The Patriots will play the 2016 season in silent fury.
There will be no sabre-rattling in the locker room or at the podium. Nobody in Foxborough is going to admit they are mad as hell. There will be no public displays of anger or outrage.
But it’s there. The Patriots are the Hatriots. We feel it every day and will notice it on every play. We hear it in the things that are not said. The seething. The simmering. It’s the nonstop notion that Tom Brady and the Patriots got railroaded. All New England fans know that the Patriots are the victims of a jealous league and a commissioner intent on showing that he is the boss.
While angry Patriots fans call talk shows, script hateful tweets, and wear vile anti-Goodell garb, the folks who coach and play the games are going to have to take out their revenge in the stadiums of NFL America. That is the plan.
The 2016 Patriots appear fully capable of carrying out this mission. Even with Brady missing the first four games of the season, there is every indication that the Patriots are equipped to return to the AFC Championship game. New England has perhaps the best coach in the history of football, is loaded on defense, has terrific personnel at the skill positions and in October will bring the best quarterback of his generation out of the bullpen. Meanwhile, the pathetic Dolphins, Bills and Jets will play their role as the Washington Generals of the AFC East and the Patriots should wrap up the AFC East by Thanksgiving. You all know what this means: the Patriots get a first-round bye, a second-round home game, another berth in the AFC Championship game (probably vs. the Steelers) and a 50-50 chance at a Super Bowl appearance in Houston in February.
That said, the unspoken fury of this pursuit is going to be obvious every week.
The Patriots are at war with the NFL. If they had anywhere else to go, they would likely secede from The Shield.
New England’s battle will never extend to the owner’s box because needy Bob Kraft — while always pandering to his loyal fanbase — loves his seat at the Rooney-Mara Big Boy table. You won’t see a 21st century Al Davis in the Gillette high chairs. Bob Kraft is furious with the NFL, but he’s too smart to jeopardize his coffers and his committee chairs.
But everyone else in Foxborough will readily demonstrate his contempt for Roger Goodell and the NFL. Without doing anything overtly actionable, Jonathan Kraft, Bill Belichick and Brady will find more ways to flip the middle finger toward 345 Park Avenue. Meanwhile, Patriot fans — an emotional lot with no vision past Route 1 — will continue to hate the league office with the power of 10,000 suns.
It’s eternal. It was there when Bill Polian got the league to enforce the rules because the Patriots were too tough on his fragile wide receivers. It’s there every March when Belichick blows off the coaches’ group photo and says nothing at the media breakfast. It was there in 2007 when Belichick and the Patriots were spanked because they taped opposing coaches’ hand signals — an infraction that Belichick openly mocked in his famous “Mona Lisa Vito” presser in January of 2015. It’s there when Brady’s team-friendly contract loopholes push the envelope and bait the opposition. It’s there every week during the season when Belichick files his bogus, court-mandated “injury report.’’
Deflategate was the tipping point. Rather than fess up to altering air pressure in gameday footballs (a minor infraction that changed nothing competitively) the Patriots went on the attack, issuing the laughable Wells Report In Context and summoning sycophant scientists who never bothered to address the rogue ballboys and chain-of-custody problem. You know the rest. Brady and the Patriots were less than compliant, lost in court (where was Fanboy Berman when you really needed him?), and wound up getting wildly over-punished. Now Brady has a trumped-up cheating asterisk on his résumé and Belichick’s greatness can be challenged by dolts who simply have not been smart enough to beat him. Brady, Belichick, Jon Kraft, and the New England fans will never get over it.
In the summer/fall of 2016 we’ve had the new, not-so-subtle shots. When Brady was informed that he’d be allowed to visit his training guru while serving his suspension he said, “that’s nice of them.’’ Brady petulantly removed the league logo from his helmet for preseason games, a gesture once made famous by an irrational Nomar Garciaparra. The Gillette lighthouse this week was draped in “Touchdown Tom” banners to remind all that Brady has been wronged and all you folks in New York, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco are going to pay.
Watch out, NFL. The New England Revenge Tour of 2016 is ready to launch. The Hatriots are coming soon to a stadium near you and it is not going to be pretty.