More and more Patriots players are letting the media in on a secret: despite numerous previous claims to the contrary, they do in fact “hear the noise.”
For the better part of two decades now, the New England Patriots as a whole have echoed the sentiments and philosophies of their leader, Bill Belichick.
When Belichick refuses to give the media (and thus, opposing organizations) any relevant intel or insights into his team, his players follow suit.
When Belichick preaches “no days off” as the defining motto of his own professional life, countless Boston victory parade fans chant the refrain in unison with him.
When Belichick utterly dismisses any and all events, happenings, or occurrences from even the recent past as if they never existed to begin with, suddenly we’re all “on to Cincinnati” or whatever upcoming challenge the surly head coach now has exclusively circled on his calendar in permanent marker.
And yet, more and more frequently, we’ve borne witness to cracks within the previously-impenetrable fortress that is “The Patriot Way.” Not cracks in the traditional sense, like weaknesses being exposed for the first time that can now be exploited; but cracks in the sense that players have vocalized some of what goes on behind closed doors in the locker room and on the field.
The most notable example came last January after New England embarrassed the Los Angeles Chargers in the divisional round of the playoffs. Tom Brady told CBS’ sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson immediately after the New England victory that, “I know everyone thinks we suck, and you know, can’t win any games.”
His go-to receiver in that contest, Julian Edelman, picked up on the idea and ran with it, hawking t-shirts and team merchandise on his own personal website with the slogan “Bet Against Us” not too long afterward. Per WEEI’s Ryan Hannable, Edelman also told interviewers during filming for NFL Network’s “America’s Game: 2018 Patriots” documentary that Brady’s very-public declaration on live television really galvanized New England as a team.
“I think he’s genuinely pissed off that people think we suck. 100 percent,” said Edelman.
Retired tight end Rob Gronkowski also agreed, adding in the program: “He just brought up something that everyone’s been saying about us throughout the whole year and he’s sticking up for our whole team. He’s sticking up for the whole organization by saying that.”
It’s a fascinating glimpse into a notoriously private and tight-lipped organization. Throughout all the scandals and all the reports of internal friction and discord between the major power players (Belichick, Brady, and owner Robert Kraft) that have surfaced through the years, the Patriots mantra has been one of “ignore the outside noise” and just “do your job.”
And yet, here at last is proof that even the most seasoned, respectable veterans and leaders on the team are far from immune to that same noise. They hear all the hot takes and editorials surrounding their play on the field and competency as both individuals and as cogs in the New England organization. Despite the rigid company line they all espouse and repeat as dogma, deep down inside, they know full-well what people are saying about them on the outside… and they’re actually using it as motivation.
That’s not necessarily a surprising discovery in and of itself, but it is surprising that players like Brady, Edelman, Gronkowski, and others are now letting that same outside world in on their little secret.
The natural follow-up question is whether Belichick himself is okay with this newfound honesty from his foot-soldiers. Is he aware that it’s going on? You’d have to assume he is. Does that therefore mean he’s okay with it, and he’s relaxing some of his policies regarding transparency with the media? Or is he just begrudgingly allowing his stars a bit more leniency now, given all they’ve done for him and the Patriots as a team in leading the way to six Super Bowl titles?
New England has undeniably been a beacon of consistency in the way it dominates the opposition on the football field and withholds company secrets off of it. Is that beginning to change now that Belichick, Brady, Kraft, and the rest are seemingly nearing the final chapters of their incredible run together?
Only time will tell.
In the interim, we now have proof that the Patriots not only hear the outside noise about them, but they also use it to their advantage – especially if that noise is negative or doubting. We’ll have to keep an eye on whether or not they continue to let us (that outside world) in on more of their secrets… or if they reverse course and button-up more this season than ever before, now that they also know we’re on to them.