Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ochocinco Just Doesn't Matter

Last week was the bye in New England, and that gave Patriots fans and media a chance to digest the season so far, spotting trends and areas of both encouragement and concern.  One name that came up repeatedly in articles and over the airwaves was Chad Ochocinco.  Some people advised more patience with the wide receiver and others called for him to be benched or cut outright.

What all the talk missed is that there simply isn’t any reason to bother talking about Ochocinco.  For all of the buzz surrounding his arrival this summer, not only has he not panned out, there is little reason to think he will.  And in retrospect there is almost no reason to think he could have made much of a difference in the first place.

Here are five reasons Ochocinco isn’t worth your time and energy.

Reason #1:  He averages a pathetic 1.5 catches for 15 yards a game.  In other words, he represents less than five per cent of the passing offense on a team that averages 26.7 completions for 350.5 yards a game.

Three points that put Ochocinco’s 2011 totals -- 9 catches for 136 yards -- in perspective:  First, Ochocinco himself topped those numbers 11 times in single games prior to joining the Patriots.  Second, Wes Welker had more yards in three games already this season.  And on the 2011 Patriots, Ochocinco joins three running backs and two part-time receivers as the only players on the entire team with fewer than ten catches for the year.

Reason #2:  Even with a non-functional/dysfunctional Ochocinco, New England is among the league leaders in every passing category. Tom Brady and company lead the league with 350.5 passing yards a game, and are second in yards per pass (9.1) and passer rating (104.8).  And overall the offense leads the NFL with 27 first downs a game, has three 90+ yard touchdown drives, and is fourth in points per game with 30.8.

Contributions from Ochocinco might help, but the team is thriving without him.

Reason #3:  Under the best of possible circumstances, Ochocinco would only have been only a modest improvement over Deion Branch.  The local media and many fans went overboard when Ochocinco was brought in, hailing the trade as another genius move by head coach Bill Belichick.  But the reality is that Ochocinco is nowhere near the deep threat he was a few years ago.  And even if he picked up the offense immediately, he would have been only a marginal improvement over Deion Branch.

At this point in Ochocinco’s career, he is a precise route-runner with the strength and grit to out-muscle corners at the line of scrimmage and compete for the ball on close plays.  In other words, he is a slightly taller, slightly stronger, much better tweeting version of Branch.  All Ochocinco lacks is knowledge of the playbook and the trust of Tom Brady.  And at this point it looks like he will lack those things for his entire, one-year Patriots career.

Reason #4:  The Cold, Hard Football Facts have shown that you don’t need a big-name wide receiver to win in the NFL.  Their comparison of big-name receivers to shiny hood ornaments ( that look good but don’t add much to winning has been borne out time and again.

Big-name receivers like Ochocinco usually demand more throws their way, even if it’s only the subtle psychological pressure to use their talents as much as possible.  They also often complain in the press (though Ochocinco hasn’t yet), can be divisive in the locker room, and unfortunately, can be neutralized in the biggest games by playoff-caliber defenses that focus on taking them away.

It doesn’t necessarily hurt to have a great receiver (that Jerry Rice guy did okay in the post-season).  But there are about 50 pieces of the championship puzzle more important than the big-name receiver.  And Patriots fans should know that better than most -- all three of their Super Bowl victories came without one.

Reason #5:  His $6 million salary is already spent, so there’s no use crying about it.  Some have argued that since the Patriots spent a lot of money on Ochocinco they have to get something out of him.  That is nonsense.

Almost every year there is virtual All Star team of big money free agents who never pan out with their new team.  Between injuries, the inability to learn new systems, position changes, lack of motivation after signing big contracts, locker room friction, and coaching conflicts, there are myriad reasons why free agents sometimes just don’t work out.

Only a foolish team wastes valuable playing time and coaching energy on players just because the team paid them a lot of money.  How much money the Patriots paid Ochocinco is irrelevant to the current situation -- the $6 million is now guaranteed so there’s no point in worrying about it.

If the Patriots think Ochocinco is making progress (and there is evidence he is), then they should continue to work with him.  But how much money he makes should have no bearing on playing time or how often they target him in the passing game.

So there you have it, five good reasons you don’t need to worry about Chad Ochocinco.  Maybe one of these weeks he will have a breakout game and start tweeting up interest again.  But until then, concentrate your energy on the improved Patriots defense and running game, or bemoan the problems at safety or the lack of depth on the offensive line.  But Ochocinco shouldn’t occupy much of your time.

No comments:

Post a Comment