(WEEI.com from ATLANTA) Boomer Esiason is one of the few NFL analysts who stuck with the New England Patriots all season long.
Even when they were dropping games on the road to the lowly Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins, Esiason kept reminding Boston fans the Patriots would be there at the end. He wasn’t ready to count out Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and he was right.
Esiason joined “Mut & Callahan” from Radio Row on Tuesday for an extended conversation spanning nearly 20 minutes, in which he spoke at length about how the Patriots’ versatility is their biggest strength and one of the major reasons why they’re gearing up to play in their ninth Super Bowl in the Brady-Belichick era.
“As far as the Patriots are concerned, what makes them so great is the adaptability of players,” Esiason explained. “They have three different running backs who can do three different things. They have wide receivers who can be interchangeable –– outside, inside. They have Gronk, who can play wide receiver, and Cordarrelle Patterson, who can run the reverses. They have Phillip Dorsett, who can go down the field. It seems all of their players have one specific thing he does really, really well, and everyone has a secondary thing they do well.
“And most of the guys, especially on defense, have to play special teams. There’s a core of guys who play special teams. I think if you asked Bill Belichick, ‘What is one of more under-appreciated aspects of any football team?,’ he would tell you it’s that seven or 10 guys who play special teams –– cover punts, return punts, cover kickoffs, return kickoffs. When you need it, they can make a play.”
Esiason thinks the Patriots’ ability to change what they do offensively speaks to their flexibility as well.
“(Brady and McDaniels) are so in sync with one another,” he said. “Even when Brady went over to Josh last week, he said, ‘You don’t have any touchdowns on that play sheet?’ He said, ‘I have tons of touchdowns. Let’s go!’ And this is the adaptability. Tom has been in this offense as it’s grown for 19 years. When he gets Josh McDaniels back from Denver, they don’t miss a beat. That’s the thing. The communication aspect of it, the ability to change plays. Very few teams can do that. Lots of teams are habitual. Maybe that’s what Coach Belichick is talking about (Rams defensive coordinator) Wade Phillips and his defense. He hasn’t changed his scheme for over 30 years. Well, Belichick has adapted. A lot of that is due to the new rules, and the players he is able to acquire in the draft and free-agency scrapheap, like (J.C.) Jackson, which is crazy.”
In addition to New England’s adaptability, Esiason buys into their businesslike mentality as well. There are no Nickell Robey-Coleman’s on the Patriots, and the difference between them and the rest of the league is stark. Esiason believes it’s another reason why they’re back at the top, despite dealing with adversity all season long.
“They play in the AFC. The AFC is not that good. The best team in the AFC is so dysfunctional, the Pittsburgh Steelers, they can’t get out of their own way,” Esiason said. “That’s one of the reasons why I think the Patriots have had a lot of success: They’re buttoned up. Brady and Belichick lead this team by example, there’s no messing around, no drama. And when there is drama, it’s manufactured drama on the outside. But for some reason, they are able to stay above it. You don’t see any tweets or Instagram posts. When they do post something, it’s kind of funny and supportive of each other. So they have the secret sauce. The secret sauce is to go to work and do your job and keep it as simple as you possibly can.”
But for all of his praise of the Patriots, Esiason, like many other national media types, is not buying into the underdog mentality they’ve been peddling.
“I don’t know where they’re getting this,” Esiason said. “If they’re worried about Rob Parker or Skip Bayless, good for them, I guess.”
Oh well. You can’t win them all.