Folks, I don’t want to say that I’m a hero. I feel like heroes can’t place that title upon themselves. Heroes are chosen by the population they serve to protect, and I think that I have just protected a large group of citizens from senseless senselessness.
New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett joined ESPN’s First Take to talk about his transition away from the Chicago Bears. I watched it so you don’t have to.
"Our next guest went from the outhouse to the penthouse when it comes to who is throwing him the ball," the segment began as I immediately questioned my decision.
And then they kept flashing the below statline for Bennett, which, you know, was wrong.
Bennett’s career highs are not a slash of 53/439/3. He bested that line in each of his prior three seasons. He went 55/626/5 in 2012, 65/759/5 in 2013, and 90/916/6 in 2014. C’mon, man.
The opening question was about the biggest difference Bennett has noticed in moving from Chicago to New England.
"I think just the way the culture is already established," Bennett said. "I think the last couple of years in Chicago, they were trying to establish a culture with new coaches, so thing here’s a proven method and you just come in and plug in, and you already know that it works so you have no questions about it. You just go in and do your job."
Stephen A. Smith then asked Bennett about his feelings of upgrading from Jay Cutler to Tom Brady at quarterback, noting that it has to be better than Christmas.
"I was very excited," Bennett answered, while dodging any comparison to Cutler, "because, you know, just watching Tom over the years, talking to my brother about all the quarterbacks he played against, he always talks about Tom as one of his favorite guys to play against because getting your hands on Tom means a whole lot more than getting your hands on a lot of other quarterbacks.
"So I was super excited about it, then [Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski] was actually working out at the same place I was working out in L.A., so I talked to him, and I mean ever since then we’ve just been rolling. I was pumped up, though. I was elated."
Bennett followed up by joking, "I don’t like talking about the ex-girlfriend too much."
Bennett then transitioned into talking about how he envisions himself sharing a field with Gronkowski, and how he’ll take lessons from his prior teammates when it comes to working together.
"Rob is awesome," Bennett said. "I love being with him in the meeting rooms, just talking to him about football, we’ve been coaching each other up, teaching each other. I saw [Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery] work together a lot, like how they pushed each other to become better, I saw [Terrell Owens] with Miles Austin early on in his career, so for me, I kind of take that same approach with Rob, just like two guys, two bros, just trying to push each other to get better. I’m super excited about it because it takes a little pressure off of me, too. I really don’t mind being Robin, you know?
"Right now, it’s just working every day, just trying to get better. He’s an excellent player and a lot of people, I’m going to be able to get a lot of single coverages with him.
"I don’t really know my role in the offense just yet because there’s a lot of things that they’re finding out that I can do, that people haven’t let me do in the past, which has been very, very exciting, because they’re expanding and they’re just saying, ‘let’s see if you can do it. Can he do this? Can he do that?’ So it’s like, finally letting the leashes off and letting me go."
Bennett also noted that he has experience being the third or fourth target in the offense, after playing alongside Marshall, Jeffery, and running back Matt Forte in the Bears offense. Bennett will likely assume a similar role in the Patriots offense, behind Gronkowski, wide receiver Julian Edelman, and running back Dion Lewis.
I’m intrigued to see how and where the Patriots use Bennett in the offense. We can use Sporting Charts’ yards of the catch data to determine the general average depth of target for tight ends. If Bennett is excited about doing thing that he hasn’t been allowed to do in the past, we need to evaluate how he was used in the past.
I looked at Gronkowski’s performances over the past five seasons and Bennett’s past four seasons as a starter, along with Aaron Hernandez’s 2011 and 2012 seasons and Scott Chandler’s 2015.
We see that Gronkowski has clearly been targeted deeper than Bennett over the years, while Chandler’s single season was generally in alignment with Gronkowski's mark. Bennett’s time in Chicago matches how the Patriots used Hernandez as a short-ball tight end, while his time with the Giants is closer to the range of Gronkowski.
I would expect that the Patriots are planning on using Bennett like Chandler- and more similar to how the Giants used Bennett down the field- and the tight end is excited about making bigger catches down the field.
Bennett continued the interview by discussing how he’s amping up for the upcoming season by practicing as hard as ever. He credits Tom Brady’s leadership when looking at the Patriots practice quality.
"His personality is contagious," Bennett said about working with Brady. "The way that he competes, he just makes you rise to another level because it doesn’t matter if it’s walkthrough- walkthrough ends up going faster because he’s going faster. You have raise to play to the level that Tom’s at.
"I think that’s one of the most inspiring things there, [is] the way that he’s able to raise your play without even saying anything. It’s just the way that he does it, I gotta match that. If he’s doing that, if this dude’s doing this, then I have to make sure I’m up there as well."
Bennett talked about finally joining a team with a history of winning, pointing out that teams that lose are naturally going to devolve to individuals trying to win, while players on teams with a winning culture are more able to set aside personal goals for the greater good. The Patriots have added a few players this offseason with a history on losing teams, like linebacker Shea McClellin and edge defender Chris Long. Hopefully they all buy into the groupthink.
If they don’t, head coach Bill Belichick will chew them out. So far, Bennett’s had a good experience with Belichick.
"I like him because he’s honest, he’s upfront, and he’s fair," Bennett said about playing under Belichick. "And that’s all you can ask for as a leader. I talk to him all the time. He’s funny. I don’t know if I’m supposed to laugh sometimes, but I always end up laughing. So I mean I have conversations with him [when we walk past], but I talk to everybody. I like him a lot, he’s funny to me.
"I think his thing is he wants guys that care about his teammates, that care about the team. And if you do that, then he does’t have a problem with you. If he feels as if you’re not progressing, or doing something to progress the team to be better, or you’re not doing your job, then I think that’s when the issue comes. So, as long as you show up to work and you do what you’re supposed to do and you’re where supposed to be, I don’t think he has an issue with you."
[The statline that I pictured at the top of the article then showed up on the screen with "career high" removed from his 2015 information. Looks like some mid-show fact checking]
The final clip shows Bennett with a list of his job titles, including "CEO of The Imagination Agency, animator, author, entrepreneur, artist, producer, composer, designer, rapper, tight end."
He’s a busy guy. Hope he has time to score some touchdowns.