Sharing final thoughts from Patriots’ 2019 season, and more

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Each Sunday since training camp began in late July, my routine has been the same: Tweeting out a morning blog post of Patriots quick-hit thoughts and notes.

This week, in the words of Bill Belichick, is “similar but different.”

Because the Patriots played Saturday night in the wild-card round, it created a logistical challenge. Many of my thoughts and notes would be contingent on the game and its outcome. And with other post-game work responsibilities as part of the primary function of the job, producing the regular Sunday piece was going to be a challenge.

So early in the week, with a goal of providing something for followers who might be expecting it based on routine, I decided to try something different.

It is a post on my website, which is a platform where I occasionally like to share more of the personal side of things:

1.“Football is a game where you usually get what you deserve.” That was how one player described it to me after the Patriots’ surprising Week 17 loss to the Dolphins that cost them a first-round bye, and the more I thought about it, this 2019 team ended its season at the level it deserved. A wild-card round exit is reflective of a team that played hard and was competitive, but ultimately was light on talent offensively and didn’t trend upward after Thanksgiving, when Tom Brady and Bill Belichick often say the real season begins.

2. One of the more enjoyable parts of covering the Patriots is the quality of those who reside in the locker room. Listening to, and engaging, people like Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, Joe Thuney, Benjamin Watson, Ted Karras, Stephen Gostkowski, Elandon Roberts, James White and Co., on various topics — often not football-related — has opened my eyes to different perspectives and made those 45-minute locker-room sessions one of the better parts of the day. One example: Slater after Saturday night’s loss.

3. As part of the “Fifth Quarter” program after Saturday’s game, I enjoyed getting into a spirited discussion with Levan Reid about Tom Brady’s future. I shared my belief that no one knows what will happen — including Brady himself at this point — before saying my instinct leads me to believe Brady will ultimately be back. That isn’t based on any concrete facts; just the opinion that Brady, Belichick and Robert Kraft are all better off when they’re together.

4. When Brady was returning from suspension in the 2016 season, in a Week 5 game in Cleveland, I had been in the tunnel to record his arrival as part of telling the overall story of the day. It was a different experience, and before long, it grew into an every-week thing. I file it in the “light along the journey” category — not everything has to be hard-hitting — and ESPN colleague Jeff Darlington turned the tables on me Saturday night. Fun stuff.

Brady

5. Looking back, one thing I think hurt the Patriots was the timing of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement announcement in late March. It put handcuffs on parts of the team’s free-agent plans. Could Belichick have pressed him for a quicker decision in March? Possibly, but a case could also be made that Gronkowski deserved the space if he was truly contemplating his future. Either way, between that and a slow start to free agency in which they were late getting into the mix on top target Adam Humphries really put them in an early hole that they seemed to be chasing the entire year.

6. Benjamin Watson returned to football in 2019 after having announced his retirement, and now he’s prepared to ride off into the sunset again. It is often said that life lessons can be learned through sports, and I view Watson’s actions this year as an example of how to handle disappointment with class and dignity. After serving a suspension to open the season, Watson was released by the Patriots before being activated to the roster in a decision that stung. He had moved his family (wife and seven children) from New Orleans to Massachusetts thinking there was a certainty he’d be on the team, only to learn he wouldn’t have that chance. Many would lash out publicly in that situation — and some might even say rightfully so. But Watson didn’t, and then when the Patriots had a spot come unexpectedly open the following week, he got the call asking if he wanted to come back. It never hurts to be classy.

Watson

7. Antonio Brown would be the opposite end of that spectrum. As someone in the organization relayed to me recently, “We learned our lesson the hard way with him.”

8. Road trips with Scott Zolak? So many laughs, which as Jim Valvano once told us, is one of the three most important parts of having a good day. I figured out one of the easiest ways to get him going this year: Pick the smallest, compact-sized rental car out of the lot, and then inform him that I’d pick him up the next morning at the hotel to drive him to the stadium. ‘Zo could hardly fit in the car. But more importantly than that, the thing many probably don’t know is that the biggest part about him is his heart.

9. I think one aspect that might be overlooked in the NFL’s investigation into the Patriots’ videotaping of the Bengals sideline, and whatever punishment is ultimately handed down, is how almost every team has delved into creating its own media department over the last decade; so in a sense, this is a new frontier for the league in establishing accountability in that area. In my view, there truly isn’t a comparable situation from the past. That’s why I think if the league’s investigation ultimately finds the Patriots made a mistake that had nothing to do with football operations — which makes it different from past penalties across the NFL involving artificial crowd noise etc. — the most fair result is one in which a monetary fine would be the maximum punishment.

10. A trip to Israel with a Robert Kraft-led Patriots contingent in June was enlightening. Such enriching life experiences sometimes have me asking, “How did I get so fortunate?”

11. Hosting ESPN’s “SportsCenter On The Road” with Rob Ninkovich on the first weekend of training camp was a new career challenge that could be summed up in one word: Exhilarating. Thank you for the kind gesture after the fact, James White.SCONROAD

12. This Boston.com Q&A, with Deyscha Smith, was flattering. Thank you, Deyscha, for showing an interest in my career path.

13. Covering a team like the Patriots means there is daily communication with the team’s media-relations staff. So it is nice to publicly say thank you to VP of Media Relations Stacey James, Director of Media Relations Aaron Salkin, Assistant Director of Media Relations Michael Jurovaty, Communications Strategist Anne Noland, Media Relations Coordinators Mark Robbins and Jacqui Collins and intern Eddie Marotta for all their help — updates on ever-changing team schedules, daily trips to unlock the gate for entry, statistical information, fact checks etc. It’s a hard-working, professional group that has, in my view, a thankless job.

14. Something new that I tried in 2019: Emoji recaps of games. They’re challenging and tap into a more creative side to tell a story in a different way. An added bonus: If you are a parent to 10- and 7-year-olds, it can be a neat way to connect with them.

15. One of the questions I often consider is, “What is the primary value of a beat reporter in 2019-2020?” Things are a lot different now from when I started in 1997, with social media and technology the big game-changers, and I’m still working on putting together the most complete answer. One part of it, for sure, is to hopefully serve as a connection point between you and the team that enhances your knowledge and understanding, while providing a true picture of what is happening based on credible reporting and information. I enjoy working to try to achieve that. So as another season comes to a close, a little earlier than the norm, I thank you for following along.


31 thoughts on “Sharing final thoughts from Patriots’ 2019 season, and more

  1. Mike, thanks for another year. Wouldn’t be the same following the Pats without your level-headed coverage. Enjoy the day to day stuff, and whenever there’s a big story, I always look for your piece about it as antidote to the overblown exaggeration we get from many other sources. You’re always honest and a class act – I’ve seen you repeatedly post polite replies to horrible trolls on Twitter, and I hope you know how appreciated your work is. Have a great offseason.

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  2. Thank you, Mike. There are not many things that would make me feel good the morning after last night’s game but ironically two of them just happened; a), my boys jumping into bed to wake me up and b), reading your recap and seeing the appreciation you have for your work and the people you get to work with. It’s always nice to see when a good guy wins.

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  3. Thanks Mike. I was thinking/hoping that you’d complete the season (again) like this. Your insight and experiences are great. So glad you share them with us.

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  4. Mike,

    Thanks very much for the coverage of the Pats. Every fan looks forward to your insight. You are hands down the best Media journalist covering the team. It’s one of the staples of being a Pats fan. TB12, BB, and Mike Reiss ! Enjoy your unexpected but much deserved added time with the family.

    Regards,

    Joe La Bianca

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  5. Great work all season Mr. Reiss. As you stated, you’ve become a part of the routine every Sunday morning.
    Thinking like Matthew Slater, let’s reflect on positives. The Pats can put forth a concerted effort on their draft process this offseason to really get at restocking the talent base and you get to pump the brakes a bit earlier than normal this year.

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  6. Mike, you’re great at what you do and make following the team as a fan more enjoyable.

    Hats off to another great season of coverage.

    Would love to hear more about how you balance fatherhood with the job, really enjoyed your piece last year framed before heading to Jacksonville.

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  7. Thanks for this and everything you do Mike! Year in and year out you are always there with amazing reporting. Thanks again, great work again this year!

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  8. Mike, always look forward to your thoughtful insights. Great synopsis of the season! You should post a pic of Zo in the clown car….

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  9. Mike, your passion for and coverage of the NE Patriots is second to none in my book. You routinely cover angles unseen and unknown by most of the local media, and your perspective is intelligent and respectful. I always look forward to your input and articles, as I do Matt Chatham and Mike Hurley. I don’t listen to any sports-related media, and listen to the games with the sound muted. Too many clowns sharing their nonsense.

    Thank you for your professionalism and for being the main bridge from the Patriots to their fans. We acknowledge your excellence!

    Beaglebay (from Patriots Planet)

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  10. Mike,
    A recap of my morning:
    Given the way the season has gone, the loss was not unexpected. Still, I’m bummed. The Boston Globe has arrived, but naturally with the late game, there isn’t much relevant Patriots coverage. Also my coffeemaker ran out of beans; so I decide to take a quick trip to McCafe for an Americano.
    Now sipping this coffee (gotta admit, it’s not bad), and reading your blog, things are just, I dunno…right. Thanks.

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  11. Thank you so much Mike. Your thoughtful analysis, respectful approach, and insight into the team while clearly pursuing a great passion of yours are a joy to read every week. I hope you and your family have a great off-season. Go Patriots!

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  12. Mike, I have read your columns since you started. You are an exceptionally great talent that just seems real. I enjoy your work. Thanks for all your efforts

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  13. Mike, thanks for your honest and thorough coverage. I formerly worked with you at The Metrowest Daily News- so I can attest that, like many others have reflected, you are a class act. Look forward to following along this offseason.
    David M.

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  14. I read this after Schefty tweeted it. I’m about the furthest thing from a Pats fan, probably more of a Pats hater really, but this is great stuff. For some reason it doesn’t surprise me that New England also has a great beat writer. Happy new year.

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  15. Hi there Mike! Been following your work for years now, directly from Brazil. As a fellow broadcast journalist I know the challenges of delivering impactul information. One of the things I would”ve liked to see more on the media coverage: from the X and O standpoint, why was it so dificult for the newcomers WRs to mingle with Brady? “Complicated offense” is a very shallow answer… and this was their ultimate undoing (the defense allowed only 14 points yesterday). Thanks a lot for one more year. Championships are very hard to come by!

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  16. As said in prior comments, Mike, all class. I thoroughly enjoy reading your columns! You give it to us straight, no sugar-coating or obvious bias, which is appreciated. Thank you for the time and effort you give to connecting us fans!

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  17. Thanks Mike for knowing my Sunday morning routine! I look forward to reading your Sunday morning notes column the same way I looked forward to a Peter Gammons baseball notes column back in the 80s. You’re stories are a rare gift in the ever over hyped world of sports media. I do not believe a Patriots story until I see it form you. As an out of town fan please continue your great coverage and add as much context about the feeling around the team and the fans as you can.
    Thanks!
    Bill

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  18. Mike,
    I have always enjoyed your coverage of the team especially your ability to offer a thoughtful perspective in a non impulsive manner that is always a very honest and balanced approach to any issue that involves the team.
    As a season ticket holder over the last 24 years I feel very fortunate to be enjoying this incredible run of success by the organization and you my friend have been a big part of that enjoyment.
    On to 2020 and I look forward to your coverage and analysis of the changes that will be in the team’s future.
    Wishing you continued future success and thank you for your efforts!

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  19. Mike, thanks for all your work this season. Not the ending we wanted, but I hope you’ll take advantage of the down time and get some well-deserved rest. Looking forward to your insights as the offseason unfolds and we start to think about the draft!

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  20. Thank you Mike I really enjoyed reading this as well as everything else you do all year. I am far away from New England these days in California but I hail from Worcester and I’ve been a fan since the Steve Grogan days. Before the internet, I used to subscribe to the Patriots Football Weekly. I couldn’t wait to get those in the mail. Now there is so much information at the fans fingertips. Take some time and get some rest..next season is going to be about change for the Patriots. It’s been an amazing 20 year run! Happy New Year

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  21. Mike, Thank you for all that you do! The majority of the previous comments have already said the things that I would say to you. You are & always have been the one reporter that I trust. I have been a true-blue member of PatriotsNation since 1976 & a season ticket holder since 1986. I have been greatly rewarded for the years of tough times! The one thing that I would bring up about the disappointing end to this season, is the toll that playing 19 games each year for the last 3 years had on our “experienced” players. They have definitely earned the rest…not that they wanted it! Enjoy your “off-season”!!

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  22. Thanks Mike! Great Read and thanks for the hard-work over the years. I appreciate the personal touch as your work really does become part of a routine. I realized today while reading this that I have been following your work as a patriots beat reporter for over half my life. I started reading regularly as 13 year old High school freshman reading your blog in tech-ed classes and I still read it regularly as a 27 year old. I have come to associate your writing as the calm and rational voice on the patriot beat. Thanks again for all the hard work.

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  23. Thank you for your fair and balanced reporting. I have always admired your tone and content, and this article provides some unique insights. You are lucky to have such an interesting job, and I see that you don’t take it for granted. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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