The New England Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season and have come up short in the AFC Championship game two years in a row, and it’s time for everyone to stop making excuses and call it what it is: unacceptable.
Vince Lombardi would call these Patriots losers. Now, in a league where the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders haven’t seen a postseason in 11 or more years, it seems hyperbolic to say that the Patriots are losers. So what do you call a team that consistently gets within one game, one quarter or even one play of another Super Bowl title, but keeps blowing it?
For the most part, even when fate has tried to Grinch their success from them, they’ve been the Whos down in Who-ville: persevering and succeeding no matter what was taken from them or what adversity they faced.
Still, 2013 looked like a year that was too doomed for even the mighty Patriots to overcome. They entered the season sans their top three receivers from 2012, with Wes Welker in the Mile High City as a member of the Denver Broncos, Aaron Hernandez at the Bristol County House of Correction and Rob Gronkowski recovering from yet another surgery. That was all before they lost their two best defensive players and their best offensive tackle for the season.
There wasn’t a football analyst or even many Pats fans for that matter that thought the decimated Patriots team had a shot at the tougher end of their schedule this season. Cut to January 2014, the Patriots are in yet another AFC Championship game and Julian Edelman — who was the “poor man’s Danny Amendola” aka the “poor man’s Wes Welker” — has 121 receptions for 1229 yards and seven touchdowns. Welker who?
And yet, they lost. There are those who say that they were never supposed to be there in the first place and that their run was impressive enough; but they did make it there and they did lose a winnable game. They played a team that they knew they could beat because they had done it less than two months prior.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are far and away the winningest coach/quarterback combination in the history of the NFL, winning 166 games together. Additionally, Robert Kraft is regarded as one of the best owners in the league. The Patriots are the type of organization that wins when they are one game away. Only, they aren’t.
Many will argue that you need more talent than the Patriots had – more than a quarterback and a good gameplan — to win in the playoffs. But the Patriots demolished the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round and went on to face a team that they, once again, had already beaten. They had everything they needed to make the Super Bowl, just like they did in 2012 when they failed to beat the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship.
So everyone in New England laments the loss of another ring for Brady this year, and people call Patriots fans spoiled because they don’t want to accept anything but a Super Bowl. But to be fair, why should they?
The franchise quarterback, the coach and the owner are maybe the three cornerstones of an NFL organization. New England has all three in what is truly an embarrassment of riches. Just ask the Washington Redskins or Dallas Cowboys what they would do for a Kraft. Ask the Arizona Cardinals what they would do for a Brady, or ask the Tennessee Titans what they would do for a Belichick.
If New England fans didn’t demand a Super Bowl every year, then they would be ignorant, especially as this era of Patriot football is swiftly approaching its swansong.
The Patriots’ success in 2013 only puts more pressure on them because now everyone knows that they don’t even need their best players on either side of the ball to be one of the best four teams in the league. No matter what offseason moves they make or how they address their needs, their nucleus is still as elite as they come and now it’s crunch time. The one thing they definitely don’t need is to be cut anymore slack.