No doubt, far more football fans across the country hate the New England Patriots than love them. Why? Because they just keep winning. Which means everybody else is losing. Other than maybe the San Antonio Spurs, has any pro team in any sport maintained such a high level of excellence for such a long time?
Know what yours truly finds admirable about both of them? Unlike so many other teams that feature "look at me" players, loud-mouthed coaches, and egotistical owners, the Spurs and Pats have always remained humble. Well, maybe that Gronk guy aside. Ahem.
Another thing is -- if a player doesn't adapt to their system, it doesn't matter how good he is. He's gone.
True, Tom Brady is likely the best quarterback in the history of the NFL -- sorry Montana junkies, but Brady's stats in every department eclipse those of Joe -- but he and coach Bill Bellichick have always gotten it done with "less".
We've seen many a Pro-Bowler play for the Patriots, then think he could jack them up for more money, only to discover he would be unceremoniously cut in short order. They'll go out and find somebody else, oftentimes someone many of us have never heard of -- and next thing you know -- the new guy turns out to be super-reliable, making one big play after another. Oftentimes, a Super Bowl ring awaits him at the end of the year.
In other words, it's their way or the highway -- good luck if you don't like it -- and don't let the door hit you on the way out. It's hard to dispute the success they have had over the years with this philosophy.
Randy Moss was once deemed a "problem child". Though a gifted receiver, he wasn't going to win anything with the teams he had played for. So he took less money to play for the Patriots. Guess what happened?
On to the present. The Pats are coming off yet another Super Bowl win. Tom Brady will be 40 years old before the next season starts, but his numbers in the last three years are better than anything Montana put up in HIS best three years, which were in his early 30s. And it's not a close call. Look it up for yourself.
Now consider a couple guys named Adrien Petersen and Brandon Marshall. AP has long played for the Minnesota Vikings, suffered through some devastating injuries, and will soon turn 32. He may still be in dynamite shape and capable of great things, but 32 is getting up there for a running back. Plus, he has ZERO chance of winning a Super Bowl with the Vikings. Forget that. They're not even in the conversation of serious contenders.
Wide receiver supreme Brandon Marshall has bounced around the league playing for a few teams over the years, but none of them had a serious shot of getting within sniffing distance of the Lombardi trophy. He'll turn 33 a couple days after Petersen's birthday. Hardly a spring chicken himself.
Both could probably go to any number of teams and make a pile of money. Thing is, both already HAVE enough money for a few lifetimes unless they get Mike Tysonish about it.
So why not think long and hard about going to the Patriots and accepting far less dough, but having a terrific chance of winning a Super Bowl in the twilight of their careers?
Though he may seem and think he's immortal and can play forever at a high level, Brady's not going to be around for much longer. Marshall would have to like the idea of Brady throwing passes in his direction. Yet he could also realize he needn't take a beating as the "go to" guy, like Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions once suffered.
Likewise with Petersen. He wouldn't have to carry the ball 30 times a game and suffer the punishment that would go along with it.
No, far from it. Both would merely be cogs in the greater diversified machine that has proven to be so successful for so long.
The Pats rely and insist on every single player doing his job and nobody is above the greater good of the team. Superstars and All-Pros come and mostly go, but the Pats march on.
True, neither Petersen nor Marshall would set any individual records (pad their stats) if they signed on to play for the Pats, but they'd have a very good shot at something they never did for all the years they've toiled away for on lesser teams elsewhere. The ring at the end of the rainbow.
That's assuming, of course, that Bill Bellichick would welcome them in the first place, no given. He doesn't need them and would obviously make do without -- because he always has. These players would have to convince the mad genius that they'll work hard, be smart about things, study, study, study, keep their noses clean off the field, and above all, accept less money for the PRIVILEGE of playing for the Patriots.
But they'd be crazy if they didn't at least give the possibility some serious consideration. After all, at this point in their careers, what do they have to lose?
Want to finally be a winner?
Get thee to Foxborough, hat in hand, and ask nice.
It just might happen....