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Who was the better Patriot: Wes Welker or Danny Amendola?

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Which slot receiver had the better career in New England?

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

With the Patriots playing Danny Amendola and the Miami Dolphins this weekend, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to ask the question of whether he or fellow former ex-Dolphin Wes Welker had a better Patriots career.

If we look at just the numbers it’s not close, and Amendola may look like a barely above average player. But the game is not played on paper, and, as I’m sure you know, some players make a contribution that can’t be measured on the stat sheet alone. Because of that, a compelling argument can also be made for Amendola.

Regular Season

The regular season numbers aren’t close. In six years, Wes Welker had 672 catches for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns. Go back and read that stat line again, I’ll wait. Ok, now that you realize that Welker averaged 112 receptions per year with the Patriots, you understand that no one can compete with those numbers. In five out of the six years, he had over 100 catches. He led the league in receptions three times, and he had almost 1,000 regular season targets.

That’s right, these are just regular season numbers, we’ll get to playoffs later. Amendola’s numbers are far less impressive. He played five seasons with the Patriots, during which he compiled 230 receptions for 2,383 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had 50+ receptions three times, and never had over 659 yards in a single season. With his numbers, you would think he was more of a second or third wide receiver, which, of course, he was.

I’ll be honest, these numbers shocked me a bit. I knew Welker was great, but I had forgotten just how great he was. I mean, 672 receptions in six years? But Danny was always known for his playoff performances, so his playoff numbers must be better... right?

Playoffs

In nine playoff games, Wes Welker had 69 receptions for 686 yards and 4 touchdowns. What people don’t remember is that in The Game That Shall Not Be Named in February of 2008, Welker had 11 receptions for 103 yards. To put that in perspective: three years earlier, Deion Branch won MVP of Super Bowl 39 with 11 receptions for 133 yards. So he was 30 yards off of Branch’s MVP performance, and no one even remembers it happened. In Super Bowl 46, Welker had 7 receptions for 60 yards and 21 yards rushing. His performance in that game is what people remember more than anything in his career, but we’ll talk about that next.

Amendola played in three more playoff games than Welker, and his numbers in those 12 games are as follows: 57 receptions for 709 yards and 6 touchdowns. He, like Welker, had a performance that gets lost in a losing effort, putting up 152 yards (the second highest total of his career) against the Philadelphia Eagles last year.

The numbers — both regular season and postseason — favor Welker. Amendola has more touchdowns, sure, but he also played three more postseason games. Right now, it seems as though the competition is open and shut, but there’s more to consider than just the stats, as that’s where the conversation gets a little more interesting.

Intangibles

Intangibles may not be the perfect name for this, but there are things outside of the stat sheet that must be considered when comparing these two. First up is Amendola’s incredible clutchness (did I make that word up? Maybe): since 2014, any time the Patriots have needed a big play in a big spot, it seemed like Amendola was the target. In fact, I’m not confident that the Patriots win either of their two recent Super Bowls without him.

Was he the best or most important player on the team? No. But he was consistently the player the Patriots turned to when they needed a big play. Think back to the plays: His catch late in 2014 against the Jets to win the game, the Julian Edelman pass to him against the Ravens that year, his touchdown against the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49, his fourth down reception, touchdown, catch (one of the most underrated ever) after the Edelman miracle catch and two-point conversion to tie the game in Super Bowl 51, and his ridiculous touchdown against the Jaguars that won them the AFC title last year.

Amendola was a guy that they basically saved for the playoffs. He may not have performed like an All-Pro all season, but when the season was on the line, he played better than anyone else. He was the most dependable receiver on the field in the big moments, and Tom Brady almost always looked his way when the plays mattered most.

Using a word like dependable in an argument against Wes Welker seems insane. He may be best known for his “drop” in Super Bowl 46, but that completely ignores the over 700 catches he had in his Patriots career. And here’s the thing about that drop: it wasn’t a great pass. Welker got two hands on it, so he should’ve caught it, but it wasn’t a great throw. I would say the blame should go about 60% to Welker and 40% to Brady. The throw has to be better, especially since there was no one around that forced him to put it in that spot. However, if you get two hands on the ball, you have to come down with it, especially in that spot. Even if it’s a really hard catch. Look at Mario Manningham the next drive. You lost that game because their quarterback made a better throw than yours and their wide receiver made a great catch and yours didn’t.

Bill Belichick fell in love with Welker when he was on the Dolphins and, when their kicker got hurt, he kicked an extra point. He also was a return man and a receiver for them. He threw a few passes. He would occasionally call plays from the booth. Some games he even sold beer in the stands. My point is that he did a little bit of everything for the Dolphins, so when he was a restricted free agent, the Patriots offered the Dolphins an extra seventh round pick and gladly gave up the seventh rounder it took to bring him to the team.

Welker joined Randy Moss, and Donté Stallworth as one of the main receivers, and quickly became Brady’s favorite target. People will tell you that Moss, and later Gronk, opened things up for him. I would tell you that Welker was the first slot receiver to be a dominant force in the NFL. Having a solid player in that position made the Patriots almost impossible to stop. At least in 2007, they almost were.

Throughout his career in New England, Welker was viewed as one of the most dominant receivers in the game. Not one of the most dominant slot receivers: one of the most dominant all-around receivers. One other thing that he brought was an end to some of the ignorance of guys like him. He was short, didn’t run a great 40 time, wasn’t a freak athlete. He just used his quickness and excellent route running to get himself open. His willingness to take a hit may unfortunately cost him later in life, but it is part of what made Welker great. If you hit him hard, he was getting right back up and jogging back to the huddle. If it weren’t for Welker, who knows what value guys like Edelman and Amendola might have around the league.

The Verdict

All things considered, I think you still have to go Wes Welker here. I just think the body of work is too impressive. The playoff and clutch performances by Amendola will ensure that he is a legend in New England forever, but Wes Welker has a real argument for the Patriots Hall of Fame, and maybe, just maybe, even an outside shot at Canton. When you stack his accomplishments against Amendola’s, it’s tough to side with Danny. He has the rings, but Welker made two Super Bowls too, and played amazing in one and decent in the other.

I’m curious to hear what you think. My first thought was that recency bias and, honestly, just forgetting how dominant Welker was, would lead to people choosing Danny over Wes. But, whatever side you choose, there are legitimate arguments to be made on both sides. Let the debate begin (well... continue, you know what I mean).

Pat is the host of The Patriot Nation Podcast

Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats

Poll

Who was the better Patriot?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Danny Amendola
    (330 votes)
  • 70%
    Wes Welker
    (778 votes)
1108 votes total Vote Now