I am a lifelong Steelers fan. I don’t like the Patriots. Like many I have a sense that the league has coddled them in a lot of ways and that they tend to paint outside of the lines whenever they can get away with it.
But, I long ago had to reconcile myself to the simple reality that they are better than anyone else in the NFL. And, it is not even close.
Sustaining the level of success the Patriots have had over the last 15 years is even more remarkable in a time period when player movement within the league is so fluid due to the opening up of free agency. Twenty-three of twenty-four spots in the starting line up have been filled by mostly interchangeable parts.
This highlights the cornerstone of the success of the Patriots. Bill Belichick has a system founded in discipline and focus. If you come on board with the Patriots, you need to take a professional and dedicated approach to knowing your job. You are expected not only to be fully engaged in practice, but to also use your personal time to prepare for practice.
On game day, you have to execute your responsibilities exactly as prescribed on each play. And, there is very little “I” about it. It is all about doing your part to make it all work. Players come and go, but the results remain the same. Everyone knows this when they walk into the locker room on day one.
One of the most unusual catches in Super Bowl history occurred with 2:28 left in regulation Sunday evening. Tom Brady threw a pass that ricocheted off the hands of one Falcons’ player, the leg of another Falcons’ player before seemingly suspending itself inches from the ground briefly allowing Julian Edelman to desperately haul it in.
This play merged random occurrences with extreme concentration and determination. There was a lot of luck involved. But, these kind of moments tend to work in favor of those who have a consistency of commitment and effort. It is no coincidence that it happens for the Patriots more than most.
The one constant throughout the Patriots’ fifteen year run has been Tom Brady. A lowly sixth round draft pick in 2000, he stands now as the best quarterback, and perhaps player, in NFL history.
Throughout his career he has been the standard for quarterbacks in consistency of play. But, Sunday highlighted a perseverance that lies at the heart of any great champion. Midway through the third quarter he had played well below his standard and his team was down 28 to 3. He looked beaten and dazed.
Somehow, under the brightest of lights, with hundreds of millions of eyes on him, he rose above his poor performance to lead the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. This highlighted the extraordinary resiliency that lies at the very foundation of who he is as a person. It also is a model example of never giving up and always striving to do our best even when things are not going our way.
But, again, this moment did not happen in isolation. The comeback was the result of an organization with an ethos of being committed, focused and determined at all times – off season camps, preseason camps, every practice, every regular season game.
They give their best at all times.
They only focus on what they control.
They always keep sight of their goals.
They live life to its fullest.