NFL

The Reason the New England Patriots are the Best Team in the NFL

A huge and complex playbook is one of the reasons Tom Brady and the New England Patriots stay on top in the NFL.

The New England Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl in February 2019, further cementing them as probably the single greatest franchise in NFL history. They took one of the league’s best offensive teams — the Los Angeles Rams — and played suffocating defense to win the game.

The six titles in 18 seasons make the Patriots a modern-day dynasty — and probably the last team to ever be so prolific. What is it that makes the Patriots the best? There are several reasons the New England Patriots are the best team in the NFL, but one, in particular, stands out.

Smart drafting

Bill Belichick has a simple yet smart drafting philosophy. Despite picking towards the end of the first round for the majority of his tenure, Belichick has made some excellent picks, including:

  • Tom Brady (sixth round)
  • Rob Gronkowski (second round)
  • Julian Edelman (seventh round)
  • Matt Light (second round)
  • Dont’a Hightower (first round)
  • Asante Samuel (fourth round)

Belichick’s skill as a talent evaluator translates to the Patriots getting value out of their picks throughout the draft, no matter where they’re picking. It’s how a team that annually picks towards the end of each round continues to replenish its roster with great players.

Continuity

Brady’s high level of play combined with Belichick’s drafting and playcalling acumen have both been constant presences for the Patriots. In a league where the pressure to win is high, New England has been fortunate to have the league’s best coach and QB in the same building for two decades.

A huge and complex playbook is one of the reasons the New England Patriots stay on top in the NFL.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick looks at the play sheet. | John Grieshop/Getty Images

That continuity has allowed the team to maintain its success levels throughout its run. Players and position coaches have come and gone, but by having the steady presence of Brady and Belichick in the organization’s two most important spots, the Patriots have avoided the turnover most QBs and coaches in the league face that makes it harder for teams to build consistency.

Best QB ever

Belichick’s finest draft pick is without a doubt Tom Brady, his sixth-rounder from the 2000 draft. Brady has gone from a late round pick to being the most decorated QB of all time. Consider his accomplishments:

  • Six Super Bowl championships, more than any other QB (and more than most teams) in history
  • 517 career touchdown passes
  • 14 Pro Bowl selections
  • Leading a team to an undefeated regular season record
  • 3 MVP Awards
  • 3 first-team All-Pro selections
  • A 30-10 career postseason record

Brady’s numbers speak for themselves. After leading the Patriots to a sixth Super Bowl this past season, there’s very little debate over Brady’s place at the top of the NFL’s QB hierarchy. He’s one of the biggest reasons the Patriots have been able to stay successful over the past 18 seasons.

The playbook is large and complex

Smart drafting, continuity, and having the best quarterback ever keep the Patriots competitive, but the playbook is what helps make them the best team in the NFL.

Former Patriot Malcolm Mitchell lauded New England’s massive playbook, saying that memorizing it was like learning “calculus at the highest degree.” Tom Brady claimed the team has “up to 1,000 designed pass plays.”

Brady also commented on the type of player New England needs:

“We change quite a bit week to week. I think that’s why you need really smart players on our offense to be able to adapt to the changes that we make based on the matchups that we see, or the coverages that we’re going to face, or how the team has played us in the past.”

This demands a lot from the Patriots players. It means they’ll spend a significant amount of time studying and learning an intricate playbook with countless schemes, plays, and formations. The payoff is evident, however, when you look at the results. The Patriots have ranked among the league’s top five offenses for points scored in each of the last nine seasons.