NEPD Staff Writer: Jason Cappell
The numbers don’t lie. Tom Brady hasn’t been impressive at all this season. In fact 2014 is no doubt the worst season of his NFL career. But to put the blame on Tom Brady’s shoulders is a grave mistake. The diminishing talent around him has failed Brady, and it’s Bill Belichick the GM and not the coach who is responsible.
It’s been well documented that the best way to get Tom Brady off his game is by knocking him off his feet. The New York Giants exposed this flaw on two separate instances in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. Give Tom Brady time in the pocket and he’ll pick you apart all day long, but when you find ways to put him under duress, his skill set is diminished.
The notion that Tom Brady is on the decline has been analyzed nonstop lately. But instead of focusing on the quarterback, it’s time to start paying attention to those around him. The offensive line is a mess, and that’s a polite way of framing it. Through 4 games last season Brady was sacked 7 times, yet this season in the first 4 games he has already been sacked 9 times.
Attributing the Patriots failures to the trade of Logan Mankins is just an easy excuse. Its true Mankins was their best lineman, but his skill set was deteriorating and the Patriots line woes would likely exist even if Mankins was still with the team. But perhaps the most frustrating part for Patriots fans is that Belichick miscalculated his roster and incorrectly believed that Mankins’ replacement could be promoted from within. The trade would have made more sense if the Patriots actually intended to use Tim Wright in their game plan and perhaps they could have spent the money they saved in the deal to shore up problems elsewhere on the roster.
But the Pats have done neither. As a converted wide receiver turned tight end, Wright appeared to be an Aaron Hernandez type of player for the Patriots. Instead, Michael Hoomanawanui has had more snaps than Wright this season. To date Wright has just 4 catches for 35 yards.
The Patriots revolving door of an offensive line has caused nothing but problems for Tom Brady. Is it Tom Brady’s fault that his line hasn’t performed? Of course not! The Patriots ongoing changes to their offensive line reflect poorly on the man whose job it is to assemble the roster – and that’s Bill Belichick.
Former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia is no longer in town, and expecting fringe NFL talents like Jordan Devey to adequately step in and protect Tom Brady was a miscalculation on Belichick’s behalf. For Sunday night’s tilt against Cincinnati the starting offensive line will again be a mystery until shortly before kickoff, and that doesn’t provide any sort of competitive advantage for the Patriots, especially considering the fact that Tom Brady threw two interceptions and was strip-sacked twice by the Chiefs.
Some of Bill Belichick’s recent personnel decisions have perplexed Patriots fans. Why was Tommy Kelly let go? Sure the Patriots may have saved some money, but with Sealver Siliga sidelined, the team’s interior run stuffing ability was lacking in Kansas City. For a team that has struggled at throwing the ball downfield why has Kenbrell Thompkins been a healthy inactive scratch? Even though there is a plethora of slot receivers at Brady’s disposal, the Patriots are far too predictable, and appear to be content with disregarding big play opportunities.
Outside of Julian Edelman the Patriots don’t have any homegrown contributors at the wide receiver position and that too is problematic. Josh Boyce wasn’t even good enough to make the Patriots 53-man roster and Aaron Dobson has yet to make a meaningful contribution after displaying promise as a rookie. Over the past five years the receivers New England have drafted have combined for 52 pass catches for 727 yards, and only four touchdowns in 27 games. Sadly, no team in the NFL has had fewer receptions from their receivers since 2010.
Since Belichick assumed the Patriots GM duties he’s tried to outsmart every other coach in the NFL by winning with a group of unheralded players. Belichick has reached for players in the draft and passed on talent at positions of need.
In 2010 the Patriots had two first round draft picks at 22 and 24. The Patriots traded one of those picks to Denver, with which the Broncos selected Demariyus Thomas, and then the Patriots traded their other first round pick to Dallas, which the Cowboys used to draft Dez Bryant. After all only four of the Patriots 21 offensive draft choices since 2010 have been regular starters.
The 2013 season saw Brady post career lows across the board, and although he was obviously in dire need at the receiver position, Belichick unexplainably stood pat and was satisfied surrounding Brady with below average talent. Faced with a similar situation, John Elway and the Denver Broncos clearly recognized Manning’s decline and dealt with it by ensuring that he was still surrounded by ample firepower. Belichick has always relied on Brady to make average skilled players better. The difference now is that he’s older and getting hit much more than ever in his career. Not even the great quarterbacks can operate at a high level when they are constantly under pressure.
The Patriots struggles undoubtedly start with their offensive line. While it’s clearly no easy fix, Brady has reminded us over and over again that when he gets enough time in the pocket, he is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.
The constant focus on Brady’s struggles has prevented people from accepting the true individual responsible for the teams’ current roster and that’s Belichick himself. The head coach has been rightfully considered a genius over the past 13 years, as he’s been able to consistently keep the team competitive in a salary cap era and an age of parity. Yet the overall quality of New England’s roster has eroded in recent years and it appears now that Bill Belichick the coach can’t be happy with the shortcomings of Bill Belichick the GM.
Tags: Bill Belichick