Listen to sports radio long enough and you'll inevitably come away feeling at least some level of concern about the Patriots and the direction they're headed as an organization -- be it ownership's willingness to spend to the salary cap, Bill Belichick's autonomy, their scouts' blind spot when evaluating defensive backs, or the players' collective commitment in comparison to the glory days.
But apparently those shortcomings aren't as apparent to those forced to compete with the franchise. When the Sporting News asked NFL players to name the best organization in pro football, the Patriots were voted No. 1 according to a poll that heard from 103 players on 27 teams, gaining 34 votes to easily separate themselves from the second-place Steelers (21).
Despite twice beating the Patriots in Super Bowls over the past five years, the Giants were third (19). And despite going 15-1 last season, after winning a title of their own in 2010, the Packers placed fourth (15).
"Patriots," responded an NFC defender. "Just their history of winning -- it speaks for itself."
At the other end of the spectrum, the Cleveland Browns were rated as the NFL's worst organization, while all three of the Pats' AFC East rivals received at least two votes. The Jets in particular appeared frequently on the two other negative polls, as well, with Rex Ryan voted the game's most overrated coach (Belichick was second), and both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow among the seven most overrated players (Michael Vick was No. 1).
In other categories, Houston's Gary Kubiak and Atlanta's Mike Smith, current conference leaders, tied for the most nominations for most underrated head coach, while Alabama's Nick Saban earned twice as many nods as Ohio State's Urban Meyer in response to the question of which big-time college coach players would most like to see in the NFL (some apparently forgetting his failed stint with the Dolphins).
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