November 1, 2014

Grinding Those Lemons

by Britt Schramm
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Editors Note – As you might imagine, the PD staff has been on high alert since the startling loss of the Patriots’ best player yesterday, just moments after a new season began. We’re all trying to figure out where the Pats players and coaches – and yes, their fans too – go from here. Britt Schramm, author of our weekly Line ‘Em Up feature, offers these early thoughts (SB).

As Scott posted last night, the season for Tom Brady lasted fifteen plays from the line of scrimmage.  At least Matt Cassel came in and got the W against a very green Chiefs squad.  But in between the Chicken Littles who are already want to shelf the remaining games and wait for next year and the legion of openly hateful anti-Patriots ‘fans’ who are claiming that the injury is a sign from the Old Testament, Eye-for-an-Eye vengeful All-Mighty as a means of making up for last year’s glut of storylines (SpyGate, RunningUpTheScoreGate, 16-0RegularSeasonGate, TooMuchMediaCoverageGate, or any other slight that they feel was committed against the sanctity of the Church of NFL football), who should the levelheaded New England fan turn to run the first team offense?

To the rotating list of out-of-work QBs (if they were any good, wouldn’t they be holding a clipboard somewhere)?  To the faint possibility of a trade for a serviceable QB (one with the ATL for Redman will gain momentum in the coming weeks)?  To do the unthinkable by having an open competition between Cassel if Gutierrez is brought back?  Who knows, but here’s what I do know.

There’s a phrase thrown around in the IT industry called A Single Point of Failure.  Basically, there should not be one thing that doesn’t have either a very serviceable back-up or an ulterior route.  Obviously, it is easier said than done since the eight fantasy teams that I own have the same top-flight QB (two guesses who).  But my bet is that Belichick is a better coach and practitioner of redundancy than yours truly.

Face it – he has done it before; albeit with a much better back-up than Cassel.  The entire time Belichick has be HC of NEP, he has preached the ability to be flexible; to be able to adjust mid-game, mid-season, playoffs, etc.  You have to imagine that he does have a list of contingency plans for just this occasion.  In fact, here’s what will probably happen with the Pats in the next couple of weeks (at least if I had the gift and could predict the future):

  • A change in offensive philosophy – Obviously, the Greatest Show on Foxboro Turf is now out the door.  There are a plethora of RBs on the 53-man roster.  They each do different things.  Why not use them?  Use the M&Ms (Maroney and Morris) to loosen up in the inside with div, blast and an occasional trap, let Jordan run wild with sweeps and off-tackle plays then let Jordan and Faulk catch screens out of the backfield.  Let the O-line lick their chops and go forward to run block instead of constantly backpedaling.  Sure, this change might make the WR gang a little upset that it’s not as high-flying as it was last year but they’ll get theirs; just more calculated  Maybe introducing some new trick plays that would take advantage of the defensive positional lapses on the other side of the ball.
  • Bring in the new QB at the beginning of Week #3 – There’s no need to sign the first Johnny (or Chris) Come Lately so quickly.  Give Cassel the chance to lead the team from the opening whistle for the next two weeks.  The next two games, while in the division, are a good test for the unproven back-up and it will also be a good litmus test to see where the rest of the team’s psyche is.  Plus, bringing in the new QB in the Monday of Week 3 will not only help the knowledge transfer but it will utilize the bye week to help either continue as is or make the transition to the new QB cleaner.
  • Get back to playing solid defensive and situational position football – What I mean by this is getting away from last year’s outright reliance on the offense to bail out the rest of the team from jams.  Obviously easier said than done when your defense is not as deep as it has been previously.  But that’s what Kraft pays Pees to make sure that players wrap up the tackle and be in position to make plays.  Also, this means doing more situational punting than last year.  Hanson has the leg (as proven by the 70 yarder) but it’s all about location to help pin opponents to inside the 20 to help out the D.

If you want my guess, I have a feeling that Cassel will keep the Pats in close but may not be able to pull it out to go 3-0 to start the season.  The Pats will be 2-1 at the Bye Week with Chris Simms or quite possibly Tim Rattay brought in to back him up in Week #3.

The reasoning behind the move is that I can’t imagine that the Pats will bring back Gutierrez, another inexperienced QB, to provide back-up to the guy who has never started a game outside of high school; especially when the season is so fresh.  Plus, the Pats don’t have anything expendable that they could offer the Falcons in order to get Redman.

The only option remaining is bringing a hired gunslinger, who will take more than a few weeks to learn the playbook but has the benefit of a learning cushion due to that much-maligned early bye week.  Obtaining a QB who knows how to handle the day-to-day professional pressure may bear fruit down the road and possibly into the post-season in the event that Cassel freaks out and turns into a frog on this fairytale-like run..

So, suck it up Pats fans – it might be In Brady, We Trust.  But for now, it’s In Cassel, We Pray.

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