The Hot Corner: Patriots have earned patience, not panic

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This was a good week to avoid watching sports television. Listening to talk radio. Spending more than five minutes in the office. Leaving the house.

All anybody wanted to discuss, from the point of view of either frustrated pink-hat fan or contrarian heckler, was the awfulness of the New England Patriots.

It’s the sort of thing that happens when you’ve been transcendentally, consistently great for a decade-and-a-half and then get eviscerated on national television. I get that. Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down, as a wise Eagle once said.

Take a deep breath. Relax. Enjoy the games.

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(Disclaimer: Due to deadline constraints, I am writing this plea for common sense while watching other mediocre teams do their thing in the 1 p.m. Sunday games. By the time you read this, the Patriots-Bengals game may be over, at which time my wife may be hiding all our sharp objects. Stay tuned.)

Yes, the Pats have sleepwalked through two humiliating losses to Miami and Kansas City. Yes, their victories were less-than-inspiring triumphs over Minnesota and Oakland, two franchises that are steeped in stink.

It has inspired the impatient, meddling, gossipy folks you’ll find in any congregation to proclaim the end of an era. Tom Brady’s done. In Bill Belichick we no longer trust. And who in the name of Billy Sullivan is making the personnel decisions about this offensive line and the secondary?

Some perspective, please.

New England started Sunday 2-2. Ten other teams in the league shared that same lukewarm status, among them the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. Six teams, due to odd numbers created by an early bye week or a Thursday night horror show, were within a half game of the break-even mark.

That’s 17 of 32 — more than half the National Football League — living Pete Rozelle’s dream of adequacy.

People who weren’t serious Patriots fans prior to January and February 2002 (that means most of America) can’t accept or handle this. To them, it’s as if the franchise has a birthright to be above all the constraints designed to prevent prosperity.

You’re worried about Brady. So am I, to a certain degree. He’s 37. His protection is flimsy as Michael Phelps’ drunk-driving apology. His best receivers are a converted college quarterback and a tight end who hangs out with porn stars and had knee ligaments of spaghetti only nine months ago.

You’re worried about Belichick. That makes two of us, brother. His levels of presumption, entitlement and institutional arrogance scare the bejeebers out of me. On the surface, he has been given the level of absolute power that corrupts absolutely.

All that said, and accepted as reasonable thought, do you seriously believe there aren’t at least 27 teams that wouldn’t welcome both architects of the Patriots’ dynasty with open, trembling arms and tears of gratitude? Not the 2001 or 2004 or 2007 Brady/Belichick combination. The here-and-now version.

I hear an inordinate amount of crying about the departure of Logan Mankins. Please don’t tell me you haven’t seen that movie before.

Curtis Martin. Ty Law. Richard Seymour. Damien Woody. Lawyer Milloy. Randy Moss. Mike Vrabel. Wes Welker. I could go on. When your market value exceeds your upside, you either are let go or are allowed to explore other avenues.

Of course it looks like a train wreck to the average fan, whose understanding of the game is tied up in his fantasy team or in a closet full of obsolete, officially-licensed jerseys. But there is a method to the madness. It’s the reason that the Patriots have won 11 of the past 13 AFC East titles under a system that is designed to preclude it from happening.

And in case you hadn’t noticed, the Patriots limped into Sunday tied for first place in that weak, eminently winnable division. They did so despite playing three of their first four games on the road.

Easy to forget that starting slowly and building chemistry were the recipe for three rings in four years. It is the way most teams win Super Bowls, actually.

You might recall the parade of third-through-sixth seeds who hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in the past decade. A certain team in red-white-and-blue uniforms claimed a couple at the expense of our October-peaking Patriots, if my memory serves.

We live in an era when we “work smarter, not harder” and turn to grownups playing a children’s game to distract ourselves from the things that are destroying our world. So we have a lot of time on our hands. It’s to be expected that we overreact to every week of the NFL season.

Teams are buried one week and crowned the next. I’m begging you, for your sanity and mine, don’t do either with the Patriots. Let it play out.

History teaches that everything will be alright if we do.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His email is koakes@sunjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.

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