Let’s Keep A Little Perspective 0

Rick Reilly of ESPN puts the Patriots loss in Super Bowl 46 in perspective and how it is crazy to all of a sudden go from praising Brady, Belichick and the rest of the Patriots from the best ever to almost running them out-of-town.  The media pounces and fans soon forget just how hard and how much of an accomplishment it is just to be in a position to compete for a Super Bowl championship.  Good article.  Check it out.   http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/7553934/being-too-hard-patriots

Five Reasons For Patriots Fans To Be Optimistic The Day After The Super Bowl 0

By Michael Skelton

The day after an excruciating loss in the Super Bowl, where no less than a dozen key plays could have changed the outcome, is generally not a time for optimism.  It’s usually a time for misery, heartache, and endless over-analysis of what could have been.  All of these feelings are understandable for fans.  These feelings are also, frankly, a waste of time. If we as fans struggle with these feelings, imagine how the players will cope with such a devastating loss? Wes Welker may not sleep for a month.

With a second Super Bowl loss in 5 years, many will also start to question whether the dynasty is truly over.  Many will begin to ask whether Belichick has lost his mojo and whether Brady is starting to show his age. So at a time when it’s popular to rant and rave and spread doom and gloom, here are 5 things that should give Patriot fans reason to move past the Super Bowl and be optimistic about the future…

Bill Belichick is still Head Coach & Tom Brady is still Quarterback

After losing a championship game the media, particularly the talk radio crowd, will immediately look to define what the long term implications of the loss means to franchise.  In the case of the Patriots, much of the talk over the next few weeks will be about how this loss tarnishes the legacy of Belichick and Brady.  This debate, of course, is a meaningless fabrication of the media meant to stoke the emotions of the fan base.  Legacies are based on an individual’s full body of work and neither Belichick nor Brady is done.

Rather than pondering if Belichick and Brady still hold legendary status, we should celebrate being in a position to have such a discussion in the first place. In a league where incompetent coaches are fired annually, and quarterbacks like Tavaris Jackson and Rex Grossman have starting gigs, the Patriots are fortunate to have two surefire first ballot Hall of Famers in Belichick and Brady.  Belichick may have lost some of his aura of genius and Brady is surely on the backside of his career, but both are still worlds better than what the rest of the NFL has to offer.  The grass is not always greener on the other side.

The Patriot’s Defense showed a pulse when it mattered

In December, ESPN “analyst” (a title too willingly bestowed on some) Cris Carter proclaimed “the Patriots have the worst defense in NFL history.”  This statement and others like it from various other media talking heads was a driven almost entirely by the defense yards allowed statistic, where the Patriot’s struggled all year and ultimately finished 31st.  Make no mistake, any defense that allows the likes ofDanOrlovsky to have a big statistical game deserves its fair share of criticism.  But the Patriot’s defense was never as bad as advertised and made major strides in the post season.

Guys like Brandon Spikes, Brandon Deadrick, Kyle Love, and (gasp) Sterling Moore showed up big down the stretch.  When these young players stepped up, the entire unit improved.  Coupled with the steady play of vets like Jerod Mayo and Rob Ninkovich, and the other-worldly play of Vince Wilfork, the Patriots defense turned in its finest two performances of the year when it mattered versus the Broncos and Ravens.

In the Super Bowl, the defense played good enough to win.  It’s a simple as that. Yes, the defense failed to come up with the game changing play that Patriots desperately needed (3 lost fumbles squandered).  But for a team built around a one of the league’s best quarterbacks and top ranked offenses, the defense’s job was to be competitive and keep the team in the game. There is reason to believe this defense will continue to improve in 2012. Deadrick and Love are young and still improving.  Mayo already is an all pro and Spikes played like one when healthy. Wilfork will continue to be a dominate force.

The defense is not without question marks. Can Devin McCourty return to form after a disastrous sophomore year?  Can Pat Chung stay healthy and become the All Pro safety he has shown flashes off? Perhaps the biggest question, however, is whether Belichick will finally spend the draft picks he treasures so dearly on a young, explosive, pass rusher.  Yes, Mark Anderson and Andre Carter were both pleasant surprises, racked up good sack totals, and hopefully will return in situational roles.  But the Patriots need their own Terrell Suggs, James Harrison, Dwight Freeney, Jason Pierre Paul-like talent. They need someone opposing coaches will fear and game plan around.

This defense is a very long way from turning the corner and rivaling the famed units of the Patriot’s glory years of 2001-2004.  But they played inspired, gritty football down the stretch this season and earned the respect of many. If the defense builds on where they left off this season, this unit will have a chance to exceed expectations and help this team reach its ultimate goal.

Offensive Line and Tight End are stacked

On the offensive line the Patriots appear to be as well positioned as they have ever been heading into an offseason.  Nate Solder played at high level during a lockout shortened rookie year and is bound to improve.  Marcus Cannon is healthy and ready to compete for a starting role.DanConnolly filled in for the injuredDanKoppen without the offense missing a beat.  Brian Waters played lights out at guard and was easily Belichick’s best offseason signing and Matt Light turned in another strong campaign (Did you hear Osi’s number called last night? Me neither). Sebastian Vollmer struggled to stay healthy, but the starter talent is there. If Brian Waters opts to return next season rather than retire, the Patriots will have an embarrassment of riches at the offensive line.

Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez emerged as best tight end duo in the NFL – and that doesn’t even begin to describe how good these guys were. Gronkowski turned in the best season a tight end has EVER had.   Hernandez, overshadowed by Gronkowski’s fantasy football like numbers, turned in an All Pro season of his own.   With a full offseason schedule and fresh motivation, NFL defenses should be very afraid of what these two can do.

Josh McDaniels is your new offensive coordinator

It took me awhile to come around on Bill O’Brien.   I felt his play calling early in his tenure as QB coach/offensive coordinator was often predictable and unimaginative.   But in 2011, the O’Brien led offense was among the leagues best and most feared units.   Now with O’Brien off to tackle the monumental task of healing and resurrecting thePennStatefootball program, none other than the architect of the greatest offense in NFL history will take the reigns as offensive coordinator in 2012 – Josh McDaniels.

With apologies to Bill O’Brien, Josh McDaniels is a far more creative and imaginative play caller than and have more leeway to adapt and reshape this offense in 2012.   Much Patriot’s struggles in big moments this season and last can be tied to inability of the offense to deliver a game changing play when needed. Look no further than the 4th quarter of last night’s game for an example. Josh McDaniels is the man to fix that.

McDaniels’ return offers the team the opportunity to reshape the offense and forge a new identity.   A good place to start would be the running game. McDaniels has a talented young running back in Stevan Ridley who showed flashes of greatness during his rookie campaign.   A strong offseason by Ridley coupled with McDaniels creativity could mean a renaissance of the Patriots running game in 2012.   Not since ‘clock killing’ Corey Dillon have the Patriots had a ground game that could make big plays in crucial moments.   With an aging Tom Brady on the backside of his career, that must change in 2012.

Retooling the wide receiver corps will be a priority for the team.   With the Ochocinco experiment likely coming to an end and the team unsure how much Deion Branch has left in the tank, new talent on the outside is needed to complement Welker and the tight ends. My not so bold prediction is Brandon Lloyd will be in a Patriot’s uniform in 2012.   Lloyd had his best seasons as a pro under McDaniels and has publicly stated he wishes to play where ever McDaniels coaches.   The Patriots were even rumored to pursue Lloyd prior to his trade toSt. Louis, but the team ultimately balked at taking on his contract.   Now a free agent, Lloyd will be free to sign where he pleases. Under Josh McDaniels and with Kyle Orton under center, Brandon Lloyd caught 77 balls for 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010 with the Broncos. Imagine the possibilities for Lloyd with McDaniels and Tom Brady.

The Patriots have sustained more success in the age of NFL parity than ever thought possible

Yes, I’m aware that reminiscing about past success does little to numb the pain of seeing another championship slip away.   But perspective is important at a time like this. The Patriots franchise has enjoyed more sustained success than ever thought possible during the age of NFL parity.   The NFL system of today – the salary cap, free agency – is designed to keep teams at relatively the same level of competition. It’s a pretty effective system too, as statistically 50% of the teams to make the playoffs turn over each and every year.

The Patriots have bucked this trend. We all know that stats but they are worth repeating. In the Belichick/Brady era (10 seasons with Brady as starter) the team has been to playoffs 8 times (missed in 2002, 2008 – Brady hurt for year), won 7 AFC East Division titles, been to 6 AFC title games, and appeared in 5 Super Bowls.   At a time when most NFL teams suffer from a combination of incompetent coaching, crummy quarterback play, and unstable ownership, the Patriots have enjoyed the absolute best of all three.

Fans should be grateful, and most of us are. It goes without saying, but losing the Super Bowl sucks.   But, Belichick isn’t retiring, Brady isn’t washed up, and we all know (including the other 31 teams in the NFL) that this Patriot’s team will be back and ready to make a run again in 2012.  How many NFL fans can truly say that about their team?