Will Bill Belichick, Julian Edelman and the Patriots be able to prove the critics wrong?


Remember those old Nike commercials that had an NFL-crazy Dennis Hopper hearing footsteps and worrying about “bad things, man”?

Fast forward three decades and it seems that Bill Belichick, Julian Edelman and the rest of the soon-to-be 2020 New England Patriots might just be bringing a similar maniacal approach to life without Tom Brady.

Unlike Haley Joel Osment’s character in “The Sixth Sense,” Belichick and his Patriots aren’t seeing dead people, rather they’re apparently hearing voices both inside their own heads and from outside the football offices of Gillette Stadium.

NFL Network reported that Edelman has “already got the red ass” as he prepares to fight the perception that the Patriots are now “no good” and that the 100-catch slot receiver came to be as a “product of Brady.”

Former Patriots locker room motivational leader-turned-NBC analyst Rodney Harrison told the Boston Herald, “(Bill Belichick) might bring up a couple articles … everybody saying it’s over, Brady this, Brady that. Of course he’ll say something about that. But at the end of the day, whether he makes the point or not, he knows the team will be motivated to prove they can win without Tom.”

Patriots Hall of Fame left tackle Matt Light explained to NFL Network, “Are they going to have motivation to go out there and prove they can win without Tom Brady? Yeah, they’ll use this.”

Even WEEI’s own Ken Laird spent his usually overly-critical column space to heap praise on Belichick this week for reigniting “the New England disrespect card. Belichick vs. The World is back.”

I’m sorry, did I miss something?

Is there now a question as to whether Belichick, Edelman, Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower and the aging New England rest are motivated to win? Was that idea ever in doubt?

If so, could you DM me a link to that story, as that’s one that I certainly need to read.

Because if there was ever one thing that seemed to be a certainty for the Patriots it was a desire to not just compete but to do anything necessary with an eye on winning.

Sorry, I always thought that was a given. Death. Taxes. Belichick’s team being motivated.

And I didn’t realize that desire or motivation belonged to Brady.

Now, we’re supposed to believe that Belichick is going to try harder, prepare more? Muster up a Gipper-like speech each week?

Edelman is going to run quicker routes?

Hightower will hit harder?

Silly me, I never thought anyone would question the desire and, to steal a term from the hockey world, the compete level of the Patriots.



That said, I’ve long believed – I can’t quite remember where it came from, but probably an old high school football coach’s direction – that failure on a football field come down to one of two factors: want-to and can’t.

Some players, teams and organizations fail because they don’t have the want-to for success. They don’t commit fully to the work, preparation and execution needed to reach the highest levels of success on and off the field.

That linebacker is too big and strong for me to block, so I’ll just get caught up in the wash rather than throw my body on the line.

These sprints are too tough on a hot August afternoon, so I’ll just act like I tweaked a hammy and head over to the trainer for a quick checkup and shot of cold water.

I don’t want to get to the stadium early for an extra lift or more film study.

Those are the kinds of things that are the manifestations of the lack of want-to that leads to losing.

I’ve never, ever believed Belichick or any of the key Patriots he relies on had a want-to problem.

Sometimes, though, players, teams and organizations have every bit the want-to required to succeed. They still fail, though, because they can’t succeed. They don’t have the requisite talent to get the job done.

Do the 2020 Patriots have the want-to for success? Do they want to prove they can win without Brady?

Sure as horse manure.

Can they do that? Now that’s the real question heading into the new season, the first in two decades without a Hall of Fame GOAT quarterback at the helm.

If the Patriots, as many are indeed predicting, are a mediocre football team or worse this fall it won’t be because Belichick, Edelman and their win-at-all-cost Foxborough friends no longer want to succeed at the highest of levels.

It will be because they can’t play at the necessary level at enough positions consistently enough to get the job done.

There is no chance that the Patriots a want-to problem in 2020 that keeps them from winning.

But with plenty of questions in all three phases of the roster and scheme, they might just have a can’t issue.

And there is nothing motivation can do about that.