The New England Patriots have long been regarded as the class franchise of the NFL. Teams have a tendency to mimic the moves and style of the Patriots, hoping for even half the success that team has seen over the last decade. They never seem to take a step backward and are always finding a way to improve their roster from year to year.
Maybe that’s why the events of this offseason seem so troubling. For Patriots fans, it has been one distraction after another.
For Broncos fans, the drama that New England has suffered is a pleasant reminder that Denver has done everything to purge their distractions and keep their focus on winning a Super Bowl.
Since the conclusion of the 2012 season, the Patriots have faced a wide range of setbacks and distractions. First, one of their star tight ends, Rob Gronkowski, underwent a series of surgeries on both his forearm and his back. His expected return date is still unclear. But it’s his off-field activities that draw the most attention. Early in the offseason, Gronkowski was offered $3.75 million (the equivalent to his 2014 salary) to appear in an adult film scene.
The departure of Wes Welker seemed to indicate that some players actually have a problem with the way the Patriots run their organization. After Welker’s signing with the Broncos, a small “he said, she said” war of words erupted, increasing the hype for the already anticipated match-up between the Broncos and Pats on Nov. 24.
That fire was only fueled when the Patriots signed former Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. The Broncos are well aware of the frenzy that accompanies Tebow. The Patriots have a reputation for being able to hush certain issues that come with specific players.
But it was the drama surrounding the Patriots this week that should give Broncos fans a true appreciation for the way things are run at Dove Valley. News broke on Wednesday that police wanted to speak with Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in regards to a murder investigation.
It was later revealed that the victim was a known associate of Hernandez and that his rental car had a connection in the crime. Things became more bizarre on Thursday, when reports surfaced that Hernandez had smashed his home security system, as well as his cell phone. He also hired a professional cleaning crew to come to his house and scrub it.
Police have yet to eliminate Hernandez as a suspect in the crime and speculation has increased that he will be arrested in connection with the murder.
Between Gronkowski, Tebow and Hernandez, the Patriots media relations department is in for one heckuva 2013 season.
Meanwhile, the Broncos are moving in the opposite direction. The argument could be made that Denver started eliminating distractions during John Elway’s first year as executive vice president of football operations.
That year, one of the first orders of business was to get rid of Perrish Cox. Cox had recently been on trial for rape, and although he was found innocent, he had become a big enough headache for the team. He was cut after the 2011 preseason.
During the 2011 season, Elway saw Tebow Mania firsthand. Even after Tebow’s miracle run to the AFC Divisional Game, Elway knew that the young quarterback would always be bigger than the team. He decided to seek out a new signal caller and landed one with the same star power, but the ability to play the position efficiently and make his team function as a unit.
Linebacker D.J. Williams proved to be quite the handful, as well. Williams had to deal with a suspension stemming from multiple drunk driving charges and a bizarre failed drug test involving animal urine. Williams was suspended for half the 2012 season and even after his return, he had found himself locked in defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s doghouse. It was a no-brainer for the Broncos to part ways with Williams. The team had gone 13-3 without him and had watched Wesley Woodyard take advantage of his time as a starter and solidify himself as the Broncos “will” linebacker.
Even coming into the 2013 season, the Broncos showed no patience for anyone focused on anything other than football. Running back Willis McGahee missed all voluntary workouts before returning for mandatory minicamp. Through OTAs, the Broncos had plenty of time to evaluate their young backs and decided that they didn’t need a position battle involving a potentially disgruntled veteran.
The message out of Dove Valley has been made clear: The team is all about the business on the field and has no wish to tolerate anything disruptive off the field. Peyton Manning has maybe two years of football left in him and John Elway wants to do everything he can to bring Lombardi’s trophy back to Denver in that time.
So while Bill Belichick is busy dealing with adult film offers, a media frenzy and a murder investigation, Elway has done his best to make the Broncos a distraction-free football team.
When the 2013 season kicks off, the Broncos will be able to keep their full attention on preparing for the next game. The Patriots can’t say the same, and it’s going to cost them a shot at topping the Broncos as the AFC’s best team.
For more Broncos news, CLICK HERE