Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day! May Day!

Or, what Joe Torre might be shouting into the radio, if the Yankees were a sinking ship. Oh wait...

All premature gloating aside (although I notice that many fellow bloggers are guilty of the same), let's talk about the Patriots for a moment. I'll give the 99% of you who come here looking for grumpy, sarcastic Red Sox analysis a minute to navigate away from the page...for those one percent of you left interested in reading my grumpy, sarcastic Patriots analysis, here we go...

I have nothing grumpy to say. Deciding to embrace the "new" Patriots has been the best decision I've made in awhile. When I called my dad and told him we traded for Randy Moss he said, very disgustedly, "Oh man! C'mon! Randy Moss? Are you kidding me? Randy Moss? That jerk? He's not a Patriots-type player! Randy Moss?" That was probably, verbatim, the reaction of every white, over 50 Pats fan in America. And I'm not sure that reaction doesn't have some merit. To be completely honest, that was basically my first reaction, too. Bear in mind, like I said the other day, this came on the heels of drafting Brandon Merriweather, who, when he's not engaged in NCAA-sanctioned Ultimate Fighting (look for number 19), is, apparently, a hell of a football player, with the occasional character issue. So that, plus trading for Moss, makes it look like that Pats are moving away from their no-stars, team-first philosophy. The CHB certainly thought so in yesterday's Globe, as do a lot of people probably.

Those people are right: This isn't the way the Patriots have worked. But it's the way they should be working. Obviously, their plan of attack has been very successful. But as always happens (see other teams grabbing at the Moneyball brass ring), once a team shows that a certain business model can be successful, other teams start to copy it, sometimes with greater success. The A's have never been able to overcome that hurdle, due to financial limitations. Other teams can scout and sign players as smartly and efficiently as the A's, but ultimately outspend them to bring in marquis players that fit the mold. In the NFL, though, a team can't simply buy their way to the Superbowl. Each team plays on a level playing field, at least financially in terms of salary. It's up to each team to maximize the salary cap in the most efficient, and yes, ruthless way possible. This is where the Pats fell short last year- they finished the season under the cap. I addressed this issue, with some venom, last fall.

After re-reading that post, one sentence jumped out at me: "It's frustrating to be such a passionate fan of a team managed in such a dispassionate manner." Now, in that case, I was speaking more to the decision not to resign long-time stalwarts and fan favorites, but really, the Pats front office handled most of their affairs in a similar "dispassionate manner." Well, this off-season is a departure from the past in the sense that, for once, Coach B and Scott Pioli, and even Ol' White Cuffs/Pink Tie himself, seem to be running this team with loads of passion. They have attacked free agency, trades and the draft like a fantasy owner. "Who's the best linebacker out there? Adalius Thomas? Go get him. We need receivers- get me Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and Kelly Washington. And oh yeah, get me Moss, too. We're getting old in the secondary. What about that Merriweather kid? What, he stomped on someone, and he carries a gun? Shit, we can fix that..."

It's been ridiculously exciting to watch, because finally the team is openly gunning for a Superbowl ring. They've finally decided that, like the fans, three is not enough. While it was fun watching seemingly undermanned Pats teams overcome the likes of the Rams, Colts and Chargers, in games in which we were given no chance, I can't wait to watch other teams try to deal with us being the heavyweight, the ultimate powerhouse. I've always had tons of confidence in the coaches, and their schemes and plans. Bill Belichick isn't a god in New England for nothing. But the last two years it's become obvious that even his particular genius can't make up for not having enough talent. At some point, you need players capable of executing your masterful gameplan. Well, I think we've got those guys now. Plus, how re-energizing is this to Tom Brady? He must be beside himself. Instead of Reche Caldwell, he's throwing to Randy Moss.

In that post last fall, I complained about the arrogance of Patriots' leaders in believing that the system will always work. Well, we're about to find out if their system can have the same effect on Merriweather and Moss as it did on Corey Dillon. Granted, he didn't have quite the same kind of baggage as those two, but he was widely thought of as a disgruntled, me-first, locker room cancer and all he did when he got into a positive, winning environment was run for 1,700 yards and win a Superbowl. Maybe that's all Moss and Merriweather need- to be surrounded by positive, winning veterans who make it very clear that you play their way, or hit the highway. It is arrogant to think that your system can change the basic personality and behavior of someone. But, I'd rather that sort of arrogance than the kind that thinks you can win with questionable talent.

So far, everyone involved is saying the right things. Moss sounded genuinely humbled to be part of the organization, and the Pats basically told him that he's gone at the first sign of trouble. And Merriweather's just a kid. I think a little tough love from Rodney Harrison and Mike Vrabel and Teddy Bruschi is just what he needs. My only concern is that guys from The U never seem to leave that life behind. Kind of like that old saying that you can take the boy out of The U, but, well you know what I'm saying.

The Pats have always won by assembling a group of blue-collar guys who are willing to sacrifice individual glory for the good of the team. It's easy to get a guy with middle-range skills to buy into that- in that case, team accolades might be easier to attain than personal kudos. But, what if, just what if you could get a supremely talented, but obviously selfish player to buy into the same philosophy? How good could the team be then? Could it work? Dillon was a mini-experiment. This season will be the full-blown clinical trial.

For the record, I think it will work magnificently. We all know how powerful the Flying Elvis Kool-Aid can be. Can it tame Randy Moss? Like Coach B and Scott Pioli, I'd sure as hell wager a fourth-round draft pick that it can. I don't see a down-side here. So Moss is a jerk and doesn't buy into the team? Cut him. He can't be cancer in Foxborough; the veterans won't let him. I'd be more worried about Merriweather, as the Pats used their first round pick on him, a much bigger gamble than using a fourth-round pick on a guy who's willing to cut his salary and take a one-strike-and-your-out contract in the hopes of winning a Superbowl. I don't know about you, but I'll take my chances with a guy like that any day. especially if that guy's as talented as Randy Moss. We've all yelled at him, complained about him, called him a jerk and a prima-donna. Well he's our jerk now, so embrace him. Maybe all Randy Moss ever needed was a big hug.


Blogger Peter N said...

Matty, I can't get into football talk, yet. But I just wanted to say hey. So, "HEY!"

7:36 AM  
Blogger Peter N said...

I just wated to say that it seems like we are now, on this Monday, that we were "stabbed by Clemens." No such thing...2007 Red Sox? Forever. We both know that!

7:50 AM  
Blogger Peter N said...

Sorry for the spelling.....here......
I just wanted to say that it seems like we are now, on this Monday, "stabbed by Clemens." No such thing...2007 Red Sox? Forever. We both know that!

7:50 AM

7:51 AM  

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