I know, I know. Bruschi's retirement is going to be hard to get used to. Cutting both backup quarterbacks seems risky. Cutting or trading Alex Smith and David Thomas is disappointing as is letting go of promising rookies like Terrence Nunn and fan favorite Ray Ventrone. And the just announced news about Richard Seymour comes out of nowhere. Some of those guys may find their way back to New England on the practice squad. But we Patriots fans are faced with a team in 2009 that will be missing some huge names from our past: Harrison, Vrabel, Bruschi, now Seymour.
I must confess I've taken some deep breaths this week trying to absorb the news--and each day seemingly brought another bombshell of one kind or another. But I've overcome my initial surprise and worry because every time I think about someone being gone from the team, my mind turns back to 2007 and Reche Caldwell.
You'll recall that Caldwell led the Pats in receptions in 2006 and figured to be in the mix in 2007. Sure, New England had acquired Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth but I figured that Caldwell--who was sorely miscast as a #1 receiver--might make a pretty good #3 or #4 wideout. You'll also recall that Randy Moss didn't play a bit that preseason so we had no idea what he would do (and some speculated he wouldn't do a thing). Welker and Stallworth were new and unproven as Patriots. Then came the news, shocking to me, that Caldwell had been cut before the start of the season.
What were we thinking? With so many seeming question marks, didn't it seem safer to keep last year's leading receiver around? He wasn't great but he was, at least, a known quantity. Moss, Welker, and Stallworth at that point were not.
How did that one turn out? We know the answer: the 2007 Patriots offense became the gold standard against which all future NFL offenses will be measured. Turns out Moss, Welker, and Stallworth were all pretty good. And Caldwell, had he remained on the team, would have been only the #5 receiver after those three and Jabar Gaffney. And yet at the time, I really wondered if cutting Caldwell wasn't a mistake. It took just one game--the season opening blowout of the Jets--for me to stop worrying and realize that the Patriots knew what they were doing.
Normally, I wouldn't put Reche Caldwell in the same post with Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour and others. But when I first heard the news of Bruschi's retirement and Seymour's trade and the other roster cuts announced this week, my mind naturally went back to my unfounded anxiety in 2007 over cutting our leading receiver. Things change so quickly in the NFL that what a player did for you last year--or, in some cases, even what he did for you a few weeks ago--no longer matters.
It's a brand new season and a brand new roster. Some surprising moves, some positions that seem thin and vulnerable, and some old familiar faces no longer with us. But I'm not worried. These are the Patriots. They've been operating this way for years and history suggests things will work out pretty well. If we're fortunate, we may look back on the trades and the cuts and the retirements two years from now and say, "what were we so worried about?"