December 3, 2016

Moving The Goalposts

This Patriots season has been remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is the way that they’ve made so many media “experts” look foolish in their preseason predictions.

You no doubt recall many of these preseason worries. Perhaps you shared some of them.

Lets look at a few of the loudest “storylines” involving the Patriots from the offseason and early season, and how they worked out.

The “growing disconnect” between the Patriots and Tom Brady.

Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports floated this out there during the summer, reporting that the sides were not talking about a new contract, and that Brady was getting annoyed with the franchise. Earlier in the year, the Colts had declared that Payton Manning -like Brady, also in the last year of his contract – would be given a new contract to be the highest paid player in the history of the game. That seemed to satisfy media members, who never gave the same amount of attention to Manning’s situation as they did to Brady’s – and Manning still remains without a new contract.  Note what Silver wrote, and how silly it looks now:

Brady, however, can’t help but notice the way that the only NFL quarterback who can be considered his peer, Peyton Manning, has been treated by the Colts’ ownership.

Manning, who signed a reported $99.2 million contract extension in 2004 that will void after the 2010 season, looks to be in line for another unprecedented payday: Last February, five days before the Colts’ Super Bowl XLIV defeat to the New Orleans Saints, Indy owner Jimmy Irsay said of a contract extension, “You know it’s going to get done. I think it’s clear, and we’ll start on it this summer. … And it’ll be the biggest [contract] in history; there’s not much doubt about that.”

It’s worth repeating. Manning still has not gotten a new deal. Brady has. Local media put huge stock into Silver’s reporting over the summer, and when the deal got done attempted to cover themselves by saying that it was disgraceful that the Patriots made Tom Brady get down on his knees and beg for a new contract.

They don’t have any tight ends!

This one was from early on in the offseason, prior to the draft. Even after the draft, there were some concerns about the position. How is that looking now? Rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez along with veteran free agent signee Alge Crumpler have completely changed how the offense is being run.

Even during the summer, the Michael Felgers of the world were saying about how the Patriots have never used the tight ends in their offense, despite high picks like Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson, and that these new additions would not have an impact.

Brady isn’t as passionate about the game has he once was.

Tom Brady has clearly lost his passion for the game.

The theory was the since Brady was now married, and had two kids, and spent a lot of time on the West coast and traveling the world in general, he wasn’t as focused on his craft as he had been when he was winning the all-important “parking space” for dedication to offseason workouts at Gillette Stadium.

An MVP season later this also looks patently ridiculous. Some of those who made those statements (again, Felger) has recently attempted to distance themselves from them. We never said that was the case, we simply wondered if it might be the case…

They drafted a special teams player in the first round!

The selection of Devin McCourty in the first round was not a popular one, initially, especially among media members who thought they knew better what the Patriots needs were.

We can make this one real simple.

Devin McCourty better be Darrelle Revis. Or Nnamdi Asomugha. Or quickly show the promise of Mike Jenkins or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

In his rookie season, McCourty joined Revis and Asomugha as the AFC’s representatives to the Pro Bowl at the cornerback position.

No coordinators! Bill has spread himself too thin! His ego is out of control!

Another statement that looks silly now. Belichick has stated many times that his workload has not increased, and he appears to be enjoying himself in teaching young players like McCourty, Pat Chung, Jermaine Cunningham, Jerod Mayo and others on defense. Bill O’Brien seems fully in control of the offense (having Tom Brady can’t hurt) and coaching has not been a problem for this team.

8-8 ,9-7 or 10-6 is the ceiling for this team.

Whoops.

After all the pessimism of the preseason, now the goalposts have been moved completely. No longer is this a surprise season of an overachieving team. Now, anything less than a Super Bowl, and this season is a disappointment, or even a failure. A column by Gerry Callahan this week seemed to indicate that the Patriots should have no problems at all rolling through the postseason. A setup for being able to criticize the team if they do lose? Perhaps.

Now, the focus is one “Which AFC team should the Patriots be scared of the most?” The common answer, at least by the Michael Felger-soundalike-fill-ins on 98.8 FM the last couple of weeks is “All of them.” Guys who were music DJ’s 18 months ago are now NFL experts telling you why the Patriots should be scared of the Jets, Colts, Steelers, Ravens, Chiefs, Falcons, Saints, Bears, Eagles and Packers. Apparently the only playoff team that the Patriots might have a chance of beating is the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks.

Nevermind the fact that during the regular season, the Patriots played 7 games against teams in this year’s playoffs, and finished 6-1. The only loss was to the Jets in week two, and the Patriots followed that up by thumping the Jets 45-3 in December. They also beat the Ravens, Steelers, Colts, Bears and Packers. Thank god the Chargers didn’t make the playoffs. No one wants to face the Chargers in the playoffs.

The national media has anointed the Ravens as the team that can beat the Patriots in Gillette. After all, they did whip them 33-14 last January. That, however, was a completely different Patriots team. Ian Rapoport in the Herald this morning pointed out that 25 of the players on the Patriots 53-man roster from that game are no longer here.

I’d think that if the Ravens came into Gillette, they’d be facing an extremely motivated Patriots team. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would likely be seeking some revenge, and Brady would like to shut up mouthy Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who seemingly couldn’t go a week in the regular season without talking about Brady.

The Patriots could lose in the playoffs. I’m not suggesting otherwise. What I am saying is that we should not let the media’s moving goalposts allow us to overlook what a pleasant surprise this season has been, and set the bar too high for deeming the season a success. This franchise has a bright future, not matter what you hear from the “experts.”

Comments

  1. Excellent column. I enjoy the site, and have been visiting it every day. Well said, in this article. I don’t think the Patriots should be afraid of any of the teams coming in, but I am confident they will have a healthy respect and be prepared for whoever it turns out to be.

    At the beginning of the season, I put my starry-eyed Pats-Fan glasses on, and I absolutely thought the extreme top end for this team was to finish 11-5 and get into the playoffs. If they could do that, I decided I could call the season, which I saw as a rebuilding year, a high success.

    Good gosh, look at them. This has been one entertaining team to watch! I loved watching them in 2007, that was very exciting and fun, but there was a difference: I expected them to do well and pound the snot out of every team that year, as an “in your face for your Spy-gate crap” season. But this team is a blast to watch, seeing players develop and produce like Gronkowski…Spikes…Cunningham…Woodhead…BJGE…Connolly, and so on. Oddly enough, from day one, McCourty has seemingly played in such a way that as fans, we “trusted” him in his coverage the same way we used to “trust” players like Harrison, Bruschi and Brady. That says a lot. The saying that applies to McCourty this season is: “Underpromise and Overdeliver”…

    I can’t wait for 1/16/2011…:)

  2. Great piece, Bruce! Also worth noting that McCourty has more INTs (7) than Revis (0) and Asomugha (0), Jenkins (1) and Rodgers-Cromartie (3) combined.

  3. My favorite is how if we were optomistic back at the time of training camp we were “footy pajama” fan boys. Now that they’re 14-2? If we saw that coming we’re either lying or delusional! NOBODY saw it coming this team could be the #1 seed. Got that? NOBODY. Not even the ridiculous footy-pajama fan boys they criticized for being too positive about the team.

    They’re idiots. Pure and simple. Mazz, just for example, doesn’t have enough intelligence to even see how inconsisten he is. Just a dumb guy and it comes across daily on the radio.

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