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Nitpicks and Nitwits: Silencing the critics and sounding off to everyone else

At the Patriots' send-off rally on the NRG Plaza outside of Gillette Stadium Monday, where some fans began to line up at 3:30 am in 20 degree temperatures, there were two hand-made signs that struck me as particularly poignant.

"This Never Gets Old!"

"Shut the World Up!

bennett.jpg

Assuming for just a moment that these signs and words represent the feelings of, let's say, most Patriots' fans - those words do provide us with an opportunity for a little perspective on an NFL record-setting 9th Super Bowl appearance.  Some fans can still appreciate the moment, even if it seems like we've "been there, done that" before.

And others are simply mad.  Mad at the world for the persecution that has come New England's way over the past two years; mad at the media for passing off "fake news" as fact, mad at other NFL teams, mad at anyone who would point an accusatory finger at an entire region and call everyone guilty - just because a few footballs seemed a little underinflated, which can be explained away by 3rd grade-level science.

The Patriots' players may be playing a championship football game next Sunday in Houston against the Atlanta Falcons, but for Patriots fans?  

Some see this opportunity as redemption for all the shots fired this way.  Some see Super Bowl LI as validation for nearly two decades of on-field success.  And some undoubtedly see the game as a chance at ultimate vindication for a perceived wrong-doing led by a heavy-handed, severely misguided commissioner.

Whichever side you're coming from, pro-Patriot or anti-New England, here's one thing you must admit - the monotony of another Patriots' trip to the Super Bowl is an occurrence you can almost set your watch by.

This Never Gets Old

Let's make this simple.

In the past 16 years, the Patriots have managed to:

  • Have a winning season each year
  • Win 14 AFC East division titles
  • Win 7 AFC Conference crowns
  • Win 4 Super Bowls, and play in three others (including next Sunday)

At the Patriots' send-off rally on the NRG Plaza outside of Gillette Stadium Monday, where some fans began to line up at 3:30 am in 20 degree temperatures, there were two hand-made signs that struck me as particularly poignant.

"This Never Gets Old!"

"Shut the World Up!

bennett.jpg

Assuming for just a moment that these signs and words represent the feelings of, let's say, most Patriots' fans - those words do provide us with an opportunity for a little perspective on an NFL record-setting 9th Super Bowl appearance.  Some fans can still appreciate the moment, even if it seems like we've "been there, done that" before.

And others are simply mad.  Mad at the world for the persecution that has come New England's way over the past two years; mad at the media for passing off "fake news" as fact, mad at other NFL teams, mad at anyone who would point an accusatory finger at an entire region and call everyone guilty - just because a few footballs seemed a little underinflated, which can be explained away by 3rd grade-level science.

The Patriots' players may be playing a championship football game next Sunday in Houston against the Atlanta Falcons, but for Patriots fans?  

Some see this opportunity as redemption for all the shots fired this way.  Some see Super Bowl LI as validation for nearly two decades of on-field success.  And some undoubtedly see the game as a chance at ultimate vindication for a perceived wrong-doing led by a heavy-handed, severely misguided commissioner.

Whichever side you're coming from, pro-Patriot or anti-New England, here's one thing you must admit - the monotony of another Patriots' trip to the Super Bowl is an occurrence you can almost set your watch by.

This Never Gets Old

Let's make this simple.

In the past 16 years, the Patriots have managed to:

  • Have a winning season each year
  • Win 14 AFC East division titles
  • Win 7 AFC Conference crowns
  • Win 4 Super Bowls, and play in three others (including next Sunday)
afc.jpg

That's a lot of winning, and for those fans who are in their 20's (and younger), they know nothing else but the winning.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but a little perspective is always good chicken soup for the soul.  

Prior to defeating the (St. Louis) Rams in XXXVI, New England had won just five divisional titles (dating to 1960), two AFC Conference championships, and had lost both Super Bowls (XX and XXXI) by a combined 48 points.

There was also a lot of losing over the previous 41 years.  So for those of a certain vintage, shall we say, the Patriots' run of success in the 21st century has not only been unprecedented - but ultra-appreciated.  To have the franchise go from a "lovable loser" to a "hated winner" is a metamorphosis most would be glad to make, again and again.

Shut the World Up!

It's doubtful a Patriots' win over Atlanta will shut anyone up, much less The World.

But even detractors or haters will find their arguments against New England's title-worthiness hollow, and simply little more than hot air, should the Patriots beat the Falcons.  Based on the simple numbers and facts listed above (go ahead, look 'em up), New England's consistent success on the gridiron since 2001 simply isn't matched anywhere else in professional sports.

That's not to say there aren't other teams (and in other sports) who haven't been successful.  But the run still enjoyed by this franchise - in an era of salary cap restraints and limitations - is remarkable, really.  The NFL preaches p-a-r-i-t-y on the field, and the Patriots respond by making a p-a-r-o-d-y of the entire set up.  

That must p*ss them off good, don't you think?

belichick.jpg

When it comes to managing the financial numbers, the Patriots have hit more than they have missed, for sure.  When it comes to managing personnel and evaluating players, the Patriots have hit more than they have missed, absolutely.  Those that might criticize Bill Belichick the GM for some of his mistakes nevertheless still praise Bill Belichick the Head Coach for the winning the team enjoys.  

Both aren't perfect, but both have a good track record of success, don't they?  Let's put it this way - there are 31 other NFL teams who would like to have his wins with his losses right about now.  Belichick's success is one reason the Falcons themselves have hired ex-Patriots to make personnel decisions, to build and replicate what New England has wrought on the rest of the league.

So, change the rules, suspend the stars, fine the team and coaches, dock a few draft picks.  It doesn't seem to matter.  New England is back in the Super Bowl; through trials and tribulations, through bumps and bruises, and through victories and defeat.  It's a heck of an accomplishment.  

It always is, and it's time for the rest of the world to deal with it.

How do you beat the Patriots?

It's a question that will be asked of the Falcons, if not the rest of the NFL, for the entire week upcoming.  But the best answer - maybe even the most accurate answer - has already come from the Buffalo Bills' Lorenzo Alexander, who took part in the Pro Bowl in Orlando this past weekend.

"Play them without Tom Brady."

True enough, the Bills did beat the Patriots in Week 4 at Gillette Stadium, one of two defeats handed to New England this year, and the win came with TB12 serving his NFL-mandated suspension.   

brady.jpg

But short of another lightning bolt like that from the NFL's Grand Poobah himself, how to beat the Patriots can't be terribly difficult to figure out.  It has been done before.  The problem, however, has always come in the execution of the game plan.

"You gotta be highly competitive, you gotta be in tight coverage," former Jets defensive coach and current Kansas City defensive coordinator Bob Sutton told NFL.com.  "They have a lot of good football players and I think they do a great job, obviously.  But again, the thing I don't think people appreciate sometimes is the job they do executing.

"They just do a great job of executing."

Game plans are game plans.  Some will work, others won't.  But you won't stand a chance, it seems, unless you figure out a way to out-execute the Patriots.  Or, suspend Tom Brady.

But even then, New England managed to win three out of four without him, didn't they?

Rex, we hardly missed you

The former head coach of the aforementioned Buffalo Bills, Rex Ryan, has a new job.  And it just so happens he'll make his debut this week prior to the Patriots kicking off in Houston against the Falcons.

Ryan has been hired by ESPN to serve as an analyst for their Sunday NFL Countdown program, which will air from 11 am to 2 pm eastern time next Sunday.  

rex_ryan.jpg

Ryan has had his fair share of verbal warfare take place with the Patriots through his years as a head coach ("I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's, you know, rings!") in New York and Buffalo.  And, he's also had some successes in beating the Patriots a few times along the way.  

Ryan won in just his 2nd game as a head coach in 2009 while with the Jets, and among others, also beat the Patriots in Foxboro for one of his two AFC title game appearances.

All told, Ryan was 5-12 against the Patriots in New York and Buffalo, including the Brady-less encounter this past October.  Sure, he's beaten New England before.

But not enough to keep his on-field job as a head coach in Buffalo - or New York - for that matter.  It's why he'll have all of his 'splaining to do this week on TV, rather than to a locker room full of players.

John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and just completed his 24th season as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 29 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame.

afc.jpg

That's a lot of winning, and for those fans who are in their 20's (and younger), they know nothing else but the winning.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but a little perspective is always good chicken soup for the soul.  

Prior to defeating the (St. Louis) Rams in XXXVI, New England had won just five divisional titles (dating to 1960), two AFC Conference championships, and had lost both Super Bowls (XX and XXXI) by a combined 48 points.

There was also a lot of losing over the previous 41 years.  So for those of a certain vintage, shall we say, the Patriots' run of success in the 21st century has not only been unprecedented - but ultra-appreciated.  To have the franchise go from a "lovable loser" to a "hated winner" is a metamorphosis most would be glad to make, again and again.

Shut the World Up!

It's doubtful a Patriots' win over Atlanta will shut anyone up, much less The World.

But even detractors or haters will find their arguments against New England's title-worthiness hollow, and simply little more than hot air, should the Patriots beat the Falcons.  Based on the simple numbers and facts listed above (go ahead, look 'em up), New England's consistent success on the gridiron since 2001 simply isn't matched anywhere else in professional sports.

That's not to say there aren't other teams (and in other sports) who haven't been successful.  But the run still enjoyed by this franchise - in an era of salary cap restraints and limitations - is remarkable, really.  The NFL preaches p-a-r-i-t-y on the field, and the Patriots respond by making a p-a-r-o-d-y of the entire set up.  

That must p*ss them off good, don't you think?

belichick.jpg

When it comes to managing the financial numbers, the Patriots have hit more than they have missed, for sure.  When it comes to managing personnel and evaluating players, the Patriots have hit more than they have missed, absolutely.  Those that might criticize Bill Belichick the GM for some of his mistakes nevertheless still praise Bill Belichick the Head Coach for the winning the team enjoys.  

Both aren't perfect, but both have a good track record of success, don't they?  Let's put it this way - there are 31 other NFL teams who would like to have his wins with his losses right about now.  Belichick's success is one reason the Falcons themselves have hired ex-Patriots to make personnel decisions, to build and replicate what New England has wrought on the rest of the league.

So, change the rules, suspend the stars, fine the team and coaches, dock a few draft picks.  It doesn't seem to matter.  New England is back in the Super Bowl; through trials and tribulations, through bumps and bruises, and through victories and defeat.  It's a heck of an accomplishment.  

It always is, and it's time for the rest of the world to deal with it.

How do you beat the Patriots?

It's a question that will be asked of the Falcons, if not the rest of the NFL, for the entire week upcoming.  But the best answer - maybe even the most accurate answer - has already come from the Buffalo Bills' Lorenzo Alexander, who took part in the Pro Bowl in Orlando this past weekend.

"Play them without Tom Brady."

True enough, the Bills did beat the Patriots in Week 4 at Gillette Stadium, one of two defeats handed to New England this year, and the win came with TB12 serving his NFL-mandated suspension.   

brady.jpg

But short of another lightning bolt like that from the NFL's Grand Poobah himself, how to beat the Patriots can't be terribly difficult to figure out.  It has been done before.  The problem, however, has always come in the execution of the game plan.

"You gotta be highly competitive, you gotta be in tight coverage," former Jets defensive coach and current Kansas City defensive coordinator Bob Sutton told NFL.com.  "They have a lot of good football players and I think they do a great job, obviously.  But again, the thing I don't think people appreciate sometimes is the job they do executing.

"They just do a great job of executing."

Game plans are game plans.  Some will work, others won't.  But you won't stand a chance, it seems, unless you figure out a way to out-execute the Patriots.  Or, suspend Tom Brady.

But even then, New England managed to win three out of four without him, didn't they?

Rex, we hardly missed you

The former head coach of the aforementioned Buffalo Bills, Rex Ryan, has a new job.  And it just so happens he'll make his debut this week prior to the Patriots kicking off in Houston against the Falcons.

Ryan has been hired by ESPN to serve as an analyst for their Sunday NFL Countdown program, which will air from 11 am to 2 pm eastern time next Sunday.  

rex_ryan.jpg

Ryan has had his fair share of verbal warfare take place with the Patriots through his years as a head coach ("I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's, you know, rings!") in New York and Buffalo.  And, he's also had some successes in beating the Patriots a few times along the way.  

Ryan won in just his 2nd game as a head coach in 2009 while with the Jets, and among others, also beat the Patriots in Foxboro for one of his two AFC title game appearances.

All told, Ryan was 5-12 against the Patriots in New York and Buffalo, including the Brady-less encounter this past October.  Sure, he's beaten New England before.

But not enough to keep his on-field job as a head coach in Buffalo - or New York - for that matter.  It's why he'll have all of his 'splaining to do this week on TV, rather than to a locker room full of players.

John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and just completed his 24th season as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 29 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame.

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