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Lessons from the Patriots

In light of the Aaron Hernandez situation, as 49er fans, we can learn that stability ought not to be taken for granted.


To be honest, I'm not going to make any direct comparisons between the two teams except for one: the 49ers appear to be modeling their attempt to achieve long-term success after a few of the ways in which the Patriots have maintained their success for about a decade. The 49ers have a smart (read: tricky) coaching staff, a cutthroat front office, and a predilection for "owning" the draft. Sounds a lot like the Patriots.

Again, I'm not interested in making explicit comparisons. Frankly, I don't know the Patriots' team well enough to do so - despite every attempt by ESPN to make me only care about the Patriots and the Jets. But, the current woes of the Patriots can make a fellow worry.

Just the other day, I saw an article on ESPN that attempted to rank the teams in the NFL in terms of their long-term stability based upon a certain set of criteria. I could only see the first ranking since it was Insider exclusive, but right up front, the 49ers sat pretty at number one.

Did I like that fact? Well yeah, of course I did. And I think a very persuasive argument can be made that the 49ers deserve this ranking. A lot of good pieces are put in place on the field, within the coaching staff, and in the front office. But the NFL is a fickle mistress, and sometimes she likes to throw teams a curveball (which, for our Baseball deficient friends, is about the equivalent of a Shaun Hill "came down like a punt" pass).

And that's why the Patriots are a good cautionary tale right now. It is an organization that has proved its worth over time (along with a predilection for cheating, but I digress). But, it's also an organization that is running into a lot of problems, and there isn't much it can do about it. I don't want to comment too much upon the Aaron Hernandez case since there isn't a ton of information out during the preliminary days. It wouldn't be fair to anybody, and especially our dear friend prudence, to start bandying about opinions at this point. But, this is a situation for which the Patriots could never realistically have a plan in place. They just couldn't. It wouldn't be smart to assume that a player will be in legal trouble. You can plan for injury, yes. You can plan for some off the field distractions. But the potential of long-term incarceration? That just isn't on the radar.

I hope that Aaron Hernandez is innocent. It would be much more convenient for a sport that can foster a negative stigma when it comes to player run-ins with the law. But that pales in comparison to how much I hope that justice is served and those guilty in this terrible situation pay their debt to society. In light of a murder, football seems like a small and trivial thing. But, it really isn't. It's the type of thing that can keep us going during tragedy. So, it's always a shame when the two get mixed together. They are odd bedfellows.

But, it seems to be heartrendingly inevitable sometimes - just like most everything is in the NFL.