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The San Antonio Spurs and New England Patriots are mere images of each other. They both almost always make the playoffs or in contention for a championship. Both have great head coaches in Greg Popovich and Bill Belichick. For one reason or another, players in the NFL and NBA appear reluctant to join them.
Most recently, Cassius Marsh, a veteran defensive end, spent nine games with the Patriots last season. He expressed his dissatisfaction playing under Belichick. He told the San Francisco Chronicles “They don't have fun there. There's nothing happy about it.”
Marsh continued by saying “For the first time in my career, I considered not playing football. They asked him to do things he never did before.” The Pats wanted him to cover running backs and wide receivers.
If that is true, that would not be first the Patriots have asked one of their players to play out of position. Six years ago, during the AFC Championship game, Belichick demonstrated an unorthodox decision. Julian Edelman, a former quarterback converted to a wide receiver, was lined up at cornerback.
In 2002, Mike Vrabel, a former linebacker, was played at tight end in goal line packages. He ended up with 8 touchdowns as an occasional tight end. Troy Brown, another receiver, was used as a defensive back in 2004 when the team was riddled with injuries. Even with success, players like Marsh are not okay with playing out of position.
Reggie Wayne, a former star for the Indianapolis Colts, used to be known as one of premier wide receivers in the game. At the age of 36, he joined the Patriots and played only two preseason games before asking for release.
On the flipside, the Spurs have won 5 champions led by Greg Popovich. They even have one of the highest winning percentages in regular season history. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped them from being on the verge of losing a star player.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the relationship between the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard is broken. Leonard’s actions over the last few months have indicated he wants to leave the team. Jalen Rose, a former NBA player, joined ESPN’s First take to shed light on the topic.
Rose had a good point in addressing what a handful of players are thinking. They want to win but on their own terms. Also, there usually isn’t news about elite players wanting to team up with Leonard.
The Spurs have whiffed on opportunities to sign key free agents such as Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George over the last few seasons. They did manage to sign LaMarcus Aldridge. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are aging and Leonard is looking to team up with young stars.
The term “Spurs way” and “Patriot way” has been created and there are some similaries. The Spurs way is perceived as a team that’s strictly run by Greg Popovich. According to a rival executive, Leonard he wants Coach Popovich to lighten up a little with practice and tweak some things.
Why would Popovich tweak something that has led to 5 championships? When a player complains about small things like that, he is making excuses to leave the team. The same can be said for anyone who has a problem with how the Patriots operate.
Rob Gronkowski, the best tight end in the NFL, expressed his dismay with Belichick. According to ESPN, Gronk was mentally worn down by the Patriot way, which is one reason why he started contemplating retirement.
Kevin Faulk, a former running back for the Pats, also spoke about the Patriot way. “People think it’s about Belichick preaching accountability, and emphasizing doing your job. The truth is it’s about winning. That’s it.”
At the end of the day, these two teams have a clear path to winning championships and have the best coaches at the helm. If players don’t want to join them, it could be for several reasons. They either want to win on their own terms, disagree with the system, or think the grass is greener elsewhere.