The “Patriot Way” Set to Evolve

By David Jordan BASN Columnist
Updated: March 26, 2012

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BOSTON, MA. (BASN)—The stage was set. The world was watching. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots had a remarkable regular season. Even with a suspect defense, they found themselves in the Super Bowl. The New England had revenge on their minds.

The game would go down to the wire, and was set up for yet another Tom Brady Super Bowl game winning drive.

And then the unthinkable happened. With one last Hail Mary attempt, the New England Patriots Super Bowl hopes came to an end. Eli Manning had led his New York Giants to a game winning touchdown, and Tom Brady could not answer. For the second straight time, New England had lost a Super Bowl to the Giants. Eli Manning had out dueled Tom Brady. Bill Belichick, one of the greatest coaches of all time, was out coached by Tom Coughlin. The Patriots inconsistent defense had finally caught up to them. As well as the season had gone, a cry out for a reassessment of the “Patriot Way” was forming.

The first order of business would be dealing with their own free agents that would hit the open market following the 2011 campaign. The offense, which was one of the league’s best, would be potentially facing the departures of two major pieces of the team which made them such a threat. Their biggest free agent, wide receiver Wes Welker, was due for a big paycheck as he has been one of the league’s most consistent & reliable receivers these last few years. Next up was running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who although not a feature back, was the team’s leading rusher who had NEVER fumbled in his NFL career. They would have to face big decisions regarding their offensive line, as both centers on the team (Dan Connolly & Dan Koppen) are now free agents. In addition, they have to deal with the possibility of starting tackle Matt Light opting for retirement.

On the defensive side of the ball, most of the free agents are not impact players for the Patriots, but they are key contributors none the less. It could be argued that after last season’s defensive debacle, that none of these players necessarily are needed, as each of their positions could stand to be upgraded.

Names such as Andre Carter (who was having a fantastic season until his untimely injury), Rob Ninkovich, Kyle Arrington, Kyle Love, and Antwaun Molden are all up for free agency. A major decision would have to be made on who should or should not be brought back to the team. Regardless of the team’s Super Bowl run, it is evident that the defensive personnel will have to be upgraded.

So the question is “what is the next move for Bill Belichick & the New England Patriots front office”? As expected, the team designated the Franchise Tag on receiver Wes Welker, which cost them about $9.5 million against their cap. After applying the tag, New England was left with just under $18 million dollars in cap space to sign their own free agents, and to bring in other players from other teams. Rumors of superstars Vincent Jackson, Laron Landry, Brandon Lloyd, Mike Wallace, and Mario Williams were linked to the Patriots. Typically, Bill Belichick is not a big spender in free agency, whether it is a “Big Name” free agent or not. He is one of the coaches who likes to build his team through the draft, and by picking up bargain free agents who may excel at their position. It’s not that he prefers quantity over quality, but Belichick wants players that will fit the system and do their specific job. That takes a team, and not just one superstar player. In other words, he’d rather spend $18 million on multiple players at various positions, rather than investing all that money into one superstar player. This is what is commonly referred to as the “Patriot Way”, which worked very well for them in the early 2000’s, but as of late, has come under some scrutiny.

Some would say that the “Patriot Way”, is the cheap and heartless way of doing business. As of late the Patriots have been viewed as a franchise that does not like to pay its players, especially the impact players, big money, even when it is well deserved. They also have a reputation for cutting ties with players at the drop of dime, no matter what their stature is with the franchise, which has people questioning the Patriots front office’s loyalty & commitment to their players. Bill Belichick is known for his drafting expertise, but that too, has come under scrutiny these last few years. Belichick stock piles draft picks, often in the earlier rounds of the NFL draft, however, he is also notorious for trading away those same draft picks, trading out of the Patriots draft order, which usually allows them to receive more picks for the following season, and in turn, pass up on what many people would deem as an impact player.

Because of the Patriots “short comings” these past few seasons, fans have wanted them to stop trading away those draft picks, and to start taking those impact players. Will Belichick give into the murmurs? Will he reassess the “Patriot Way”? The answer is NO.

The fact of the matter is that Bill Belichick, Bob Kraft, and the rest of the Patriots front office has put in place a system that will allow the Patriots to not only win now, but remain competitive year in and year out, allowing them to be Super Bowl contenders for years to come. As much as I hate to admit it, sports fans & columnist in New England are very spoiled when it comes to our sports. As a city that has seen 7 championship parades in the last decade, settling for anything less than a championship from any of our major sports teams is unheard of. This way of thinking has left our view of success a bit tainted. At the end of the day, because of Bill Belichick’s way of doing business, we have been one of the most, if not the most successful franchise in the NFL since the year 2000 when he took over. With that being said, Belichick is no fool, and knows that if he wants to shake off this recent Super Bowl losing streak, he must evolve the “Patriot Way”.

Since the free agency period began, Belichick has already bolstered the New England Patriots squad. An already potent offense has retained the reliable Wes Welker, and has added the speedy, sure handed Brandon Lloyd to stretch the field. And in true Belichick fashion, he signed Lloyd to a team friendly contract in a free agency year which has seen proven and unproven wide outs receive ridiculous contracts from teams. As if that wasn’t enough, he has signed two more wide outs (Anthony Gonzalez & Dante Stallworth) and a tight end (Daniel Fells) to add to Tom Brady’s arsenal of Weapons. He has also resigned center Dan Connolly, and signed a former first round draft pick, guard Robert Gallery, to help sure up the offensive line. Defensively, he has resigned defensive tackle Kyle Love, while adding defensive ends Jonathan Fanene & Trevor Scott, safety Steve Gregory, and cornerback Will Allen.

Bill Belichick isn’t done yet. The 2012 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 26th. Look for New England to bring in some special talent, as they have 6 picks in the first 4 Rounds. Until then Belichick will continue to find quality players at a team friendly price that will help this team in its pursuit of another Lombardi trophy. There are holes that still need to be filled, and questions that still need to be answered. Make no doubt about it, they will be. This team is about winning, and doing it the “Patriot Way”.

Just ask Tom Brady, who has just restructured his contract this year to free up more cap space for the Patriots to sign more quality players. This is the attitude that Belichick and Kraft has imparted upon their franchise and its players. And as long as this attitude remains, New England will be Super Bowl contenders next year, and for years to come.