April 17, 2014

Season Preview: Pessimists vs. Optimists

By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff

Jeez is it almost football season? Where did the 2010 offseason go? With the Bruins and Celtics playoff runs, the World Cup and the Olympics, it seems just yesterday that I shelled out $250 for that despicable debauchery of a playoff game against the Ravens. That 33-14 thumping left a bewildered fan base searching for answers. Was this the end of a dynasty? What did the future have in store for Belichick and company?

Now with preseason just around the corner, the fans are split into two generalized camps: the pessimists vs. the optimists.

The Pessimists:

The long-standing loser’s mentality is ingrained deep into certain  Boston sports “fan’s” DNA, and a decade-long championship streak has not squelched this hard-to-kick habit. The gentle folks at 98.5, as much as I love them, do their best, “The sky is falling” shtick. It’s got as many layers as my grandma’s lasagna and goes something like this:

  1. A Disinterested Quarterback. Tom Brady has lost his competitive edge because he is working out in California and leaves his sack in Gisele’s Prada bag.
  2. An Unhappy Receiver. The era of a disgruntled Randy ‘Straight Cash Homey’ Moss has arrived, and it will poison the well and will make an already anemic offense even more predictable. Stats be damned! And the fact that Wes Welker might never be the same again poses a serious downgrade in the receiving corp.
  3. A Horrible Defense. There is no credible pass rush because Tully Banta-Cain will never be this good and Willie McGinest is not walking through that door.
  4. A Bad Running Game. Fragile Fred Taylor and the propensity of Laurence Maroney to fumble in key situations have the fans screaming for the Law Firm.
  5. Bad Coaching. The coaching staff is depleted now that Weis, McDaniels, Crennel, Pees and Capers are gone. And unfortunately Bill Belichick is taking on too much and spreading himself too thin. On top of that, Coach O’Brien is way too green and the vanilla schemes he runs have ruined the once potent offense.
  6. No Team Leadership. With Rodney, Tedy, Vrabel and Seymour gone there is nobody to stand up and stiffen everyone’s backbone. Not to mention that the team lacks the “winning mentality”
  7. Bad Drafting. Because Bill Belichick is not an Oracle and has missed on some draft picks the fan base now cannot in good conscience trust that anybody from the 2009 or 2010 drafts will produce.

The Optimists:

These insufferable ‘fanboys’ (according to the pessimists…and the media) believe anything that the Patriots front office feeds them. They are a gregarious and hopeful bunch and believe that at least some of these things will come true:

  1. Great Quarterback. Last year, Tom Brady was clearly not himself after a year off and will without a doubt return to his old level of greatness.
  2. Great Receivers. Randy Moss played for much of the year with a separated shoulder, and still had a top 5 year. He will come back with a vengeance and have stellar season yet again. Wes Welker has already been spotted running routes during training camp and now the question is whether he will be back in time for the season opener. Julian Edelman will make a massive leap in his second year and improve on what was an impressive rookie campaign. Brandon Tate should have been a first rounder had he not had the injury problems and he will shine through this season. Torry Holt was once the best in the business and is nothing like Joey Galloway because Holt is a precise and crisp route runner while Galloway was a speedster who lost to much tread on his tires.
  3. Emerging Secondary. Last year, the secondary was too young and inexperienced, but showed enough glimpses of greatness that gives these optimistic fans hope. Meriweather is already a Pro-Bowler. Bodden has been really solid. At least some of the young pups (Butler, McCourty, and Chung) will come into their own this season.
  4. Emerging Linebacking Corp. It’s pretty much universally agreed that there needed to be major improvement at this position. However, how much better the 2010 group is then its much maligned predecessors is highly disputed. Optimists claim that Mayo started off last year with an injury and will surely return back to his 2008 rookie of the year form. Tully Banta-Cain came out of nowhere last year, finishing the year with 9.5 sacks on the year which is a top 10 result. Brandon Spikes and Tyrone McKenzie will beef up the middle and bring a certain toughness that was clearly missing last year. Gary Guyton is too small to be used as an every down player and is much more effective when his speed can be maximized. Finally, Ninkovich and Cunningham are a significant improvement over a disgruntled Adalius Thomas.
  5. “In Belichick We Trust”. It is believed by many that Bill’s dynasty is a dynasty to end all dynasties because it is built around a system, rather then specific players, a sort-of perpetual dynasty. So until that is proven wrong people still hold out hope. And why shouldn’t they, he brought New England 3 Superbowls and a 16-0 regular season. So it can be assumed that he knows what he is doing and that his choice of O’Brien to head the offense this year is a good one. McDaniels, after all, had a pretty bad first year as well and it wasn’t until his second year that he really excelled.

Which camp will be proven right? This question will be answered at the end of what will likely be yet another exciting Patriots Season. Enjoy folks!

About Dan Zeigarnik

Like Bill Belichick, Dan is a graduate of Wesleyan University. When he's not obsessing over the Patriots, Dan works as a project manager for a nonprofit organization aimed at helping Boston area youths. He has also managed a recent district political campaign.

Comments

  1. We need a third group – rational. Neither of these fall into that category.

  2. Tom,

    I agree, I think that rational people would be a hodgepodge of the other 2 groups.

  3. AZPatsFan says:

    I fit firmly in the Optimist and Beyond club. Bill cut ties to the past in the pre-season of 2009. The Team was clearly under-manned on Defense at ILB and OLB and in the secondary, as well as at WR and TE.

    That is a lot less true today, if at all. The weakest part of the Defense was the partial hole at Seymour’s old position.

  4. There’s a few perceptions that get me, in general, when it comes to AFC East predictions, starting with this one:

    “Last year, Tom Brady was clearly not himself after a year off and will without a doubt return to his old level of greatness.”

    Tom Brady had his second best passing year, in 2009. The problem, for the team in general, was that they played bad in long stretches of games. The entire second half of the Denver game, for example – it seemed like nothing would go their way.

    Honestly, I think of it like this: The Patriots were a couple of 4th downs from a 13-3 season.

    The problem, however, is that the strategy for 2010 involves relying on some rookies and a lot of younger players. Neither of these groups produce consistently from week to week (in general).

    There are plenty of questions that need to be answered, and the Patriots aren’t in an ideal situation to make a run at another AFC title, but there’s plenty of unanswered questions amongst our AFC East competition, and no one seems to want to ask them. Example: What if the Jets game isn’t what it was, and the team Relies on Sanchez more? Exact same question for the Dolphins – Brown coming off a knee injury, Williams a year older and an injury history?

  5. David,

    Excellent points. The Jets seem to be pre-ordained to win the AFC East, but they still have to go through Pats. It should be an exciting 3 way race that will go down to the wire. I think that while Brady had a good year statistically, he uncharacteristically overthrew Randy on a lot of plays early on in the season. Also, the lack of a consistent 3rd receiving option really made the offense predictable.

  6. Nopointe says:

    can’t wait, they will monsterthrottle the league

  7. My heart is an optimist, but my brain is a little more cautious. My take:

    1. I do believe Brady is poised to have a better year in 2010, not in terms of stats, but of stature. Those with torn ligaments in the past say It takes 2 years to fully come back from the injury not only because of physical ability, but because of the mental aspect. Also Brady was playing with cracked ribs for most the year, but who’s keeping track…

    2. As for his recievers, our biggest weakness in ’09 was the lack of a 3rd option. I love the addition of Holt, who was a fine #2 reciever for JAX last year, and reminds me of Troy Brown in his later years. Edelman will have to step up, at least until Wes comes back, but the fact that we also have Tate or Price waiting to break out makes me feel better. Brady values multiple reliable options over any one superstar, and can make magic happen with average receivers as long as they know the plays and can hold on to the ball. And then there’s our TE situation, which has the potential to transform our offense if all goes according to plan. I like our offense this year.

    3. Our secondary worries me. Bodden is the only corner I trust. I would like to think that Butler makes the leap this year (he has the tools), and that Mccourty can contribute right away, but our secondary will become even more important this year with the addition of Brandon Marshall and Santonio Holmes to the AFC East, and I don’t trust it. Our safety situation is slightly better, although Meriweather’s probowl talent is marred by his inconsistency, and Chung the only other option with the potential to be better than average. His performance will be a huge x-factor this year for the pats.

    4. Our linebacker situation is shaky at best. It all depends on the new blood. If Spikes can take over at strong ILB, then Mayo can move back to the weak slot where he logged his breakout rookie season. That frees Guyton up to be used in passing situations, where his speed is an asset. Mckenzie also has the chance to make an impact here. At OLB, we look weak. Cunningham may start eventually, and hopefully Shawn Crable will finally show us why we picked him in ’08, but if they fail to perform then we rely on Banta-Cain duplicating a season that is by far the best he’s ever played. I don’t see that happening, and hope that our rookies step up and contribute along with Burgess and Ninkovich, but I worry that our pass rush will be even less effective this year than last.

    5. I’m not actually worried about coaching. O’Brien knows what he is doing, and so does Belichick. No one knows what happens behind the scenes, but the Pats are filled with smart football minds, and I trust them to work together.

    What it comes down to is our defense stepping up, and compensating for our weaknesses. We wont be great in all areas, but a strong secondary can compensate for a poor pass rush, just as a strong front seven can take the pressure off the backfield. I like our D-line situation, so hopefully at least some of our defensive youth will have breakout years and really solidify our defense. If we can do that, then I really like the chances of the 2010 Patriots to take the AFC East, and make a run deep into the playoffs.

  8. Great post Sam!

    I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment. This will be a transitional year with both good and bad mixed in. Just to add a few thoughts.

    1) An improved offense, helps the defense. By scoring more points early, it will force the other teams to air it out and make them more predictable

    2) I am more worried about the D-Line then you. I have little confidence in the new guys that were signed in the offseason and last year’s playoff showed that the guys we had were not up to the task.

    3) I don’t think there is anyway but up for the Linebacking corps. With a disgruntled Adalius and an injured Mayo that group had no chance at gelling and working together as a unit.

  9. Classless says:

    I’m not concerned about the offense. Despite everyone crying about Brady, he’s a top 3 QB and we’re lucky to have him. Same goes for Moss and Welker. The Defense is the problem. I don’t see any playmakers on D beside Meriweather (and even he has a little Tony “trick or treat” Allen in him). I feel this year is a make or break year for Mayo. He disappeared last year and made zero impact plays. In order for the LB corp to progress as a unit, he needs to emerge as the force that he seemed to be his rookie year. If he doesn’t, get ready for no push from the front 7 and QB’s sitting back, carving up the secondary.

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