Thursday, October 02, 2014

Why The Belichick Critics Are Wrong

The 41-14 Patriots loss to the Chiefs has set off an insane campaign of criticism of coach/GM Bill Belichick led by ESPN analysts Steve Young, Trent Dilfer, and Tedy Bruschi and echoed throughout talk radio.   It is an avalanche not seen since the absurd recent smear campaign against Roger Goodell.

The Patriots critics, though, are wrong.

1 - The myth is pushed that the Patriots should not have traded guard Logan Mankins, because he ostensibly would help stabilize a struggling offensive line right now.  The problem is Mankins is one of the most overrated linemen in the league, shown by the Patriots' 10-1 record without him in the 2010-12 period, the eleven sacks he allowed in 2013, and his mediocre play with the Bucs, whose line shows zero improvement with him.  

The Patriots line has begun playing better entering Week Five and will certainly improve down the road.

2 - Another myth is that Belichick did not provide weapons for Brady (an argument examined by Matt Chatham) The fact is that Brady has more than adequate receivers to throw to but he has not read the field properly or engaged other receivers into the offense - he has thrown to Julian Edelman far too often, and periodically by ignoring wide open alternatives such as James Develin.   He finally started engaging Brandon Lafell in the Kansas City game and Lafell produced as a result.  

Danny Amendola is singled out for criticism lately, with the added criticism that the Patriots should not have let go of Wes Welker.   The facts are Amendola in his time with the Patriots took over two game-winning drives (vs. Buffalo and Cleveland) where with Denver Welker is not thrown to when the game is on the line.   Amendola's skill set is not just better than Welker's - it is superior. 

The reality is Brady needs to do what he's done throughout his career - engage the other receivers into the offense and make it work.  Amendola, Tim Wright, Lafell, James Develin, etc. all need Brady to work with them and make them part of the offense.

3 - Belichick is attacked for his roster construction philosophy, yet the criticism is refuted by the sustained success of Belichick's program - a claim that cannot be made of the more slapdash and inconsistent efforts of the Green Bay Packers, the NY Giants, or even the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens, programs more consistently strong than others.   Roster construction must never fall in love with Names, else they end up like the Colts in 2011 or the Ravens in 2013 - or such perennial also-rans as the NY Jets and the Oakland Raiders.

4 - The lack of Superbowl success since 2004 testifies to the old Buffalo Bills talking point - it really is that hard to win Superbowls.   The Pittsburgh Steelers won two since then and have now all but fallen off the NFL map.   The Colts, NY Giants, Saints, Packers, and Ravens have all won since then and have seen heavy turmoil in their rosters.   Time awaits how the Seahawks handle success.   The Patriots program keeps them in contention without having to blow anything up.

The Belichick era revolutionized NFL championship construction, and the present struggles are no sign of any failure of the program that cannot be corrected.

UPDATE: - Also worth addressing is the related criticism of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and his playcalling, for the recent firing of former OC Charlie Weis from the Kansas Jayhawks has led to fan demand that McDaniels be fired and replaced by Weis.   Once again reality gets in the way of fan frustration.   McDaniels' playcalling in 2006-8 and 2012-13 was exemplary and more innovative than that of Weis.   Weis is best known for trick plays his own players knew were stupid ("I guess Charlie's gone crazy again," Brady said before a trick play in New England's October 2001 victory at Indianapolis) and which backfired to a disturbing extent (a David Patten interception against the NY Jets in 2003 and an awful turnover at Arizona in 2004 that nearly got Deion Branch smashed out of the season stand out there).  Weis also was ready to take the ball out of Brady's hand and play for overtime in Superbowl XXXVI in the final minute.  

Weis' coaching career has been defined by incompetence and full-of-himself bluster at every stop - Notre Dame, the Chiefs (where his playcalling was taken away during a playoff game), the Florida Gators, and the Jayhawks.   Nowhere did Weis display anything close to coaching competence.

What it shows is the Patriots won in spite of him, not because he was anything. 

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