New England Blindfolds: The False Football Aptitude of Bill Belichick
Genius, mastermind, and guru—all three are words of strong association to those at the peak of their game when associated with the world of sports.
Only the highest of NFL coaches and general managers are assumed to assess the athletes of their sport at the highest level, and subsequently gain the best of their abilities out of them.
However, oftentimes these labels continue, even after success turns to failure, even when the future is anything but bright.
The Patriots, having won three Super Bowl Championships between 2001-2004, were seen as a pure example of how to win in the salary cap era.
The Patriots were the league's model franchise, whether it was superstar quarterback Tom Brady accepting a reduced salary so the team could sign more players and gain a better shot at winning, or former lineman Richard Seymour's endless movement around positions to fit the needs of the Pats, or former running back Corey Dillon's ability to remove his selfish past when joining as a free agent in 2004 en route to another Super Bowl title.
All-around, these moves were construed as ideas of "no respect" from the media and general public, created by Belicheck's staff working towards enticing the older veterans, and creating a nucleus which was destined to succeed. Belichick was seen as a coach who could unite all of those under his belt in an effort to create glory.
But Belichick's problems have compounded since 2004.
True, the Patriots have made the playoffs the past two seasons, however, they are far from the elite team they were back in the early part of the 2000s.
In 2005, they could not break through the AFC Divisional playoff game, losing to the Jake Plummer—led Denver Broncos, and blew a huge lead in 2006 against their biggest rivals of the decade, the Indianapolis Colts.
While 2007 was seen as that "championship moment" again for the Pats, with their 16-0 regular season, and an incredible offense paced by Tom Brady's MVP year, the New York Giants stole that moment away from the Pats with their stunning Super Bowl win.
The 2009 season was again a moment when ESPN pundits claimed people should "watch out" for the Patriots come playoff time. However, Ray Rice and the Baltimore Ravens didn't get that memo, and absolutely ran though an old New England team that just wasn't ready.
Certainly, the genius Belichick has been able to make some great free-agency pickups in the past few years that can account for wins in New England, just as Dillon did at the end of the dynasty.
Thirty-five million dollar man Adalius Thomas was seen as a player who could play any position on the field, and a man with high character—a "perfect fit" for the scheme in both professional ability, and personality for New England.
However, this "perfect fit" was returned only three years later, regarded as being an injury-prone player with major character concerns, especially on days when it's snowing in New England.
Trades are where the "football guru" Belichick has succeeded in working toward future glory, right?
Randy Moss made a huge splash in 2007 after being acquired from the Oakland Raiders for next to nothing, breaking records for touchdowns, and greatly assisting in Brady's MVP campaign and Super Bowl run.
However, Moss has seemingly diminished into his former self, taking games off, and lacking the leadership qualities that have tarnished his career. At 33, his production is only going to continue to decline, thus increasing the problem that his large salary poses.
So, Belichick has had major problems in free-agency and trades, but the football virtuoso certainly has succeeded in the draft, right?
Brady, Vince Wilfork, Seymour, and Matt Light are players that Belichick selected, and truly can be identified as draft board home runs. However, these were all selected during the team's glory years, and there has been a major drop-off since then.
Ellis Hobbs, James Sanders, and Nick Kazcur from the 2005 draft are more infamous picks than famous stars in their own right.
Then came 2006, an utter debacle of football standards, when the Pats took Lawrence Maroney over superstar Deangelo Williams, and then following it up with a bunch of practice squad players, and a kicker.
Then the 2007 class has shown to be a bust, with Brandon Meriweather having one above-average season, and the rest of the players not even currently on the team in a starting position.
Finally, 2008 brought the Pats dime-a-dozen middle linebacker Jerod Mayo and several afterthoughts, followed by a 2009 class that brought absolutely nothing to team last season.
So, is Belichick to blame for the recent fallout in New England? The answer is unequivocally, yes.
His decisions have been poor both on the field, and in critical situations, be it through free agency, trades, and especially the draft.
His team has gotten old, his defensive strategies are not what they used to be, and he continually has been out-coached in the past few years.
It's time to stop fearing the New England Patriots, and it's certainly time to stop calling someone in which the game has passed by a genius.
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