Bob Kraft and his New England Patriots have for the past dozen years foisted upon a gullible public the idea that they go about their football business differently than their peers. They claimed to covet character guys who play hard, smart football and otherwise represent Kraft family values.
Tell that to Randy Moss, the poster boy for self-absorption.
Tell that to Albert Haynesworth, who crippled a guy when he struck his car going over 100 mph and underachieved for all but 18 months of his career.
Tell that to Chad Ochocinco, who may grow up one day but not too soon.
Tell that to Jermaine Cunningham and, yes, Rodney Harrison and other Patriots busted for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Tell that to Rob Gronkowski, who cavorts with porn stars and regularly makes a drunken spectacle of himself.
Saddest of all, tell it to the Patriots’ $37.5 million tight end Aaron Hernandez, whose silence in the homicide of a semi-pro football player named Odin Lloyd is raising more questions than answers.
The fact of the matter is the Pat*riot Way never existed. They didn’t do anything different than their peers except win three Super Bowls in four years.
They became a dynasty the same way the Browns of the 1950s, Packers of the 1960s, Steelers of the 1970s, 49ers of the 1980s and Cowboys of the 1990s did. They did it by stumbling across a future Hall of Fame quarterback buried deep in an early draft, inheriting the nucleus of a strong defense and a reliable kicker while hitting a gold mine of talent in back-to-back drafts.
Then, when the talent began to wane, the drafts failed and age and slippage set in, the Patriots did the same things everyone else does.
They lost their way trying to avoid losing playoff games.
They took ever more dangerous risks on players with questionable injury histories, nitwit tendencies or, most significantly, serious character flaws. The team that once dumped draftee Christian Peter — because of a criminal record — now drafts guys like Hernandez and Alfonzo Dennard, who were off many draft boards because teams didn’t trust them.
The largest, most glaring example today is the baggage Hernandez apparently couldn’t shake when he came into the NFL. Blessed with first-round talent, he slipped to the fourth round four years ago, and everyone in football knew why: A significant number of teams feared his questionable associates and repeated positive drug tests.
One can take a gamble or two on a player with a troubled past, but not as regularly as the Patriots have. You can do it when your locker room is strong and led by no-nonsense guys like Tom Brady, Troy Brown, Willie McGinest, Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Wes Welker and Ty Warren.
But over time, most of those players left, and what remained was a weaker core unable to keep in check the excesses of guys like Gronkowski and Hernandez.
In essence, the Patriots lost their Way — sacrificing what they once claimed was most important — to gamble on suspect characters, injury-prone players or troubled guys on the way down while letting high character ones who simply wanted to get paid go as if they were greedy.
What eventually results from that is dry rot or, as the front page of this paper can attest, much worse.
Classy Bob Kraft out on the town with his young floozy before his wife's body is even gone cold.
Head coach is the biggest cheater in NFL history, also sleeps with married men's wives. Classy
Quarterback dumps his pregnant girlfriend so he can upgrade to a Supermodel. Classy
The narrative spun by the media about this classless franchise is too funny, all these late additions to the game such as Talib, Hayneworth, Hernandez and on down the line are no worse than the creeps like Kraft, Brady and Belichick who've been there from the start.
The downward spiral started when all of Parcells players started to retire. Belicheat can't draft for $hit, contrary to the humps in the media who
felate his strategy to move back 50 times in order to draft turds like Hernandez.
Belicheat lucked into Brady, had the fortune of inheriting Parcells core group of solid players, he'd have been fired years ago if none of that was in place and he wasn;t busy cheating his way to success.
Aaron Hernandez saga just the latest dark cloud hovering over Pats*
New England Patriots
By Chris Burke
Fort Belichick is in disarray.
Already, the franchise that espouses the fundamental (if somewhat ambiguous) “Patriot Way” mantra had endured an unusually tumultuous offseason. And that was before tight end Aaron Hernandez, less than a year removed from signing a pricey contract extension, became a possible suspect in the murder of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd.
The Patriots’ mystique may be waning, and not just because of the potentially serious legal issues facing Hernandez over the coming months. This offseason, up to and including this week’s developments, has been unusually tumultuous for one of the league’s more sure-footed franchises.
New England entered its offseason earlier than expected, following a humbling playoff home loss to the Ravens — the Patriots’ eighth consecutive postseason trip that ended without a Super Bowl ring and their third time in the past four years falling on their home turf. Then, Wes Welker bolted for rival Denver, Alfonzo Dennard was sentenced to 30 days in jail for assaulting a police officer and Rob Gronkowski became a frequent guest of the surgical community.
All of that (and the questions about New England’s 2013 prospects that followed) occurred before Hernandez’s home landed front and center in a murder investigation. That Hernandez’s dreadful situation has happened less than a year after he signed a pricey contract extension will make the front office even more uneasy.
There are more pressing matters at hand, particularly in regards to Hernandez, but football minds can ask with the Patriots a month away from reconvening for camp: Is this team ready for a fall?
The rest of the AFC East certainly hopes so, having watched New England roll to back-to-back-to-back-to-back division crowns. Miami spent big money to chase a playoff berth; Buffalo switched coaching staffs and landed a QB, E.J. Manuel, it hopes finally can be a franchise guy at that position; the Jets, though with myriad issues of their own, did the same by drafting Geno Smith.
Those three teams should feel that the door to first place has propped open, if only because the Patriots’ own title window might have closed a bit.
The Patriots will have to fight that perception, at least, as they start the coming season with questions at wide receiver and tight end (if Hernandez isn’t on the field in Week 1, the Patriots will open the season without their five leading receivers from last year), cornerback (where the team only added third-rounder Logan Ryan to a group that finished 29th against the pass last year) and off the field. The outcome of this evolving story surrounding Hernandez is impossible to guess, but the absolute simplest outcome is that it threatens to be a distraction in July and August.
New England has the type of leadership to weather a potential storm — Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork and others provide necessarily steady hands. Still, there is enough for the Patriots to be concerned about on the field without having to worry that one of their offensive stars will spend the season in jail.
What must Brady think of his team’s recent news? The future Hall of Famer has survived, sometimes even thrived, with an underwhelming cast of characters around him — like the 2004 Super Bowl run, with David Givens and David Patten as the team’s leading receivers.
That was a decade ago, though. The soon-to-be 36-year-old QB has proven he has plenty left in the tank, and yet the latest incarnation of the Patriots’ offense was designed around Welker’s capabilities in the slot, Hernandez’s versatility and Gronkowski’s elite abilities as a combo pass-catcher/blocker. What happens if Brady has to enter the season without any of those players available to him? (No, Tim Tebow’s not about to dominate as a tight end.)
Admittedly, asking the question “Who will catch Tom Brady’s passes?” is a gross simplification of New England’s situation. Belichick has never shied away from rolling the dice on red-flagged players. Plenty of those gambles have paid off, too, but maybe there’s a more fundamental issue at play.
Maybe the Patriots, by turning a blind eye to Hernandez’s sketchy past, set themselves up for some of these problems.
New England likely will head into the 2013 season as the favorite again within the AFC East, if not one of the expected contenders in the conference. The outlook in Foxboro, however, is far from sunny.
If there is still exists a “Patriot Way,” now would be the ideal time to rediscover it.