Patriots Offensive Woes: Blaming Brady Easy Excuse

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.

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19 Responses to “Patriots Offensive Woes: Blaming Brady Easy Excuse”

  1. steve earle says:

    Read Joe Vallano released.

  2. MaineMan says:

    “Only four of the Pats 21 offensive draft choices since 2010 have become starters.”

    Let’s look at those:

    1st, #17 — Solder, OT – 2011 – STARTER

    2nd, #42 — Gronk, TE – 2010 – has started
    2nd, #56 — vereen, RB – 2011 – has started
    2nd, #59 — Dobson, WR – 2013 – has started
    2nd, #62 — Garoppolo, QB – 2014 – ?? WHY IS HE NOT A STARTER YET!! (obvious bad pick since he isn’t)
    3rd, #73 — Ridley, RB — 2011 – has started
    3rd, #74 — Mallett, QB – 2011 – ?? WHY DID HE NEVER BECOME A STARTER!! (another BUST!)
    3rd, #90 — Price, WR, – 2010 – NEVER STARTED, BUST!

    4th, #102 – Boyce, WR – 2013 – obviously, his career with the Pats is done already, SO, BUST!!
    4th, #105 – Stork, OC – 2014 – has started
    4th, #113 – Hernandez, TE – 2010 – had started
    4th, #130 – White, RB – 2014 – ?? WHY IS HE NOT A STARTER YET!! – BUST!!
    4th, #140 – Fleming, OL – 2014 – has started
    5th, #138 – Cannon, OL – 2011 – has started
    5th, #159 – Smith, TE – 2011 – CLAIMED OFF WAIVERS as a rookie, BUT THAT’S NO EXCUSE – BUST!!

    The rest of these guys, representing nearly 29% of these 21 offensive draft picks, never started and, since all draft picks are equal, regardless how late, the fact that none of them ever started means that they were horrible, FAILED SELECTIONS that collectively demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that BB sucks at drafting.
    6th, #179 – Halapio, OG – 2014
    6th, #205 – Larsen, OC – 2010
    7th, #208 – Welch, OT – 2010
    7th, #235 – Ebert, WR – 2012
    7th, #244 – Gallon, WR – 2014
    7th, #250 – Robinson, QB – 2010

  3. MaineMan says:

    So, in 2010, BB passed on Demaryius Thomas (drafted by McDaniels) and Dez Bryant who combined for 67/844, 8 TDs that year.

    Instead, he drafted Gronk and Hernandez who combined for 87/1109, 16 TDs that year.

    Wasted his acquired picks on McCourty at #27, Spikes at #62 and Mesko at #150. He only got one year of decent production out of Cunningham at #53 and only four years of backup duty out of Deaderick (#247). So, BB clearly effed-up with those trades.

  4. MaineMan says:

    [“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.”]

    I’m a bit confused by the wording of this statement.

    Are you talking about “only the WRs who the Pats have drafted over the past five years”? If so, that’s:

    Gallon – #244, 7th, 2014
    Dobson – #59, 2nd, 2013 – 39/548, 4 TDs
    Boyce – #102, 4th, 2013 – 9/121, 0 TD
    Ebert – #235, 7th, 2012
    (no WRs drafted in 2011)
    Price – #90, 3rd, 2010 – 3/41, 0 TD

    The totals for this group of five, which includes two very late 7th-rounders, are actually only 51 catches for 710 yds and 4 TDs.

    OTOH, if you’re talking about what “WRs who were ~drafted~ by the Pats have contributed over the past five years”, you really have to add the 24/432, 3 TDs that Tate (#83, 3rd, 2009) posted in 2010, which brings the total up to 75/1142, 7 TDs. Still not very good.

    Of course, I’m ignoring the 168/1729, 10 TDs contributed by Edelman over the last five years since he wasn’t a WR when he was drafted. And, obviously, I’m also omitting the 245/3502, 46 TDs contributed by Gronk since 2010 and the 175/1956, 18 TDs contributed by Hernandez and the 72/687, 4 TDs contributed by Vereen because, even though they’re actually “receivers”, they’re technically not WIDE RECEIVERS and, therefore, not nearly as critical to the success of the passing attack and, of course, don’t support the view that ONLY THE SUCCESS OF ACTUAL, DRAFTED WIDE RECEIVERS demonstrates BB’s desire and ability to surround Brady with appropriate talent.

  5. steve earle says:

    Strange, I expected all kinds of replys this a.m. after last night. Fans must have been out celebrating or something. Anyway it looks as if Brady isn’t the problem as several posts the last few days had decided after all. It looked to me that two TE’s and solid o-line blocking makes all the differance. Finally Bill got Wright involved and though no power blocker he made a differance as some of us thought he would. Revis was another differance maker taking Cinns best WR out of the game. After that it was all she wrote for their off. I’m very happy this a.m. as it seems were back on track.

  6. rdf63 says:

    Excellent article Jason. The draft choices the Patriots have been making especially in the last four years has been questionable. Why do the Pats use the 48th pick in the draft on defensovd back Wilson when he most likey wouldn’t have been drafted. Similar story with Jermaine Cunningham who was considered to have 5th round value. There is a difference between outsmarting other teams versus just making stupid decisions.Tom Brady does not have an All pro caliber lineman or receiver right now (Gronk does not look even close to 100%) and TB can’t score points without talent or protection.

    • MaineMan says:

      A few things about the Tavon Wilson pick:

      1) Where a prospect gets picked in a given draft is a product of not only the general, subjective ~perception~ of his potential to succeed in the NFL (as distinct from some mythical objective measure of “talent”), but is also determined by the competition among teams for his services – the number of teams who are interested and the level of their interest.
      2) The highly-promoted draft experts like Kiper can’t possibly, and DO NOT, know everything about every one of the some 3000 draft-eligible prospects – not their potential to succeed (and they basically promote only one standard of success – starter), and especially not how many teams are actually interested and their level of interest. They’re wrong way more often than they’re right, and they’re never held accountable. Believing that these guys – even a consensus of them – are the absolute final authority on when a guy SHOULD get drafted is like believing that the email from that Nigerian prince who “needs your help” is for real.
      3) What the draft gurus DIDN’T know about Wilson was that, in the last 10 days before the draft, several teams had meetings or private workouts with him, including the Falcons and the Chargers (who drafted at #49). This has been well-documented.
      4) The reason that these teams were interested in Wilson was because they apparently felt that the rest of the safety prospects out of that draft class who were likely to remain on the board after the first 40 picks or so were far less likely to succeed for them. Turns out, they were correct. Out of the 16 or so safeties who were selected AFTER Wilson, only two or three have ever contributed as much as Wilson contributed as a rookie (and continues to contribute as a special-teamer and nickel DB) and about 2/3rds of those other guys are already out of the league, IOW, theyweren’t even good enough as special-teamers to stick. [It was a very top-heavy safety class without much depth].

      The bottom line is that BB felt he needed a safety, Wilson was the best prospect left on the board at #48, and he knew that San Diego was likely to take him with the next pick if he didn’t. There was virtually no chance that Wilson would have gone undrafted or been available in a much later round, despite all the persistent myth-making to the contrary.

      • Die Hard Pats Fan says:

        I agree with Rdf63 I’d have to say MaineMan though you always have very insightful perspectives & I also agree that the scouts don’t have all the answers. With that said the patriots again outsmarted themselves by choosing Wilson instead of Kendall Reyes Or Lavante David wouldn’t you say? Both team needs at the time but instead the pats chose Wilson & Bequette with the 2nd & 3rd rnd picks. Drafting Reyes or David and keeping Chung in place much wouldve been solved. We’re good for outsmarting ourselves and drafting a reach player each year. We take chances on Ras I Dowling but not Keenan Allen who was said to be a crisp route runner coming out of college? Need new draft strategies

        • MaineMan says:

          I actually had Reyes on my board for the Pats in 2012, and he showed pretty well as a one-gap penetrator even as a rookie reserve. Not so hot in run-D at first in 2013 as a full time starter, but has since improved. OTOH, the Pats seemed relatively well stocked at DT at the time of the draft and, while it would’ve been great to at least start developing a guy like Reyes at the time, they only had newly-acquired FA Gregory, recently-converted McCourty and inconsistent Chung at safety (Chung didn’t leave until 2013 for his exorbitant contract in Philly), so it was a position of immediate need.

          I also had Lavonte David on my board. He was pretty universally projected to go in the 3rd or 4th round, so I was sure the Pats would get him when their pick came up at #62. But then BB’s buddy, Schiano, trade his #58 and a 4th-rounder to move up to #58 and snatch David away. Immediately afterward, BB bailed out on the 2nd round, picking up the #90 that ended up being used on Bequette in the process.

          I’d call it a calculated risk on BB’s part that was screwed up by Schiano.

          Dowling was that tall, athletic press-man corner that Pats fans had been screaming for, and he had really not been significantly injured in college until his senior season (so the “injury prone” thing is a bit exaggerated using 20/20 hindsight). When he fell to #33, it was probably a no-brainer to take him. In any case, he WAS healthy enough to post a 4.40/40 at the Combine and to start his first two games for the Pats and look good doing it. It just all fell apart after that.

          Allen, OTOH, didn’t look very healthy at all during pre-draft workouts and it was a bit surprising that he was able to have his breakout game as early as October 6th last season. He went to the Chargers (THEM again!) a full half-round after the Pats took Dobson and 8 spots before the Pats took Ryan at #83. The Pats had shown definite interest in Allen, but, I think, maybe wanted to secure someone they were relatively certain would be healthy enough to start right away (especially given the circumstances with the WR corps). However, with Dobson already in hand, if Allen had fallen to #83, I have to wonder if they wouldn’t have taken HIM there and risked waiting till their #91 to take Ryan (instead of Harmon).

          Draft day situations are so fluid, I’m not sure it’s fair to say that the Pats “skipped” Allen anymore than they “skipped” Lavonte David.

          Looking at the whole history, it seems to me that BB has done fairly well trading around in the draft, especially in exchanging late 1st-rounders for 2nds plus extra picks. He’s missed out on some guys who ended up being pretty good, but he’s also avoided taking many more pre-draft fan favorites and “sure things” who ended up being busts with other teams. Compared to the rest of the teams who also typically draft late in rounds because of their consistent winning records, his “hit rate” over 15 drafts is about the same as theirs. Compare to teams like the Lions and the Bills who end up drafting in the Top 10 five drafts out of six, he looks like a damn genius, though.

          In any case, I don’t think any major “strategy changes” are called for. Considering how frequently the team has had enough talent to make it to the playoffs, the Conference Championship Game and the Superbowl without breaking the salary cap, it’s really hard for me to see how anyone thinks that he’s been a poor GM. I don’t see any other ~dedicated~ GM’s who’ve been more consistent for anywhere near that length of time.

      • steve earle says:

        Have to agree with Die Hard given what we know now. Your usual insightful look at things is missing here. Wilson was the “Who!” pick of that draft. Sure a S was needed but still is. Selecting him because he might be taken by someone else when we know better prospects were available at other positions of need has to be a questionable decision.

        • dwhe says:

          Same w/Easley and Garropollo, both were known & ready 2B taken by another team.
          Multiple Patriot pick’s have become Patriot draft picks thought the last # of years based solely on this one single point…….

      • Jack says:

        MM, you’re usually dead-on with your comments, but I think you’e off the mark in this case. It’s been documented that the Pats repeatedly tried to trade out of that pick, but ran out of time. Instead of going with the best athlete available, the Pats (read Belichick) panicked and went with the top pick left on their board at a position of need, rather than just the top athlete on the board – against the advice of his scouts, IIRC. Ozzie Newsome has quoted the Belichick influence as the reason he resisted pressure from ownership to draft Ray Lewis, because he was far and away the best player available, despited the fact that supposedly the Ravens didn’t need a linebacker at that time. I knew and everyone else else did as well that drafting Tavon Wilson that high was an inexcusable reach. I don’t think the entire body of scouts and draft experts is *that* clueless that they wouldn’t have even documented the guy. My first reaction when I heard that pick was extreme disappointment, because I had never heard of the guy and had extensively followed the draft that year.

        I don’t subscribe to the claim that another team was going to draft him right after the Pats. A lot of teams have a lot of players in for workouts. That doesn’t mean the player doesn’t suck. Even if Wilson had turned into a great player, which he decidedly hasn’t, why reach for a player if you can get him in a later round? If you can get Brady in the sixth, take him in the sixth, and use your earlier picks on other guys that other teams are going to pick ahead of him.

  7. Die Hard Pats Fan says:

    Great article by the way! I apologize for not acknowledging the great work you do but the frustration is boiling over with all the missteps being made. Kudos Jason

  8. Die Hard Pats Fan says:

    I can honestly say I’m beyond disappointed and frustrated with the way OUR TEAM (Patriots) are handling the end of a Hall of Famers career by stripping away the talent left on the team to not only make Tom Brady look inadequate but to also make this coaching staff seem genius by selecting Garrapolo when “Brady” is rapidly declining? My eyes tell me no lies and I believe that the patriots behind closed doors decided it is time for next step and will purposely make Tom seem like a aging unproductive washed up vet when really he has almost no chance to succeed with what his Gm/Coach has left him with. Ridiculousness at its finest! Sad to say but Coach hasn’t been nearly as efficient with strategies or personnel since the passing of his father who helped the coach make some key decisions. McDaniels clearly doesn’t have the answers for success or he most likely wouldn’t have been available for the patriots to retain.

    • Ed says:

      “Ridiculousness at its finest” is the most apt description for your comment.

      • CC says:

        I agree as do many. Your comment about being ridiculousness at it’s finest ……..IS RIDICULOUSNESS!!!!

      • Die Hard Pats Fan says:

        On what basis sir? If you read my comment above you should’ve elaborated more on your sentiment. For the first time this season the pats’ game plan looked efficient on both sides do to the way the personnel was used. All the lineman used have been starters with the exception of Stork. Revis was used to eliminate Green playing man to man instead of off zone. 2 te sets which we haven’t seen schemed properly this season until last night. More running the ball early to set tone with Ridley. All of what I’ve stated in my earlier post still stands true IMO. Due to the public outcry from fans the plan of possibly moving on to Garrapolo didn’t seem wise. 1 analyst said Garrapolo was taking the majority of 1st team reps all week. Why so with the patriots coming off such a poorly played game?

        • Ed says:

          Solely on the basis that you typed this sentence seriously; (the Patriots) “will purposely make Tom seem like a aging unproductive washed up vet”, which is just so ridiculous that it’s almost nonsensical.

          Your point that they didn’t move on to Garropolo this week due to ‘public outcry’ is pretty much the same way. When have the Patriots ever listened to the fans? Matter of fact, when has ANY relevant team allowed the fans to sway personnel decisions???

          Which analyst said Garropolo got the majority of reps? The only thing that I heard in regards to that was Cris Collinsworth, who talked about it during the game.

          Also, “Sad to say but Coach hasn’t been nearly as efficient with strategies or personnel since the passing of his father who helped the coach make some key decisions” is just inaccurate. Yeah, you’ve got a point about personnel, particularly the dark days of ’11 on defense, but the team is still efficient.

          Since BB’s father passed away in ’05, the Patriots have ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense 7 times, 6 times in top 10 in takeaways and 4 times in the top 10 in yards allowed.

          On offense, they’ve been in the top 10 7 times since ’05 in yardage and 8 times in points scored.

          How is that not efficient?

          I totally agree with you about McDaniels, some of his play-calls are absolute trash.

      • steve earle says:

        Have to agree with Die Hard you owe it to him to make your case after just trashing his opinion.

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