NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
Greg M. Cooper -USA TODAY Sports

The "Patriot Way" is no stranger to criticism. Even as New England piled up titles over the previous two decades, the militaristic coaching style of Bill Belichick and the no-nonsense culture he's developed in Foxborough has endured its fair share of critiques, especially from players who clashed with that approach. The latest example of that comes from current Steelers linebacker Cassius Marsh, who played in New England for nine games back in 2017. While he commended the team's work ethic, Marsh also noted on Tom Segura's 2 Bears, 1 Cave podcast they "treat players like crap."

Naturally, Marsh's comments about New England's system have garnered a lot of attention, including from former Patriots receiver Deion Branch. The Super Bowl XXXIX MVP played a total of seven seasons in Foxborough and came to the defense of his former team, albeit while acknowledging that it's a tough place to play.

"New England isn't for every player," Branch said during an appearance on NBC Sports Boston's "Early Edition." "New England is not the place you want to go and think you're just gonna play first and you do your work later. No, it's you work first and then we play. As far as playing the game in New England, I do not agree with him on that. I never had a situation where I felt myself or any of my former teammates felt like they were mistreated."

This isn't the first time that Marsh has been critical of the Patriots. Back in 2018, he also highlighted his disdain saying "there's nothing fun about" playing in New England. Those previous comments by Marsh were recently referenced by current Giants head coach Joe Judge, who was with the Patriots during that time as the special teams coordinator. Judge appeared on an episode of The Ringer's Flying Coach podcast that was released Wednesday and he recalled a story about how Julian Edelman responded to those remarks in-house. 

"When we came out of that whole deal in 2017 where it was like … 'It's not fun, it's this, it's that' … there was a white grease board on the wall (at Gillette Stadium), and it was blank," Judge told Sean McVay and Peter Schrager, who host the podcast. "He walked in and wrote in the middle of the board, 'Winning is fun.' And it was something everyone read as they walked in every day. … He kind of spread the message to the entire team of, 'Hey guys, you want to have fun? Winning is fun. We do everything we can to win here.'"

Of course, winning is the name of the game in the NFL. If that means limiting the amount of tomfoolery throughout the week, it's a necessary price to pay. That said, that type of culture likely only works if the other end of the bargain is met: winning. After a 7-9 season that included the Patriots missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2008 last year, Bill Belichick will likely need to get back to his winnings ways for his players to truly buy in to his culture.