By Tom E. Curran
FOXBORO - It's all rainbows and unicorns with the football team these days. And that's great. They're playing well and should be celebrated. But the ironic thing is, fans and media - we ain't that consistent. And the thing that we laud about the Patriots - what makes them a unique and endlessly fascinating - is that they are. Hands on the wheel and 10-and-2, imperturbable in a monsoon or ona perfect 74-degree day. We - fans and media - are susceptible to the slightest atmospheric change. A little bipolar. And there are plenty of teams in the NFL that are the same way. There's a pretty good team a couple hundred miles to the South like that. Wednesday, Tom Brady talked about how Bill Belichick keeps things on an even keel.
"It's just on a day-to-day basis with him," Brady explained. "Basically, when we dont do things right, he lets us know. There is nobody that's off the hook. He holds us accountable on every single play and every single day."So . . . what was going on last year?When the Patriots wereputting together a soft 10-6 record and losing everygame played away from home in the United States except one?Whenpeople were wondering if Belichick knew what he was doing without Scott Pioli or ifBrady was in decline? What was going on then? Same thing. And the players - though perhaps not the best collection of employees for Belichick's style - were held to the same standards, which is why guys like Adalius Thomas and Shawn Springs watched a lot of football last year. They didn't buy in. Brady's voice and leadership, after an injury-forced season away from the team, wasn't as forcefully heard in 2009 in a locker room full of veterans and young players who'd lost their strongest leaders.Belichick never lost control of the Patriots. To go 10-6 in a bottoming-out season is pretty remarkable. But the Patriots take a helluva lot more pride in their work now than then. Brady gave an insight into how Belichick maintains the standards for the team. "When we come into a meeting at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday morning . . . he's got questions, 50 questions about the team that we're going to play," Brady explained. "We haven't had a meeting about the Packers or the Bears, but he's got questions. "And basically, he's trying to make sure that on Monday and Tuesday, we're doing what we need to do to be prepared for Wednesday morning," he continued. "It's pretty embarrassing if everybody is getting their questions right that he's asking them and then he asks you, and you really don't know the answer."So everyone prepares pretty hard on Monday and Tuesday for his meetings on Wednesday," Brady explained. "And that's the way it goes on Thursday. And ultimately on Sunday . . . that's our test for the week . . .
"When we come in Monday morning, he puts the tape on, and if you're not playing the way he expects you to play, you're held accountable. And I think that's the greatest thing about playing here. When you're a player, you don't have to ever hold your teammates accountable. The coach does that. And I think that's why everyone respects him so much. He coaches an 11-year veteran quarterback just the same way that he teaches a rookie tight end."The Patriots have a small coaching staffcompared to the rest of the league.There are no "coordinators" -- a reality that's caused Belichick to be called power-mad, arrogant and resistant to allowing his underlings to succeed.
It's all crap,of course.The man knows how he wantsthings done. There is a communal effort(near as we can tell and are told) in game-planning and game-day execution. But the process begins and ends with Belichick as -- simply put -- the teacher.