I’ve been a Pats fan my whole life. Born and bred a New Englander, I’m devoted to the red, white, and blue of the Patriots. Seasoned sportscasters are still on the bandwagon and believe that we’ll still have a double-digit win column by the end of the season, if not a Super Bowl run. Patriot owner Robert Kraft is convinced that Tebow is a fantastic acquisition and that our team is just starting a new era.
But even with these new leads, what has been sacrificed for these prospective playoff runs? With the loss of major players, media scandal, and injuries, we could point our fingers in any number of directions. But I’m afraid that the Pats are over, and not because of any one of these factors. I’m afraid that Head Coach Bill Belichick is responsible for the decline of team morale, and, even more so, I’m afraid that he can’t fix it this time.
So we’ve got Tim Tebow. So what? Behind Tom Brady, he’s not going to see much, if any, playing time, even with a sprained knee in the picture. Tebow can’t save us. And he’s just one of the six or maybe seven players that any given weekend fan could name. When half the Patriots’ fan base can’t even name two hands worth of players but can discuss at length the scandals associated with each one they can name, there is a serious lack of depth.
One of these players is the infamous Aaron Hernandez, whose arraignment will make headlines the news next week. The Pats have faced media scandals before, but never murder charges.
While that media assault certainly isn’t helping the Patriots, what is more concerning is Bill Belichick’s apparent ignorance of the issue. An upcoming Rolling Stone article will claim that Belichick not only knew about Hernandez’s poor mental health, but was also aware of his drug problem and intense paranoia.
As if murder charges weren’t disturbing enough to team morale, the obvious lack of compassion for their former teammate must be. The Patriots and Bill Belichick have been extremely quiet about the entire matter, which, sure, is in the best interest sof the team. But in the wake of a tragedy like this, can they really ignore his role in the Patriots and reject the claims that his concerns had arisen prior to the incident? Belichick’s soundbite, that he was “personally hurt” by the actions of Hernandez, is not the genuine response that the media praised him for. Instead, it is just an example of the robotic movements of the head coach.
But this isn’t another article about Aaron Hernandez. Wes Welker represents another side of this issue. When he was cast aside from the Patriots, Welker didn’t express surprise or disappointment. Belichick and the Patriot’s weren’t going to pay him, and he knew it. Like Brady, he was willing to take a paycut. But even with the prospects of more playoffs, Welker chose to walk away because of Belichick. He has not been shy about expressing his frustrations with the coach, who he said was a factor the team had to “endure.” Welker has alluded that Belichick is a bully who doesn’t respect the players and who doesn’t practice any sort of allegiance.
Only Vince Wilfork remains of the once famous linemen, and faster, fresh-faced players replace the barely injured regularly. Once upon a time, this method worked, when the Patriots were young and strong and relatively unaffected by career-ending tears and breaks. But now this “turnover method” just hinders the progress of the team and splinters the Patriot fanbase that was once so important to the morale and spirit of the “local team.”
When I was 13, I cut off the sleeves of my favorite sweatshirt in true fan-girl fashion and wore it for the playoffs. It didn’t really work (2006, ouch), but I was Belichick’s biggest fan nonetheless. For me, he was the Patriots. But now, I’m convinced that his embodiment of “the Patriots” is over. The turnover method that has served the Pats for so many years is no longer sustainable. From dumping our best players to his blatant refusal to deal with the mental and physical health of his team, Belichick’s quest to serve the “greater good” of the Patriots is really only helping his paycheck. As much as I hate to see the symbol of my team go down, I’m afraid that it’s time to for Belichick to become the next victim of his method: shape up or ship out.