There are certain perks that come with being the Patriots.
You sit in a division that, despite its success elsewhere, is stuck in little brother mode when it comes to you. You gameplan regularly and have teams outsmart themselves in order to keep the pace (in their heads). You inspire fear on your home turf, and travel well enough to be disruptive on the road. But most importantly, and it is a big deal, you bring the kind of talent to your team that few teams can comprehend.
While Oakland, Indianapolis, New York and others all have to wave sizeable contracts to lure talent to their squads the Patriots are in rarified air in that they can have that same talent, both home-grown and from abroad, decide to take less money that they would otherwise command to play for a champion.
It is a benefit that Bill Belichick uses to his advantage; but it isn’t the only one.
Bill Belichick is an incredible GM. He is an incredible coach. If Bill Belichick were to talk about Bill Belichick it would be the equivalent of Bill Belichick gushing about a long-snapper from the 50s. He’s that good. And when you’re that good you use every avenue available to maintain success.
Some of those avenues are easy. Tom Brady wants to win, so he takes less money and more can be spread around. Say, enough talent to coat both pieces of team bread in peanut butter (it prevents the greatest travesty of sandwich (team?) building, runny jelly). When it comes to current quarterback contracts (cough, Luck, cough, Rodgers) it really helps to build a well-rounded team. Long is another recent example of this.
But Belichick also makes the 40-footers. He doesn’t just sink the gimmes. He and his staff scour the ranks, both college and pro, to find the best bang for the buck. And talent only comes cheap in a few ways in that regard.
One: You can find talent from college that no one else has really thought about. Maybe find a starting, game-saving cornerback from a small school that develops into a competent player. Or perhaps take a chance on some injury-riddled ballers a round or two before they were ‘scheduled’ to be taken. Who knows? Even taking a chance on a college quarterback and turning him receiver, working out an all-nation wrestler, or even an Olympic-level rugby player might be worth a shot. You never know where you will find that talent.
Two: You could also dip into the pros and find some players that are being mis/under-untilized. You can reach out to those players who have, through no fault of their own, been asked to play out of position and out of scheme because some franchise flat out did not have the patience to stick with the same front office and coaching staff for more than one season. You can find inefficiencies where a supreme talent was wasted because he was supposed to have his hand in the dirt and instead he was standing and covering. Sheard, Mingo, McClellan, Lewis, Ayers, and others have very recently highlighted this corps.
And then there’s three, and reason three is my favorite when it comes to Bill Belichick. I call these players what the media calls them: toxic. These are the outcasts. These are players with supreme talent, who have burned so many bridges so thoroughly that the media deemed them as beyond salvation. A WR so engulfed in his backside and paying fines with straight cash that he was only worth a 4th round pick. A RB that decided his stinky game gear belonged, probably unwashed, in the altar of some deranged fan.
There are failures, of course. 85 (I speak English, sue me) and Haynesworth come immediately to mind; just as there are failures and successes in each tier and tiers unmentioned. But the successes are what really get me going. Randy Moss was a gigantic success that cost the Patriots less than what was initially given to recruit. He tore up his cap-breaking contract for a year and proceeded to break records and hustle, silently, for a few years before being traded away for higher value. He used those years as a springboard to his future in broadcasting where he is now a breath of fresh air. Would he have gotten there without the Patriots? Doubtful.
Moss is a great redemption story, but he is not my favorite. Nor is Corey Dillon. Martellus Bennett could even be considered as such, yet as good as he has played and behaved thus far (and he has been stunningly exceptional) he doesn’t hold the top spot. That position belongs to the one and only LeGarrette Blount.
Blount arrived in New England from a trade after a stellar start to his career. He became a nuisance in Tampa and cruised into Foxboro with low expectations. He proceeded to play at a high level, and was rewarded with a contract from the Pittsburgh Steelers, or as I like to call them, the Patriots of the 70s + steroids. Then the Steelers were not the Patriots. They didn’t know how to use him. They saw his talent, as he actually performed okay in the short stint, and decided their future was bright enough without him. They weren’t actually wrong.
But their loss was our gain, and 30 other teams could have gained our gain. They chose against the troubled back and sent him to the only coach that understands him, was ‘Glad to have him back’, and could utilize him effectively. They allowed Bill Belichick to have LeGarrette Blount. And now Blount is putting the team on his back a carrying them to victory in Tom Brady’s absence.
Hate him all you want. Hate the way he ‘dances’ and has a better YPC than most backs paid far more than he is being paid. Hate the way he almost never has a negative carry. Hate the way the opposing defensive line cringes when he gets the ball in his hand as they now have to tackle someone much closer to their size than an average back. Hate the way he figures out that literally the only way for a defensive back to take him down is to hit his legs, so he just simply jumps over their attempt. Hate the way that he has two touchdowns through two games and will be the reason we hand off a .500 or better record to the GOAT.
LeGarrette Blount is the King of the Island of Misfit Toys, and I want him to be a Patriot for as long as he wants to play.