Patriots

NFL teams being on the field for anthem is a relatively new practice

NFL teams being on the field for anthem is a relatively new practice

It’s a tribute to the NFL’s ability to drape itself in the flag that nobody even realizes that – prior to 2009 – players being on the field for the national anthem wasn’t even standard practice.

Regardless of where one stands RE: Colin Kaepernick deciding to sit out the “Star-Spangled Banner” one shouldn’t be misled into thinking this is a longstanding tradition Kaepernick is sitting out.

(For the record, I believe it’s his right to sit, stand or turn cartwheels, but the point he wanted to make about the oppression of blacks has now been hijacked and we’re in a loud debate about whether or not players have a right to express themselves).

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed this morning the practice began in 2009, adding, "As you know, the NFL has a long tradition of patriotism. Players are encouraged but not required to stand for the anthem.

Not that there aren’t those in the league who won’t try to have you believe that Kaepernick is bucking decades of tradition.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher spoke in terms that made it seem like his teams have been customarily standing for the anthem before games for a long time rather than it being just for the past seven seasons.

“I would be very, very surprised if I had one of our players do that, particularly because of the respect that we have shown, not only this year, but since our time in St. Louis and my time going way back for the national anthem,” Fisher said.

Fisher’s been in the NFL as a player and coach for 35 years. And – while it’s not only possible but likely that teams he’s been involved with have paid their respects during the anthem whether they were on display on the sidelines or not – the phrase “going way back” in this context infers a longer standing ceremonial approach to the anthem than really exists.

Players have been on the sidelines for then anthem prior to select games – Super Bowls, post 9/11 tributes, etc. and perhaps teams such as Fisher’s Rams, Titans, Oilers and Bears had their own customs that included routinely being on the field for the anthem. But it’s worth whispering into the hysteria that, “Hey, standing en masse just started seven years ago.”

Fisher also said, “We have an organizational philosophy that has been in place for a long time, with respect to the anthem. I think it’s a special event and it’s something that should be respected and that’s my opinion.”

I share that opinion. I don’t, however, share the opinion that seven seasons is a long time.

 

 

 

 

How the reported expanded NFL playoff proposal impacts the Patriots

How the reported expanded NFL playoff proposal impacts the Patriots

NFL owners are pushing for a big change that would be part of a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. The league reportedly will propose expanding the postseason to add a seventh playoff team in each conference.

As ESPN's Adam Schefter detailed, the league would now have six games on Wild Card weekend under the new proposal, three in each conference, and only the No. 1 seed in each conference will get a playoff bye.

Also in the proposal is a 17-game regular season and a shortened preseason to three games. The changes would be implemented for the 2020 season if the new CBA is ratified by the owners and NFL Players Association.

If adopted, this is certainly a massive change and one that could have a big impact on the New England Patriots. 

The Patriots have mastered the art of qualifying for a bye in their two-decade-long dynasty. In fact, this past postseason was the first time New England didn't have a first-round bye since the 2009-10 postseason. The Patriots finished as the No. 3 seed and promptly lost to the Tennessee Titans at home, marking their earliest playoff exit since the '10 postseason.

Thus, the elimination of one of the byes could have a significant impact on the Patriots. Since Bill Belichick took over as coach before the 2000 season, the Patriots have made it to the Super Bowl nine times. In each of those seasons, they've had a first-round bye.

In the Belichick Era, the Patriots have been the AFC's No. 2 seed on six occasions. They advanced to the Super Bowl and won three times in those six instances, and it's fair to wonder if they would've had a similar chance to advance had they needed to play another game, even if it was against a seventh-seeded team.

In the past seven Super Bowls overall, no team has made it to the big game without a first-round bye. The 2013 Ravens were the last team to play Wild Card weekend and make the Super Bowl.

So, needless to say, the No. 1 seed in each conference will now have a major advantage, and the Patriots are going to have to fight harder to earn it. They're certainly capable of earning the No. 1 seed. They were the No. 1 as recently as the 2017 and 2018 playoffs, when they beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51 and lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in SB 52.

The road to the Super Bowl will become a little more difficult without that No. 1 seed if the new format is approved. Only once in the Patriots history have they reached the Super Bowl as a Wild Card team and that was 35 years ago in the 1985 season. The No. 1 seed and home-field advantage will carry even more importance, but they'll have to outduel some powerful up-and-coming AFC teams if they want to earn it in the near future.

For a team with the NFL's toughest projected strength of schedule in 2020, that will be no easy task.

Here's how Jim Craig compares Bill Belichick's leadership to legendary Herb Brooks

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USA TODAY Sports

Here's how Jim Craig compares Bill Belichick's leadership to legendary Herb Brooks

Motivation is essential to being a great head coach, and few coaches have motivated players with more success than Bill Belichick and Herb Brooks.

Brooks was the United States men's hockey coach at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. He helped lead Team USA to an amazing 4-3 semifinal win over the Soviet Union in one of the greatest upsets in American sports history. The U.S. beat Finland for the gold medal a few days later. 

Belichick has won a record six Super Bowl titles as head coach of the New England Patriots. His first championship came in 2001 when the Patriots upset the heavily favored St. Louis Rams -- aka the "Greatest Show on Turf" -- in Super Bowl XXXVI.

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Boston University star Jim Craig was the starting goalie for Brooks' 1980 Olympic team, and in an appearance Wednesday on WEEI's "Dale & Keefe" show, he explained how Brooks and Belichick are so effective in instilling a strong sense of belief in their players. 

“What both Herb and Bill have very much in common is there's only one winner, and they know that. What they do is they focus and prepare to win, not to compete against a team. That preparation for us was so revolutionary, and Herb drove change. We played 61 games in a little over four months, and we played it against the best in the world. What he did is he put us in positions to fail so that we would know how to prepare to win. As we got closer as teams, the recruiting and how Herb recruited was really great. All the teammates that I played with had won at every level. They knew how to win.

"In the book I always say it's amazing what you can accomplish when nobody has to take credit. What Bill does really well, in my opinion, and what Herb did really well is they don’t take credit for it. It’s their job. They prepare. They become your confidence. In leadership, there’s two types of leaders: There's people who want people to follow them, and there’s people who want people to believe them. Herb and Bill are ones who prepare people so that not only do they believe in what he’s doing or what the coach is doing, but they believe it themselves."

One part that sticks out from Craig's comments is not taking credit. Belichick isn't one to publicly praise himself for a great season, even as he's gripping the Lombardi Trophy after a Super Bowl triumph. 

It's all about the team, doing your job, and trusting your teammate will do his job. It all sounds cliché, but it's impossible to argue with the results from Belichick's and Brooks' legendary careers as coaches.