Patriots’ sixth Super Bowl win offers lessons


David J. Phillip/Star Tribune/TNS

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, left, and quarterback Tom Brady celebrated after beating the Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday. Edelman was named Most Valuable Player.

By Cole Timmerwilke, Columnist

Once again, to the chagrin of many Americans, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl champions. After an inconsistent regular season which prompted many to predict an end to their lengthy dynasty, the Patriots went on to beat three playoff opponents with better records en route to their sixth Super Bowl in the last 18 years, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most all-time.

The NFL, for all its talk about the league’s parity, seems remarkably one-sided. With free agency, a salary cap and a draft in which the teams with the worst records have the right to pick the best players, it should be impossible to sustain this kind of success.

And yet, the Patriots roll on. Their unparalleled run has bred considerable resentment among much of the league’s fanbase. Coupled with the cloud cast over the organization by Spygate and Deflategate, they remain one of the most hated teams in sports.

But rather than hating them, we should try to learn what it is that makes them so successful, and try to emulate it. In terms of personnel or style of play, there is little the championship teams of the early 2000s and those of this decade have in common. The lone constants of both eras are quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. Both are case studies in what it takes to be successful in sports and in life.

Tom Brady’s story is by now well-mythologized: a battle for playing time in college, overlooked in the draft process and taken by the Patriots in the 6th round at 199th overall. His journey from sixth on the depth chart at Michigan to six Super Bowls has not been fueled by incredible athleticism (a quick glance at his infamous performance at the draft combine will confirm), but rather by hard work and perseverance.

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Brady’s edge was never physical, but it was mental. He is defined by the chip he carries on his shoulder, a conviction that success is always tenuous and can never be taken for granted. His other great traits are likewise intangible: a selfless leader, unflappable under pressure and an unyielding work ethic. Whatever his limitations, by a sheer act of will, he has fashioned himself into the greatest quarterback of all time.

In this way, he perfectly exemplifies what it means to live out his coach’s mantra, “Do Your Job.”  What seems on its face a truism in fact upends much traditional coaching wisdom. Belichick asks his players to trust the coaching staff will do its job by putting them in the right positions, and he implores them to focus only on executing their assignments on the next play, and trust their teammates to do the same.

Belichick’s philosophy resonates with those of other highly successful coaches. Nick Saban, the head coach at the University of Alabama, similarly preaches “The Process,” setting wins and losses aside and asking his players only to focus on each workout, practice or play as if it had “a life and history of its own.” John Wooden presaged both of them with his Pyramid of Success, defining it as “peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” Notice he makes no mention of victories. All these great coaches, while fiercely competitive, asked only that their players do the best they could and let winning take care of itself.

Not everyone who wills themselves success will attain it. But conforming yourself to the Patriots’ example can bring you closer.

Cole is a junior in LAS.

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