In Bill We Trust?
Sunday, March 17, 2013
In Bill we trust.
That's been the mantra here in New England for well over a decade now when it comes to the New England Patriots and their leader Bill Belichick.
After all, since taking over as the Pats grand poobah in 2000, he has led the franchise to 10 AFC East titles, 7 AFC Championship games, 5 Super Bowls and 3 World Championships. Not bad for a franchise that was considered the laughing stock of the NFL not too long ago.
But something funny has happened as of late. Now 8 years removed from their last Super Bowl win, some are beginning to question Belichick's greatness. And last week's decision to let Wes Welker join the AFC-rival Denver Broncos did nothing to quiet the disgruntled masses.
Like many Patriots fans, I too was not happy with the organization's decision not to keep Welker, particularly given how little a committment (2 years - $12 million) it would have taken to keep him. However, I also realize that, like every other decision Belichick has made since he arrived here, he made that decision with a plan in mind and it is highly likely that the Patriots will do just fine without #83.
Shortly after it was announced that Welker would be joining Denver, news was leaked that the Patriots had agreed to a 5-year deal with former Rams WR Danny Amendola. While not the prolific producer Welker is, he is seen as a very similar player and will likely fill Welker's role in the Pats offense quite nicely. More importantly, the quickness in which is was announced that Amendola and the Pats had reached an agreement on a deal was a clear indication that Belichick had a plan all along whether or not any of us agreed with it.
I should also mention that I believe that it is more than fair for fans or members of the media to criticize Belichick, owner Bob Kraft and the Patriots organization any time it is believed to be appropriate. And the handling of the Welker situation certainly qualifies as one of those moments.
However, let's also step back and appreciate what we have here.
No coach and no franchise has been able to sustain success for the length of time Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have during the salary cap era. In fact, no other franchise comes close.
We need to not only remember that, but appreciate what we have here because it will not last forever. And for those critics like yours truly who were unhappy with the Welker fiasco, let's also recognize a few things.
First, the Patriots offense will likely be not only fine, but prolific without him. As long as #12 is back there throwing the rock, you and I could be playing the slot receiver position and the offense would still produce at a high level.
I'd be willing to bet that the Patriots will be a top 5 offense again this season provided Tom Brady stays healthy. With Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and whoever elese they decide to throw out there, they will be able to move the ball at will and score a ton of points. The problem with the Patriots today and for the past half dozen years is their defense.
The Boston Herald's Ron Borges did an excelent piece last week quoting a rival offensive coordinator who told him that the reason the Pats haven't won it all since the 2004 season has nothing to do with their offense and everything to do with their defense. The unnamed coordinator said that the team no longer has a physical defense like it did from 2001-2004 and that it lacks playmakers like Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, Assante Sammuel, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Willie McGinnest. In fact, that coordinator also said that there isn't one player on the Patriots defense today that they have to game plan for specifically like there used to be a decade ago.
So, what have the Patriots done this offseason to address that side of the football? They started by re-signing two of their own defensive backs in Aqib Talib and slot-corner Kyle Arrington. They also just inked free agent safety Adrian Wilson from Arizona whom they hope will give them that hard-hitting Harrison-type at the back end of the defense. Are those moves good enough? Not on their own. But the Pats don't appear to be finished yet.
They have hosted DE's Dwight Freeney and John Abraham and may be interested in the recently released Elvis Dumervil.
Let's also give the franchise credit for signing return specialist Leon Washington to a 1-year contract. While Washington may be a bit long in the tooth, he still finished second in the league in kickoff return average at 29.0 yards per return. The Patriots have not had a legitimate threat on their kick and punt return units in many years.
So while we slowly get over the loss of Wes Welker to the Denver Broncos, let's appreciate what the Patriots have done this offseason and the fact that they will likely be one of the teams to beat again in 2013.
In Bill we trust? I don't know about you, but I still do!