View Full Version : The Draw Of Playing In New England

03-18-2009, 11:33 AM

By Matt Bowen-Former NFL safety

What is the attraction with Foxborough, Mass.? And why does it seem that every offseason, high-profile free agents are drawn to play for Bill Belichick and the Patriots? Today, we try to answer these questions and show that the Patriots are indeed the ultimate destination for NFL players who want to win championships.

The Model

The New England Patriots are the team that every other club in the NFL wants to be — whether they admit it or not.

When I was still playing, that’s who we wanted to be, and whom we wanted to beat — on every team that I played. In Buffalo, all we talked about was finding a way to beat New England.

In Washington, under Joe Gibbs, the Hall of Fame coach, former Patriots wide receiver David Patten was on our roster. Gibbs asked Patton to bring in his Super Bowl rings to show to the rest of the players during one of Gibbs’ team meetings. Why? Because they were the team we wanted to be. Forget about the three rings Gibbs had from his three championships. He wanted Patten to show us the rings from New England (and they were pretty nice, I might add). Gibbs, like us, knew that the Patriots, not the “Hogs,” were the team we needed to resemble if we wanted to become champions.

So David brought them in and we all held them in our hands — speechless. Because Super Bowl rings are impressive up close.

In the film room, whenever a Patriots tape was on — even if it was against a team we were preparing to play that Sunday — the conversation always shifted to New England. Why are they so good? What do they do that makes them better than everyone else? Is it the scheme or the players? Why do they get whomever they want in free agency? Sure, we would sit in those cold chairs in the dark of the film room and throw out criticisms of their players every so often, but we would be kidding ourselves if it wasn’t out of pure, unfiltered jealousy.

On Monday, NFL.com ran a story linking Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers to New England. Hey, why not? Why wouldn’t Peppers want to make a ton of money playing for the Patriots? I can’t find a better spot for him in the league. He knows that by going up there he’ll get his money, and he’ll get a chance to win a ring.

Sounds pretty simple to me.

And that’s echoed throughout the league from coaches and players alike — because we all, at one point or another in our careers, wanted to wear that Patriots uniform and put that ring on our fingers.

I know I did. Sure, all of the teams I played on brought something to the table in my seven-year career, but I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t swap out a couple of those years for two of those rings.

The Real Appeal

The Patriots are the USC of pro football.

Yes, USC has the beach, the blondes in bikinis and the oceanside beer parties. Oh yeah, it also wins national titles and sends guys to the NFL via the first round of the draft.

Sorry, Michigan and Nebraska, but I think if I were an 18-year-old kid, I’d chose the girl on the surfboard, the BCS bowl game and first-round money over Ann Arbor or Lincoln.

Why am I talking about this? Because the Patriots are the same thing to free agents in the NFL, especially veteran players.

Look at Shawn Springs and Joey Galloway, both of whom signed free-agent deals with the Pats in the last week. These guys might be at the end of their careers, and maybe aren’t the players they used to be, but they know that by going to New England, Belichick will find a way to get the absolute best out of their ability.

Why did Junior Seau come out of retirement after a great career to play in New England? For starters, he knew Belichick would put him in position to make plays on Sundays, but also because Seau knew he had a chance to go to the Super Bowl.

Veteran players understand that going to New England gives them a chance to extend their careers, and Belichick will make that possible by putting them in different packages — on both sides of the ball — that use their skills for the betterment of the team. Sure, they might not play on third downs anymore, but there will be at least five different blitz packages in the game plan that allow them to get on the field and make some plays — while they chew up the competition along the way.

I’m sorry if you’re a fan of the Bengals or the Jaguars, but the players in today’s NFL are looking for two things — money and rings. If there’s a chance they can get even comparable money by going to New England over Cincy, it’s a done deal.

Plus, the Patriots own the national spotlight when it comes to ESPN SportsCenter, Monday night games, NFL Network coverage and the Sunday night slot on NBC. And we’d be kidding ourselves if we don’t think players want to be in the spotlight.

Guys who play under the lights are talked about, and they make more money in the end.

The Respect Factor

This might be the most important factor when it comes to the Patriots’ success.

Do you think the garbage going on in Denver right now would happen in New England? No way, and as I wrote Monday, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is trying to be the new Belichick in Denver — but he’s lacking that certain “respect factor” we’re talking about now.

Tell me a time when a player went to the podium after a game or during interviews after practice and criticized the way things are done in New England. Because I can’t find one.

These players would do anything to win — and that comes from Belichick. Sure, I make fun of the guy on Fridays because he looks like a homeless man standing on the sidelines, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I would have loved to play for him during my career.

He has this going for him because the Patriots’ biggest star, Tom Brady, endorses him, as does Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Rodney Harrison and so on. Players notice this, folks, and they buy into the idea that Belichick is a great coach before they even meet him.

Before you throw “Spygate” at me, let’s be honest. Every team in the league does it. I played on teams that had a guy go through the visiting team’s hotel after they checked out to look for any type of game plan material that was “mistakenly” left behind. So please, don’t go there.

The guy can coach football, my friends, and if we sit here and tell ourselves that he cheats, or that the Patriots don’t play by the rules, well, then someone better tell the players in the NFL this news, because they don’t seem to care.

The Bottom Line

Before you start to call me a Belichick supporter, or someone who’s trying to put down the rest of the AFC East, look at the facts because that’s all I’m doing,

I’ve been in locker rooms, and in film rooms across the league, and I can tell you that every player wants to run out of the tunnel in the Super Bowl. We have to realize that veteran players look to one place for that to happen when they’re picking teams, and that place is settled between Boston and Providence.

Players are drawn to New England because of the coach, the wins, the “team” idea that seems to exist there compared to every other dysfunctional NFL franchise.

I despised the Patriots when I played because every January, when I was home after an early exit from the playoffs, or if my team didn’t even make the postseason, they were still playing. I used to ask myself why they were so good, just as I used to ask myself why their press conferences were so flat-out dull.

But I would have driven up there in a second if they had offered me a contract.

Smiling Assassin27
03-18-2009, 11:42 AM
...i should charge this dude for my material:

Gaffney comes from a culture in NE that is foreign to most at Dove Valley. Players give boring quotes, preach a team ethic, and NEVER single out players in the press. Compare that to this team who (you know who) spent many a presser pointing fingers at the defense, and you can easily see the contrast. Personally, I side with Gaffney--you pull together in the same direction in private AND in public as a team, not as a conglomerate of individuals. Gaffney's a role player and probably sees everyone as a role player, which they are. No one player has ever won a super bowl--only teams who lived and died as one, not as a collection of 53.

From what I read, Gaffney didn't necessarily take a swipe at Jay. He was asked a question and did what Patriot and former Patriots do--preached team and didn't single anyone out. Well done, Jabbar.

p.s. get the guy a league minimum contract and invite him to camp...he could be tom beringer in major league.