It’s basically impossible to argue that ‘The Patriot Way’ is not successful—though you also have to acknowledge that part of ‘The Patriot Way’ in practice has been simply to have arguably the greatest coach and quarterback in NFL history.
Of course there’s so much more to do with it, and never was there a greater debate about that than this time last season after the New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl—after winning it the previous season—to the Philadelphia Eagles, many of whom would go on to go out of their way to point out that they enjoyed playing the game, and insinuated that the Patriots do not.
Nobody was more outspoken than offensive lineman Lane Johnson, who called the Patriots “a fear-based organization” and said that they act like robots in interviews. “Not to be reckless, but I’d much rather have fun and win a Super Bowl than be miserable and win five Super Bowls”.
Well, with the Eagles making a relatively early playoff exit in 2018 in the Divisional Round and New England in the Super Bowl for the third time in three years, having claimed their second Super Bowl in that span and a record-tying sixth overall, I think you can guess who is having the last—or most recent—laugh.
And in fairness to the Patriots, it’s not true that they are always ‘robotic’ during interviews. Surely they are trained to answer certain questions certain ways, but players are still free to express their personalities and their humor, as players like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, and yes, Tom Brady, have done over the years.
This year it was safety Duron Harmon speaking on behalf of The Patriot Way. He shared a post on Instagram calling out the Eagles lineman, posting a photo of himself at a championship celebration with the image captioned, “y’all let Lane Johnson know I’m having fun”. Followed by the now obligatory three ‘laughing with tears’ emojis.
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Harmon was drafted by the Patriots in the third round in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Rutgers—where he now pairs with Rutgers alumni Devin and Jason McCourty in the secondary, and he has grown to be highly effective as the third safety, including recording four interceptions in each of the past two seasons with 15 in his six-year career.
Five of those interceptions have come off of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, including two in their regular season matchup in 2018. He also had the game-sealing interception in the end zone in 2017. He has also intercepted Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill four times. So I doubt either of them have much fun seeing Harmon back in the secondary. The only player who has intercepted Roethlisberger more often is Reggie Nelson, who played in the same division, with six. Even Ed Reed only picked him off three times. Though if you include the playoffs, Rashean Mathis also got him five times.