When the New England Patriots signed former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, it was met with mostly positive reaction. It seemed sneaky, smart and reminiscent of so many other successful free-agency moves the team has made in the past 10 years.
Visions of a Randy Moss-lite were dancing in heads of Patriots fans and NFL analysts alike, and I felt confident about his chances for a career renaissance as well. I mean, how can a so-called "star" wideout go to the Patriots and fail, with a quarterback like Tom Brady throwing to him?
Well, apparently years of working off of a vastly different Bengals playbook has rendered Ochocinco incapable of learning new tricks. Report after report surfaced throughout the season that he was still struggling to keep up.
It's clear Ocho never really got the hang of the Patriot way this season. He was targeted by Brady just 32 times in the regular season and had just 15 catches for a mere 276 yards and a single score—numbers markedly worse than his 2001 rookie year.
In the playoffs, Ochocinco basically didn't exist. He played just a single snap in the Patriots' divisional-round win over the Denver Broncos with no targets and was a healthy scratch from the AFC championship game after missing the week's practices to attend his father's funeral.
Even if Ochocinco hadn't dealt with a personal tragedy that week, it's safe to say that his involvement wasn't likely part of the game plan. And in Sunday's Super Bowl matchup against the New York Giants, I wouldn't be surprised if he saw fewer than five snaps and wasn't targeted by Brady at all.
The shocking thing about all this, what many of us have failed to consider, is that Ochocinco could find himself with a Super Bowl ring when all is said and done. Sure, it's nothing big for players who had nothing to do with their team's success to enjoy the spoils of victory—it happens on championship teams year after year.
What's most surprising is that Ochocinco—someone who wasn't thought to have his best days behind him—would be rewarded for doing so little, when much had been rightly expected of him this season.
Instead, Ocho's contributions have been so marginal this year that the team wouldn't be much different would they not have brought him on.
Ochocinco has, for most of his career, seemed to be the intellectual, if not athletic, heir to receivers like Randy Moss, a former Patriot himself, and Terrell Owens, Ocho's former Bengal teammate.
He's never quite shone like those two, however, but unlike Owens and Moss, he could find himself part of a Super Bowl championship team.
Such is the cruel and bizarre fate of many players in the NFL, players who are exceptionally talented and likely to reach the Hall of Fame, but who never get to hoist the Lombardi Trophy during their time playing the game.
Ocho has tempered a bit since joining the Patriots, and if his team wins on Sunday he's unlikely to take any credit for their success either this season or in that game.
But doesn't it seem weird and almost wrong that someone of whom so much was expected but who managed only to perform below expectations may get to revel in the joy of his teammates and celebrate a Super Bowl victory that is anything but his?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Chad Ochocinco could, by default, be a Super Bowl champion on Sunday. All of the glory, none of the work—the hallmark of Ochocinco's lone season as a Patriot.