There are many reasons for us as Redskins fans to be jealous of the New England Patriots, who just won their fourth Super Bowl title and sixth AFC title in 14 seasons. But don’t let the envy cloud your mind. Instead, let’s learn from the NFL’s premier franchise. Here are four lessons we as Redskins fans should take from the 2014 Pats:
Lesson no. 1: Find the hidden gems
This is obvious but needs to be said, and it is precisely why the Redskins hired Scot McCloughan as their general manager.
Super Bowl 49’s game-sealing pick was made by an undrafted rookie safety out of West Alabama (Malcolm Butler).
The Pats’ leading receiver in Super Bowl 49, Julian Edelman, was taken by the team in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
And consider how the interior of the Pats’ starting offensive line in Super Bowl 49 was put together: right guard Ryan Wendell (2008 undrafted free agent who has been waived by the Pats multiple times), rookie center Bryan Stork (2014 fourth-round pick) and left guard Dan Connolly (promoted to the Pats’ active roster from their practice squad in Dec. 2008 off being waived by the team nearly two months earlier).
Lesson no. 2: As Jackie Chiles famously said on Seinfeld, “You don’t HAVE to do anything!”
A criticism about the Redskins’ 2014 offense was that it had no identity. Well, the Pats’ identity is that it has no identity. Head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels find where the opposing defense is potentially exploitable and then attack that.
The Pats’ rushing attack is a perfect example. Their Week 11 win at Indianapolis featured Jonas Gray rushing for 201 yards and four touchdowns. But the Pats’ divisional-round win over Baltimore featured quarterback Tom Brady not handing the ball off once in the second half. How many times have Redskins fans complained about a “lack of commitment” to the run in recent years, even when the numbers disputed that (to be fair, there have been times, including the Week 1 loss at Houston, when that complaint was legit)? The Pats aren’t committed to anything beyond whatever works in a given game.
Lesson no. 3: Experience can be helpful but is not a prerequisite for success
The 2014 Pats are the youngest Super Bowl-winning team in NFL history in terms of average age (25.2). The previous record was held by the 2013 Seattle Seahawks (26.5).
Having veterans is good. But having guys not set in their ways and low on wear and tear can be even better.
Lesson no. 4: It’s okay to use of free agency
Previous Redskins failures have made some fans gun shy about the team trying to plug starting holes via free agency. I get that to a point. And, in general, free agency is dangerous, because you’re paying a player with mileage based on what he has done as opposed to what he will do.
But that doesn’t mean that the Redskins should dismiss the notion of spending decent money on someone they believe in. Corners Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and receiver Brandon LaFell were veteran free agents signed by the Pats during the 2014 offseason, and each was a major contributor this season. The key, of course, is to spend money on the right players and not get locked into onerous long-term contracts.