Congratulations to the Patriots. The AFC East is done. Again. Forget the Masters, Jim Nantz: this is the tradition unlike any other. The New England Patriots sew up the AFC East before week 17. Below are the weeks the Patriots clinched the AFC since 2009:
Week 15: December 18, 2016 (also 1st round bye)
Week 14: December 14, 2015 (Week 15: 1st round bye)
Week 15: December 18, 2014 (Week 16: 1st round bye)
Week 16: December 22, 2013 (week 17: 1st round bye)
Week 13: December 12, 2012 (week 17 1st round bye)
Week 15: December 18, 2011 (Week 16 1st round bye)
Week 16: December 26, 2010 (Week 16 1st round bye)
Week 16: December 28, 2009 (No 1st round bye)
That’s 8 straight years of division dominance, 7 years of conference dominance and Super Bowl contention. It’s amazing, hard to fathom, and even harder to write about evidently. I’ve seen nary an article citing the Coach of the Year as Bill Belichick. National columnists have run out of angles to demonize this team’s historical greatness, so now they churn out “Baltimore – Pittsburgh week”, like this hailed historical rivalry wasn’t for the 3 seed or focus on circling the wagons for owners of teams who defend domestic abusers or hypocritically accuse teams of malfeasance. Or focus on Jeff Fisher’s pathetic resume. Or his successor (someone got page views pitching Pete Carroll to leave Russel Wilson and the Seahawks, WTF?!). All because the best of NFL writers struggle to write about historical greatness.
Tom Brady could win the MVP and he might, but I don’t really care about that. He missed 4 games due to owner backroom horseshit. If that matters to the NFL media, so be it. But what will be troubling to me is if they refuse to give due respect to the job that the Patriots coaching staff and Bill Belichick have done this year.
Belichick has (only) won the AP Coach of the Year award three times. Absurd, considering he has been regarded as the best coach in the NFL since 2003 and definitely since the ’04 Super Bowl. Every national football writer at least tacitly acknowledges that he’s the best there is and probably will ever be, but then somehow refuse to put his name down at the end of the season. Writers are always looking for an interesting angle and giving an award to the most deserving person is rarely an interesting angle. It’s a post-fact world we live in now, but in the NFL media we have lived in it since Skip Bayless and Roger Goodell were baptized into the national conversation. Here are the winners of the AP COY of the year:
’15 River Boat Ron Rivera (Panthers 15-1)
’14 Bruce Arians (Cardinals 11-5)
’13 Ron Rivera (Panthers 12-4)
’12 Bruce Arians (Colts 11-5)
’11 Jim Harbaugh (49ers 13-3)
’10 Bill Belichick (Patriots 14-2)
’09 Marvin Lewis (Bengals 10-6)
’08 Mike F%&$ing Smith!!!!! (Falcons 11-5)
’07 Bill Belichick (Patriots 16-0)
’06 Sean Payton (Saints 10-6)
’05 Lovie Smith (Bears 11-5)
Of the last 11 AP Coach of the Year winners, how many won Super Bowls as Head Coaches? I’ll give you a hint. Belichick has more than the rest of the list combined. Times FOUR! (Sean Payton is the only other to win as a HC) Also every other coach on that list is currently helming a losing team or no longer coaching in the NFL. Good God! So let’s look at the resumés of this year’s contenders:
Dallas Cowboys coach, Jason Garrett: He has gotten rookies at skill positions to lead his team. Garrett’s been a head coach for 7 years and will only be making his 2nd playoff appearance. I think historically, it will look like a joke, which seems to be the AP’s modus operandi. But this season the team is exceptional. One question regarding Garrett, are we sure he’s the one calling the shots? He might just be a glorified offensive coordinator.
Raiders head coach, Jack Del Rio: his team has been excellent, but his career record of 86-83 makes this a very difficult act to stomach, even as they defy the expectations. But if don’t win the conference, how can you… oh right, the previous winners of the award. Yikes.
Tampa Bay Coach, Dirk Koetter: Tampa Bay has exceeded some folks’ expectations. But the AP does have one rule that they follow religiously: you can’t vote for the person if you’re not sure whether they are an NFL head coach or the name of Gronk’s double-team partner in “A Gronking to Remember Part 6: The Gronknado”.
Mike Tomlin? Can’t give it to a guy who was caught red-handed playing in a cold environment.
Same goes for Ben McAdoo, who was openly using communication devices that… what am I supposed to care about here? Can we just stop this insanity?! Who cares? Stop! Stop!
Or maybe they will just give it to John Harbaugh, so he doesn’t bitch and complain about it at some poor kid’s funeral.
In all seriousness, there is one answer and the Peter Kings of the world aren’t going to like it. Because it’s the man who refuses to give you the goods. The man you all hate — William Von Hoodie.
Unfortunately for you, this season is perhaps the most exceptional coaching performance in the history of football. And I know you will do everything to avoid it, but I’m not sure you can…
- No 1st round pick in the NFL Draft.
Result: The team had the most impactful rookie class in recent memory: Thuney, Foster, Mitchell, Brisset, Elandon Roberts, Jonathan Jones, all with significant contributions. Some may say that’s personnel, which is definitely true, but young players picked in the later rounds don’t contribute because they are otherworld talents. They contribute because they are coached into positions of success. Sorry, folks, two things can be true at the SAME TIME.
- Back-up QB for 2 games.
Result: Jimmy Garoppolo matched the Greatest Football Player in History’s (GFPH) efficiency. Are NFL writers going to laud Jimmy Garoppolo as the next great quarterback or will they at least quietly acknowledge that Belichick, McDaniels and the coaching staff put him in a position to succeed?
- Rookie third-string QB, Jacoby Brisset, starts 2 games because of JG’s injury.
Result: Again, I love this kid and the coaching staff does too, but he was put in a position to succeed. Even the Buffalo loss, the D knew there was no margin because of his broken thumb and they played and were coached accordingly. 16 points. Not bad.
- No Brady for 4 games:
Result: 3-1. Sorry, Rog.
Result: The number 1-ranked scoring defense. It’s been up and down, but here at Pats Prop, Mike has been banging this drum. They are good. They just needed to find the tao or way. Apparently, the schedule has been filled with Tomato Cans, but that isn’t something they control. They played a 1st place schedule and the numbers are the numbers, the facts are the facts. Unless, Dan Shaughnessy doesn’t like them, of course.
6. Choked down the league’s punishment.
Result: 12-2, 1st round bye for the 7th straight season, AFC East Champion for 8th straight season.
Even if the Patriots lose one of the next two, Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia, Josh McDaniels, Joe Judge, Dante Scarnecchia and the rest of the assistant staff (this should be a team award) have turned 2016 into the greatest coaching exhibition of a lifetime. And it starts at the top and moves down to the rest of the team. And it’s because of the Bill Belichick (…I hate this word) culture (dammit). And it’s not a culture of cheating, sorry, Bill Polian, it’s a culture of “Team-first”.
On the Ex-Patriots podcast, a must-listen for any Pats fan, hosted by Mike Giardi. The topic of the Denver discord came up and it really breathes life into the idea that the Patriots environs are different. Better than any other team.
Basically, Jerod Mayo said the tiff between the defense and the offense in Denver would never happen in New England because different units root for the success of their peers. Offense, Defense, Special teams, Practice Squad – are all parts of a greater whole. Each unit pulls for the others’ success because it furthers their team goals. #squadgoals
If what came out of that Denver locker room ever happened in New England, there would be hysteria among the sportswriters trying to scoop it.
But the truth is, it would never happen because Salty McHoodie won’t let it. As Patriots fans, we know that every player and coach is accountable for his own responsibilities: hell, it’s trademarked. The players, coaches and equipment managers all do their jobs. They coach together, they play together and most importantly, they win together. And anyone working towards their own individual goals, ignoring his teammates, get to enjoy the season playing for Jeff Fisher’s Rams or floundering under two-time COY Bruce Arians or the 0-14 Browns. Glad, you’re happy, Jamie!
Coach Belichick is always coaching his team, coaches and players to win and the writers resent it because it’s about the game of football not pissing matches in the locker room. At the very least the NFL writers should acknowledge the greatness that they bear witness to. And a first step is a 2016 COY award.
Even if it makes you boring. Hell, you ARE boring. Please guys, make the boring choice. Thankfully, this year, I’m not sure you even have a choice.
What I’m trying to say to the NFL writers of America is “Do Your Job”™.