2011 NFL Draft: New England Patriots Must Try to Finally Replace Willie McGinest

Tim GarrityContributor IApril 6, 2011

WANTED: This Man's Clone
WANTED: This Man's CloneAndy Lyons/Getty Images

To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Andre Tippet is not coming through that door folks, Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel are not coming through that door, and if they do they’re gonna be old and gray.

The Patriots have been searching for Willie McGinest’s replacement since releasing him after the 2005 season. Admittedly, it looked they had found their man in 2007 with the signing of the mercurial Adalius Thomas, but that marriage dissolved quickly after a decent first season. and Thomas never took to Bill Belichick and his coaching staff.

Who knows, maybe they found their man in second-year player Jermaine Cunningham, but in my mind they’re still looking and it’d be nice to have more than one pass-rushing outside linebacker wouldn’t it?

That’s what makes Belichick and the Patriots refusal to draft McGinest’s replacement in the early rounds of the draft so frustrating and confusing.

Since 2005, Belichick and his staff have passed over stud 3-4 linebackers such as LaMarr Woodley (Round 2, pick 46, 2007) and Clay Matthews (Round 1, pick 26, 2009) while wasting picks on players such as Shawn Crable and Oscar Lua (who?).

Admittedly, the draft’s a crapshoot and hindsight is 20-20, but it makes you wonder why Belichick is so averse to selecting top-tier talent for the position that is, along with the nose tackle position, the fundamentally most important in the 3-4. Why not take a shot?

It can’t be the money.

Woodley was selected in the second round, well after the Patriots had taken the frustrating safety Brandon Meriweather and Matthews, steroid rumors aside, was selected towards the end of the first round. Any cap savings realized would be relatively minimal, and if the player turned out be a surefire star the initial contract would end up being a bargain. Just ask Logan Mankins and Vince Wilfork.

It can’t be that Belichick’s defensive system is too complicated either.

The argument is bunk. If a player can play and is willing to study the playbook they can easily step into the starting rotation. Look at Vince Wilfork, Jarod Mayo and Devon McCourty as prime exhibits. Any growing pains a rookie playmaker would suffer would be due to inexperience. It's football we’re talking about here, not Einstein’s theory of relativity.

You would figure a guy like Belichick, who made his name with New York Giants Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks and who cemented his place in history with McGinest, Vrabel and Bruschi, would be dying to replenish his stable of ‘backers. Yet what we get is an endless stream of retreads and role players like Junior Seau, Rob Ninkovich and Tully Banta-Cain.

Armed with three picks in the first 33 picks of the draft and nine overall, it’d be nice to see Belichick and the Patriots actively seek out a young, pass-rushing talent to complement inside ‘backers Jarod Mayo and Brandon Spikes and cause opposing quarterbacks to fear facing the Patriots for the first time in a long time.

Is that guy Texas A&M's Von Miller or North Carolina's Robert Quinn? (They’d have to trade up to get one of these guys conceivably)

I don’t know, obviously I’m not in a position to predict the future career path of either player and I’m not an avid follower of NCAA football, but then again I’m not paid the big bucks like Belichick and his staff, all of whom have probably forgotten more football than any of us will ever know.

Still, Bill if you’re out there, bring in that guy the Patriots need on the outside. The guy who can rush the passer, play the run and who is athletic enough to drop into coverage occasionally. It may just be the key to getting back to the promise land.