NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed
What I’m about to say might sound ridiculous to some people, but thankfully, most of those people would never stumble upon this website.
Being a diehard fan of one sports team can really hurt.
There are 32 scenarios each season that make 31/32 NFL fans unhappy. The pain of a season ending then becomes even worse the further along your season progresses and again worse by how dramatic (or traumatic) the finish is.
The worst part of last night’s game was how sudden it all happened. The Pats were in the driver’s seat, four minutes left, they had the ball, they were up, all they had to do was finish. Run out the clock, score another touchdown, anything. Then once the Giants got the ball back, all they had to do was finish, stop them, break up a pass, anything. Then they just had to let the Giants score with as much time remaining as possible. Then, once again, they just had to finish, :57 seconds left, catch the ball, drive down the field.
Unfortunately, this team wasn’t ready. They were a team built off two minute drives that were only given :57 seconds. They were a team that were either too young, too inexperience or not talented enough to make defensive stands when it mattered most.
But this was not the 2009 Patriots. This was a team that got along, that always seemed to have one another’s backs. Nothing can or should be taken away from any individual player or coach on the Patriots. They fought hard all season and overachieved. The Ravens said it themselves, the better team probably did lose two Sundays ago. But what does that say about the Ravens?
This wasn’t the team destined to win a Super Bowl. Maybe next year, or maybe the year after that. Not the team with 22 year olds playing TE. Not the team with a center by committee. Not the team who’s star DE was lost for the season. Not the team with the patchwork secondary. Not the team without a third option at WR. Not the team who’s coach perhaps tried to do a little too much.
Listen Patriots fans, there’s a lot to be optimistic about. We still have the best coach and best QB of the last twenty years. We have an extremely young team who can only get better. We have two first round picks, two second round picks and plenty of cap room. We have a team that gets along and we have a cornerback sitting on injured reserve who started out his rookie year playing better CB than anything we got to see this year. This is a team that lost 5 total regular season games the last two seasons combined.
Still, there are some things the Patriots still need to fix.
HIRE A DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR OR A GM
It’s hard enough to be a head coach and general manager. It’s hard enough to be a head coach and defensive coordinator. It’s a whole other thing altogether trying to be a head coach, general manager and defensive coordinator. That’s what Bill Belichick was trying to do all season.
I’m not doubting BB’s ability to do any one of those things. I think he knows how to lead a team, I think he knows how to lead a defense and I think he can evaluate talent. But there aren’t 72 hours in a day. When you’re trying to do three things at once, something, or everything is going to slack. Right now, that seems to be defense. I understand Belichick’s hesitance to hiring a defensive coordinator. They’ll probably just be swept away from him again into a head coaching position, but I’d rather that than losing Super Bowls.
FIX THE SECONDARY
Getting Ras-I Dowling back will help, but Belichick has to determine if he has a cornerback or a safety in Devin McCourty and he has to draft accordingly. If McCourty is a safety, the Patriots have Dowling (injury prone), Arrington (perhaps playing way over his head early in the season), Sterling Moore (talented, but wildly inexperienced and unproven), Antwaun Molden (no comment), Nate Jones and Malcolm Williams (special teamers) and Julian Edelman (wide receiver).
Like I said in my intro, there’s a lot to be excited about there. If we’re playing the Peter Gammons game, IF Ras-I Dowling can stay healthy, and IF Sterling Moore can play like he did late in the season and IF Kyle Arrington was hindered by injuries in the second half of the season and IF Julian Edelman can continue to progress as a slot corner, the Patriots will be fine. But that’s a lot of ifs.
For the third year in a row, whether McCourty is playing safety or not, the Patriots will need to spend a first or second round pick on a corner. And whether McCourty is playing safety or not, the Patriots should draft a safety as well.
FIND ANOTHER CONSISTENT WR
The first decision to be made is whether Wes Welker is coming back. Let’s hope he is. Deion Branch has clearly lost a step and shouldn’t be the no. 2 WR on a Super Bowl roster. Brandon Lloyd is one option to come in. He’s said he wants to come wherever Josh McDaniels goes, so now it’s just up to whether or not Belichick will have him. He’s been a talented but troubled WR through his career, but if he can be signed for the right price, he’d be a great piece as he already knows the offense.
The Patriots also need to draft a WR. It’s something that hasn’t gone so well for the Patriots in the past, but this is also an undeniably deep WR class from top to bottom. Hey, take a couple WRs for I care. They need to hit on one or two at some point.
SHORE UP THE FRONT SEVEN
I wouldn’t call any part of the front seven a weakness, but it’s also not a strength at this point, despite having talented players. I can’t point at Brandon Deaderick or Kyle Love or Rob Ninkovich as reasons why the Patriots didn’t win the Super Bowl, but there’s little depth there and that’s what needs to be fixed. With four picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft, it’s time for Belichick to NOT trade into next year’s draft. I know it works, I know it keeps getting them more picks. I don’t care if we trade down, but it needs to be for picks THIS year.
Other than those few areas of weakness, this is a good Patriots team that’s going to be good for as long as Tom Brady can stay in his peak as a player. I desperately want another ring for Brady and Belichick. I wanted it this year, but sometimes being a fan sucks. I don’t want to wait another year, or another two years, but that’s what we’re looking at.
There’s a lot of positives to be taken away from this season. Let’s not only think of the negatives right now.