Patriots have been built to last
The way the Patriots have built their team they should remain successful.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- He figures to complete an incredible daily double on Sunday, as New England defensive end Ty Warren celebrates his 24th birthday in conjunction with a second Super Bowl championship in only his second NFL season.
Life isn't supposed to be so good, Warren acknowledged this week, pointing out that a lot of players have gone entire careers pursuing just one Super Bowl ring. On the other hand, Warren noted, the good times might roll on for a while longer, given that the Patriots still have a relatively young team and, almost as important, a model organization.
"Good coaching, discipline, getting the right people in the right places, paying attention to the small, detail-type stuff," said Warren, the team's 2003 first-round draft pick, when asked on Monday about how New England might perpetuate its success. "People tend to look at the stuff that happens on the field. But this is a franchise that has it together in just about every way, you know? And that's what makes it so good."
The former Texas A&M star, who dominated the right side of the Pittsburgh Steelers much-ballyhooed offensive line in the AFC championship game, Warren is considerably more comfortable discussing the intricacies of the two-gap technique than he is delivering philosophical discourses. But in his own way, Warren captured the quintessence of what has made the Patriots a team poised on the brink of dynasty status, and explained why it is that reporters could be reprising these New England stories a year from now.
Success doesn't always necessarily beget success. But success constructed on very solid underpinnings, with unanimity of purpose and collective focus on the brass ring, can be relatively enduring. And so, while some NFL observers still ponder the question of how the Patriots have reached this point, New England officials have the foresight to think about how their accomplishments can be sustained in a league not given much anymore to continuity and stability.
"Keep doing what we do," said owner Bob Kraft. "We know, from 2002 when we didn't make it back to the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl (in 2001), that the whole thing can be pretty fragile. But if you do the little things right, then maybe the big things kind of take care of themselves."
Few teams sweat the details like the Patriots organization does. If it's true that success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration, New England might continue to add to its collection of Vince Lombardi trophies over the next several seasons. But success is also about putting a plan in place, following the design, adhering to the principles that you have established, and not wavering even in the face of adversity.
In that respect, the Patriots are the model organization, the gold standard that every other NFL franchise now aspires to be.
"If you had to choose one word to describe them," said Pittsburgh Steelers owner and close Kraft friend Dan Rooney, "it would probably be 'sound.' They made very sound decisions in everything they do, on and off the field, and they don't panic and (deviate) from the things that have gotten them to this point."
The Patriots are not misers, but will not overpay, either for players or coaches. Neither of their coordinators, both of whom will depart after Super Bowl XXXIX, are members of the burgeoning million-dollar fraternity of assistant coaches. The roster includes just two players with salary cap charges of more than $5 million. The organization believes that, at this juncture of NFL history, teaching and coaching are priorities.
One longtime NFL scout recently noted that the Patriots' strength is in selecting what he termed "B" or "B-plus" players and then coaching them into "A"-level performers. The holy grail of NFL personnel selection, of course, is to get all "A" players. But the Pats place a high premium on instruction, on identifying and then acquiring selfless players, and they don't fear jettisoning veterans on the downside of their careers.
It is a blueprint that should be framed. It is a blueprint, Ty Warren thinks, that will earn him a few more Super Bowl rings before he retires.
"This team," said Warren "has the formula to keep it going."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .
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