How an NFL team went from league doormat to model franchise in five fast years.
It’s not easy to remain at the pinnacle in the NFL, where one season’s contenders are often next year’s also-rans. Using Michael Lewis’s Moneyball (2003) as a vague template, sportswriter Price (Baseball by the Beach, 1998) explores how the New England Patriots were extricated from a vicious cycle of mediocrity to become the benchmark for teams not only throughout professional football, but in other sports as well. He chronicles the Patriots’ comically bumbling history prior to the mid-1990s: In one particularly unedifying episode, a half-drunk player previously released by the organization was pulled from the stands to rejoin the shorthanded team; he threw up on the sidelines after the opening kickoff. Not a happy story, until the near-simultaneous arrivals of legendary head coach Bill Parcells in 1993 and new owner Robert Kraft in 1994 changed the team’s fortunes. Parcells instilled a winning culture, and his efforts laid the groundwork for the talented tandem of coach Bill Belichick and personnel head Scott Pioli to take the team to the next level, winning three championships in four years and turning the Patriots into the toast of the sports world. Though filled with details, Price’s affable narrative offers only intermittent insights into Belichick and Pioli’s methods, which focus primarily on seeking out players who “fit” the team’s system and selecting less talented but highly motivated players over high-priced superstars. The book is most entertaining when Price is recounting tales from the team’s less-than-glory days or incidents previously known only to local fans, but the author occasionally overreaches in an effort to build the Patriots’ mystique. For example, his contention that the team’s signing of solid but unspectacular linebacker Mike Vrabel would ultimately change the face of professional football is sportswriter hyperbole at its most egregious.
Contains little that Pats fanatics don’t already know, but a solid addition to the growing shelf of books on a remarkable team.