No fanbase in professional sports has had it better since the turn of the century than Patriots fans, known as “Pats Nation”. The luxury of riches, the historical dominance, the perpetual relevance, the bragging rights, the championships, the merchandise, the memories, all of it.
Thumbs up, thumbs down, player of the game
Any fanbase should wish to be half as lucky over twice that time span. Following such a glorious run there has to be a regression or turnaround that will be tough to swallow, given the standard of excellence established and heightened expectations that come with it. But no team can stay on top forever, right?
The Patriots made the playoffs in just their second season after Tom Brady left, seemed poised with Mac Jones to return to competitive relevance, and even after a loss to the superior Buffalo Bills, who are reigning AFC East champions, are but 6-6 and hardly eliminated from postseason consideration. But from stadium to socials, tailgate to talk show, you would think they were the worst team in football.
These fans, spoiled as they may be, residents of “Entitled Town”, still know a good team when they see it. They’ve won enough for several lifetimes, and just want to be proud of the product they’re spending so much time and money on. And while a degree of loyalty is owed to the ownership and coaches who were party to bringing those Lombardis to Foxborough, the right to be discontent with the choices made for the 2022 are inalienable.
The fans are coming to terms with the realization that this team just doesn't have it and is taking steps backward when they should be improving.
Pats Nation has become…Pats Resig-Nation.
The Foxboro Faithful, while still loyal to the team and their die-hard brethren, are big mad with how things are going. The quality of play, the coaching decisions made this past offseason, the bad drafts pre-2020 catching up to them, other teams in the division rising up during the team’s decline; there are a host of reasons why the team isn’t playing that well, and why the fans in particular seem to be turning on the team.
Sadly, the scapegoat of the operation now has become offensive coordina…excuse me, Senior Football Advisor, Matt Patricia. Who we all know is coaching the offensive line and calling plays on game day.
The move was met with, shall we say, dubious reception and a shade of doubt this offseason. Both within Pats fans and those who root against them.
Whatever you think or feel about the choice, reality is the offense has taken major steps back from last season when then rookie QB Mac Jones was operating under the tutelage of former OC Josh McDaniels. Mac’s numbers, and the offense’s numbers on the whole, are just plain bad. You saw the frustration in QB, coaches and more Thursday night (and I don’t recommend a twitter search of “Patriots Offense” unless you want your weekend ruined).
Coach Bill Belichick has been the man behind it all since taking over in 2000. Yet as time’s marched on he’s closed ranks and shortened staff, surrounding himself with family and friends, plus a few former players, to guide the squad. He’s told us when things go wrong come to him, he’s to blame. And it’s become a point of exacerbated emphasis and intense frustration with the fanbase who has lived and died by his every decision, defended his every move and tolerated his disdain of media and good sportsmanship all this time, that he chose this staff and sees his team playing this way.
Sure, the Buffalo Bills are an excellent team, a Super Bowl favorite. They have made great decisions from team to scheme, hired and drafted smartly for years, building a damn good operation in the process, one that really seems to have the Pats number of late. But this is not a referendum on the rise of Josh Allen and Buffalo. This is about the choices made in remodeling a team after perhaps the boldest decision in NFL history was made to not retain the franchise’s greatest player. And to date the decisions overall, especially the ones made most recently, are not paying off. The Pats simply can not hang with the better teams in their division. Investing the time and money and energy and emotion in a team that’s not terribly good and is dealing with in-fighting and internal dissent toward the coaches could be a tricky step down a dangerous road. Especially for an owner like Robert Kraft who loves his team and cares so much about the fans and has said he expects better of his whole operation.
And yet here are fans, emotionally relegated to a state of frustrated existence they used to look forward to watching other teams languish in, just to hope for change.
It’s a really weird place to be; the middle, where so many other teams reside, and have set up base camp for years, decades even. Perhaps Pats fans would be OK with it if they believed in the process, this process, and saw progress being made toward a fundamentally sound and competitive team for years to come. Instead they see another domination at the hands of Buffalo, a messy operation and a team teetering on outright turmoil.
Perhaps some actual resignations would please the fans? Or at least a team that wasn’t taking pronounced steps backwards while trying to tell us otherwise. Until the team figures things out, makes some changes or competes at a level that makes their fans proud again, Pats Nation best resign themselves to just being, well, kinda like everyone else.