Thursday, March 4, 2010

Patriots 2010: Batting .500

NFL free agency starts tomorrow, and it is going to be a crazy one. Without a salary cap, there is nothing to stop teams from releasing under-performing players, and with several new coaching staffs in place, expect lots of recognizable veterans to be out of jobs and looking for a fresh start somewhere else.

So far this off-season, the Patriots have made the most news fending off charges that they don't pay players and franchising Vince Wilfork. Neither of those is important at this point; the Patriots consistently spend up to the salary cap, and the Wilfork negotiations are ongoing.

However, they haven't exactly covered themselves in glory regarding my suggestions for the off-season. Specifically to this point they haven't taken full heed of my advice on how to improve their coaching staff. They followed only half of my advice, meaning they are batting only .500 to this point. Here is how it shakes out so far.

On the plus side, they let several under-performing coaches go. Dean Pees was okay, but Bill Belichick clearly did not trust him, and BB ended up spending way too much time working with the defense during games. In fact, it probably cost himself another championship in Super Bowl XLII, because Belichick basically neglected an offense that was in trouble (and had an inexperienced offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels) to manage a defense that had more veteran coaches on the staff. So Pees needed to go -- and his departure gives them a chance to hire someone Belichick trusts to run the defense, especially on game day.

They also let tight ends coach Shane Waldron go, which is a good thing. The Pats haven't had a standout tight end since... gulp, Ben Coates. Their current crop has under-performed for years, though that doesn't all fall on Waldron, who only coached them in 2009. But they regressed under Waldron, so the team had to find a better coach for that position,given the talent they've thrown at the position (Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson). IMO, the final straw was that part-time starter David Thomas was released in 2008, but then he caught on with the Saints and had his most productive year by far. So something was obviously wrong at that position, so good for the Patriots for trying something new.

But that's where the good news ends. Even given those positive developments, the Patriots are stuck in neutral when it comes to hiring replacements, naming no one to coach the offense, defense, or tight ends. Belichick's refusal to hire from outside his inner circle continues to hamstring him because he is competing with teams that hire the best coaches available.

The Pats let go of their defensive coordinator (Dean Pees) and named no replacement. They still have no official offensive coordinator (though Bill O'Brien seems destined for another year of play calling). And after announcing that Shane Waldron wouldn't return, they failed to hire a new coach for the tight ends.

None of those decisions needs to be permanent -- though the Pats insist they have made all the coaching changes they expect for the year. They don't have to remain a closed society. There are probably dozens of coaches who would love to work with Belichick -- to learn from him and to have a chance to win consistently. But unless BB starts exploring the possibility of hiring from outside, that will never change.

They could knock out both of those concerns by hiring and OC, DC, and/or tight ends coach from outside the organization. It would be a bold change from past habits, but no team can expect to become champions without taking bold, decisive action when it is warranted.

So at this point in the 2010 season, they are 1 for 2, or batting .500. Not bad, but they could easily be at 1.000 and wowing us all.

In the next few weeks we'll know if they intend to take advantage of the uncapped year. But six weeks into the off-season the news is mixed. Here's hoping they turn it around with long-term deals for Brady and Wilfork, some new coaches, and lots of high-performance free agents landing in Foxboro.

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 0-0!

No comments:

Post a Comment