Dowling, in his two years with the team, rarely saw the field as he battled nagging hip, ankle, and leg injuries. While he was said to have impressed in camp earlier this year, as of late he has been unable to participate in drills as he continued to nurse a veritable slew of injuries. That the Patriots finally said enough is enough is no surprise at this point.
In my opinion, Dowling represents the biggest bust of the Bill Belichick era and it isn't even close. 2011 was the first year that saw Round One of the NFL Draft take place on a Thursday night, while the later rounds of the draft were spread out throughout the weekend. That means that, after the 1st Round concluded, coaches had ample time to restructure their boards, reassess their priorities, and decide which players still available represented value. New England, having acquired Carolina's 2nd round pick the year before, sat pretty with the first overall pick of the 2nd round, one of the most valuable picks of the entire draft, and one they could have easily traded for tremendous value while still getting some quality players later on (to play the 20/20 hindsight game for a minute, Brooks Reed and Torrey Smith were both taken in the 2nd round after Dowling). Instead, the Patriots took a flyer on an athletic but injury-prone player who never even came close to making an impact on the team. It was an absolute waste of an extremely valuable pick that the Patriots so rarely have in April; when you're always in the running, you're always picking later on in the day. Dowling represents a fantastic opportunity squandered.
You obviously can't fault Belichick too much, as every coach has hits and misses. But this was an absolutely huge miss that could have given them mulitple picks in 2012 or been parlayed into acquiring a player that would have actually been able to see the field. Again, draft hindsight is always 20/20, but the next time the list of Belichick busts surfaces, Ras-IR will take his rightful place at #1 on the list.