Patriots manage to do things without the diva effect
Let’s take a trip back in time for just a minute.
It was, in today’s thinking, ages ago, but it showed you exactly what the New England Patriots would be like with Bill Belichick at the controls.
The Patriots were suffering from a tough 5-11 first season, and fans were screaming that Drew Bledsoe needed another target to go with the mercurial (now deceased) Terry Glenn. Michigan receiver David Terrell was the popular choice.
Instead, Belichick went with Richard Seymour. He knew that the Patriots were getting killed up front on both sides, which is usually the case when a team loses. Fan outrage ensued, and all the Patriots did with Seymour up front was go on to their first run of multiple titles. The Bears took Terrell, who never made it – in fact he was a training camp Patriot casualty in 2005 – and the rest is history.
Moral of the story: Diva wide receivers hardly ever help you win championships. When building an NFL roster, the whole always has to be greater than the sum of its parts.
There are very rare instances when a diva receiver has helped his team get to a Super Bowl. Randy Moss did with the Patriots, but his real diva days were behind him then. And, true to form, a couple of years later his diva nature resurfaced and he was dealt out of town and never was a factor for anyone again. Terrell Owens when he was an Eagle. Many New York Giant fans are currently up in arms over the trading away of another diva wideout, generational talent Odell Beckham, Jr. General manager Dave Gettleman was already getting killed for letting safety Landon Collins walk and now this. Gettleman knows you build from the inside out; presumably the Beckham deal theoretically, in a draft said to be loaded with defensive standouts, will allow him to do that, without any diva issues.
Beckham certainly will help the Browns, but something will eventually happen to cause a problem there, too, in a year, two, or whenever. But it will happen.
Yes, it’s almost the same thinking when Belichick chose Seymour over potential diva Terrell – some may remember the media had really built him up after his 10-catch, three TD Orange Bowl with Michigan – with that first round No. 6 pick.
What’s happening in the NFL is getting out of control, and it’s partly because of the fact the players are always at risk. But when a player like Antonio Brown pulls what he does and gets rewarded for it, well, something is wrong.
Meanwhile, the Patriots keep chugging along. Patriot fans aren’t too happy the team lost out on receiver Golden Tate, which may be understandable.
What they have to understand is this: If the Patriots really and truly want somebody, they will make the big move to go get them. Two years ago they wanted corner Stephon Gilmore, signed him immediately to a big deal, and they wanted reciever Brandin Cooks and traded for him. In 2007, they made all sorts of moves and got an undefeated regular season team.
This year, it’s far different. What the Patriots have done thus far is go for value and depth, which is what they always do. In the last couple of days, they’ve signed bargain free agents : relative average receivers Maurice Harris (potential at 6-foot-3) and Bruce Ellington, added defensive linemen Mike Pennel, tight end Matt LaCosse, special teamer Terrence Brooks (listed as a safety). They’ve traded for Michael Bennett to help ease the pain of losing Trey Flowers.
Pennel is a huge run-stuffer type. You may like Harris if he makes the team; he had a 10-catch game last season, but that certainly wasn’t the norm.
They also welcomed back special teamer Brandon Bolden to bolster coverage units after he spent a year of exile in Miami following his release at the end of training camp.
Friday they released defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn, reportedly at his request. When you’re the team’s biggest free agent splash from a year ago an you’re a healthy scratch for a couple of games over the second half of the season, you know the deal. For the Patriots, $4 million in cap space is more valuable than a pass rusher in obvious decline.
There will be more moves, certainly. Belichick and Nick Caserio put it all together, along with the draft and rookie free agents, stir it around and see how it all shakes out.
And it always shakes out with a winner.
And no divas.
Tom King may be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK.email@example.com