Philadelphia Columnist: Patriots Lust for Winning Led to Aaron Hernandez

AP Hernandez

While it’s not rare to see NFL players run afoul of the law, sometimes in spectacular fashion. Instances such as former Patriot Aaron Hernandez’ murder-suicide saga are, thankfully, quite rare.

Which has prompted many in the media to ask how a and why such a thing could have happened? And why did it happen in New England of all places? A columnist in Philadelphia pondered that question, and came up with an answer that…well…he came up with an answer.

Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer, believes that it’s no accident that the Aaron Hernandez tragedy played out in New England. Why? Because of the Patriots cold, relentless focus on victory.

Brookover writes:

The New England Patriots reside alone in the 21st-century dynasty region of the NFL. That is why they are here with the Eagles at Super Bowl LII mostly answering questions about how great they are and how incredible they have been.
That’s fine and that’s fair. The applause is well deserved even if suspicions remain that their success has not always been on the up and up. In addition to being adept at winning games and championships, the Patriots are also great at avoiding the things they want swept out of sight.
Spygate and Deflategate fall into those categories, but the one subject they want to skirt more than any other is the violent and tragic career of the late Aaron Hernandez. Perhaps that’s because Hernandez’s draft selection, despite bright red flags everywhere, is a reflection of how winning means everything to the Patriots and no cost is too high.
Brookover further takes the Patriots — specifically head coach Bill Belichick — to task for acting as if they never saw the Hernandez disaster coming. Even though Hernandez’ troubled background was obvious, and well-known to all before the draft.
“The shame of the matter is that the Patriots, and specifically Bill Belichick, acted as if they could not possibly know something so awful would ever happen despite the fact that Hernandez had a troubled past at the University of Florida and in his hometown of Bristol, Conn.”
Before going further, it’s important to note that of all the various character concerns surrounding Aaron Hernandez prior to going into the draft, murder, was not one of them. There were concerns, specifically surrounding gang affiliations in Connecticut. However, dozens and dozens of players with real or imagined ties to street gangs enter the NFL every year. It’s not as if Aaron Hernandez was the first player in NFL history to have credible gang affiliations.
So, to sit here eight years later and say or imply that, based on those character concerns, the Patriots should have known Hernandez was a murderer, is beyond ridiculous.
Brookover then makes the case that what really drove the Patriots to overlook the obvious danger of Hernandez, was their lust for winning:
The Patriots or Urban Meyer, who was the coach at the University of Florida when Hernandez played there, should have done more when they saw the signs of trouble. What Hernandez did was horrible, but you get the feeling the only reason Meyer and the Patriots cared about him in the first place was because he could play football.

Once he no longer could help them, it became a sin to even speak the name Aaron Hernandez. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that the NFL team that has had the most success in this century also had to deal with the league’s greatest tragedy.

Is there some truth to the idea that the Patriots selected Hernandez despite obvious character concerns, because they thought he could help them win football games? Of course, no one would dispute that.

But several things need to be stipulated here: First, someone was going to draft Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots ended up being the team that selected him. But someone, at some point, would have pushed their concerns about his character aside and drafted him.

Secondly, if the Patriots were governed by a pure blood-lust for winning that made them push character concerns aside, why haven’t there been more players like Aaron Hernandez? The Patriots dynasty is now in its seventeenth year, simple math would suggest that an unprecedented juggernaut of that nature, governed solely by winning, would have an alumni that read more like roll call at the Massachusetts State Penitentiary, than it would an NFL roster.

And yet, the Patriots, with the obvious exception of the Aaron Hernandez tragedy, have become synonymous with high-character players who almost always do the right thing. Moreover, where is it written that drafting talented players with severe character concerns, translates into winning championships? If it does, someone please explain the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Patriots have enjoyed arguably the greatest dynastic run in sports history, to some degree, by avoiding overly troubled players. What happened with Aaron Hernandez was a tragedy. But it was not foreseeable to anyone other than God, and maybe Hernandez.


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