BANGOR, Maine — The New England Patriots have been a model of consistency in the National Football League. Over the past 16 seasons, the Patriots have appeared in 10 AFC championship games and six Super Bowls, winning four of them.
It is a blueprint for success, according to former Patriots center Pete Brock and linebacker Steve King. Both were on hand at the free “Football for You” clinic for children ages 11-14 on Tuesday at Husson University’s Boucher Field.
It was put on by the New England Patriots’ Alumni Association of which Brock is the president.
Brock said the Patriots’ success comes “from the top [owner Bob Kraft] and works its way all the way down. It’s a belief a system, it’s a philosophy they’ve adopted, and they don’t steer from it.
“They’re consistent. Having coach [Bill] Belichick in charge of football operations and the Krafts with their business sense and doing everything related to it,” Brock said. “It’s the do-your-job mentality, and it filters all the way through the players and into the locker room and all that.”
The Patriots don’t overpay players, instead compensating them for their current value. They find players who are willing to commit to that philosophy.
“You have to give the Kraft family a lot of credit. When he hired Belichick, I wasn’t sold on him coming out of Cleveland,” King said. “But Kraft provided the tools and left him alone, and Belichick became successful. He surrounded himself with really good coaches who are head coaches now.”
King said it is incredible how they have flourished, despite the fact there is so much parity in the league. The Patriots have been limited to late, first-round draft picks because of their success, and they lost a first-round pick in 2008 because of Spygate — videotaping New York Jets’ coaches’ signals from an unauthorized location.
King said another key ingredient to their success has been football research director Ernie Adams.
“He has been unbelievable behind the scenes. He’s their money ball guy. He has done a tremendous job evaluating players. He has a photographic memory,” King said.
Adams and Belichick were teammates at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts.
New England also lost a first-round pick for this past year’s draft because of Deflategate, which has left a bitter taste in the mouths of Brock and King.
“That has gone on way too long. It’s a non-story. The NFL is going after an innocent man [quarterback Tom Brady],” said Brock.
“It’s crazy. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I think the commissioner [Roger Goodell] got in so deep, there was no way out. He didn’t want to have to wipe egg off his face,” said King. “I think he got some bad advice from the people around him, people in the league office who came from other franchises who have a bone to pick with the Patriots.”
King said the fact the Patriots have overcome so much adversity by making so many smart personnel decisions has created envy in the league.
“They’re smarter than most of the league, which is why they are disliked,” King said.
He said the acquisition of 6-foot-7 tight end Martellus Bennett from Chicago to go with 6-6 All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski is going to be a big boost. Gronkowski and Bennett lead NFL tight ends in yards gained after the catch since 2013.
He also likes that they picked up linebacker Shea McClellin from Chicago to help keep veteran linebacker Rob Ninkovich fresh.
King speculated that second-year defensive end Trey Flowers, who missed last season because of injury, could be a solid performer this season and another defensive end, Jabaal Sheard, who had eight sacks last year, could have a big season because he is in a contract year.
“They’ve made some other acquisitions in the interior line. They could have one of the better defenses around,” said King.
Brock, who played every position on the offensive line during his 12-year career and earned the Unsung Hero Award, the Jim Lee Hunt Award for best Patriot lineman and the Ed Block Courage Award, helped lead the Patriots to the 1986 Super Bowl.
He said “just being able to help the team” is one of his career highlights along with “being able to line up next to [NFL Hall of Famer] John Hannah, take snaps from Steve Grogan and have defensive captain Steve Nelson as my locker mate for most of my career.”
Beating Miami 31-14 in the 1986 AFC championship game was the high point of his career.
King, who was chosen to the Patriots’ All-1970s team, said playing on the 1976-77 squad that went 11-3 after posting a 3-11 mark the previous season was the highlight.
The Patriots lost a heartbreaker to eventual Super Bowl champ Oakland 24-21 in their AFC semifinal.
“Had we won that game, there is no doubt in my mind we would have beaten Pittsburgh [in the AFC championship game] because Pittsburgh had so many injuries, and Minnesota in the Super Bowl,” said King.
Brock and King enjoy putting on three-hour, noncontact clinics across New England. They are doing 20 this year and will bring a number of other alumni with them. It is their 11th year conducting clinics.
Youngsters get to try different positions and are taught life lessons such as the importance of academics.
King said Brock deserves all the credit for putting everything together.
“This is our first year in Bangor, and we couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Brock. “We had over 220 kids preregistered, and that’s phenomenal for our first year.”
Former Patriots linebacker Vernon Crawford, fullback Patrick Pass and assistant coach Rich Buffington also were part of the clinic.