New England Patriots — Dynasty to Despair?

A Guest Post by Patrick Klimm, Boston, MA

Bill Bellicheck

           I want to begin this article by making it clear that I am one of the most diehard and loyal Patriots fans out there.  However, as I sit back and watch what has been going on with the team over the past several years and throughout this offseason, I have to seriously question the direction they are heading in.  Many fans, including myself at times, still see the Pats as a well oiled machine that hasn’t outlived its days as a dynasty.  The reality is they haven’t won anything in six years, the icing on the cake being getting blown out by the Ravens in the playoffs last year.  Their frugality and unwillingness to spend money to improve the quality of the team has finally caught up with them, as many publications now have the Pats finishing 3rd in the AFC East behind the Jets and Dolphins.  What was once considered to be one of the best run franchises in all of sports may now be stumbling back into mediocrity.  How did this happen?

            Over the past 10 years the Patriots have become known for their expertise in talent evaluation, finding value at every position and having strong influences and leadership in the locker room from both players and coaches.  There’s no question a winning coach is still in place, but how good has the talent evaluation been over the past several years?  Sure they have made excellent trades for Randy Moss and Wes Welker barely giving up anything in return, but a franchise that historically has been one of the best in the draft has fallen behind – which may be attributed the loss of GM Scott Pioli.  Year after year, they have traded back or out of the first round altogether, which has terribly frustrated fans.  Beginning in 2005, the Patriots first round, 32nd overall pick was Logan Mankins who has turned into one of the best guards in the game and who they now refuse to pay.  2006 may have been the worst draft year where the most dependable pick was kicker Stephen Gostkowski who was taken in the 4th round.  Their first round pick that year was underachieving and injury plagued Laurence Maroney, followed by receiver Chad Jackson who they traded up to get and who turned into a complete bust.  2007 was another horrible draft where the only notable player they got was Brandon Meriweather, who has turned into a pretty decent safety although he still makes absolutely ridiculous decisions at times, ie. taunting penalties to put teams in scoring position.  2008 seemed promising with the drafting of Jerod Mayo at 10 overall (who they traded down to get). After a monster rookie season, Mayo suffered a sophomore slump, albeit primarily due to injury.  In that draft they scored studs like Terrence Wheatley, Shawn Crable, Kevin O’Connell, Jonathan Wilhite and Matthew Slater.  And by studs I mean absolute busts.  It may be too early to tell what the class of 2009 will achieve but Ron Brace doesn’t seem to show too much promise and Darius Butler and Pat Chung have yet to offer serious contributions.  However, it must be noted that they did take Sebastian Vollmer in the 2nd and Julian Edelman in the 7th, both of whom were nice surprises.  Also note that they did trade out of the 1st round entirely.  That brings us to the 2010 draft where they traded down multiple times passing up impact players to go with a guy like Devin McCourty to throw into their heap of undersized cornerbacks.  They also drafted highly touted tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and while I like them, we all know the Patriots’ record with drafting tight ends (see Ben “stone hands” Watson and Daniel Graham.) 

            With the past five years of draft history outlined it is pretty clear that the Pats have not yet drafted a serious impact player, save perhaps Jerod Mayo, and at times Meriweather.  Of those two, Mayo was able to step in and contribute right away but it took Meriweather several years to develop into a starter.  Players are first round picks for a reason – because generally they are better and are able to contribute more quickly.  How can you expect to improve your team if you keep trading down and out of the first round for “value” in later rounds?  When a team says it is looking for value in later rounds it basically means they are looking to get lucky and hit the jackpot with some unknown player, which is perfectly fine if you are a small market team and need to run your team that way.  The fact of the matter is the Patriots are not a small market team.  Actually, Forbes just recently published a list of the richest sports franchises in the world. Guess who was sitting there at number five?  You guessed it.  The stingy, value-seeking New England Patriots. That’s not number five in the United States or in the four major sports, that’s in the world.  To put it in perspective number one was Manchester United and number three was the Yankees.  As a matter of fact, all 32 NFL teams were on that list.  That’s right, all 32 NFL teams were on the list of the 50 richest sports franchises in the world.  That means that even the bottom feeding Oakland Raiders (44th), perhaps the most pathetic franchise in all of American sports, made the list ahead of great franchises like the Lakers (49th).  The scariest part is where the Pats fall in the payroll rankings.  For the 2010 season the Patriots have the third lowest team salary in the NFL at a projected $92,734,120.    

            That is why I get so upset when I hear the Patriots can’t afford certain players or refuse to offer contracts to guys who have played their hearts out for them.  Vince Wilfork was put through the ringer after not holding out, not making a stink about his contract situation, and showing up for camps, which is more than can be said for most players.  Tom Brady is still without a new contract.  They refused to sign pro bowler Asante Samuel because he was demanding too much.  Instead they went with cornerback by committee and put on the most pathetic display of pass defense I have seen in a while.  They inexplicably traded Mike Vrabel to free up space from his miniscule couple million dollar contract.  The one big name they did sign was Adalius Thomas which worked out terribly.  Not to mention the Joey Galloway and Shawn Springs experiments.  They simply refuse to go out and sign big name players or to keep their high first round picks because they don’t want to pay people.  That doesn’t sound like something the 5th richest sports franchise in the world should be doing. 

            I’m not a proponent of players making exorbitant amounts of money, especially rookies who haven’t proven themselves yet.  I do believe however, that when a player is loyal, works hard and performs, then he should be compensated accordingly.  The Patriots refuse to do that and they have gotten that reputation throughout the league.  What kind of star player will willingly choose to come here now if he knows he’s going to be treated like that?  They are alienating their own players and future prospects, and that needs to change.  As a fan it’s easy for me to say that a club should open their pockets and spend away – I do realize that however wealthy a team may be they do still need to operate under a budget.  However, it’s evident that the Patriots are not operating to their maximum spending potential.  They haven’t spent money in the draft or in free agency and it’s beginning to show.  The Jets went out and got Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie,  LaDainian Tomlinson, Jason Taylor, and stayed put in the draft.  The Dolphins signed Brandon Marshall, Karlos Dansby, and stayed put at their position in the draft.  Outside of keeping Vince Wilfork, the Pats have made no major moves and moved down multiple times in the draft.  They signed dinosaurs like Tory Holt and Alge Crumpler.  Sweet.  Way to keep pace in the East.  Not to be repetitive, New England Patriots, but you are the 5th richest sports franchise in the entire world.  Act accordingly.

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48 responses to “New England Patriots — Dynasty to Despair?

  1. A. Rab Money

    They still will be right there in the AFC East Im sure, but it will be much more of a dog fight, like the NFC East always is, especially if the Phins and Jets come out and meet or exceed expectations. I dont think even the invincible Tom Brady can do it alone this year.

    • I agree, with you A. Rab, and with the article in general. The Patriots lack of spending is kind of absurd at this point, and I feel as though they are wasting some of Tom Brady’s best years by not filling key roles around him. I do disagree with the articles portrayal of Jerod Mayo though — this guy is a straight beast, and a huge key already to our defense at 24 years old.

  2. j-bone

    Hey very good article, I am not a Pats fan but I can understand the frustration of having great success, follow by disapointment compared to the success. I am not sure that spending is the answer. Teams such as the Redskins go out every year and spend on big names with no success. The NFL is built as a young mans game, and the best way to build is through the draft. I think the Pats flaw is the trading down in the drafts, they had great success in the drafts and almost began to think they could do no wrong and find value late. I think the loss of Pioli can not be understated.

  3. j-bone

    can’t see the picture

  4. Teck

    As a Dolphins fan this article simply made me smile. I greatly enjoy that the Patriots appear to be struggling and that it seems like the be on the decline. But there are a few things that need to be taken into account. First the draft is a terribly tricky feat…and while trading down can be frustrating, its not easy to stay so successful in the draft year after year. Also agree that Jerod Mayo is a beast and clearly a great pick.

    Those Forbes lists can be very tricky and need to be taken with a grain of salt…part of the reason that every NFL team is on the list has to do with revenue sharing which other sports do not have. That being said you don’t remain the 5th richest sports franchise if you hand out bad contracts…I do believe being somewhat shrewd when handing out contracts is a very smart thing to do. Look at the NBA and you can see how one bad contract can cripple your franchise for years.

    Being stingy with a player you are unsure of is better then offering a huge contract. If you don’t have a ton of money on the books you can turn your team around quickly…whereas a huge contract just absolutely ruin your franchise for years to come.

  5. Kevin Youkillis

    does it really matter what any other teams do this year? it is clear that kevin kolb and the eagles are gonna win it all, kolb looks great in training camp. and i think we all know a solid first few days of training camp means a superbowl..

    ill be happy if the eagles win 8 games this year

  6. j-bone

    they should trade for McNabb

    • Kevin Youkillis

      ya mcnabb would be a good option.. brian westbrook is still available too. if they could have mcnabb at qb.. westbrook in the backfield and maybe someone like dawkins leading their D they would be unstoppable

  7. A. Rab Money

    first off the degree of difficulty on the dropped int by Samuel is harder than it appears. second this is why Eli Manning doesnt suck, and before you go saying it was all tyree with the catch, which was unbelievable, notice how Eli escapes 3 D lineman and then drops a pass inbetween 3 defenders where only his guy can get it.

    oh yea, and he won mvp for the superbowl.

    • He wouldn’t have won anything if Asante wasn’t an idiot — he would have been looked at as the choke artist he is, the choke artist who threw the ball directly to the other team in crunch time. He would have been laughed out of New York. To bad Asante is just even more of a choke artist.

      • j-bone

        you can call eli plenty but choke artist is not one, he is the only qb in the league with a qb rating that goes up in the last 2 minutes. He has had some very cluth 4th quarters and very rarely breaks the teams back with picks at the end of games, so i would say back up your choke artist claim before throwing it around.

      • I just backed up that he choked right then and there. Watch the video. I’d argue the degree of difficulty is even less than it looks on that pick. You have supposedly one of the best cornerback in the league, in good weather, with no contact from anybody else, miss a ball that hits off both of his hands at once. David Tyree’s catch was wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy harder with all the contact. I mean, Eli can’t throw a spiral, but that was a factor in both plays.

      • j-bone

        I would say that makes Asante the chocke artists. Eli is a choke artist because of the pick he didn’t throw? How about the td pass he threw, which was bigger than any of Tommy boys in super bowls.

      • I said it made Asante a choke artist, you fool. I’m pretty sure Tommy threw a TD pass about a minute before that had all of you fools thinking the Giants lost the Super Bowl. Then Asante had to go and blow it. We should have shipped him to Philadelphia or something.

  8. Teck

    Lets notice that Eli’s eyes were closed when he threw that ball as well…anywho the Dolphins are the 2010-2011 superbowl champs that’s who they are Geoffrey.

    I agree with Tom Brady because a player of his caliber is hard to come by…but with so many bad contracts out there i certainly understand why the Patriots are usually hesitant to hand out such big crippling contracts

  9. j-bone

    i was talking about a tasty fenway frank with all the fixins.

  10. Klimm

    Hey guys, thanks for all the feedback, a lot of great points were made. Also I want to mention that if I made light of Mayo’s contributions on defense I didn’t mean to, he is a beast and I think he will be for a long time to come. As a matter of fact I think he’s the only worthwhile pick in the past 5 years unless Meriweather continues to develop. Furthermore I do want to acknowledge the fact that I do not think the Pats should recklessly go out and spend money. Some of you mentioned how risky it could be to sign free agents to big money contracts which is absolutely true. While nothing is a sure thing in the NFL, guys like Wilfork, Mankins, Samuel (whether you like him or not he is still a pro bowl caliber talent), Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby to name a few are about as close as they come. The Pats successfully turned their backs on Samuel, Vrabel and now Mankins, and did their best to piss off Wilfork. I think the Dolphins did a brilliant job this off season signing Marshall and Dansby. Also the moves the Jets made, while not groundbreaking, were admirable and came at a relatively low cost. It has just been painful to see the Pats stand by and do nothing while the other teams at least try to improve themselves. Especially knowing the type of money they have to spend. Ultimately their lack of spending cannot totally be blamed for their under performance, it’s what they have spent on combined with poor talent evaluation (see most draft picks and corner backs, Adalius Thomas, Joey Galloway, Reche Caldwell, etc.) that have contributed to their lackluster performances over the years. At the end of the day I am a huge Pats fan, so let’s hope for the best this year.

    • Adalius Thomas played well at times for sure, don’t forget that either.

      • Klimm

        He did make some incredible plays like the interception he made in 2007 against the Charges and out ran everybody on the field for a 65 yard touchdown. He’s a freak athlete there’s no denying that. There’s also no denying that he’s probably the biggest reason the Pats don’t spend big on big name players. The Adalius Thomas experiment was an utter failure, not to mention the problems he caused in their once rock solid locker room.

  11. Kevin Youkillis

    i like the breath of fresh air that comes from a somewhat oustiders opinion that everyone cant jump on.. great article

    cant wait for football to start, i may have to change my name to desean jackson soon

  12. A. Rab Money

    i think geoff is still bitter about the giants beating the pats in the superbowl after laughing about the possibility of that before the season started that year. I know how bad you think Eli is geoff, but truth is he is at least a top 10 qb if not top 5 in the league.

  13. j-bone

    top 5 might be a stretch but I do not think the gap between 5 and 10 is that big right now, there is a clear top 3 right now and after that alot of players that benefit from their situations that they are in.

  14. A. Rab Money

    top 5 is a stretch, and i only consider it based on his play during their playoff run. that is something not many other qb’s after the top 3 have on their resume. and you are always saying how important clutch performance is.

    • It’s very important.

      • j-bone

        he was the best qb in those playoffs and that is something that romo, rivers, rodgers, shaub or however you spell his name, cutler can say, roethlisberger has won but he was never really the reason why.

      • Neither was Eli. As my video yesterday showed, Eli threw the ball to the other team with the game on the line and got incredibly lucky Asante sucked. Then he made a great play to break some tackles, but threw a hail mary that David Tyree made an amazing play on. The Giants defense far and away was the reason why the Giants won the game.

  15. j-bone

    I said playoffs big boy.

  16. j-bone

    and throwing the game winning touchdown is a semi important part of that semi important part

  17. j-bone

    credit goes to billy boy for not calling a time out after the scramble play and then having man coverage on a 6-5 wide received with a 5-11 corner.

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