Scott Cordischi On Sports: Patriot Problems? Yes and No.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
It has been less than a week since the 2013 Patriots season came to an end, and I can’t take all of the whining and complaining from many of the so-called “fans” of this team.
Yes, the Patriots ended their season two wins short of their goal of winning another Super Bowl title and with that, there should be disappointment. But there is a difference between being disappointed and being downright irrational about this franchise which has been and continues to be what Shannon Sharpe calls the “gold standard” of the National Football League.
I have heard that Bob Kraft is cheap, that Bill Belichick is clueless and that Tom Brady is a bum. Seriously? Are New England fans that stupid? Or have we become absolutely spoiled by the Patriots’ success since 2001?
Whatever the case may be, in the words of Jimmy Serrano from the movie “Midnight Run,” “Sydney, relax. Have a cream soda! Everything’s gonna be all over with in a few minutes!”
Okay, so maybe Serrano is exaggerating a bit. This great run that the Patriots are on won’t be over with in a few minutes, but it won’t last forever. So enjoy it while it lasts.
Are there things that need to be addressed by this franchise in the short term? Absolutely!
Starting on offense, I think we can all agree that Tom Brady needs something more than three 5’-9” Smurfs to throw the football to, particularly when one of those Smurfs isn’t named Wes Welker.
In defense of Belichick, however, he did draft two receivers last year in Aaron Dobson (2nd round) and Josh Boyce (4th round) and signed another as an undrafted free agent in Kenbrell Thompkins. All of them proved to be capable of being productive in the NFL, but all were injured at various points of the season limiting their availability and, hence, their production.
Belichick can also be excused for not knowing that TE Rob Gronkowski would have his knee blown out three quarters of the way through the season and for not knowing that his other TE would be charged with murder. This offense was being built around these two talented players, but unforeseen circumstances kept them from being on the field.
Defensively, the Patriots have been subpar for the past five years but appeared to be ready to change that this season. In fact, through the first few weeks of the season, New England had one of the top scoring defensive units in the entire National Football League. But, then, the injury bug started to bite.
New England’s top two Nose Guards in Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly went down with season-ending injuries. Their leading tackler Jerrod Mayo also suffered a season-ending injury. Top cover corner Aquib Talib suffered a hip injury which kept him out of action for a brief time and clearly effected his play for the remainder of the season. The result, was a defense that looked vulnerable again and one that was ultimately exploited by Peyton Manning in the AFC Championship game.
What does Belichick and the organization deserve to be criticized for? Not retaining the services of WR Wes Welker for seems to be pennies on the dollar in comparison to what he received in Denver. Welker was as reliable a target as Tom Brady had over the last 5 years and to let him walk away for such a small amount seemed foolish.
Again, in the organization’s defense, they thought that had an adequate replacement for Welker in the person of Danny Amendola. However, the free agent signee could not stay healthy and could not produce anywhere near the level of Welker making him a first year bust.
Another area Belichick needs to consider revamping is his defensive approach. The “bend, but don’t break” philosophy served him well last decade when he had playmakers like Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, Rodney Harrison, Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel and others who could make a big play to get off the field on third down. More recently, that has not been the case for the New England defense which ranked last statistically in pass defense over the 5-year period from 2008-2012.
Sunday’s game in Denver was a perfect example of the defense’s shortcomings. The loss of Talib notwithstanding, the Pats could not get off the field on third down, could not make a big play and didn’t even come close to Peyton Manning all day.
If we agree that DE’s Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are talented players, then how do we account for that lack of pressure on Manning?
My suggestion would be a dramatic change in philosophy from the “bend, but don’t break” way of doing things to a much more aggressive, blitzing, stunting, up the field type of defense. Say what you want about Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, but the man can coach defense. And his aggressive Seahawks are the gold standard when it comes to defense in the NFL today.
Still, despite our disappointment in how it all ended, let us not forget that the Patriots were one of the NFL’s final four teams which is no small accomplishment. And while they have not won a Super Bowl since the 2004 season, they have won the AFC East in 8 of the 9 seasons since that time with the only exception being in 2008 when the team went 11-5 despite losing Tom Brady to a torn ACL in the first game of the season.
In addition, the team has also played in five more AFC Championship games and two more Super Bowls over that stretch. There is no other NFL franchise that can boast those types of numbers.
Yes, Belichick and the Patriots organization are not perfect. But they have been far more productive than any of the other 31 NFL franchises over the last 13 years having mastered the “Salary Cap Era” like no other franchise in league history.
For that, we should be very grateful.
-It has been a great run for the PC Friars who have won 4 straight in Big East play erasing the bad taste of an 0-2 start to conference play. However, I would caution those of you who are thinking about the NCAA Tournament this early to look at their remaining schedule. 7 of their last 12 conference games will be played away from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and 3 of their 5 home games will be against solid teams like Xavier, Villanova and Marquette. What the Friars do have going for them is the fact that this new Big East may not be quite as strong as we all anticipated it would be in year one making all of those games winnable for PC. However, the flip side of that is that they are all potential banana peels to slip on as well for Providence. Just as fans should not have been writing this team off following an 0-2 start, not should they be putting them in the Big Dance after four straight wins. Let the game be played and we shall see if this thin, but gutty Friars team has what it takes to participate in March Madness.
-Pardon me if the signing of Grady Sizemore, who hasn’t played a single game in since 2011, doesn’t excite me.
-If I were a Yankee fan, however, I would be excited about the signing of pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees were absolutely desperate for another arm in their starting rotation and, if this guy is as good as advertised, then he could be a hug addition to the team. However, we have seen much-heralded Japanese pitchers come to America and fail (see Diasuke Matsuzaka) while other lesser known pitcher come and have great success. We shall see which category Tanaka falls into.
-After watching Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman make a complete jackass out of himself on national TV last week, this video may make you see him differently and actually like the man. Take a look! http://nextimpulsesports.com/2014/01/20/richard-sherman-hater-video-will-change-mind/
-Another big match Down Under for Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. It’s tennis’ version of Manning versus Brady.
-Did you see where Jonny Gomes said that the beards are coming off for the 2014 season?
-Selfless, great, hard-working and loyal are all words that I would use to describe recently retired Patriots’ offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Having spent 30 years with the franchise working for many different head coaches, GM’s and owners, Scar will be truly missed.
-Don’t look now Bruins fans, but Brad Marchand is starting to play like, well, Brad Marchand! Now if we could only get Tuukka Rask to start playing like Tuukka Rask again!
-24 days until Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers.