Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Blame Belichick—Not Brady—for Pats' Problems

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 1, 2014

David Butler II/USA Today Sports

1. Belichick Has Failed Brady

An NFC scout on Tom Brady's play: "It's not good. There's no question about that. [But] the larger problem isn't Brady. The problem is what's around Brady. [Bill] Belichick has done a horrible job of putting talent around him. [Rob Gronkowski], to me, isn't half the player he was. Their best player right now is Julian Edelman."

Then the scout made perhaps the best point about the Patriots: Look at what the Broncos did for Peyton Manning

"The Broncos got Manning an armada," the scout said.

While the Patriots gave Brady a water gun.

In many ways, it's that simple. A younger Brady was talented enough to carry a Patriots team that, with few exceptions—like Randy Moss and a pre-constant-surgical-procedures Gronk—didn't feature other great offensive talent. Brady's extreme abilities carried them to Super Bowls despite throwing to dudes like Deion Branch and Troy Brown.

Nov 24, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with head coach Bill Belichick during warm-ups before the game against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Spor
USA TODAY Sports

Brady is 37, and they need him to play like he did when he was 27—unlike Manning, who isn't asked to carry the team after the Broncos stacked the offense with stars.

He can't do it, and who could? If you put Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson or Johnny Unitas on this Patriots team, they would struggle as well, because the roster is terrible.

And that is Belichick's fault.

Belichick looked at that offense last season and, inexplicably, decided to stay the course. They took the opposite approach of Denver, which saw that Manning had a limited window but there was still time to make a run if he was surrounded by enough firepower.

Belichick's drafts have been average at best. His development of receivers has been even worse. Look at that roster overall. It's simply not that good. Remove Brady from the equation, put the Tampa Bay Bucs logo on the helmets, and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

This is one of the worst rosters New England has ever had, and Belichick—not Brady—handpicked every player on it.

Last year, the Patriots lost Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Brandon Spikes and Tommy Kelly, among others, and they still went to the title game. But you can only keep losing players for so long, with Brady getting older, before the ground moves under your feet. This year, they're starting two rookies on the offensive line, Bryan Stork and Cameron Fleming. There are zero—zilcho—playmakers on that offense.

Since 2003, New England has drafted 11 wide receivers, and only one plays on offense now. That's Edelman (2009), who was a quarterback in college.

There are also only two teams in the NFL that possess no offensive skill-position starters drafted in the first round: Patriots and Browns.

And we didn't even get into the assistant coach brain drain.

Brady is the easy target, but while he isn't free of blame, this is mostly on Belichick. In many ways, it's all on him. Blaming Brady is basically blaming the QB for getting old. This is more of a referendum on Belichick's ability to build a roster, which lately has been horrific.

Belichick is the best coach I've ever seen. He might be the best in history. But as a personnel guy, recently, he's failed. Most of all, he's failed Brady.

2. Revis Island Now Allows Tourists

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 29:   Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs the ball against  Darrelle Revis #24 of the New England Patriots during the game at Arrowhead Stadium on September 29, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vish
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

It's been readily apparent: Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis is not the same guy.

He's slowed, fairly dramatically. In Monday night's game against Kansas City, Dwayne Bowe—not a fast dude—was using his size advantage to body Revis.

It's not just that Revis has slowed; it's that the main part of his game was physicality. He's aging (in dog years—it happens to physical corners), and the rule changes prevent Revis from doing the clutching and grabbing that made him so formidable.

All of those things add up to a diminished player. Not an ineffectual one, but not an island.

3. Raiders Want Jon Gruden, Jim Harbaugh...Will Get Neither

What I can say for certain: The Raiders would like to interview former Oakland/Tampa Bay head coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, but—so far at least—he's not interested.

The same with San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh. I can say with certainty that the Raiders would love to talk to him. But of course they would. But I can also say that there is no way the Raiders can afford him. They won't pay what Harbaugh can command.

The other problem with pursuing both of them is that Gruden and Harbaugh, and almost any other high-profile guy, are going to want final say on personnel. Other places, they'd get that. The Raiders? No freaking way.

4. Chargers' Corey Liuget: "Don't Underestimate Us"

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

I haven't. I picked the Chargers to reach the Super Bowl, and I do think people are starting to understand how good this team can be. Defensive end Corey Liuget, in a brief interview with me, explained why the Chargers have a legitimate chance to go all the way.

"The players in this locker room believe in each other," he said. "We trust each other. I think that's one of our greatest strengths. Don't underestimate us."

5. Quote of the Year

6. Quote of the Month

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer on the air called Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski "a young man in an old man's body."

I do worry about the Gronkowski we'll see in 20 years. Very few men I've seen while covering this sport have taken the kind of physical abuse that he has. Brutal shot after brutal shot, absorbing them all.

That kind of violence takes a long-term toll on the body.

7. He Told You Not to Worry

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Aaron Rodgers told us all to R-E-L-A-X, via ESPNWisconsin.com's Jason Wilde. He was right. He usually is.

I'm told that after Green Bay's 19-7 loss to the Lions in Week 3, Rodgers was one of the most calming influences around the team. "We fed off of how much of a pro he was," one Packers player said.

The result was predictable. Rodgers blow'd up the Bears, 38-17, one of his favorite opponents to obliterate. The offense didn't make any massive changes. The team just played better. Sometimes it's that simple.

The result was prototypical Rodgers, throwing for 302 yards and four scores. He also became the fourth-fastest player to reach 25,000 career passing yards, at 25,196, following Dan Marino, Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner—a Hall of Famer and two future selections.

Rodgers will be as well.

8. Interest from Giants, Jets in Ndamukong Suh is "Marginal"

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

One of the few times I've ever heard the Giants and Jets agree on anything. A source on the Giants says their interest in Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is "marginal." A source on the Jets said something similar. Both sources said this is likely Suh's agent Jimmy Sexton trying to scare the Lions.

The main sentiment from both teams seems to be that Suh isn't worth the money he'd want. Neither seemed scared that Suh likes to kick dudes in the groin area and is among the most penalized players in recent NFL history.

What is true is something that I've been saying all along: All indications remain that this is Suh's last year with the Lions. Things can change. Stranger stuff has happened. But Suh does want out, no matter what he says publicly.

9. Least Shocking News Ever

Colts safety LaRon Landry might have a legitimate excuse for why he was busted with a four-game PED suspension. He could be in the right, and the league could be in the wrong. Then again, you look at pictures like this and you go: What took so long to catch him in the first place?

One of the most interesting parts of this story is the silence. There is a total lack of outrage over an NFL player getting popped, yet again, for alleged PED use.

Baseball gets busted, there are Congressional inquiries. We are now at the point where when an NFL player is suspended, we just shrug our shoulders.

I get the difference. Baseball is more about records, and we cherish those records. A baseball player using PEDs cheapens those records.

But it's still amazing the pass the NFL gets. It remains one of the more stunning things to see in all of sports.

10. Roger Goodell Support

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Nothing has changed in terms of owners supporting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The outlook for Goodell remains solid. However, according to a number of league sources, much of the support depends on what investigator Robert Mueller finds in the Ray Rice case.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.