, most successful coaches of the past few years could be in danger of losing his job. The 49ers did not have a winning season from 2003 to 2009. The best they could manage was one 8-8 season in 2009. Since coming in, the Harbaugh led 49ers have won the NFC West 2 years in a row, came in second the next year, and have lost 3 playoff games by a combined 12 points. Harbaugh also took Alex Smith, a former No 1 overall pick who was widely considered a bust at the time, and made him into a serviceable Quarterback. All of a sudden, everyone looks at him as a “winner” now. My point is, I’d be shocked if Harbaugh left anytime soon.

-With the Bengals blowout, the streak of shitty primetime games continues. The Sunday Night game is supposed to be the best of the week! Hopefully the Giants Eagles game next Sunday will break the streak, and do so in the Giants favor.

-Congrats on Peyton Manning for hitting 500 TDs, but even more congrats to Wes Welker for setting a new record for career receptions by an undrafted player. This story has not gotten nearly as much attention as it should, but this kid deserves everything he’s gotten. Welker’s story is one of the great stories in NFL history.

-Eli Manning and the Giants offense is clicking! For now. We’ve typically been a great early season team, but we have a tough schedule coming up and there’s plenty of season left, so I’m going to hold off on making any long term judgements about the new offense (or writing an article about why it’s working).

-Austin Davis is playing better than Sam Bradford ever has, and it’s not even close.

-Since most of this article is about Brady, I have to say Congrats to Brady for hitting 50,000 yards.

-Seeing the Jets fans and the media call for Vick, I find it shocking that after ten years of mediocrity, people still think this guy is starting caliber and has anything left to offer. Stick with Geno.

-The biggest road comeback in NFL history belongs to… the Brian Hoyer led Browns? Well that just doesn’t seem right. Obviously you gotta give them credit, but you can’t help but notice that comebacks seem a lot easier in today’s NFL than they used to be. I’m sure the increased number of penalties (pass interference/holding/illegal contact) play a role, and it’s getting to be a little too much. Yes, watching good passing offenses is fun. Yes, watching explosive college offenses is fun. But the NFL is not like college and should not be treated as or attempted to be molded as such. When watching a college game, you expect high scoring because you know schemes are different (hurry up, spread, etc) and you know the athletes aren’t as good. Likewise, when watching the NFL, you expect a competitive game where everything has to be earned because you know you are watching the best athletes in the world. The reasons comebacks and shootouts are fun in the NFL is because you feel like they are truly earned. If teams are finishing and extending drives because of bogus penalties, even though the result might be the same, it certainly doesn’t feel genuine. I give credit to the Browns and I’m not even saying penalties played a role in that game (I don’t know, I didn’t watch it); I’m just using the example to cite what I see as a general trend.

…Well, okay! I think that’s finally it! Until next time!
-CK

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