Success on Field Does Not Translate to Popularity for Patriots

Kevin ShayContributor IIIJanuary 17, 2013

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick should be celebrated by fans as America's Team, but they aren't.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick should be celebrated by fans as America's Team, but they aren't.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

If ever there was an America's Team these days, or at least one that deserved to be celebrated as much as the Dallas Cowboys of the 1970s and 1990s, it's the New England Patriots.

They have the patriotic mascot. They have the on-field success, winning three of four Super Bowls in 2002, 2004 and 2005. They are in the hunt to make the Super Bowl most years.

Yet, look at their popularity rankings in fan polls. The Pats only got 6 percent of the vote for favorite NFL team in a survey done by Raleigh, N.C., polling firm Public Policy Polling about a year ago, ranking behind the Packers, Cowboys, Giants, Bears, Steelers and Saints. Quarterback Tom Brady was in a three-way tie for fifth as the most popular NFL QB.

A different poll, the ESPN Sports Poll, last year ranked the Patriots fifth behind the Cowboys, Packers, Giants and Steelers in fan popularity. 

The Patriots also rank lower than expected in merchandise sales. Brady's jersey was only the fifth most popular this season, according to NFLShop, the league's official online merchandise site. Robert Griffin III, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning were more popular sellers.

So why is there such a disconnect between the Patriots' on-field success and their popularity?

One reason could be that head coach Bill Belichick doesn't even try to act like he wants to be answering reporters' questions during press conferences. He always looks like he thinks he is smarter and better than everyone else in the room.

That may be true, but part of the duties of a head coach is to answer such questions. Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson was also smarter than most in the room, but he didn't act like he was in those conferences.

Another reason could be the demeanor of Brady, who acts like the rich kid who was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. Brady likes to flaunt his wealth, living in a $20 million mansion in California.

Then there is Spygate, the 2007 incident that cost New England money and draft picks, and the belief that the Patriots did such spying long before they got caught. The Patriots are sensitive about even mentioning Spygate, as was evidenced when Baltimore Ravens special teams player Brendon Ayanbadejo tweeted about Spygate this week and the Pats locker room was reportedly up in arms over it.

Belichick and Brady may ignore the tweets in public, but CBS Sports' Mike Freeman was told by a source that they became bulletin board material. The disconnect between what was said publicly by the Patriots and what was done privately leads to further distrust of Patriots' management by fans.

With the Patriots, it's often hard to fully explain why many don't like them. There is just this arrogance, smugness, the air of sneakiness, about them that does not lend you to believe that what you see is what you get.