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Briefly Revisiting the Patriots' "Impossible Standard of Success"

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Briefly Revisiting the Patriots' "Impossible Standard of Success"

Almost exactly one year ago today I wrote an article for this site called “An Impossible Standard of Success: How the Patriots Have Forever Changed Fan Expectations.” I wrote the article a couple days before the Patriots defeated the Jaguars and went on to Super Bowl LII, where they ultimately lost to the Eagles.

I won’t repeat most of what I wrote there, but now, in the wake of the Patriots winning yet another AFC Championship game to advance to yet another Super Bowl, it’s worth taking a look at how stupidly impressive what they’ve accomplished is, and how an entire generation of football fans have had their mentality surrounding what it means to be successful in the NFL completely warped.

Some of the numbers:

*The Patriots have now made the AFC Championship in 13 of the 17 years in which Tom Brady was the full-time starter

*The Patriots have now made the Super Bowl nine times under the Brady/Bill Belichick combination, meaning they have made it to the end more than 50 percent of the years in which Brady started the full season (and still 50 percent even counting the Matt Cassel year)

*The Patriots under Brady and Belichick have more Super Bowl appearances than any other NFL franchise has in their entire history

*If they win against the Rams, the Patriots under Brady and Belichick will have equaled the total number of rings (six) held by the franchise with the most Super Bowl championships (the Steelers)

*They reached the Super Bowl this season despite having their worst regular season record of the decade

*11-5 is their worst regular season record of the decade!!

After the waste of a year that was 2018, the “Packers are failures and have completely wasted Aaron Rodgers” narrative has been moving in full gear once again. But let’s be clear—this is a narrative that never would have existed in the time before Brady and Belichick began reaching the Super Bowl every other year. By every measure, the Packers have been one of the NFL’s five most successful franchises over the course of the last decade, the last two decades and the last three decades.

There is legitimate reason to believe the Packers could and perhaps even should have more than one ring to show for Rodgers’ (unfinished) tenure with the team, just as there is legitimate reason to believe the Saints and Drew Brees could and perhaps should have had more than one crack at a title.

But the point I want to emphasize once again as we see the Patriots marching to yet another Super Bowl berth is that what we’re seeing is so unprecedented and remarkable that now, most football fans under the age of 30 or 35 have gotten used to the Patriots being the league’s measuring stick for success, which is a bar that is so impossibly high to reach.

Whether you enjoy watching the Patriots or hate everything about them, there’s no denying they’re still building on a run that will never, ever again be matched in the NFL in our lifetimes. While it might get old to see them playing in Super Bowl after Super Bowl, long-time fans of the game have to have some admiration for what this team has been able to accomplish.  


Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (31) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Lphill's picture

What I was most impressed with Sunday was how well the O line protected Brady he did not have to scramble he just stood in the pocket with his eyes on his receivers I don’t think the chiefs touched him , I could only imagine what Rodgers could do with protection like that.

Tarynfor12's picture

Rodgers has had protection like that and the result hasn't been the same as Brady's.

Skip greenBayless's picture

I agree Taryn. I watched the same game as LPHill and I saw an offensive line pretty much the same as Rodgers line. The only difference was in the quarterbacks. Brady simply gets the ball out faster and most are short throws to running backs like White. He clearly doesn't have issues with McDaniels short passing play calling and they thrive. Rodgers hates the short passing game and waits and waits and waits so he can make the sports highlights with the deep ball. In a way it's almost selfish to play like that. I can't believe MM was calling constant deep passes in favor of the sure thing 5 yards for a first down. I think most of the problems lies with Rodgers and his "control" issues. Do we now have the head coach or assistant coach to take that "control" away? Hell no.


Citizen AJ's picture

Could have had that kind of coach but he's still in New England . But of course he is a bad boy .

scullyitsme's picture

There isn’t much of a comparison between what the patriots have invested in the oline compared to packers. It’s true Brady gets the ball out quick, but if you watched the last couple drives by the patriots Brady dropped back and didn’t move for probably 5-7 seconds. Crazy time. Rodgers often gets that time, but only running for his life. When he did have a line like Brady’s he won the mvp both years. I’d ad super bowl mvp in 2010 also.

blacke00's picture

That's just not true!

There is no way that Rodgers has had the same time as Brady. It's not just the time, look at the shape of the pocket.

Brady is a good QB no doubt about it. BUT, he had potentially 3 int in that game Sunday. Rodgers doesn't come close that number even on a bad day.
Brady is a product of Belichick's system.
Belichick has had the benefit of a good consistent QB.
The Patriots whether you'll admit it or not has very lucky. They play in probably the consistently worse division in the NFL over the last 20 years. There's no debate there IMO. Let them play in the AFC central and see what their record would be.
Luck has a lot to do with their success.

blacke00's picture

Sorry the above is in response to Tarynfort12.

mnklitzke's picture

They have a bad division but they still beat most everyone else including everyone in the AFC playoffs every year they make it to the superbowl. Nine times to be exact. That isn't luck. I hate the Pats but they have a system that works...

TheVOR's picture

"Impossible Standard of Success" - That is complete BS!!!! Anything can be duplicated and replicated with attention to detail, and abandonment of EGO.. Green Bay has no excuses other that a poorly run organization and an absentee Board Of Directors.. Sorry... Complete BS, Ted Thompson alone ROBBED Packers fans of multiple Lombardi's returning to GB. We had the best QB in the NFL, under reasonable contract terms, and watched the drilling Thompson waste it through horrific draft after Horrific Draft... I love the Patriots, go ahead, bad mouth them or whatever fans... Don't like it, go beat them.. Oh I forgot, you can't, because your franchises are run by a bunch of morons, and coached by unimaginative football people with ge egos, and little substance..

Lare's picture

Bill Belichick will go down in history as the GOAT for HCs and GMs. He has the unmatched ability to identify talent and develop schemes that maximize his own players abilities and also identify and attack the weaknesses of the opposing team.

And regardless what the haters say about the Patriots cheating, I guarantee you that they didn't do anything that others teams weren't also doing. The difference is they got caught.

Thankfully, the Patriots aren't in the same division as the Packers, otherwise McCarthy may not have been a "highly successful Head Coach".

Oppy's picture

"...and also identify and attack the weaknesses of the opposing team."

This is the absolute key to Belichick's success. It's his defensive background that allows him to scheme at another level. I believe he picks apart opposing defenses to a level where he knows exactly what they're keying on, how each player is making his reads, and then he tasks is OC's with developing an offensive game plan that is custom tailored to mask intentions and give false reads while exploiting innate soft spots.

This also corroborates with Brady's statement that if Rodgers played in the Pat's offense with *their institutional knowledge on opposing defenses,* "He'd throw for 7,000 yards every year.

Rossonero's picture

Belichick also has a heavy special teams background too.

The TKstinator's picture

Interesting. But isn’t ST coach the least desirable position on any coaching staff?

Oppy's picture


Skip greenBayless's picture

I am in awe of the Patriots and the unbelievable consistent success they have had under Belichick and Brady. As many know I wanted Rex Ryan as our next head coach and didn't get him but out of all the others they interviewed, I just thought the common sense no brainer choice would have been Josh McDaniels. If there's anyone you want to roll the dice on it would be a guy who's a part of 9 super bowls for crying out loud. What do the Packers do? Instead of going all out and going for it, they go safe and play prevent defense to cater to Aaron Rodgers and select some unknown inexperienced Matt LaFleur. McDaniels could have brought in great assistant coaches, the best of the best. Instead we're down to hiring coaches straight out of high school. This is one decision that I predict will cost us dearly, possibly lasting longer than a decade or more to straighten out.


Johnblood27's picture

why do you think the GBP passed on McD?

let me postulate.

Murphy is a controlling beeatch.

McD was a my way or not at all guy.

as a lifelong Packer fan, I can live with that.

He has had enough success and experience seeing the master at work to get that type of confidence from upper management.

Murphy would not give it.


Is murph afraid of a HC who has success? I guess so.

I hope MLF knocks it out of the park and GB becomes the next dynasty in the NFL.

Murphy didnt go with the higher percentage play, and the fans are left with hope...

Skip greenBayless's picture

Johnblood. I wanted a man in charge. A guy when he enters the room commands the room. McDaniels might not have had that total look like a Pettine, Holmgren or Rex Ryan but his resume certainly did and he does have a hard ass reputation. He was the only candidate I thought was worthy. I actually predicted beforehand that the Packers would pick a younger guy with a wife and two kids. I hit it on the head. Murphy and Gute were going for a "look" of what they felt was the head coach that best appeals to women. Kirk said look for the words "fit" and Murphy did mention that exact word. If they were serious and wanted a win now my way or the highway guy they would have went with McDaniels in a second. This was a conservative pick, a "safe" pick in their minds. McDaniels was like a Trump and they did not have the balls to pull the trigger. They were picking not to lose instead of picking a head coach to win it all. Again, this was prevent defense at it's finest. We all know the end result when you play not to win.


fastmoving's picture

Since when is Trump a man or Rex Ryan with his QB tatoo and his feet sex thing? the next thing is you proclaim you are a man too? but you are right, you are fitting perfect with the other funny talking heads.

This is not a freak show, we are the Green Bay Packers.

Barnacle's picture

Fast moving

Trump is more man than Hillary........oops, maybe not ........bad example........sorry?

Citizen AJ's picture

Johnblood exactly you are spot right on ! Until the Packer Organisation realizes that Winning is the only thing that matters in the NFL they will waste more talent like Rodgers and Favre . Sorry Nice guys and real estate deals wont win Super Bowls .

pooch's picture

Like Phil Bengston,how did that pan out

Bearmeat's picture

This is some great perspective. That said, the Packers absolutely did underachieve in January during Favre's last 10 years, and have done the same in Rodgers time. Both should have more than 1 ring.

Rodgers can still change that narrative. 2 rings would be acceptable. 3 would be fantastic.

Hope 1265 manages it.

ricky's picture

During the 60's under Lombardi, the Packers were the gold standard. They also set impossible to meet standards for other teams. Until the Steeelers came along. And then the Patriots. Will there be another dynasty better than the Pats? Why not? Who would have predicted the Steelers or Pats during the time of the Packers dominance? Never say never.

Tim Backes's picture

The Packers and Steelers had their dynasties without free agency and a salary cap and with fewer teams in the league. What the Patriots have accomplished and are accomplishing is like nothing we've ever seen before, and is on an entirely different level of difficulty. Chances are very likely it will never be matched.

Since '61's picture

One of the keys to the Patriots success is the very soft division they play in every season which provides them with a 6-0 cushion. That in turn provides them with Home Field advantage nearly every season in the playoffs.

The Pats are 4-4 on the road during the playoffs with BB and Brady. Prior to their OT win against the Chiefs they had lost 4 straight road playoff games.

Can't take anything away from them though. They have been the best franchise during the FA/Salary Cap era. Thanks, Since '61

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Watching PFF's 4th rated OL (NE) play great with a bunch of no names. Entire Cap cost of the NE OL: $20.15M. That ranks 29th Highest payroll for OL.

The starters were not highly drafted. NE had a 3rd rounder, two 4th rounders, one 5th rounder, and one 7th rounder as their starters. NE drafted Isaiah Wynn in the first round (23rd) but he went on IR and didn’t play a snap. Smoke and mirrors, Scully.

GB’s 7th ranked OL by PFF had their two tackles come in a $19.34M. Entire OL cap hit was not terrible at $33.3M. That’s the 13th highest payroll for the OL.

2nd highest at WR:
8th highest at TE (Graham’s Cap increases a lot).
17th highest at QB.
31st highest at RB.
4th highest overall for offense.

7th highest overall at LB.
19th highest at DL
25th highest at safety.
26th highest at CB.
27th highest overall for defense (lots of guys on rookie deals playing).

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

If I had to say what the Patriot's identity is, I would say that they take what the defense gives, and are good enough to take it. They do what is working.

KC brought in the heavies, NE passed. KC took them out to help defend the pass, NE ran the ball. NE ran the ball 47 times. Imagine McCarthy/AR running the ball 47 times in any single game that's not a blow-out. NE also dropped back to pass 47 times. That led to a 44 minute to 21 minute TOP differential and caused the KC defense to absolutely gassed when the game was on the line in the 4th quarter and OT.

KC came back to take the lead 21-17, but NE passed 6 times and ran 5 times to score a TD to regain the lead. Patience was shown.

NE did pass a lot in OT - 9 passes to 4 rushes, with 3 of the rushes coming in the red zone.

It is still a passing league: KC put up 31 points while rushing just 12 times for 41 yards (2 rushes were scrambles by Mahommes for 12 yards - KC's RBs put up just 10 carries for 30 yards), but I think NE just keeps doing what works. KC was more balanced with Hunt. KC ran 39.9% of the time in the regular season while NE ran 45.44% of the time.

Daren726's picture

The patriots play six games a year against the jets, bills, and dolphins. That gets them half way to the playoffs each year. So getting there is much easier for them. Once there, Belicek is awesome, I agree, but if we had that kind of help each year we could go a lot further. The days of a weak nfc north are over

egbertsouse's picture

The Pats are a success? No way! Are they in the same league as the Packers! Not a chance! Do they have a hotel? No! How about a sledding hill? Not even a bump! Is Brady better than Rodgers? Not even close! He never even tries to throw a 50yard bomb on 3rd and one. What a weenie!

There is so much crazy talk going on in here today that I thought I would add my voice to the chorus.

ILPackerBacker's picture

You know not to sound noobish but when you are bragging about a grown man having the outstanding accomplishment of building a sled hill......

Rossonero's picture

I'm a believer now more than ever that coaching is paramount for success in the NFL more than any other major sport.

In other words, is it the player (Brady) or Belichick that you'd want to pick? I'd take Belichick.

Even Brady himself admitted a couple years ago that if he wound up on another team, his career easily would've gone a different way.

Bill Belichick is why. He gets the most out of his players no matter what. Puts them in positions to succeed and maximize their strengths.

Kind of reminds me of the job Mike Pettine did with duct tape and boogers in 2018: top 15 in sacks, but through coaching it was done.

Injuries is also why. NFL teams deal with injuries on a basis that pales in comparison to other sports. The average NFL career is only 3 years. That's the least of any major sport.

While it's not an apples to apples comparison, Belichick drafts well enough, picks up free agents who were viewed as busts on other teams, only to revitalize their careers.

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