The Patriots have plenty of support here in New England, but even devout fans of the team know that the Patriots are not exactly popular elsewhere. In fact, it seems like everywhere else, people are rooting against the Patriots. Ravens safety Bernard Pollard, whose team lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship, recently said that he hopes the Giants “put a thrashing on the Patriots.” He’s not alone, and perceptions of the team as arrogant and willing to bend the rules are widespread. We
Take a look at just why the Patriots have so many detractors:
1. They’re perceived as cheaters
Coach Bill Belichick will never escape the stigma after the team was caught taping opponents’ signals in 2007. Belichick was fined the NFL-maximum $500,000, and the team lost a first-round draft pick. Belichick broke a rule during Spygate, but now he’s perceived as someone who breaks rules often. The latest accusation came from Ravens fans who accused the Patriots of manipulating the scoreboard to confuse Baltimore’s offense and rush their kicker. (Ravens coach John Harbaugh dismissed the theory as “nonsense.”) The league said it will not investigate the incident, but the perception is that Belichick has something to do with it.
2. They dink and dunk -- sort of
Pollard complained of the Patriots’ “dinking and the dunking,” which he said was “just not going to happen” against the Giants. That’s in reference to the Patriots’ reliance on short passes to tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and to wide receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch. But each of them is capable of making a big play, and they often do. What Pollard is likely referring to is the fact that the Patriots win with offense more often than not, and that’s earned them a reputation as a finesse team. In essence, Pollard was voicing the opinions of many of the league’s defensive players by saying, “We should be able to beat these guys.”
3. They run up the score
This is the NFL -- not high school -- so running up the score on other professional athletes should not involve hurt feelings. But Belichick often leaves Tom Brady in games until the bitter end, including during a 34-3 win over the Chiefs earlier this season. Brady finished that game and even rushed for a first down on fourth-and-1 late in the fourth quarter. Belichick will say that every live snap is a learning opportunity -- and he’s right -- but everyone knows that’s how the Patriots operate.
4. They’re smug
Team policy in Foxborough is to make life miserable for reporters covering the team, and players and coaches alike are good at staying on message. That means players say very little, even when their opponents say a lot. The few exceptions -- such as Brady suggesting fans imbibe before a game -- can turn into big incidents, thus the silence. While the policy can be effective, it can also come across as smug to opposing teams and fans.
5. Their coach is dismissive
Belichick is a master of saying nothing, exemplified by his use of the phrase “it is what it is.” Eager reporters coming to Foxborough to cover the team often find that their well-intentioned questions are met with disdain, and sometimes with ridicule. Belichick may just be “doing his job,” but to people outside the organization it comes off as arrogance.
6. Their quarterback is pretty
Brady’s had a fairly nice life. In addition to being a quarterback who’s won three Super Bowls, he married one of the most beautiful women in the world in Gisele Bundchen, with whom he has a son. Brady was already seen as a pretty boy, and his picture-perfect family only adds to that image. Brady and Bundchen are each paid at the top of their fields, making them among the richest celebrities in the world. There’s bound to be some jealousy there.
7. They win
Let’s cut to the chase: The main reason the Patriots are so disliked by the rest of the country is that they win, plain and simple. They’ve won three Super Bowls since 2001 and took an undefeated season into a fourth before losing to the Giants in 2008. They were 14-2 last season and 13-3 this season. Like many great winners in sports -- the Yankees, Celtics, and Lakers -- they’re hated because people are jealous of their success.
8. All Boston teams are winning
New England teams have had an unprecedented run of success in the last decade-plus. In the last 12 seasons, Boston teams have made 12 trips to the final four of their respective sports, and they’ve made 10 trips to the championship game, with seven titles between the big four teams. The Patriots won three Super Bowls during that time, but their most recent championship in 2004 actually gives them the longest title drought in the city. If Boston teams keep winning, their fans will need to be able to handle the criticism.