By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
It’s been almost 20 years since the Patriots faced a drought of winning like they are in right now. And while in sports it’s tricky enough to get out of a rut to begin with, the challenge is extra for those players who have been on the Patriots their whole careers. They’ve never had to dig out of a hole like this before.
What can guys like Devin McCourty – who has been in New England since the team drafted him in 2010 – do to get a mental grasp on things? Well, they’re turning to the guys in the locker room who have been in a similar spot before.
“J-Mac, B-Hoyer has been a lot of places. They can tell us different things,” McCourty told reporters on Wednesday, referencing his brother Jason and third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer.
McCourty wasn’t the only one referencing that kind of leadership.
“We have a lot of vets on our team that have been around, not only this program, but the league and they show their leadership daily with their encouragement and what they do on the practice field,” defensive end Deatrich Wise said. Wise, who is in his fourth year in the league after being drafted by the Patriots in 2017, says a mix of long-time Patriots leadership, mixed with guys who have been on rosters struggling to win, is helpful.
“We just follow guys like Matthew Slater, Jason McCourty, Devin McCourty, guys like that,” he continued. “Brian Hoyer, guys who’ve been around the league, Lawrence Guy, guys who have been on multiple teams before and we just listen to what they have to say, and we just follow suit.’’
Devin McCourty and Slater are excellent leaders. As good as you’ll find in the NFL. But the reality is Slater has missed the championship round of the playoffs just four times in 12 season, and McCourty just twice in 10.
A guy like Jason McCourty, however, is another story. Drafted by the Titans in 2009, he failed to reach the playoffs in any of his eight seasons with the franchise. In that span, they finished over .500 just twice, and never won double-digit games. He was released by Tennessee before the 2017 season and signed with the Browns – who that year became one of only two franchises in NFL history to go 0-16.
Hoyer never went 0-16, but he’s experienced his fair share of losing as well. He spent four of his six non-Patriots seasons on teams that finished last in their division, including the 4-12 2013 Cleveland Browns and 3-13 2016 Chicago Bears.
Guy didn’t quite find the lack of success of the other two, but he did miss the playoffs with the Ravens in the two seasons before he came to New England. That includes a 5-11 finish in 2015 and a 2016 campaign which included a four game losing streak early in the season, similar to what the Pats are going through now.
Of course, it’s not as simple at sitting back and letting those players fix everything. “They can tell us different things, but it’s all about action,” Devin McCourty said. “It’s going out there and performing and doing it in practice each day this week then doing it in a game. I think that’s what we need, and I think that will trickle down and help us have a good game overall.“
Experience is a valuable tool in the NFL. That’s something that’s been said around New England for a long time – usually in reference to playoff games or bad weather environments. Well, now it’s taking on a new meaning. The Patriots are getting a crash course in the experience of losing. We’ll see if they can put those lessons to use as well as they have so many others over the years.