I received this email from Dave Formato this morning, and felt it too good not to share. Thanks Dave!
I found a tweet by Jane McManus yesterday be very revealing as it pertains to our very own sports talk radio personas (mostly one Michael Felger). Now to be honest, I generally like him as a whole (more so back in the day) as he was one of the few reporters who gave the Patriots props when Bill Belichick was making moves that the establishment (Ron Borges, Kevin Mannix and Nick Cafardo) couldn’t stand. However, I believe that to become more contrarian, and get more “street” cred on the radio and TV, he has taken on more of their type of persona in the past five or so years, to the point where he is indistinguishable from all of them (it really is a shame, he was very good when he was a beat writer). Even Tom E. Curran (another favorite of mine) has started with some of that contrarian nonsense this year with the Patriots defensive struggles. Anyway, I digress. Here is Jane’s Tweet:
Anyway, to my point: The Boston sports media for the past few years have been all over the Patriots’ (Belichick in particular) front office for the lack of ability to build a team that can win the Superbowl during Brady’s last few “prime” years. Mainly because “they are cheap and only want to draft low round guys and “coach them up” so they don’t have to pay big bucks”. Furthermore, with the recent “success” of the New York Jets and Super Bowl appearances for the Colts, many have come to beat the following horses to death:
- “The Patriots trade down way too much to find “Value” and don’t know how to draft and pick free agents since Scott Pioli left..Belichick needs a contrarian voice in the room since he is a dictator, etc, etc…”
- “The league has passed Belichick the GM by, he doesn’t get the new way to manage a roster, and go and get stud players at every skill position, look at WR, OLB and DB, etc. etc…
- AND my favorite from Felger..” The Patriots always claim “cap jail” issues and “value” when drafting and signing free agents and the JETS go out and get whomever they want whenever they want and don’t worry about any of that stuff, because the cap isn’t real (“Cap is Crap“) and it is a fabrication of the Patriots to their fans to justify being cheap… (or some variation thereof…).
As a fan, this nonsense makes me sick, but objectively, I’ve always had issues with this stuff on two fronts. And with the quote above and the recent events with both teams, I feel we’ve come full circle and these facts should be pointed out and the media (Felger) called out on it. So, I figured you are the perfect guy to do it with your forum and the fact that you’ve always been a voice of reason and perspective with this stuff.
First, There are three reasons, in my opinion for the “bad drafting” the Pats have done.
Number one, I think that the drafts from 05-08 (Pioli left in Jan 09, so that draft was all Belichick) were actually their worst during BB’s tenure (While Pioli was still here). I took the liberty of pasting the 05-11 drafts for the PATS (and JETS/Colts for comparison) at the end of this email so you can see the results. If you look at the Jets/Colts, they have had their share of misses too, and I’d dare say those misses have had a bigger impact on those teams because they’ve made less picks during that time and the misses were high in the draft in some cases)
Two, They were always drafting at or near the bottom of every round from 2001 on (unless they made trades to get other teams higher picks). Tell me; if BB had a top 10 pick every year in that time, the roster wouldn’t be stocked with studs like the Jets always seem to go and “get”.
And three, they were somewhat of a victim of their success. The three Super Bowl titles created legends on the roster that got old or too expensive or both in 2006-2009 (i.e.: Bruschi, Vrabel, Brown, Law, Seymour, etc…) The problem with that is they were never going to flat-out cut some of these “ICONS” and because of that, they probably had them on the roster a year or two longer than they would have if they were just running a team in a vacuüm. You are seeing that to some extent this year with Kevin Faulk. If he were any other guy, he would have been cut after the PUP deadline and maybe Dowling would be back on the field, but if they cut him, that would have been a PR nightmare. Now, I’m not saying that any of this is wrong, however, the issue is roster spots and how limited they really are, I.E, were any of the ’05 or ’06 draft picks really going to earn roster spots on the team anyway because they really didn’t have that many up for grabs due to the log jam up top. So you draft these guys and end up having to either cut them OR cut Bruschi, it was a no win situation. Which is a big part of the reason they traded away a bunch of picks for the likes of Welker and Moss, they didn’t have the roster spots to keep those multiple picks if they made them, so what was the point in keeping them in the first place?
Second issue: If you look at the ’09-’11 drafts, the amount of pics is very high for a reason, which is obvious to me, but never gets any mention on the radio because that would refute their argument (of BB is cheap and doesn’t like to pay high prices for big time players): The Patriots were in process of turning over their “old” roster, so they needed to make a bunch of pics to fill a bunch of roster spots, duh…. Plus, I believe that Belichick has realized that, other than a handful of “sure-fire” picks each year, you just don’t know how these KIDS are going to work out, even the high picks (Vernon Gholston/Jerry Hughes anyone?! (both of whom the MEDIA wanted the PATs to take BTW).
So in one sense, you are much better off with throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks. Now that has its downside too, i.e. in 2006 and 2009 when not a lot of it “stuck” so you have a hole in the roster and a bad draft that year, which has hurt the Patriots, no doubt. However, when you hit on it, like in 2010, most of it “sticks” and the Patriots have a 13-3 record in 2011 to show for it from that draft class.
Now, all the trading down on draft day makes me crazy too sometimes, but if they can swing getting extra guys/picks in future years out of it, isn’t that the best formula for long-term success? I think that Belichick is using the “three Superbowls won” capital he has built up with the fans to shift from the “win now to keep my job” mentality most NFL coaches and GMs have to a “build a long-term program so as to protect my legacy” mode. Who can blame him, PLUS, in doing that, he is actually looking out for his bosses best interests (Robert Kraft) and making his NFL franchise a perennial contender, which puts areses in the seats and pays the bills. So he is actually doing exactly what he is being paid to do, in my opinion.
However, to get to my original point: Felger (among others) has been on this three-year rant about how the JETS (and Colts to a lesser extent) have found a new and “better” way to build a perennial Superbowl contender while drafting high and paying for high-priced free agents, which gets you a top-heavy roster of “stud” players and who cares about the backups, etc. All of this with no cap ramifications and no downside to getting the best players and paying them big money.
According to the above quote, however, it seems that isn’t working out so hot for the JETS right about now and how did it work out for the Polians and Colts this year?! Belichick had learned a LONG time ago, being healthy is one of the biggest key’s to winning a Superbowl, BUT, it rarely ever happens. So, the way you combat that is to have depth at key positions so when the inevitable injuries start to come, you have players that can produce at a “serviceable” level to maintain your competitive nature and hopefully get some breaks along the way to win the whole thing.
This is the reason the Patriots go 11-5 without Brady AND why they are a contender year in and year out, even while “rebuilding” like they were doing the past three years and the Colts completely implode when Manning goes down. Think about this for a minute, over the past 11 years, Belichick has essentially turned over this roster and still managed to win the Superbowl three times while winning 13 games in five of those years, ALL while the league is competitively set up to tear you down when you get good, (between the draft and schedule being weighted against you).
That is incredible and, as a fan, I love that fact about this team. This year has been a joy to watch (despite the defense), these guys are fun and entertaining and they play hard and as a team. Furthermore, with some of their young talent, it appears they are stocked to make runs at the Superbowl for the next five years or so, provided that Brady stays healthy.
Bottom line: I think Belichick’s drafting has actually gotten better since Pioli left, his way of doing things builds roster depth and team chemistry, which are vital to winning and sustaining success and I think that we finally have proof that if you do it the other way, things may go good when everything breaks your way (JETS) and when you star players are all healthy (Colts in ’06) but when it goes the other way, which it usually does, you are in big trouble for it.
Going into 2012, both the Jets and Colts have chemistry issues, cap issues and depth of player issues that aren’t going to just disappear in the new year. I think things are going to actually continue to trend down for both teams next year.
So I think the verdict is in BB wins again as both coach and GM and I think Felger, et al, should have to send him a nice apology fruit basket or something. 😉
One last thing and then I promise I’ll stop typing. This year Bill Belichick the “GM” is taking a ton of heat for that defense and how they are historically bad and he has a bunch of “who dats” back there. Now, they drive me crazy too, don’t get me wrong, (not with the yards given up, but mostly with bad technique in the secondary). How none of those guys know to turn their head half way into the route to find the ball, is beyond me. McCourty would have like five INTs if he just turned his damn head around…. Anyway I digress, BUT, my point is that Belichick made roster moves in the beginning of the season that seem crazy now, BUT they’ve been slammed with injuries back there, which you wouldn’t figure on happening to this extent. Your starting DBs were supposed to be:
- Ras-I Dowling – IR (They figured he’d come around, but due to other injuries couldn’t wait any longer and had to take his spot for someone else. I think this one and Bodden hurt them the most this year.)
- Devin McCourty – Injured, missed three games just as he was starting to play with more confidence and hasn’t been the same this year as he was last year.
- Pat Chung – Injured, missed seven games.
- Leigh Bodden – Injured, cut, (should have gone on IR)
- Brandon Meriweather- Cut (head case)
- Josh Barrett – IR
- Kyle Arrington- Only guy who wasn’t really hurt this year.
So out of all those guys, one was cut for not playing within the system and only one other has been on the field for the whole year. I bet Belichick wishes he still had James Sanders, but in looking at that line-up, you would figure he’d be expendable at his cap number. So, the issue with this team on the back-end has been continuity… There hasn’t been any ALL season long.
I think this explains in part why they get better in the red zone. Things become more simple down there and it is easier to just play one-on-one football if you don’t have the whole field behind you, so they become more effective. I only hope they can develop some in the next month with Chung back and some of the other guys stepping in and up who now have some experience, because, God willing, they make the Superbowl, Green Bay or New Orleans is going to carve them up on that fast track in Indy if they don’t.
Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read all of this, I hope the thoughts came through in some cohesive manner.
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