December 3, 2016

Loyal To The End?

by Dan Snapp, Patriots Daily Staff
September 10, 2009

I sometimes wonder if I’m watching a different game than everybody else. When did football become about making sure everybody’s happy? Since when did approval ratings trump winning?

Yes, it sucks for Richard Seymour to be traded to Oakland, and yes, he just built a house, and yes, he now has to uproot his family. This may sound callous, but that’s life. In the game he chose to make his profession – one in which he’s worked hard and was handsomely rewarded – this was a possible outcome in the scheme of things.

Seymour’s entitled to feel however he feels about it, but the Patriots owe him nothing beyond respect and gratitude for his contributions to their success.

The transaction garnered a predictable response from the usual suspects: Dan Shaughnessy called us toadies for rooting for the laundry; Ron Borges urged Vince Wilfork (again) to sit out; and former Seymour slammer Michael Felger shrieked that his departure was the first sign of the pending apocalypse.

It’s really no wonder Bill Belichick is so tight-lipped. He comes within minutes of the league’s first 19-0 season, loses his MVP quarterback the next year yet still leads the team to an 11-5 season with a QB who hasn’t started since high school, and that’s not enough? They want him to be Dick McPherson, as well? Hugs all around. Cold cuts and doughnuts in the pressbox. Christmas bonuses and personalized holiday greetings. “Best wishes for a swell 2010 to my favorite cub reporter. You’ll get me one of these days. Love, Bill.”

Give up the ghost, guys. It’s never gonna happen. And yes, fans do prefer wins over keeping players past their primes. Seymour’s still in his prime, but the Raiders’ compensation was so over the top, the Patriots would be fools not to take it. All the pundits agree on this. The ones outside Boston, anyway.

Shaughnessy made an interesting analogy Monday, ostensibly as criticism, imagining Belichick’s moves helming the late-80s Celtics:

If the 1980s Celtics had been managed by Belichick you can be pretty sure Kevin McHale would have been traded. Maybe Robert Parish, too. The Big Three would not have gotten old and broken down on Coach Bill’s watch.

If he’s saying that’s a bad thing, the Celtics of the ’90s don’t help his cause much. If a Belichick figure could have parlayed an aging McHale into a Shaq or Mourning two years down the line, would you have taken it?

Borges, ever the union man, bemoaned Wilfork’s lack of leverage as a rookie, saying he had no choice but to sign the six-year deal which he has now obviously outperformed. His remedy, as always, is for the player to sit out . But what’s management’s option when a player underperforms a contract? The 49ers in 2005 signed rookie Alex Smith to a megadeal, then were stuck with him when he foundered. It’s not like they were going to get their money back, and if they cut him his sizable bonus would have ballooned their salary cap. Where’s Ron’s crocodile tears for that injustice?

Seymour and the Patriots were equally loyal to one another. When not liking his  situation, Seymour twice sat out and was rewarded. His last deal made him one of the highest paid defenders, and it’s arguable whether he performed up to that stature. The Pats paid him at the first two impasses, and traded him this time, well within their rights.

Both parties treated football as a business, and both took risks associated with that decision. By sitting out, Seymour risked just this kind of transaction occurring the next time his contract was coming up. And the Patriots are taking a risk now in not having Seymour’s services for the year.

The price for being a successful team in the salary cap era is that you can’t keep all your good guys, and your roster is constantly in flux. The media seems shocked that only four Patriots remain from a Super Bowl that occurred eight years ago, in a league where player careers average half that.

What’s more impressive is that 14 Patriots from the 2001 season were still playing football in 2008, eight of whom were still Patriots. By contrast, the 2008 Rams had four players left from their 2001 roster, the 2008 Colts had six, and the Steelers and Ravens each had four.

Tell me, which team is most loyal?

Hating losing Seymour as a Patriot and loving the Raiders deal are not mutually exclusive events.  As fans, we’ll continue to have the memories to cherish, and can even be so magnanimous to actually wish the best for somebody wearing a Raiders jersey.

But at the end of the day, we’re loyal to the guys wearing the laundry.

E-mail Dan Snapp at [email protected]

Comments

  1. “Seymour and the Patriots were equally loyal to one another. When not liking his situation, Seymour twice sat out and was rewarded. His last deal made him one of the highest paid defenders, and it’s arguable whether he performed up to that stature. The Pats paid him at the first two impasses, and traded him this time, well within their rights.”

    Great article Dan. And the quotation above is right on. I daresay if a player–like Tom Brady—showed some loyalty to the team that action will be reciprocated. We’ll see if Wilfork is going to be that kind of guy. If not he can start packing his bags now because he’s gone.

  2. Dan- Best article to date, by anyone, on this site.

  3. It’s beyond tiring that we should have this debate on the morality of Belichick and the organization every time this happens. It’s pretty clear – the priority is the sustained success of the team present and future, and not any one individual. And the results of this are equally clear. Why are we still struggling with this concept? The fact is ‘we’ aren’t – only the guardians of the gate are.

    Seymour was one of my favorite Pats over the last eight years and I’m disappointed he won’t be part of the team this year. It’s entirely fair to wonder about the impact of that on the team’s immediate success, but if we’re going for fair, let’s also acknowledge the risks associated with that. They could have lost have lost him for nothing. They could have signed him to a deal that in the long run would have inhibited them. Those things are equally as possible as Seymour being “the difference” this year.

    I figure that we as fans are best served by the team first ethic. I liked Richard Seymour a lot, but its an easy choice for me.

  4. Spot on!

  5. Thanks for quoting that Shaughnessy piece about the C’s so I didn’t have to read it myself.

    The approach the Celtics had to the late 80’s is probably the single biggest reason why I am an unqualified fan of Bill Belichick, and I say that as a guy who thought the Holy Trinity consisted of Bird, Parrish, and McHale.

    Nice work Dan… Snapp, that is.

    • Hear hear.

      After the C’s lost to the Pistons in the ’88 East Finals, I knew it was all over for that particular group of players, and I told all of my friends that it was time to start wheeling and dealing. I even threw out the possibility of trading Bird once Edmonton traded Gretzky (and won a Stanley Cup without him 2 years later) that very same summer of 1988. I was, naturally, ripped to shreds for not seeing the “loyalty” angle in all of this.

      Of course, it was 22 championship-less and embarrassment-filled years before the C’s finally did win a title again, so I think my philosophy back in ’88 was proven correct.

      What really, really irks me is this media notion that we “fanboys, rumpswabs and Belichick Kool-Aid drinkers” are never critical of anything the Patriots do. That is NOT the case. The fact is that this team, since the start of the 2001 season, is 97-31 in the regular season and 14-3 in the post-season.

      Does that kind of track record not buy the man making the decisions at least some benefit of the doubt? He’s been criticized when he’s been wrong….but at least we “fanboys” give it time before we declare a decision to be wrongheaded or foolhardy. The media just immediately, in a knee-jerk fashion, declare every move that Belichick makes to be “coldblooded” or “heartless,” and predict that the sky will soon fall. Then when they turn out to be wrong (90% of the time, probably), they pretend they never said anything like that or they claim that it’s their job to be “provocative.”

      Like Dan said, loyalty cuts both ways, but the media never see it that way. That’s why none of them still, to this day, have never mentioned that Deion Branch actually held out of camp in 2006 with 1-year left on his contract. The Patriots didn’t “screw” Deion–he held out of camp when he had a valid contract.

      But then again, why would any of these media hacks let the truth and the facts get in the way of their agendas?

  6. Great article. Could not have been said any better.

  7. “When not liking his situation, Seymour twice sat out and was rewarded. His last deal made him one of the highest paid defenders, and it’s arguable whether he performed up to that stature. The Pats paid him at the first two impasses, and traded him this time, well within their rights.”

    You and your facts, getting in the way of a good ol’ media ‘evil Belichick storm’

    And for something based on no facts. Since the Seymour trade I’ve been thinking about when Seymour was benched in the 1st quarter against the Jaguars in 2003 after he missed a practice on Friday because he was at his grandfather’s funeral. Seems like a heartless act, except Larry Izzo had missed even more time earlier in the year and he still got normal playing time. The next year Kevin Faulk was allowed to miss practice to be with his ill mother, and his playing time wasn’t affected.

    Why the different treatment for Izzo and Faulk – two guys who are known to be team first. Maybe there is more to the story on Seymour’s behavior, not that Belichick would ever comment on it

    • Jason Coyote says:

      Actions speak louder than words, Nopointe. Perhaps trading Seymour is Belichick’s ‘comment’.

      These last few days I’ve also heard some media outlets attempting to link together the departures of Vrabel and Seymour due to their outspoken nature. I know Vrabel was the Pats’ NFLPA rep, was Seymour actively involved with the players union as well? I wonder if that even plays any relevance to them both being dealt, or is it simply Belichick trying to obtain value for these guys while they still have some in the trade market.

      In contrast, guys like Izzo and Faulk have not only been ‘team first’ guys on the field but pretty quiet off it.

      Another good column, Dan. Have always enjoyed reading your work.

      • I don’t think Seymour was actively involved, I think Light took over when Vrabel was traded

        Another thing – after Vrabel was traded Belichick released a statement praising Vrabel’s playing ability, locker room presence, intelligence, and on and on. Belichick also praised Cassel for always doing things the right way. He said he wished he could keep working with both guys, but basically it was for the best of the team.

        After Seymour gets traded, it was a far milder ‘we thank him for his elite performance on the field and he was respected off the field, best of luck in the future’

  8. Well done, Dan…you toadie.

    But you haven’t answered the question: does this make them a better team THIS YEAR?? DOES IT????

    • I’m disappointed that at no point did Dan stir the pot here.

    • ManofsteeleJ says:

      Now come on…how do we know if they will be a better team this year? They haven’t played a real game yet. Stupid question for someone who is no doubt looking for excuses. Grow up.
      PATS will continue to dominate because of smart business.

  9. Chris Warner says:

    Nice work, Dan. The Shaughnessy quote says it all, I think. Yeah, it would have been awful to trade Kevin McHale, but it would have relieved us of the Pinckney/Klein era. I’ve always liked Belichick’s (and before him, Parcells’) tendency to separate the personal from the professional. Hard to see Seymour go, but nice to think of the 2011 potential reward.

    • Hey! I’ll give ya Klein, but Pinckney? He was great fun to watch!

      • Chris Warner says:

        He was fun. Loved his hustle and temperament. Not so hot on his inability to shoot from beyond 8 feet. He reflected the team in those years: hardworking but not quite talented enough.

  10. I was thinking that Nick Cafardo would have a field day with this were he alive and still covering the Pats beat.

  11. Dead on. I wish people would just stop listening to the Felgers, Borges, & Shaugnessy’s of the world so these clowns could just go quitly into the good night. God they’re awful.

  12. When I first heard about the trade, I wondered if the NFL would take away Al Davis’ personnel authority the way the NBA took away Ted Stepien’s authority in Cleveland several years ago . . . so that’s what I think about the trade.

    You would think that after coming with minutes of a perfect season, followed by Tom Brady’s loss for the year and the Steelers winning two SBs since the last Patriots SB win, that BB’s hangover would be worse than anyone else’s and that he’d be thinking short term. So, for me, it’s reassuring that Bill is still thinking long-term about this team.

    I think that this trade was simply one that was too good to pass up. But if you want to search for psychological reasons, I’d ignore the holdouts and focus on Seymour’s failure to participate in the team’s offseason workout programs for years after his injuries and the JackieMac attack piece back in ’07.

    And if these guys are hurt because Belichick gives them the cold shoulder, maybe they could use it as a teachable moment and reply to their own readers’ e-mail.

  13. Spot on. Just spot on, particularly the end:

    “Hating losing Seymour as a Patriot and loving the Raiders deal are not mutually exclusive events. As fans, we’ll continue to have the memories to cherish, and can even be so magnanimous to actually wish the best for somebody wearing a Raiders jersey.

    But at the end of the day, we’re loyal to the guys wearing the laundry.”

    Well written. I have had your site bookmarked for a while, but my viewing was spotty. If this is representative of what I can see here, I will be paying closer attention.

    Nice job.

  14. Thank s for the comments, all.

    I realized I had the number wrong for the Patriots 2001 team members still with the team in 2008. There were nine: Brady, Faulk, Light, Neal, Seymour, Vrabel, Bruschi, Izzo and Paxton. I originally forgot Paxton.

    So a good question for Borges would be, given the Patriots’ alleged lack of loyalty, their alleged hardball contract tactics, and the players’ alleged dislike of the coach, why do free agents come to New England and why do players stay? Are they all just idiots?

    • I really think it’s all about how the media in this town just doesn’t like Belichick. And moreover, none of them fear any reprisals from him because they know he just doesn’t care about them.

      I mean, the Steelers, by and large, have conducted their football business during the salary cap era the same exact way as the Patriots have (Joey Porter was a stud when they won Super Bowl XL, but two years later he was gone, even though he still had gas left in his tank, replaced by a younger and cheaper James Harrison). There is no outcry when the Steelers make moves like that. Ditto for when the Colts let Edgerrin James walk after the 2005 season–Joseph Addai was younger and cheaper, and again, there was no criticism of how Polian wasn’t loyal to a long-time stud player; a player who had been at the forefront of the franchise’s resurgence during this decade.

      Of course, most of these Boston media idiots would pee their pants if they ever saw a drunken and enraged Polian coming towards them in the press box after a particular negative column about him. They know that Belichick doesn’t care, so they write whatever they want. There’s no risk of them being accosted in the press box by BB and being pinned to the wall by their lapels, unlike with a certain GM in Indy.

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