Latest NFLPA report card paints ugly picture in Foxborough

For the second straight year, Patriots players have let it be known just how bad things have gotten around Gillette Stadium.

The latest NFLPA team report cards survey over 1,706 players in hopes of highlighting the best working environments or showing who needs help where. The Krafts take quite a hit here with the team ranking 29th overall. It’s the second NFLPA report card in as many years that has the Patriots looking like a poorly-ran organization.

The most alarming part is that there are extremely poor grades in areas that are vital to a normal, well-functioning NFL franchise. It’s a larger glimpse into why things have gone downhill so quickly the last two years.

Here’s a breakdown of each grade with the overall ranking in the league in parentheses:

Ownership – D+ (27th)

Tough look here. According to the report, Kraft received a 6.9/10 when it comes to players believing he was willing to invest in the facilities. Having never actually been in the weight room or training room, we can’t speak to what the facilities look like, but just factually speaking, Gillette Stadium is now 22 years old and while the fan experience may still be pretty good (that scoreboard and lighthouse is sick), the underbelly of the stadium looks like it’s 22 years old. Locker room and team travel grades were pretty bad too.

Head coach – B- (27th)

A bit misleading here with the B- as the report says “only 55% of players feel that former head coach Bill Belichick was efficient with their time.” That was 31st overall. The report adds that players felt Belichick was “rarely willing to listen to the locker room,” which was also 31st. Players backed him publicly and played relatively hard down the stretch out of respect for the legend of Bill despite the abysmal season, but they clearly didn’t feel like he was the same leader of men he had been. Further proof it was time for a change.

Weight room – F (32nd)

This is a damming one. You can make the argument that games are won and lost in the weight room in some ways, so ranking dead last in the league in this department is downright unacceptable. According to the report, the Pats were the only team in the league where players “felt their team’s facility is worse than places they could train offsite.” Yikes. One would think Mayo gets this rectified and that it was a case of Belichick thinking what they had was good enough. If it’s a matter of money not being spent to upgrade, well, that’s an issue. 

Locker room – C- (20th)

This one is a little puzzling and we thought it would be a little higher. The Pats’ locker room is pretty nice, but according to the report, “only 77% of players felt the locker room was big enough (23rd overall),” and “93% feel like they have enough room in their individual lockers (7th overall).” Ultimately, this is one of the smaller concerns the Krafts should have after reading this report card, but it is a concern nonetheless when it comes to free agency. Every little thing matters to today’s athlete, particularly their comfortability. The team might need to throw some money into an upgrade sooner rather than later.

Strength coaches – C- (31st)

This is almost as alarming as the weight room one for obvious reasons. Again, you hope it’s a case of Belichick simply not wanting to put more resources in this department over the years, but either way it’s not good. According to the report, “only 65% of players felt like they had an individualized plan,” which was 31st overall. How is that possible in today’s day and age? This needs to be a no-brainer, first day of OTA clean up for Mayo and the staff. The relationship between players and strength coaches is huge for player development. If those guys can’t motivate during the week, you’ve got no shot on Sundays.

Team travel – D (24th)

This was an odd one, until you dig a little deeper. The Patriots have two private planes, yet players still aren’t satisfied? Well, according to the report, this is more about the way the team operated schedule wise than anything else: “The players’ ratings of their travel schedule position it as the second worst in the league.” So, once again, was this more of a Bill issue than anything else? We’ll see.

Training room – C (22nd)

Big problem here. If you’re going to be competitive you need healthy guys. It’s not rocket science. Ranking in the bottom of the league in training facilities means you aren’t putting nearly enough into helping guys get back on the field quicker. The two most alarming sentences in this part of the report were “A number of players report outdated treatment options and that the training room lacks the equipment that players feel should be standard across the league,” and  “Some players suggest additional staff, more tables and updates to the room would help meet the team’s needs for training services.” Plain and simple, they’re behind the times.

Training staff – B- (25th)

Not terrible, but not great. Report says that “83% of players feel like they receive enough one-on-one treatment.” So, most of the guys are okay with the access to staff members, but to rank 25th in the league means there probably needs to be a bigger staff. Bigger room, bigger staff, this too should be a pretty easy issue to fix if Mayo believes it needs fixing.

Food – B- (15th)

We can attest to how good the food at Gillette Stadium is, so it’s no surprise the team eats well. The report says the team ranks 16th overall in both taste and freshness. You would hope this is the case with an NFL franchise, but with the way the rest of the report card reads, this wasn’t a guarantee. At least the guys are getting good meals. I guess you’d like to see this grade be a little higher? But, this is fine.

Nutritionist – B- (20th)

While the grade is good here, the ranking isn’t great. According to the report, “80% of players feel like they get an individualized plan.” That’s a little weird. So, 20% of guys don’t? Is that just some players being lazy or refusing to get on a plan? Is it Belichick telling certain guys not to listen to the nutritionist? Puzzling, but ultimately not a huge problem in the grand scheme of things and easily fixable.

Treatment of families – F- (30th)

This is the worst issue by far. For an ownership group that preaches family so much and talks about growing up as season ticket holders, having your players so disgusted by the family treatment they give you an F- should be a wakeup call. Now, not to pile on, but could this have strictly been a Belichick thing that the Krafts simply didn’t overturn? Sure, but that might be worse if that’s the case. The report tells us that the Patriots are “one of 12 teams that do not provide a family room during games, one of seven teams that do not provide daycare support for players’ children on game day and one of only four teams that do not offer either a family room or daycare.” If it’s turned into the norm around the league, why not give families this option at Gillette? All the hospitality in the suites and at training camp is nice, but when you have the means to help with child care for players’ families, it should be a pretty simple fix.