There has been a lot of talk recently, especially after the report that Matthew Stafford would have blocked a trade to New England, about whether players still want to play for the Patriots and whether playing for Bill Belichick is viewed as too much of a challenge.
Brandin Cooks, who went over 1,000 yards receiving during his one season in New England in 2017, joined Ordway, Merloni and Fauria on Tuesday and said that wasn’t his experience at all. Cooks, who is now with the Texans, has played for four different NFL teams, so he has more comparisons to draw on than most.
“Not at all,” Cooks said when asked if he found it difficult to play for the Patriots. “I have to say that’s one of my favorite places that I’ve ever played. Especially when you’re winning, how is it hard to play there? I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Belichick and, at the time, Tom [Brady] and Josh McDaniels. I think if it’s too hard for you, that must mean you don’t like to work hard. Now, you grind -- don’t get me wrong -- but there’s fun in that as well.”
One theory is that maybe more players were willing to put up with Belichick when the Patriots had Brady and everyone knew they were going to win, but now that Brady is gone and they missed the playoffs this year, it’s no longer a desirable destination.
Cooks pointed out that any team is going to be less fun if you’re not winning, but he said he believes Belichick will have the Patriots back in contention soon. While another former Patriots receiver, Danny Amendola, recently said that Brady was “the Patriot Way” and seemingly downplayed Belichick’s contributions, Cooks is more of the belief that Belichick can win without Brady just like Brady can win without Belichick.
“If you’re on any team and you’re not winning, it’s probably not going to be as fun,” Cooks said. “But like I said, I think he gets it back in control and they get back to winning football games again consistently. That’s just my belief in Coach Belichick, and I would say the same thing to you if Tom was there and Belichick wasn’t there. … He’ll be back at it. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
Cooks also poured cold water on the idea that the Patriots offense is too hard for new players to learn, saying that he had little problem picking it up quickly.
“To be honest with you, it wasn’t difficult at all for me to learn,” he said. “I say that because I was able to go right in there and not miss a beat and hop in and be able to run the plays right away. I think it’s all about studying at the end of the day, taking time and focusing on studying the plays. For me it wasn’t hard.”
Cooks, who is under contract for three more years in Houston, also addressed the Deshaun Watson trade rumors, the Texans’ hire of Nick Caserio as general manager, and his relationship with the much-criticized Jack Easterby.
Listen to the full interview below: