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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

ON YOUR MARKS: A system, not a superstar

Published: February 4, 2005
Section: Arts, Etc.

I have lived nearly my whole life in Connecticut. I love everything it has to offer. The seasons are magnificent, New York and Boston are close enough that traveling to either is easy and in general I find it to be a great area of the country to be brought up. My biggest problem with Connecticut is the lack of professional sports. I lived my early childhood with the Hartford Whalers of the NHL, but they were always somewhere between mediocre and unbearable. I adopted my favorite teams from anywhere I could. The Boston Red Sox and Celtics were easy choices because of geographic proximity, and looking to my roots I became a fan of the Buffalo Sabers and Bills (I was born, and lived the first two years of my life of which I remember nothing, in Buffalo).

When the Bills went to, and lost, four consecutive Super Bowls I was distraught, but call me youthfully nave, because I still believe that merely getting to the four Super Bowls was one of the great accomplishments in the history of football. As the New England Patriots prepare to play in, and perhaps win, their third championship in four years, the talk of another dynasty has filled the pages of newspapers and waves of radio, but I think it is really time to start breaking down what is really behind the success of the Pats.

I feel I must start by saying I do not like the Patriots. As I said, I root for the Bills, and as divisional rivals, I cant cheer for both. Had the Patriots moved to Hartford when Bob Kraft had all but packed his bags in the late 1990s, I still would have been a fan of the Bills. That being said, it is time to look deep into the accomplishments of these recent Patriot teams.

The reason the Patriots have been so great in the last four years is because they put together a team that complements itself very well. They have very few stars on the team. Think about what the Detroit Pistons did in the NBA Finals last year against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers had Shaq and Kobe, but it was the solid play of Chauncey Billups, Rasheed and Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton, and the Pistons bench that out-teamed the Lakers.

Just as the Pistons put a team on the floor that played every aspect of the game well but not great, the Patriots can do the same thing. They put themselves in a position to win every game, and even when it doesnt look good for them, they get a break that propels them to victory.

The poster boy for the Patriots is Tom Brady, who has been the Most Valuable Player in both of their Super Bowl victories. People are starting to compare him to the great quarterbacks of the past few decades such as Joe Montana, John Elway and Terry Bradshaw, among others. While I do not question the opinions of these great sports writers, I am dumbfounded as to how Brady is mentioned in the same breath as these immortals. The fact is, while Brady is leading his team to Super Bowls, which some consider the most important statistic, he is not even one of the best quarterbacks in the league right now.

Since Tom Brady took over as the full time starting quarterback four years ago, four quarterbacks, Brady not included, have won MVP awards: Kurt Warner, Rich Gannon, Peyton Manning, and Steve McNair. This past season, Bradys best statistical season in his career, he finished tenth in the NFL in passing yards, sixth in passing touchdowns, and ninth in overall quarterback rating. That all being said, Brady manages to win games;

so while he might not be one of the best quarterbacks in the league, he is certainly the best quarterback for the Patriots system.

The success really started in New England when Bill Belichick became the coach in 2000. No one can deny that Belichick has been the perfect coach for the Patriots, amassing a 53-27 record and two Super Bowl victories. This, however, was not Belichicks first head coaching experience;

he coached the Cleveland Browns for five years and made the playoffs only once, while compiling a record of 36-44. Belichicks genius has something to do with his two coordinators, Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis.

Thus, it is no surprise that next Weis will be the head coach for Notre Dame, while Crennel appears to be in line to take over Belichicks former team, the Browns. Belichick and the rest of the coaching staff have installed a system which plays to the strengths of their players, but given his head coaching blunders with the Browns, he is not the next face on Mount Rushmore, as it may seem when listening to WEEI.

If one was scanning the Patriots roster and choosing players that were either the best or second best at their position in the entire league, they would likely settle on two: kicker Adam Vinatieri and defensive tackle Richard Seymour. Other than those two players, the Patriots have managed to piece together castoffs and college free agents, players deemed to old or poor teammates.

New England is not a team of stars it is a team of players who fit within a well-defined system that no team in the league can seem to figure out. So, are the Patriots a dynasty like the Steelers of the 70s and the 49ers of the 80s? Well, if they win this weekend it will be their third title in five years, and it will be hard to dispute that evidence. Unlike the prior dynasties, however, the Patriots do not rely on the arm of Terry Bradshaw like the Steelers did, or the unstoppable Montana to Rice passing game of the 49ers, but rather a system which is able to interchange parts and remain a winner.

One caveat, Pats fans, even if your team wins Sunday, they are only half-way to the record four straight Super Bowl appearances by my Buffalo Bills now theres a real team.