KRAVITZ: Think the Patriots' culture doesn't matter? Check out what these ex-Colts are doing in New England

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels celebrates a touchdown in front of head coach Bill Belichick, right, during an NFL divisional playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, Jan. 13, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Minneapolis, Minn. (WTHR) - Maybe Ryan Grigson got it right on the personnel side and Chuck Pagano got it wrong on the coaching side.

Or maybe the four ex-Colts who are playing Sunday for a chance to win a Super Bowl as members of the New England Patriots just found themselves and their games once they became part of the Patriots culture. Maybe it's a little bit of both.

Isn't it amazing, though, how guys like Dwayne Allen, Phillip Dorsett, Ricky Jean Francois and Lawrence Guy have become part of the Patriot machine that is shooting for its third Super Bowl victory in four years?

No, I'm answering, it's not amazing. Because, well, they're the Patriots, and they have a winning culture nobody else in football can equal.

"Understand, I've always been all-or-nothing, and the bad thing about that is, I'll always demand your all, too,'' Allen said. "The thing about coming to this (New England) organization is to see it's filled top to bottom with individuals who are very similar in that we're all all-in to be successful. Either you're going to do that or you're not going to be here. I can see that, I can agree with that and I can fall in line with that.

"It took a little while to get used to it. Definitely took a little while. There were some habits I picked up (in Indianapolis) that just don't fly here.''

I asked, can you give some examples?

Allen laughed. "No examples. Just take my word for it.''

He continued, "But once you learn the lay of the land and really embrace and enjoy being coached, it becomes enjoyable. I can't say it's easy. I can't say that at all because there's nothing easy about being part of this organization. But it's worth it. You honestly get to the point where you enjoy the grind.

"It's about the culture, the culture, the culture. It's set. One of the most unique things about culture is, no matter what (assistant) coach you bring in, the culture is kind of mapped out. The coach can say `I want this, I want that,' but the culture is enforced by the players in that locker room. You have to have the right guys in the right position with the right mindset to enforce that culture throughout the organization.''

Josh McDaniels, who will be introduced as the Colts' new head coach early next week, tried to establish the Patriots' culture in Denver during his short time there, but it never really happened. A year-and-three-quarters just isn't time enough to get that done.
"To have the kind of success he had in New England, you need to bring in certain types of players, really smart players who will buy in to what you're trying to do,'' said Chris Simms, the NFL analyst who played for McDaniels in Denver. "He didn't even get two years to try and do that (in Denver).

It wasn't enough time. It's not something that happens overnight. I would think it's going to take some time in Indy.''

Culture, however you want to define it, is fine, but it takes special people to establish and enforce that culture, and that's why the Patriots aren't sweating the imminent losses of McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. It's because they still have their holy trinity - owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

They are not only embodiments of the New England culture, but they are the best in the world at what they do, and that gives them the gravitas to enforce a culture that allows - forces -- players who struggled elsewhere to flourish.

On the surface, Allen wouldn't appear to be the perfect Patriot; he is a free thinker, a critical thinker, a guy who will be open and honest with the media, even if his message doesn't necessarily fall in line with the organizational script. But he's found a home here, even if he only managed 10 catches for 86 yards and one touchdown. His blocking ability remains stellar, as we saw late in the AFC Championship Game when Allen filled in for the concussed Rob Gronkowski. He is a cog in the machine.

"I'm somebody who asks `why' and once I know why and understand why, I will fall in line,'' Allen said.
Allen was the Colts' third-round draft choice out of Clemson in 2012 and had some success in Indianapolis, but over time, injuries limited him and the Colts began using him more as a blocker than as a pass receiver. When general manager Chris Ballard came in, he decided to invest in Jack Doyle rather than Allen, a move that has largely paid off with Doyle reaching this year's Pro Bowl.

"Were you hurt when the Colts let you go?'' I asked Allen.
"No, because I saw it coming,'' he said. "I'm a realist. I saw the way I was being utilized within the offense. I knew who was on my side, so to speak, and who wasn't. Whenever offseason changes are made (in the front office), it's not a surprise to get a call. I was more surprised when I heard where I was going (New England).''

It's endlessly amazing, and yet not at all surprising, how rotational players elsewhere move into the New England system and become key pieces to the Patriots' magnificent puzzle. A few years back, these former Colts were foundering, mere marginal players on a .500 team. Sunday, the four of them have a chance to win a Super Bowl, including Guy, a Colt back in 2013 who has started 15 games this season on the Patriots' defensive line.

I'd say "Go figure,'' but honestly, there's no figuring necessary.

They play for the Patriots, and that explains everything.

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