It’s that time of year again—football season is in full swing, and the New England Patriots are 7-0. Patriots fans like myself are, as usual, thriving off team wins but also highly critical of each game, which drives non-Patriots fans crazy. While we do, however, acknowledge being spoiled, Patriots fans continue to expect nothing less than the best.
“The Patriot Way” has established a culture of accountability, excellence, and humility within the team that Boston sports fans subsequently hold them to: embodied by the fan favorite “Do Your Job” chant.
Tom Brady entered his 20th NFL season this fall with no signs of slowing down. He holds over 50 NFL records, including most wins, touchdown passes, and Super Bowl victories. With the Brady-Belichick dynasty’s’ sixth Super Bowl win in February, the Pats exhibited their durability after a year of doubt about Brady’s longevity. Whether you love or hate the Patriots, everyone can learn from Brady’s incredible leadership and sustainable team success generated by the Patriot Way.
In a September 2019 article, NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss describes the Patriot Way as “impressive levels of winning, accountability and team-first culture.” When asked about the unique team culture last week, Belichick responded, “Yeah, I don’t know that I’ve ever used that term. I’m not really sure what that is either.” By avoiding questions about the inner workings of the team, as he is wont to do, Belichick actually displays the very sentiments of the team culture. It is expected that all players will naturally adhere to expectations of humility while also putting their best foot forward at all times—no matter the opponent.
When asked about the Patriots’ defense ranking first overall in the NFL in late September, linebacker Kyle Van Noy had this to say, according to Musket Fire: “It’s just staying humble and staying aggressive.” Even after being the undisputed best defense of the NFL so far this season, Patriots players do not have any sort of complacency. Rather, they always look to improve, always look toward the next challenge, and take each week as it comes.
I think we could all use a little humbling while staying focused on our current challenges instead of being constantly caught up in boasting about ourselves as we have been trained to do. And taking time to focus on the next task ahead, as opposed to focusing on what-ifs, makes daily life more enjoyable.
While so many professional sports teams rely heavily on star power for success, the Patriots’ unique style of leadership has allowed them to form a sustainable team model built on each player’s unique abilities and devotion to each other. “When you get on the field, football is football,” Belichick said early this year according to The Washington Post. “It’s all the same thing.”
Take wide receiver Julian Edelman. He was a quarterback at a rather unremarkable Kent State, and after being drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft, has become the Patriots’ top receiver. I find it admirable how the Patriots take players whose star power has faded on other teams, who no longer had a place in the NFL, or even those who went undrafted, and successfully turns them into a dynamic, moving piece of the Patriots’ game plan.
Every position is important on all teams, and players must naturally work together. The unique sense among the Patriots is that every position truly has an equal role on the field (even if small) and that players must constantly check their ego at the door to put a team win above their own stats.
The Patriots do still have star power. For casual fans, Brady (the GOAT) and recently retired Rob Gronkowski, who is arguably the greatest tight end of all time, come to mind. This star power has been kept in check and been maintained over the course of the past two decades, thanks to the aforementioned qualities of humility, accountability, and excellence required of each player.
Referring to the 2007 acquisition of elite wide receiver Randy Moss, who was known as being a difficult player, infamous for saying “I play when I want to play,” Jason Wingard of Forbes noted in 2019 that Moss quickly assimilated to the Patriot Way, undoubtedly with the help of his symbiotic quarterback Brady. In his very first season, Moss had 23 touchdown receptions—the most of any NFL receiver in history. Wingard goes on to say, “In a league where the average quarterback lasts a mere three years, Brady and his leadership have stood the test of time.”
Brady embodies and exhibits much of the Patriot Way that inspires so many younger players on the team. As a leader, he lives by what he preaches, while treating each player with equal respect. By so publicly devoting all of his energy to the game, he further commands the efforts of his teammates.
More teams, not just sports organizations, but groups in all areas of life, can learn from the Patriot Way. We at BC can think about the Patriot Way in the way we go about everyday life in our classes and clubs. The Patriot Way means putting others and things that are bigger than ourselves first—and that sounds a lot like being men and women for others.
Setting a tone of humility does not mean eliminating excellence—it encourages success by showing how everyone’s talents and abilities are to be utilized, which sometimes means sacrificing one’s own glory for the success of the team. In a society that applauds overachieving individuals outside of their greater contexts, especially in the sports industry, it is refreshing to watch the Patriots dominate the game while also pushing back against that standard.