Category Archives: Football

Ranking All 32 NFL QB Situations

The New York Jets are terrible, epically terrible.  In fact, they are one of the worst teams in NFL history.  After 8 games, the team has a point differential of -144 (average of -18 per game).  As a basis of comparison, the second-worst point differential belongs to Dallas, whose point differential is -81.  That said, as awful as the Jets are, their franchise is not in a terrible position right now. 

You might say I am crazy, but hear me out on this one.  The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and the “experts” seem to agree that Clemson’s quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a generational, “can’t miss” NFL talent.  With the success that first- and second-year quarterbacks have enjoyed in the NFL in recent years, it is fair to assume that Trevor Lawrence should make his NFL team legitimate playoff contenders by Year 2, if not Year 1.  Additionally, it is a huge advantage for an NFL team to have a great quarterback on a rookie contract, as the team can save plenty of cap room for other positions.  (Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes are great examples of QBs who allowed their teams to make hay while said QBs were on rookie contracts.)  Thus, Trevor Lawrence figures to give his NFL 4 or 5 seasons of an incredible competitive advantage while he is on his rookie deal……and what team is looking like a sure bet to win that competitive advantage?  The New York Jets.

The Jets are 0-8, and we are down to three 1-win teams – the Jaguars, Texans, and Giants.  Next week, the Jaguars and Texans play against each other, which means that (barring a tie, which would actually be of even greater benefit to the Jets) one of those teams will earn a second win.  Is it possible that the Jags/Texans loser goes winless the rest of the way?  I would say it is possible with Jacksonville; however, Houston has enough talent to make it to 4 or 5 wins.  As for the Giants, I expect them to beat Washington and win at least one other game.  Then again, all of this discussion is probably moot.  Are the Jets, of the -18-per-game point differential, going to win ANY game this year?  Doubtful.  Their last 8 games are against the Patriots (twice), Dolphins, Chargers, Raiders, Browns, Rams, and Seahawks.  Given that all of those teams are NFL teams, the Jets are not winning any more games.  Thus, it looks like the Jets getting the gift of Trevor Lawrence.

College Football's Great Defender Has Covid-19 | The Nation

This begs a question.  Where does the Jets’ quarterback situation of the present and future rank among those of all NFL teams?  For example, if you were the Detroit Lions, would you trade your current QB situation of Matt Stafford and his contract for Sam Darnold and the highly likely prospect of having Trevor Lawrence next year.  Absolutely.  What if you were the Vikings with Kirk Cousins?  Um, yes please. 

Anyway, I have ranked all 32 NFL quarterback situations and determined that the Jets have the 10th-best scenario.  Not bad for a winless team!  Don’t worry; I am going to unveil my rankings, but let me first provide some disclaimers.  If a team is ranked higher than another team, I imply that more NFL teams would choose to take the higher-ranked option than the lower-ranked option.  Of course, teams’ rosters, records, salary-caps, and coaching situations can cause teams to rank differently from each other.  For example, I have the Bucs’ quarterback situation ranked as 7th, but I also know that the Jets (10th) and Jaguars (27th) are not talented enough right now to want to swap their situations for a 43-year-old Tom Brady.  That said, most teams below 7th would swap their QB situations with the Bucs’, while it is a safe bet that the six teams above the Bucs’ would not. 

One other disclaimer: In the rankings, I consider backup quarterbacks only where relevant.  If there is a situation with any type of QB controversy (like the Bears), an injury-prone QB (like with the Niners and Jimmy G), or a changing of the guard (like the Jets going from Darnold to Lawrence) I consider backup QBs in my discussion.  However, you will read plenty of cases where I do not discuss the backups.  That said, it is a given that, if any of the top-flight QBs get hurt, it will be very bad for the team….but that does not factor into my discussion with non-injury-prone guys.

Now, without further ado, the rankings!

1)      Kansas City Chiefs: You can’t go wrong with Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson, but tie goes to Mahomes because he is locked up for 10 years and is in Year 4 of his career.  Mahomes likely makes the Chiefs Super Bowl contenders for at least the next 10 years.  Plus, I consider Mahomes the best quarterback right now and Wilson the second-best right now, although the gap between the two is incredibly slim.  I cannot argue if someone would rather have Russell than Patrick.

2)      Seattle Seahawks: Of course, Wilson makes the Seahawks Super Bowl contenders for possibly the next 10 years too and at least the next 5.

3)      Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is ever-so slightly below Mahomes and Wilson when I consider current QB quality.  After a good but not great 2019 season (and yes I know Green Bay went 13-3), Rodgers stock dropped ever-so slightly for me.  However, for much of this year, he has resembled the guy who was scrambling and throwing Hail Mary TDs in 2015.  Green Bay is a legit Super Bowl contender this year, and he should keep the Packers in contention for another two or three years.  However, if Rodgers starts to “lose it” due to injury or simply Father Time, the Pack is grooming Jordan Love to be his replacement. 

4)      Arizona Cardinals: Yeah, Kyler Murray is really good, and Arizona could legitimately win the Super Bowl this year.  The guy is in Year 2, so the Cards have not yet had to tie up too much cap space in this guy.  In the modern NFL, the dominant QBs (other than Tom Brady) are fantastic runners and passers.  I know that Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP, but I trust Kyler Murray more than Jackson right now when it comes to completing a big-time pass.  That said…

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray cracks PFF's mid-year top 25 under 25

5)      Baltimore Ravens: …Jackson still makes the Ravens Super Bowl contenders, and most NFL teams would love to give up their QB situation to have him.

6)      Houston Texans: This is probably the first controversial entry on the list, in that great QBs should not lead teams to 1-6 records.  If you look at the top 9 guys on this list, most of them guarantee their teams at least 10 wins in healthy seasons.  At the same time, I have seen Watson lead the Texans to division titles in his first two full seasons as the starter.  The guy is the requisite rushing/passing threat, and I am going to chalk the 1-6 start up to the combination of a) Bill O’Brien’s coaching, b) Bill O’Brien trading away one of the best WRs in football, and c) a tough schedule to this point.  I expect the Texans to end up at 7-9 or such this year and to bounce back to have playoff seasons over the next several years, even though Watson has signed his big second contract.

7)      Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I have said probably 50 times over the past five years, “Brady is done”, and every time he proves me wrong.  The Bucs are legit Super Bowl contenders and might be the most complete team in the NFC.  I would rather have one of the Top-6 situations because the guys are mobile and will be around much longer, but Tom Brady is playing well enough to have a chance for his 7th Lombardi Trophy.

8)      Pittsburgh Steelers: We are in the middle of the “Last Kick at the Can for a Future Hall-of-Famer” section here.  When it comes to Brady, Big Ben, and Drew Brees; I rank the three guys in that very order in terms of how good I think they are now.  None of them will take their teams deep into the 2020s, but all can win titles this year.  Speaking of which…

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger's return means balanced attack?

9)      New Orleans Saints: Brees is an all-time great, but I feel like there are more moments where I think “Brees looks old” than where I think the analogous for Brady or Big Ben.

10)   New York Jets: Everyone higher on this list allows for the statement, “We are legit Super Bowl contenders because we have our current QB.”  Of course, a team can win a Super Bowl with a QB listed below, but there is much less certainty.  Thus, I will sign up for the Lawrence hype combined with the fact that I should get a few years of quality play before I have to break the bank.

11)   Cincinnati Bengals: I am using the same logic as with the Jets, except I have actually seen Joe Burrow play in the NFL, and the guy is excellent.  The Bengals are a work in progress, but, if they improve their defense, I can see Burrow leading them to the 2021 AFC North crown.

12)   Tennessee Titans: Over the past year, Ryan Tannehill has been one of the best quarterbacks in football.  I know that Derrick Henry did most of the offensive work in last year’s playoffs, but Ryan Tannehill has beaten Patrick Mahomes and other quality NFL teams.  Tannehill is not on the level of those first nine guys, with whom any team using said QB automatically becomes a Super Bowl contender….but the Titans can definitely win a title with Tannehill.

13)   San Francisco 49ers: We are now at the part of the rankings that are a bit of a cluster-you-know-what.  I feel like people would have much more disagreement about these next 14 teams than they would have about the earlier entries on this list.  Anyway, I like Jimmy G.  He was one overthrown pass in the Super Bowl away from having a Lombardi Trophy (as a starter).  When he has been healthy, he has looked good much more often than not.  He is too injury-prone, but Nick Mullens is one of the best backups in the league.  I know that he looked better against the Jets and Giants than he has against other teams, but, if you have a backup QB who looks dominant against any NFL teams, you will take it.

14)   Philadelphia Eagles: I…don’t…care what you think about Carson Wentz as long as it’s about him being an enigma.  (Yes, I like Fall Out Boy very much.)  His win over the Giants on TNF was proof of this.  He looked confused for much of the game and made a few wonderful throws with the game on the line to give Philly the win.  Anyway, the guy was a 2017 MVP candidate while leading the Eagles to the top seed before getting hurt and watching Nick Foles lead the Eagles to the championship.  I am fine taking my chances with a guy who has led a team to the #1 seed three years ago.

15)   New England Patriots: I am not ready to give up on Cam Newton yet.  He was a Top-10 QB for most of the 2010s and was a Top-5 QB part of the time.  I have a hunch that the Pats will go on a run in the second half of the season as Belichick and Newton start to jell.  However, if I am wrong, the Pats can cut bait with Newton and can draft a QB with their high draft pick.

What is the Patriots' future at quarterback? Look no further than Cam Newton  - Pats Pulpit

16)   Dallas Cowboys: As a Giants fan, I am not supposed to praise Dak Prescott, but I really think the guy is a great QB.  I have seen him make too many great throws, and, if it weren’t for some late Aaron Rodgers magic, we would remember Dak for a great playoff comeback against Green Bay four years ago.  Anyway, had Dak not been hurt, I would have put Dallas in Jets territory (around #10).  I should note though that I was wrong in predicting that Andy Dalton would be an excellent backup, and now Dallas has lost him to injury too.

17)   Denver Broncos: I really like Drew Lock.  I wanted the Giants to draft him and not Daniel Jones, but oh well.  Lock looked great in limited action last year.  He had disappointed this year but looked great in leading the Broncos back this Sunday against the Chargers.

18)   Los Angeles Chargers: I like Lock slightly more than Justin Herbert, but you could make a case either way, especially with Herbert being in his rookie year.

19)   Miami Dolphins: I cannot judge Tua on one game, but, if he is what he is cracked up to be, the Dolphins will be set at QB for a while.  Plus, if Tua gets hurt, Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown this year that he can still win games.

20)   Atlanta Falcons: Poor Matt Ryan.  How many times have we seen that sad look on his face as the Falcons fall apart at the end?  Anyway, we all saw him make a pass to Julio Jones that looked like a Super Bowl clincher.  It turned out to be for naught.  That said, Ryan was the 2016 MVP and still puts up strong numbers.  I think he could make another Super Bowl run before his career ends.

21)   Carolina Panthers: Teddy Bridgewater has looked rejuvenated this year, and he is great comeback story.  Carolina’s defense is terrible, but I can see Bridgewater and Carolina rising to the top of the NFC South over the next few years as the other QBs in the division age.

22)   Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff is what he is at this point.  He is good enough to reach a Super Bowl with a strong supporting cast, and all four of his teams under Sean McVay have been playoff or near-playoff teams (assuming this to be the case this year).  He is not going to make a ton of highlight-reel plays nor be an MVP candidate, but you can do worse than him.

23)   Las Vegas Raiders: Derek Carr doesn’t excite me.  Yes, he was great in the Raiders’ upset win in KC, but he is what he is at this point.  I can’t visualize him leading a team deep into the playoffs.

24)   Buffalo Bills: I just can’t get myself excited about Josh Allen either.  Yes, he makes big plays, but it’s Year 3, and he makes way too many head-scratching mistakes for my liking.

25)   Detroit Lions: Last year at midseason, I thought Matthew Stafford had a chance to lead the Lions on a deep playoff run and make a play for MVP.  Then, Stafford suffered a season-ending injury.  This year, Stafford is back to his normal self.  The Lions play many exciting games, but you know the team will end up annually with somewhere between 6-8 wins.  It is looking more and more like Stafford will finish his career with zero playoff wins.

Lions QB Matthew Stafford on track to return against the Vikings

26)   Cleveland Browns: Browns’ QB were terrible for so long that Baker Mayfield’s mediocre play sometimes fools people into thinking he is a great QB.  He isn’t. 

27)   Jacksonville Jaguars: Gardner Minshew II has been a nice story the past two years, but the Jags seem primed to finish with the #2 pick, with which they will likely pick their QB of the future.  The jury is out on how strong a QB that will be, but we know he will be a big step down from Trevor Lawrence; which is why I list the Jags so far below the Jets.

28)   New York Giants: I want to talk myself into Daniel Jones.  However, there are so many guys higher on this list who look(ed) so much better than Jones in their first and second seasons.  Everyone knows that Jones needs to decrease his number of turnovers, but the question is whether or not he can do it.

29)   Indianapolis Colts: I thought the Colts would finish 3-13 this season.  Watching the Chargers last year, I thought Philip Rivers was done.  He has proven me wrong, and he has the Colts at 5-2.  That said, I do think that Rivers is at the end of the line, and I expect the Colts to come back to Earth as their schedule toughens (includes Titans (twice), Ravens, Steelers, and Packers).

30)   Chicago Bears: When the Eagles won the Super Bowl, I was big on the “Nick Foles dominated for the 2013 Eagles.  This year’s performance is no fluke” train.  That said, the Nick Foles of Jacksonville and Chicago is an average quarterback.  Was the 2017-18 Philly Foles an average QB who found some good luck, or was he a great QB then?  I don’t know, but that doesn’t matter now.  The Bears are a solid team with two OK QBs (including Mitch Trubisky) and thus in no position to draft a better QB.

31)   Washington Football Team: I thought Washington might not win a game this year, but the Football Teamers have already won twice.  Ron Rivera might get them up to 3 or 4 wins, which hurts their chances of drafting a franchise QB.  Kyle Allen is a fine backup QB, but that is all he is.

32)   Minnesota Vikings: Ugh, Kirk Cousins.  The first all-guaranteed contract in NFL history, and Cousins has trouble breaking 100 passing yards per game.  The Vikings have so much money locked up in this guy but are also too good to be in the position to draft a solid replacement.

And there you have it!  I hope that you enjoyed my rankings!

An Outrageously Early Fantasy Football Mock Draft

Has this ever happened to you? You’re sitting at home, bored, watching an episode of your favorite TV show that you’ve already seen fourteen times this quarantine. And then you hear it…the word “snake”. By association, your dry sports mind jumps to “snake draft”, and then of course that takes you to fantasy football, and obviously that lands you at participating in a 12-team mock draft at 11:47 PM on a Sunday night in the middle of July.

Right?

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Okay, maybe this was particular to me, but the point is that I did a fantasy football mock draft and I think I can impart some wisdom. I was the 9th pick in a 12-team snake draft, and here were the results:

1. Nick Chubb (CLE – RB): I’m a big believer in needing two good running back in fantasy football, and that’s extraordinarily difficult to accomplish if you don’t get one in the first round. The teams ahead of me took wide receivers, so Chubb was the best available at the moment.

2. Chris Godwin (TB – WR): I’m actually surprised he made it this far into the draft. Godwin was one of the breakout stars of last year and that was with a pre-Lasik Jameis. I can only imagine what he’ll do with a quarterback that can see him. If he’s around in the second round, get him. He will be an elite #1 WR this year.

Continue reading An Outrageously Early Fantasy Football Mock Draft

Why Every NFL Team’s Name is Offensive

So the Washington Redskins are finally changing their team name, which has been a long time coming. It’s probably one of those things where our kids will shockingly ask us someday “wait, there was actually a team called the Redskins?” Although it’s taken them awhile, good on them for finally changing it. Since many people took offense to the Redskins, it got me thinking: how many other NFL team names could be considered offensive? Every single team, if you truly try hard enough.

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Has Any NFL Team Had a String of Three Playoff Losses as Devastating as the Saints’?

Two weeks ago, as most sports fans did, I watched the NFL Draft. Because I was so starved for sports, I actually watched much of Rounds 4 through 7, which I never do. I was desperate for sports. Anyway, at one point in the draft, some of the analysts referenced the New Orleans Saints’ three-consecutive devastating playoff losses. Yes, those losses must have been rough for Saints fans. To put this in perspective, this year’s Saints were legitimate Super Bowl contenders and lost a #3-#6 playoff matchup in overtime to the Minnesota Vikings….and that was probably the least painful loss of the Saints’ three consecutive playoff losses. That tells you something. Of course, when you can name a loss with something as simple as “Missed Passed Interference” or “Robey-Coleman” or something as momentous as “Minnesota Miracle”, you know the loss is bad. This year’s loss was merely “an overtime playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings”, which does not have quite the ring of the others.

You like dat? Vikings stun Saints 26-20 in OT | Brainerd Dispatch

Continue reading Has Any NFL Team Had a String of Three Playoff Losses as Devastating as the Saints’?

10 Things Everyone Does When Their Team is On the Clock

The NFL Draft is tonight, and you’ve probably been looking forward to this since at least Sunday’s premiere of ‘The Last Dance’. Personally, I’ve been looking forward to it for longer. And as cool as the Jordan documentary has been so far, it’s about the past…not the future. And nothing is more exciting than the future.

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Continue reading 10 Things Everyone Does When Their Team is On the Clock

Odell Beckham Jr.: The Second-Most Terrific New York Athlete Ever to Be Traded

Before I address the title of this article, please allow me a bit of preamble.

You might have seen the OBJ trade coming, but I did not.  Yes, there were trade rumors about Beckham at various times over the past two years, but, during this offseason, there was no considerable buzz about such a trade being a legitimate possibility.  Therefore, my brain is still processing the trade.  Do I like this trade or not?  I honestly do not know.

Continue reading Odell Beckham Jr.: The Second-Most Terrific New York Athlete Ever to Be Traded

Coming to Grips with the Rams’ Win over the Saints

There is no worse feeling for the collective of sports fans than the feeling that the wrong team has advanced in the playoffs.  I don’t mean “wrong team” in the “Jaguars over Steelers last year” sense.  Sure, most of us were hoping for a Steelers/Pats AFC Championship game, featuring the two teams most of us thought to be the best in the AFC; but we were happy for the Jaguars for pulling off the upset fair and square.  No, when I say “wrong team”, I mean it in the sense that the wrong team has advanced as a result of something completely beyond the control of the teams in the game.

Unfortunately, this was the case with the Rams/Saints NFC Championship Game.  It is extremely rare for all sports fans to agree on an officiating call, but that is just what happened with Los Angeles and New Orleans.  Everyone knows that the officials should have called either pass interference or unnecessary roughness on Nickell Robey-Coleman, but the officiating crew somehow rendered no penalty.  Meanwhile, a penalty call would have given the Saints a 98% win probability.  In that case, the Saints would have been able to bleed the clock down to 23 seconds or so before giving Will Lutz the chance to kick a game-winning and tie-breaking 21-yard chip-shot field goal.

Of course, the officials missed the penalty call, so the aforementioned scenario did not occur.  The Rams are now heading to the Super Bowl.  As a result, I spent the first several days of last week trying not to think about the Super Bowl.  Just as I have tried to avoid football after devastating Giants playoff losses, I did the same for a few days here because of the Rams/Saints game.  Never in my life have I seen an official’s call so drastically affect a playoff result, and this happened to send essentially the wrong team to the Super Bowl.  Sitcoms and dramas are scripted.  Reality shows are REALLY scripted.  However, sports are not supposed to be scripted at all.  Sports serve as a meritocracy where each team must earn all of its success.  I did not feel that the Rams had earned its trip to the Super Bowl.

Image result for rams super bowl 2019

Fortunately though, as last week wore on, I started coming to grips with having the Rams in the Super Bowl.  I know you might be thinking, “Jesus, it’s just a game, Focker.”  However, if I actually had that type of attitude toward sports; chances are I would not spend hundreds of hours per year watching people I have never met compete against each other on the field.  I certainly would not spend multiple hours per week writing blog entries.  Therefore, I did truly need to come to grips with the Rams being in the Super Bowl, and I was somewhat successful.  My consolation has come from this simple fact: After the missed call, the Rams STILL had to do a whole lot to win the game.

We are all correct when we cite the “98% win probability” number as reason why this missed call should not be treated equally with the multitude of other missed calls in NFL games.  However, many people act like the missed call handed the Rams the win.  That is not the case.  With the non-call, the Saints’ win probability fell to 78%.  After the non-call, my thought was “Let’s hope the Saints hold on to win anyway, so that this call does not matter”, not “Oh my God, the refs just took the Saints’ win and gave it to the Rams!”

After the missed call and Will Lutz’s subsequent go-ahead field goal, the Rams still needed all of the following to happen:

  • Jared Goff needed to lead a last-minute drive into field-goal range in one of the toughest road venues in sports
  • Greg Zeurlein needed to kick a game-tying 48-yard field goal
  • The Rams needed to win the overtime coin toss, since we all know that, if a team has a Hall of Fame quarterback (like Drew Brees), that team will score a TD on the opening possession of OT.
  • Oops, the Rams lost the toss but forced that Hall of Fame QB to throw an interception.
  • The Rams needed to drive to at least the Saints’ 33-yard line so to minimize the risk of a missed FG giving the Saints great field position.
  • Oops, the Rams stalled, and Sean McVay showed enormous spheres by letting Zeurlein kick a 57-yard FG (as I implored McVay to punt), which was good by several yards.

 

I should also note that, if the officials had made the correct call on the disputed play, the Rams would have likely ended up with the ball at their own 25-yard line with 20 seconds to play.  They would have needed to gain 35 yards to set Zeurlein up for a 57-yard game-tying field goal, which he clearly could have made.  Could the Rams have gained those necessary 35 yards on consecutive sideline passes before letting Zeurlein tie the game?  It is not likely, but it is also not impossible.

Image result for nfc championship 2019
Image via The SoBros Network

Anyway, whether that last scenario works for you or not, the fact remains that the refs did not hand the Rams a win.  The refs merely upgraded the Rams’ chances from “long shot” to “unlikely”.  Kudos to the Rams for taking advantage of a slight opportunity.

Lastly, I should note that one could consider the missed penalty call a lucky moment for the Rams.  Whether we like to admit it or not, many of these nail-biting games come down to luck.  No, luck does not always involve a missed penalty call, but luck could be a bounce of a fumble, a made or missed FG, or a lucky catch.  Just look at the Chiefs/Pats game.  Dee Ford being offsides had nothing to do with what should have been a game-sealing Chiefs interception, but the penalty gave the Pats a second life.  Because of a guy lining up a few inches offsides, a different team is now heading to the Super Bowl.  It happens.  Actually, speaking of the Pats, look at the first Giants/Pats Super Bowl, and look at the Patriots/Seahawks Super Bowl.  In both games, the Patriots were victimized in the last minute by incredible catches with elements of luck (David Tyree’s Helmet Catch: combination of skill and luck, Jermaine Kearse having the ball fall in his lap: mainly luck).  In the former case, Eli Manning used Tyree’s catch and several other clutch throws to give the Giants the win over the Pats; in the latter, Malcolm Butler’s interception kept Kearse’s catch from leading the Patriots to defeat.  Of course, for another modern example of luck, we know that the Eagles beat the Bears this postseason by a fraction of an inch on a “double-doink”.

Over the years, we have had many, many NFL teams win playoff games by the slimmest of margins, and those games are always the most bitter of pills for the losers to swallow. Unfortunately for the Saints, they have been eliminated in consecutive seasons by those slim margins in as devastating fashions as possible.  The Saints are not the first deserving-to-be-there team in history to watch the Super Bowl from home, and they will not be the last.  They are not even the only current team feeling that way, as the Chiefs are in the same boat.

The closer the game, the more likely it is that a bad bounce or bad call will greatly swing the result.  Sports can be cruel.  In this case though, the Saints still had a 78% chance of winning after the bad call.  How much does this assuage my initial negative reaction to the game?  I do not know.  If the refs had made the right call, we are probably watching the Saints on Sunday, February 3.  However, I keep telling myself that the Rams did what they had to do to win the game.  I think I have come to grips with the Rams’ victory, and I hope you have too.

Do I Suffer from Patriots Stockholm Syndrome?

The date was February 1, 2004, and the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots were facing off in the Super Bowl.  I sat with 4 friends who were Patriots fans, and I was the sole person rooting for the Panthers.  The Pats had already won the Super Bowl two years prior, and the Panthers had never won one.  The game was exciting, but the Pats won on a last-second Adam Vinatieri field goal.

Fast forward a year…

The date was February 6, 2005, and the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots were facing off in the Super Bowl.  Although I strongly dislike the Eagles, I was pulling for them that day.  After all, they had never won a Super Bowl, while the Pats had won two of the past three Super Bowls.  After that day, the Pats had won three of four Super Bowls, and the Eagles had still never won one.

Anyway, most of you readers are probably thinking, “Big effing deal.  Anyone who isn’t a Patriots fan always roots against the Patriots.”

Well, allow me to explain the big deal.  After that Patriots/Eagles Super Bowl, things started to change for me.

The following year, Jake Plummer’s Denver Broncos took care of business against the Patriots in the Divisional Round, and it did not sit well with me.  By that point, I had begun to feel that the Patriots were “supposed” to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl every year.  All of a sudden, I actually found myself feeling bad for Patriots fans who had to experience losing a playoff game for the first time in 7 years.

The year after that; as the Patriots took on the #1-seed 14-2 Chargers in the Divisional Round, I began the game rooting for the Chargers.  However, as the game wore on, I found myself changing to root for the Pats.  When the Pats ultimately pulled off the upset, I was happy.  The next week, when the Pats traveled to Indy for the AFC Championship, I knew that I wanted Peyton Manning to advance to his first Super Bowl….yet, lo and behold, as the Patriots were coughing up a 21-3 lead, I found myself unhappy.  When the Colts won the game, and the Pats walked glumly off the field; I was very disappointed.

Image result for patriots colts 2007

Then, the next year, the you-know-what hit the fan for non-Patriots fans.  Week 1 brought Spygate, and the Pats – armed with new acquisitions Randy Moss and Wes Welker – went on a rampage through their schedule.  Most fans treated the Pats as Public Enemy #1 as the team stormed to an undefeated regular season and set the single-season scoring record.  I, on the other hand, loved everything the Pats did.  I rooted for them all season long, with a few very notable exceptions.  I obviously pulled for the Giants in their thrilling Week 17 loss to the Pats and in their legendary win in Super Bowl XLII, one of the greatest moments of my life.  For most people, the thought of shattering Brady’s and Belichick’s hearts was a dream come true.  For me, I was thrilled to win an incredible Super Bowl, and I loved and still love that the Giants are the team that knocked off the only 18-0 team in league history.  However, I did not get satisfaction from Brady’s and Belichick’s pain.  My joy came completely from the Giants’ amazing accomplishments.

Back to the Pats now…Since that glorious day 11 years ago when David Tyree pressed a football against his helmet, there have been only three games – all against the Giants (including the Giants’ wondrous second Super Bowl win over the Pats) – when I have rooted against the Pats.  While Spygate and then Deflategate have led many to believe that the Pats are the ultimate cheaters, I always find myself saying, “What they are doing worse is no worse than what other teams are doing.”  I have had multiple people bring up the fact that BenJarvus Green-Ellis never ever fumbled with the Pats but fumbled a bunch when he went to Cincinnati.  Obviously the Pats are up to no good, these other people think.  However, I never think the Pats do anything wrong.  Heck, I wrote a really long post last January as I became waaaay too excited about the Patriots’ greatness over the years.  I never think the Pats do anything wrong.

Am I thinking logically?  I have no idea.  It is as if the Patriots kidnapped me during their 2001 Championship season (the one time when most of America was actually rooting for the Pats), and, by 2005, the team had convinced me that everything with the Patriots is a good thing.  By 2007 with Spygate, the Pats had convinced me to defend them at any cost.  As I look back, I wonder, “Do I suffer from Patriots Stockholm Syndrome?”  I rooted against the Pats in consecutive Super Bowls 14 and 15 years ago, but I have defended them and sympathized with them every step of the way – through wins, losses, and scandal after scandal – since then.  I think that is textbook Stockholm Syndrome.

Let us now evaluate whether or not I have fallen prey to this syndrome.  There are three main reasons why I think I have developed such an affinity for the Pats – Routine, Nostalgia, and Respect.  Perhaps I have followed these reasons rationally, or perhaps the Pats have brainwashed me into it.  Here we go…

  • Routine: I do not like change. I am not OCD about scheduling, but I do like to have some consistency in my days and weeks.  I like to run at 5PM; I like to eat Moe’s on Tuesday nights (and sometimes Thursday nights….and sometimes Friday nights too); I like to start listening to Christmas music on November 18; and I like to eat Thin Mints and listen to The Road to El Dorado soundtrack (Elton John) during the first weekend of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.   Normal stuff.  Therefore, I like to have the Patriots involved with the Divisional Round, AFC Championship, and Super Bowl.  After all, this weekend will be the Pats’ 13th AFC Championship game in 18 seasons, and the team has played in 8 of the past 17 Super Bowls. Seeing Kraft, Belichick, and Brady on those January and February weekends feels just as right as Moe’s and Thin Mints do at their respective times.

 

  • Nostalgia: Maybe it is because I have a good memory, but I am a very nostalgic person. I can get nostalgic about a week ago, so you can imagine how much nostalgia I have for the entirety of the Pats’ run since 2001.  I have discussed the “Routine” issue, and the Pats have been part of my routine for that long.  I watched them win their first Super Bowl while I was a sophomore in college; I watched them go 18-1 and lose to the Giants in my first year as a teacher; I watched a Pats team with Kenbrell Tompkins as its main receiving threat come within one win of the Super Bowl in the year when I first met the venerable BTB editors; and I listened to Bill Belichick’s “Mona Lisa Vito” press conference before going to see American Sniper (and being enamored by both Sienna Miller’s attractiveness and the fact that Todd and Sack from Wedding Crashers were reunited) in the theater.  Therefore, when I watch a Patriots game, I am flooded with nostalgia from my last three years of college, three years working for AvisBudget, and 12 years teaching at Ramsey High School.

 

  • Respect: I cut my teeth as a sports fan while watching the dominant Devils teams from 1993 forward. The cornerstone of those Devils teams’ successes was that nobody was bigger than the team.  GM Lou Lamoriello had no qualms with letting talented players go if those players were to act selfishly or do anything against team protocol.  Those teams had three Hall of Famers (Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer) and possibly a fourth (Patrik Elias), and all of those players put the team above individual goals.

 

It was a delight to watch the Devils ride this disciplined approach to 20 years of dominance, and the 2001-2018 Patriots are the football equivalent of the Devils.  Actually, to be fair, the Pats have outdone the Devils, considering that the Devils 1993-2012 Devils won 3 championships, appeared in 5 Stanley Cup Finals, and appeared in 6 Conference Finals; all numbers that the Patriots have comfortably beaten (using the hockey equivalents).  That said, Brady and Belichick have made an art form out of bringing me-first players to New England and turning them into team players.

Image result for randy moss patriots

Also, just as the Devils received large championship contributions from unheralded players like Jay Pandolfo and Randy McKay, the Pats always make the most of players who are slightly less talented than their peers around the league.  Look back over the past 18 years, and you will see huge contributions from James White, Jabar Gaffney, David Patten, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Legarrette Blount, and (of course) Julian Edelman.  I have always surmised that Belichick’s theory is to use guys who are 5% less talented than most of their peers around the league, because these less-talented players will work 10 times harder on and off the field than the more talented guys without rendering any of the headaches.  (See “Brown Antonio” and “Beckham Jr. Odell”.)

Additionally, while a team can win a Super Bowl in a season in which its players do many choreographed touchdown dances (see “Eagles, Philadelphia”), it remains noteworthy that the Patriots do not take part in such elaborate numbers.  Think of James White and Julian Edelman dominating in the comeback win over Atlanta two years ago, and you do not recall eccentric touchdown celebrations.  I am not anti-celebration, but it is nevertheless refreshing to watch a team whose players direct all of their on-field effort toward winning.

I also have great respect that, in so many years, we wonder if the Pats are done.  We wonder if Brady is too old or if is supporting cast is too weak….but the Pats always find their way to 11 wins.  It is incredibly impressive.  Perhaps I also have a soft spot for Belichick, because his defense was so dominant in the Giants’ Super Bowl XXV win over Buffalo, my first thrilling moment as a sports fan.

Anyway, I have now officially finished detailing the three reasons – routine, nostalgia, and respect – why I pull for the Pats.  I had hoped that this self-evaluation would give me insight into whether I am still rational or am suffering from Patriots Stockholm Syndrome.  Unfortunately, I still do not have an answer, so you will have to judge for yourselves.

All I do know is this: I love Patrick Mahomes.  I loved watching his father pitch for the 1999-2000 Mets; I put $20 on the KC QB to win MVP (at 80:1 odds in August); and watching Mahomes play quarterback is a beautiful, Heavenly experience.  I want the Chiefs to win their first Super Bowl in 49 years, and I want Andy Reid finally to earn his first ring.  This all sounds rational to me now, but why do I sense that I will probably still end up rooting for the Patriots on Sunday?

Do I suffer from “Patriots Stockholm Syndrome”?