Do your job: Patriots sustained success starts with shrewd Bill Belichick
You can call him "The Hoodie." You can call him a cheater. You can make fun of his monotone voice.
But you cannot argue with Bill Belichick's success as coach of the New England Patriots.
After becoming the first team in NFL history to win eight straight division titles, the Patriots are the first team to play in nine Super Bowls.
Since Belichick took over the Patriots in 2000, New England has won the AFC East 14 times. The Patriots have reached seven Super Bowls under Belichick, who can become the first coach to win the Super Bowl five times.
If the Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady would be the first quarterback in NFL history to win five Super Bowls.
Belichick and Brady have won 24 postseason games together, the most by any coach-QB combo in NFL history.
Next on the list? Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw with a mere 14.
Brady led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory in 2001 and has been the Super Bowl MVP three times to go with two league MVP awards.
And he credits New England's sustained success to mental toughness.
"We've won a lot of different ways under a lot of different circumstances," said Brady, who missed the first four games of the 2016 season only to watch the Patriots go 3-1 in his absence.
"It doesn't happen overnight," Belichick said this week. "There's no switch that you can flip.
"It comes through a lot of hard work, a lot of meetings, a lot of communication on how we're going to do things and then a lot of on the field execution at actually doing them at a good competitive level so that we can gain confidence in each other as a unit as to how that's going to happen in a live game situation."
Belichick is also the team's shrewd general manager and is not sentimental when it comes to roster decisions.
The Patriots released safety Lawyer Milloy, a four-time Pro Bowler, after the 2002 season. New England then won two straight Super Bowls without him.
Belichick chose not to re-sign receiver Deion Branch in 2005 after Branch was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX. The Patriots even moved on from kicker Adam Vinatieri, who had the game-winning field goal in each of New England's first three Super Bowl victories.
Another player who was part of the three championship teams, linebacker Mike Vrabel, was traded to Kansas City in 2009. That same year, the Patriots sent defensive end Richard Seymour to Oakland before he hit free agency.
A similar move came this season as Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins was traded to the Cleveland Browns. Chandler Jones, a Pro Bowl linebacker in 2015, was dealt to the Arizona Cardinals in the offseason.
Being both the coach and GM is not something in which many find success. Belichick has a great sense on the pulse of his team and a supreme eye for talent. He's done an excellent job of bringing in veterans to supplement the team's typically sound draft choices.
The Patriots have a lot of turnover, but have maintained a consistent mix of youth and veteran leadership.
Wide receiver Randy Moss and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Darrelle Revis have come through Foxborough. It can be a culture shock for veterans, something defensive end Chris Long and tight end Martellus Bennett learned after suffering through losing seasons in St. Louis and Chicago, respectively.
"Everyone here believes," Bennett said. "There wasn't a non-believer in this room at any time about going to the Super Bowl or what our goal was from the moment I got here in March or April.
"That rubs off on you. Iron sharpens iron and attitude is contagious. A winning attitude is contagious. I definitely got infected since I've been here. I've got the winning disease right now and I'm enjoying this one. I don't need the antidote."
Wide receiver Matthew Slater, who is the son of Rams Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater, said Belichick demands a lot with his "Do your job" mantra, but the "proof is in the pudding".
"We sacrifice a lot to be a part of this team," said Slater, a six-time Pro Bowler as a special teams ace.
"There's a lot demanded of you, a lot of pressure put on you and there's a price to be paid. We certainly have paid that price. For that hard work and dedication to pay off in this moment, it's really gratifying, it really is.
"When you come here and you look in the rafters, you look around and see what we've accomplished here, you're already as a player curious, 'What is it about this place?'.
"Then when you see your leadership, the Tom Bradys of the world, the Devin McCourtys, the buy-in that they give, then it's hard to not buy in because you're going to be the odd man out. Then you look, 'What are we buying into?'
"We're buying into a coach who understands how to prepare his team, that's going to give his team the best chance to have success if they'll only trust his process.
"I think year after year when we've been able to go out there and put great performances on the field then hey, man, obviously this coach knows what he's talking about and knows what he's doing so we're going to continue to try to heed the coaching and advice that he gives us on a daily basis.
"You talk about a foundation that's been put in place back in 2001 and we've been able to kind of maintain over that span of time," Slater added. "That's pretty impressive."
Yes, it is.