Patriots

Curran: In the end, everyone stood because of the game

Curran: In the end, everyone stood because of the game

FOXBORO – The boos and demands to “Stand up!” rained down just as the Star Spangled Banner began. The players on the Patriots sideline who knelt – the ones boos and invective was directed at – stayed down. Others stood, locking arms with teammates while others stood with their hands over their hearts.

By game’s end, everyone was on their feet. Players. Coaches. Fans. Together.

Unless they left early because of traffic and a late Patriots deficit. Or because they couldn’t bear the thought of watching an NFL game on a beautiful September Sunday because the entertainers didn’t do what they wanted them to do before the performance began.

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The whole thing’s complicated. I understand why people take offense at those who don’t stand for the anthem.

I understand why others want to deliver a symbolic message about their American experience.

I completely understand why, two days after President Trump thought it appropriate to use the phrase “son of a bitch” to refer to someone making a silent, reflective statement, many NFL players felt challenged, backed into a corner and somewhat dehumanized. The message delivered was, in essence, “Shut up and dance.”

Personally, I prefer to stick to sports. I don’t think I’m equipped to talk politics because I don’t know policy, legislation, constituencies and special interests – all the things that I define as politics – well enough to drone on at anybody.

As for sociology – which is what this is about rather than politics – I have my experiences and others have theirs. I’m trying to mow my own lawn over here. You do you. I’ll do me. As long as you don’t encroach on me doing me while you do you, I’m fine. When I’m not completely self-absorbed, a respectful exchange of ideas can make me see things in a different light.

It didn’t surprise me some people at Gillette Stadium had a visceral and vocal reaction to players kneeling. The pot was brought to a boil all weekend, the lid was just lifted and it bubbled over.

But the irony of how the afternoon played out – that Brandin Cooks, a player booing fans were screaming at to stand three hours earlier brought them to their feet with his toe-tapping last-minute touchdown – was perfectly symbolic.

Ultimately, everyone was there for the football – the players, coaches, media and fans – and in the end it was the football that brought the unified response that stood in contrast to the divided reactions in the stands and on the field before the game.

“That’s what sports is,” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty. “That’s what sports does. That’s what makes them great. They bring out what we have in common.

“I don’t think people look at us as human,” McCourty said. “I don’t think they ever have. We’re just the entertainment. They don’t understand that there’s a human behind it. People want to shake your hand or have their picture taken with you but they don’t want to know you. That’s reality.”

Maybe. Or maybe people feel their voices aren’t heard. They don’t have a column they can write or a TV or radio show to spout off on. They don’t have the chance to demonstrate their individual feelings at their cubicle before the workday starts.

All they know is they spent $500 or more to get to and into with a belly full of steak tips and beer and they don’t need to feel like being reminded about somebody else’s societal oppression on their day off, thank you very much.

It’s not so much about who does what during the Star Spangled Banner as much as it is that a lot of people don’t appreciate the intrusion. That, and they’re tired of hearing how bad everyone else has it when it’s really no damn picnic for most people these days.

Believe me, there’s not unanimity of opinion in the Patriots locker room any more than there is in your office, home, dorm or neighborhood. Players of different races, backgrounds, economic circumstances and ways of expressing themselves are thrown in a pot together and told to work for a common goal and rely on each other.

The mish-mash of ways in which players responded during the anthem on the Patriots sideline, the reticence of some players to dip a toe in the conversation, McCourty’s opening statement at the podium and then his declining to take questions and Bill Belichick’s comment that he would “deal with that later” all seemed to indicate that the team itself is still working through how it expresses itself as a whole.

It’s complicated for them too.

But in the end, it was the football that bound them together. It was the game that left them jumping on each other and the fans standing and screaming and nobody thinking at all about who did what when the song played before the game.

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QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

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QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

Jerod Mayo talks with Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry about the Patriots AFC Championship matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(2:00) Jerod Mayo gives his X’s and O’s breakdown of the Jaguars defensive schemes and traits.

(5:00) Jerod gives his opinion on how the Patriots offense should attack the Jaguars defense.

(8:30) Could Gronkowski be the key to the Patriots offense? What would be the best way to use him?

(15:00) Does the Jaguars defense have a weakness against vertical routes?

(17:00) Jerod Mayo explains why James White could be a key once again for the Patriots. 

(21:00) Will Jaguars change their defensive scheme after allowing 42 to the Steeler?

(23:00) Will much will the Jaguars having the ‘nothing to lose’ mindset impact the game?

Replacing Patriots coordinators not easy, but 'the culture is built'

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Replacing Patriots coordinators not easy, but 'the culture is built'

FOXBORO -- The Patriots are looking at losing both coordinators, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels, to head coaching jobs in the near future. When it happens, that will prompt questions. What's next? How will this impact the on-the-field product? What about the culture?

The short answer: As long as Bill Belichick is around, the Patriots will be the Patriots. The expectations. The culture. The schemes. They all remain. 

"I mean, I believe so," said Patriots captain Duron Harmon. "The culture is built. The culture is built. This is two decades of winning. A winning franchise. Coach Belichick is going to make sure whoever is in the defensive room is going to be the right guy to display the message and the picture that he wants his defense to play with. That goes through the defensive coordinator, whoever he hires."

That's not to say that filling the coordinator job on either side of the football will be easy. Consistency at those positions has value, whether it's in how new players pick up the system, or how certain fundamentals are taught. 

"Whenever you're trying to get something done professionally, to be able to have consistent leadership and foundation upon which to build is important," Patriots captain Matthew Slater said. "A consistent message, understanding what you're trying to get done. And we're fortunate not only with Josh but obviously Coach Belichick and the rest of our coaching staff.

"That consistency with the character of the coach, with the message of the coach, with what he demands of you is important because it helps set a standard. And then when players come in you say, 'OK this is what's expected of me and anything less is not going to be good enough.' " 

Harmon acknowledged that the consistency of having one coordinator in place for several years -- both Patricia and McDaniels have held their titles since 2012 -- can help. But, as just Slater pointed out the consistency coming from the team's head coach, Harmon explained that everything starts with Belichick.

"It's important," Harmon said of having consistency on staff. "Not only is it important coming from the defensive coordinator, but it's important coming from the head coach. Coach Belichick does a great job of always portraying the message he wants, and how he wants his team to play, and it goes through the coordinators and then to the position coaches and then to the players. I think the consistency is not always built straight from the defensive coordinator. I think Coach Belichick does a great job of doing that as well."

It won't be an easy job to replace McDaniels and Patricia when they leave, particularly since the favorites to be their successors could in theory leave with them. But as long as Belichick remains, so too will the standard he's set.