by Scott Benson

The Patriots will try to become the first NFL team to notch a 15-0 regular season record this afternoon when they host the 1-13 Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.

It’s been a big week for our friends the Fins, who avoided a winless season with a thrilling overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens (again, the perfect team to hold the distinction) on Sunday, and began the next chapter of their history on Wednesday when the legendary Bill Parcells agreed to become the club’s director of football operations. The worst team in football is on a roll.

For some reason, this all put me in a reflective mood, thinking of our team, and the days not too long ago when they would struggle to win even one game, let alone fifteen. And how that all ended the day Parcells would return to football for the very first time, as coach of the (I couldn’t believe it) New England Patriots.

It gave the team instant credibility as a professional operation, which is something pretty precious, as the Dolphins have discovered. It gave the team hope, for at last the lost Patriots had an unflinching guide that could lead them from the wilderness.

Here’s the thing I loved the most about Parcells, as a fan – from his first day on the job, there would be no more fooling ourselves. No more delusions about the task at hand. If the Patriots lost, there would be no more cursing the fates, lamenting the breaks, blaming the refs, or anything else. If the Patriots couldn’t win a game, it would be because they earned it.

On the other hand, if the Patriots began to win, it wouldn’t be by destiny, or by answered prayer, or by happy accident – it would also be because they earned it, Monday through Sunday, with equal parts preparation and perspiration. It would be real.

Honest to God, I had been a die-hard Patriots fan for 26 years before I truly learned any of that. I have seen the game and the team in a completely different light ever since, which has only made me love them both even more.

Yeah, things happened years later that would cast the football messiah in a harsh light. Rightfully. And Parcells continues to be as mercurial as the weather, which can be alternately amusing and infuriating, depending on which way the wind is blowing.

Still, if you love the game, how can you not love Bill Parcells too?

Speaking of coaches that have taught us plenty about the game, our colleague Dan Snapp passes along this link from Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star. One of the best and brightest sportswriters in the country has an amusing – and instructive – Bill Belichick anecdote from Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez.

There’s still Christmas shopping to be done (I know, that’s pathetic), so here’s a quick run through of the morning papers.

In the Globe, Jim McCabe talks with the 1972 Dolphins’ sub-committee for graciousness, co-chaired by Earl Morrell and Jim Mandich. Jackie MacMullan visits with Pro Bowler Mike Vrabel. Christopher Gasper looks at some more league records on the line today, and says a forecast of rain might ground the Pats again. Jim McBride likes the Pats by 17, and Mike Reiss considers the job ahead for Parcells.

In the Herald, John  Tomase claims that number 15 is already in the bag for the Pats. I’m pretty sure they have to play the game anyway. John adds some quick hits, and five things to look for today. He also has Scott Zolak on Parcells, while Karen Guregian wonders if the rain will put the ball in Laurence Maroney’s hands again.

Lastly, in the ProJo, Shalise Manza Young talks with Mercury Morris, who hasn’t been this famous for 30 years, at least. This guy is nuts – what does “you can only get your first home run once,” mean exactly? Jim Donaldson says he wants Scott Pioli to be his personal shopper this Christmas, and Willie Andrews tries to break SMY’s ‘Up Close’ jinx. Her subject last week, defensive back Eddie Jackson, was waived shortly after he was profiled. Careful, Willie.

I’ll be back after the game. Enjoy your Sunday.