Thursday, December 21, 2023

Donnie's article about the New England Patriots

Donnie can now add newspaper columnist to his resume! Here is an article he wrote for the Boston Herald about the New England Patriots and Coach Belichick: 

Wahlberg: Hold your fire Patriots Nation, Belichick’s still the GOAT


PUBLISHED: December 21, 2023 

Dear Pats Nation,

Before I begin, I want to stress that any mention of Tom Brady is in no way a slight of him, his legacy or my admiration for him as a person or player. This really has nothing to do with Tom Brady. It’s about Bill Belichick.

Sad that I even have to preface it this way, but that’s what it’s come to nowadays. It seems one can’t speak glowingly of Coach Bill Belichick anymore without being treated like a Cowboys fan at an Eagles game — or worse. It’s no surprise that hysterical sports media pundits are rejoicing over Coach Belichick’s apparent “fall from grace.” They’ve been waiting to dance on his football grave for two decades. What is surprising, however, is how many Pats fans have subscribed to the Belichick slander.

Did we get so used to winning that we are punishing Bill Belichick for our own unrealistic expectations?

Will Bill Belichick Coach the Patriots After This Season?

Did we get so used to winning that we forgot how easy it was to lose?

Did we get so spoiled by all that winning, that we’ve become unaware of how much we sound like one of those obnoxious and entitled fan bases that “only other teams have?”

While I can’t change the way the sports media types think about Belichick, I can appeal to the greatest fan base in all of sports. To try to reach those in Pats Nation who’ve gone from ignoring the noise, to embracing the noise. Gone from believing in Bill, to belittling Bill. To engage with those who have become exactly like that which they have historically purported to loathe — the Patriots-hating talking heads, who have sought to diminish us fans and our beloved Patriots Dynasty for the last 20 years.

So, Pats fans, it’s time to confront some hard truths, and unpack some of the many biting criticisms of Bill Belichick. Hopefully by doing so, we may be able to bring some perspective, gratitude and respect back for our once beloved coach.

“Tom Brady was more responsible for The Pats Dynasty than Belichick.”

Does any reasonable human being on the planet really believe that Brady, or Belichick, won six rings without Ty Law, Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Matt Light, Vince Wilfork, Corey Dillon, Devin McCourty, Stephon Gilmore, Julian Edelman or the most clutch kicker in history, Adam Vinatieri?

Ironically, Belichick and Brady never forget to acknowledge their teammates, their assistants, their trainers, their staffs or that gentleman who signs the checks, owns the team and made all of this possible — Mr. Robert Kraft.

Sincerely, if we are going to credit one person for being the biggest reason for the Patriots dynasty — shouldn’t Mr. Kraft at least be considered in that conversation?

I digress.

“Belichick never won a Super Bowl without Brady.”

No coach has ever had a dynasty without an all-time great QB.  So why is this criticism only reserved for Coach Belichick?  He’s either being held to a higher standard — or this is a serious double standard.  After all, did Chuck Noll have a dynasty without Terry Bradshaw? No. Did Bill Walsh without Joe Montana? No. How come we never hear “Bill Walsh never won a ring without Montana?” Did Jimmy Johnson without Troy Aikman?  Not even close.

How about Andy Reid — the sports media’s new darling of a head coach?  The guy that many of the so-called experts now refer to as the GOAT. Surely Andy has built a dynasty without an all-time great QB, since that is the new criteria for defining a coach’s legacy.  Did Andy win in Philly without Donovan McNabb?  He never even won a Super Bowl with Donovan McNabb, never mind without him. Did Andy win a Super Bowl in KC, without Patrick Mahomes? No. In fact, if memory serves me, he never even got to a Super Bowl with Mahomes until after Belichick and Brady’s final game together.

“Belichick never won, with the Pats, without Brady.”

At what point does Belichick get kudos for the pivotal role he played in Brady’s career, instead of being bashed because of the pivotal role that Brady played in his?

Belichick drafted Brady. He kept Brady on the roster as a fourth QB (unheard of), as a rookie. He started Brady when Bledsoe got hurt. He started Brady when Bledsoe got healthy. He even started Brady in the Super Bowl, after Bledsoe led the Pats to an AFC Championship game victory over the Steelers. He did all of this, despite a number of Pats players (and a majority of Pats Nation) wanting Belichick to start Drew Bledsoe in the Super Bowl against the Rams. Belichick may be the one and only coach (and possibly the only person not named Tom Brady) that actually believed in Brady as an NFL starting QB. Coach Belichick entrusted his team, his job and his coaching career, to a lanky kid that nobody else would even use a draft pick on.

Tom Brady acknowledged this, himself, in his ESPN Docu-Series — “Man In The Arena.”

“Belichick never won without Brady” — The Prequel.

It always amazes me how many people do not recall Belichick’s Browns beating our Patriots, and Coach Bill Parcells, in the playoffs back in the ’94-’95 season. The year before Art Modell announced that the Browns were leaving Cleveland and moving to Baltimore.  Fans turned on the team, the team fell apart at the seams and Coach Belichick was subsequently fired. If you’ll recall, many in the local media did not want Coach Belichick to come to the Pats because they considered him such a dreadful coach in Cleveland. Many more thought Mr. Kraft was insane to trade a first round pick for Belichick. How ironic that many of those same media types are now perpetuating the rumors that the Pats might get a first-rounder in exchange for Belichick.

“Brady won without Belichick.”

If you truly love and support Tom Brady, then his seventh ring should have been a joyful experience for you. Even if it wasn’t in New England. Instead, it has become part of the reason that so many Pats fans have turned on the guy whose defense was very much part of the Pats winning the other six rings in Brady’s collection. I was so glad that Tom Brady got that ring. For him, for his legacy and for all of us in Pats Nation. He literally saved all of us from ever having to hear the outlandish “Mahomes, Manning or Rodgers is the GOAT,” silliness again.

“Belichick can’t draft.”

For some strange reason, we Pats fans really think we know football better than Belichick. Sure, he has made us scratch our heads more times than we should with some of his selections. But we sure do focus an awful lot on the misses, while ignoring the many times he’s hit the jackpot with his draft picks and undrafted free agents. When he drafted Sony Michel, I remember asking my TV “why the heck are we drafting a running back in the first round?!” Then came the playoffs in Sony’s rookie season. He helped lead a ground-and-pound offensive attack to a Super Bowl win, rushing for 100 yards per game and scoring 6 TDs — a playoff record. Three in the first round against the Chargers. Two more against the Chiefs and the only touchdown in the Super Bowl.

“Belichick can’t draft wide receivers.”

I could end this debate by asking “have you ever heard of Julian Edelman?” But, to be fair, this point is not so simply settled. Although I’d argue that drafting Deion Branch and David Givens in the same draft, was absolutely brilliant. They helped the Pats win two more Super Bowls.

The misses have hurt, but the guys that he has hit on have helped us win the only thing that matters in New England — Super Bowl Championships. I’d also argue that drafting the greatest tight end in history (Rob Gronkowski, in the second round, when few other GMs in football would touch him after his college injuries), deserves some acknowledgment in this debate.

“Belichick didn’t give Brady any weapons.”

This may be the most widespread mistruth of all of the Belichick criticisms. I mean, did we all forget the Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth era? Here’s the one problem with those teams — they won ZERO Super Bowl titles. ZERO. The period when the Patriots had the greatest array of weapons, and Brady put up his gaudiest numbers, is the same period when the Pats became what they had always defeated — a juggernaut offense with all of the weapons that couldn’t win the tight games in the post season.  In fact, we became an awful lot like Peyton Manning’s Colts teams of the early 2000’s. We always laughed at those Colts teams. Because, despite the weaponry, they could never outsmart a Bill Belichick defense.

Let’s not forget 2018-19, either. The Pats signed Antonio Brown, had the league’s top defense and the experts said “The Pats are gonna go undefeated,” after starting 8-0. Then they lost AB and Josh Gordon, they lost to the run-heavy Titans in the playoffs and those same experts complained that “Belichick never gave Brady any weapons.” Talk about revisionist history.

Now go tell Kevin Faulk, Troy Brown, Shane Vereen, James White, LeGarrette Blount, Gronk, Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola that they weren’t weapons.

“He doesn’t pay his players.”

You don’t commit $60 million to Aqib Talib, and screw up your cap flexibility, when you can simply sign Darrelle Revis and win another Super Bowl, instead.

“He benched Malcolm Butler and cost us a Super Bowl.”

I know many people still hold a grudge against Coach for never explaining why he didn’t play Malcolm in that game — although they’d probably never accept it if he gave them one. Ironically, Malcolm Butler isn’t holding a grudge against him. To be honest, I’d say that not having Dont’a Hightower cost us that Super Bowl, more so than not having Malcolm Butler.

We also had what any Pats fan wants in any game, Tom Brady with the ball in his hands with a chance to win at the end of regulation.

Unless Butler was gonna block for Brady, and prevent that strip fumble, his absence didn’t cost us that game.

“Belichick drove Brady away.”

Just consider this one point before continuing to hate Coach for the heartbreaking decision to move on from Tom Brady. Even if he was 100% wrong about the decision. If Brady winning with Tampa proves that Belichick was wrong about moving on from him — doesn’t Jimmy G leading the Niners to a Super Bowl prove that Belichick was right about him? Just consider it.

“Belichick ruined Mac Jones.”

To suggest that the greatest coach of all time “ruined” a one-year college player — a player that most experts thought was only going to be average at best — is completely insane. You’d have to have believed that Mac Jones was on the path to greatness. So how come I never heard a single soul claim that Mac was going to be anything close to great?  Even after his decent rookie season. Look, I really like Mac.  I still have high hopes for him (though it will likely be elsewhere). But if I’m going to judge Mac vs Belichick on their track records, I’m sorry, I’m taking the guy who oversaw Tom Brady’s development.

As for the Matt Patricia debacle, I’d go as far as to argue that several current QBs in this league could’ve contended for a ring with last season’s Patriots roster and coaching staff. Give me Justin Herbert with Belichick, last year’s coaches, weapons, defensive unit and Nick Folk — and we would have been contenders. I’d have wagered a lot on it. If you are being honest with yourself, you would have to.

Look, like most of you, I’ve been a Pats fan since the 70’s. I know that this season really does suck. I know this season may not even be as bad as last season. But I also know this — the Patriots have lost every starting cornerback on the roster to injury. They lost the best pass rusher in the NFL. Despite everything, the team hasn’t quit. They keep playing hard and Belichick deserves credit for that, not criticism.

At the end of the day, I certainly respect whatever decision Mr. Kraft makes about Coach’s future.  He is the man who risked it all for Belichick.  He is as much responsible for “The Patriot Way,” as anyone.  If he decides that Coach is being replaced, it will not change my opinion of him nor my love for the team. Nor will it change my opinion of how poorly so many fans in Pats Nation have treated Bill Belichick. He deserves better. He may not be our coach next season, but he deserves our respect — forever.

Remember fans, the greatest QB to ever play the game only comes around once in a lifetime. The same can be said for the greatest coach of all time.  Be careful what you wish for.

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