When Did the New England Patriots Become the Reform School of the NFL?

Samer IsmailAnalyst IIJune 14, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 14:  Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots celeberates after scoring a touchdwon against the Oakland Raiders during an NFL game on December 14, 2008 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

On Friday, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com opined that many people in the media believe that "the New England Patriots could be a perfect destination for former Falcons quarterback Mike Vick," and that, "there could be something to the chatter."

This post has now been regurgitated on other sites, ignoring the fact that there is no evidence to back up Florio's assertion.

Moreover, speaking of former Titans' and Cowboys' cornerback Pacman Jones, Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said, "I think New England would be a good fit. They're so firm there, and people come there and rejuvenate their careers."

As a Patriots fan, I'm rather flattered that the media recognizes that the Patriots, as an organization, are the team best-suited to deal with "problem children."

That said, it's frustrating to see the media basically suggest that the Patriots are actively looking to bring wayward players into the fold.

The evidence consistently cited in favor of these arguments is that the Patriots were able to revive the careers of Corey Dillon, frustrated by years of losing with the Bengals, and Randy Moss, who was stuck in the continuing disaster that is the Oakland Raiders.

That ignores two factors.

What the Patriots expect

First, in return for providing the goal-oriented, us-against-the-world mentality that helps players do their jobs, the Patriots demand personal accountability.

In other words, they're willing to support players who've made mistakes, but they demand that those players work to keep themselves out of trouble in the future.

For example, when special teams star Willie Andrews was arrested for marijuana possession, the Patriots did their best to help Andrews clean up. Unfortunately, Andrews was unwilling to live up to that trust; he was charged with assault a few months later, and immediately cut from the team.

As another example, Moss' 2007 contract was structured so that he would earn almost half his pay in the form of incentive bonuses for recording a certain number of receptions. (Given Tom Brady's propensity for spreading the ball around in the past, achieving those would not be easy if Moss missed any significant amount of time.) Moreover, Moss knew that any major slip-up would end his tenure as a Patriot.

In other words, yes, the Patriots might be able to accomplish what others haven't with Jones and/or Vick.

But, that said, if they manage to convince the Patriots to take a chance on them, they'd better be prepared to make the changes they need to make in order to fit in. Or they might find themselves filing their retirement papers sooner than they expected.

Why bother?

Second, the Patriots have nothing to gain by bringing in malcontents simply for the sake of doing so.

When the Patriots are willing to take chances, it's because they feel that the potential gains significantly outweigh the risks. Clearly, Moss and Dillon were worth the risk.

There is no chance of them signing Vick, for example, unless he would provide a significant boost to the offense, and as I've written before, there's no reason to think he would.

Kevin O'Connell would be able to run the offense better, and they've already got a potential Wildcat quarterback, Julian Edelman, who would cost significantly less than Vick would. The same argument can be made for Jones, given that the Patriots added cornerbacks Shawn Springs, Leigh Bodden, and Darius Butler and safety Patrick Chung in the offseason.

What I'd like the media to understand is this: Michael Vick and Pacman Jones need the Patriots far more than the Patriots need them.

But if either of them want that chance, they're going to have to convince Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft that they're worth the effort, because the Patriots aren't going to make the first move.


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