For all you normal people, this transaction was just a blip on your radar while you were in between pretending to (Chris Farley Bennett Brauer air quotes) “work from home” and actually “getting your post-lunch pre-dinner snack” on Tuesday afternoon:
WR Isaiah Ford, traded from the Dolphins to the Patriots at the deadline and recently waived, is expected to re-sign with the Dolphins' practice squad, per source.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 8, 2020
A shot to continue developing with the team that drafted him.
However, around here, we are not normal. Quite the opposite, actually. I mean, you’re on a website with a title that implies we literally worship the New England Patriots. You know it’s true.
For a quick refresher: as our fearless leader Bernd Buchmasser covered last month at the trade deadline, the Patriots traded a 2022 conditional sixth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins to acquire Ford’s services. And for a team like the Patriots that had been through all of your 2015 Fantasy Team All-Stars in the last couple seasons desperately scouring the galaxy for wideout reinforcements, the move made perfect sense. Like Bernd noted the day after the trade, Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman had already been sent to Injured Reserve, N’Keal Harry was sidelined with a concussion that ended up keeping Keal out for two straight weeks, and as we’ve all surely noticed, the tight end position is not exactly putting up rockstar numbers these days anymore. Or numbers at all, really.
Meanwhile, Ford looked like he had the versatility to play inside or out, and in his young career with the Dolphins had averaged a tidy career average of 10.4 yards per reception and a catch percentage of 63.1 percent. For reference purposes, Tennessee Titans BAMF wideout and Patriots Draft Crush AJ Brown’s career catch percentage is 61.5%, and while AJ is obviously being fed the rock quite a bit more, that at least should tell you that Isaiah’s hands are NFL-caliber. Which, truthfully, with some of the skill-player performances the Patriots have trotted out there in 2020, probably would’ve sufficed and been quite welcome!
Alas, as Bernd noted again after the news broke on Tuesday (he’s a very busy guy!), Ford got waived over the weekend without ever even appearing in a single game for the New England Patriots. That’d be the same New England Patriots, by the way, that traded a second-round pick for longtime Belichick dreamboat Mohamed Sanu on October 22, 2019, and Mo suited up and played against the Cleveland Browns five days later. Sanu went on to ball out against the Baltimore Ravens the following weekend before his fateful actually-really-gross ankle injury, and, well, you know the rest of that story.
That’d be frustrating enough as is, burning a draft pick on Isaiah that’s not extremely valuable, but also not nothing, either, on a guy that never played a single snap for you, but then, as you all surely know, waiving a player subjects that player to, well, waivers. Meaning that theoretically, any one of 31 other teams in the NFL could’ve snagged Isaiah for their squad, fair and square, just by saying “yeah we want him” and there wouldn’t have been anything the Patriots could do about it.
And while Bill Belichick was slightly more insightful than his usual “We’ll do what’s best for the football team” when he said on Monday that “We’ll see how it goes going forward. Hopefully we can continue to work with him,” subjecting Ford to the waiver process and putting their once-coveted receiver in a situation where he can sign with anyone if he cleared waivers doesn’t exactly scream “Let’s keep this good thing going.” Bill’s never going to sell a guy out or throw dirt on their name on the way out the door, but he also has an entire career history of finding ways to keep the guys he really wants to keep.
So, recap: the team whose number 1 and number 2 receivers at the moment are Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd, the team that has only thrown for over 200 yards in THREE games this entire season, the team that barely squeaked by the (KFC Barstool voice) God Damn Jets, the Patriots team that almost never acquires WEAPONZ at the trade deadline, if they even make moves at all, finally ponied up a draft pick to reinforce one of the objective worst position groups in football, and then almost exactly a month later decided that they’d rather keep off-the-street veteran Donte Moncrief instead.
That’s no slight on Moncrief, either - on the contrary, it speaks quite highly of both his skill set and work ethic that Donte signed to the Patriots’ practice squad on November 4th, got activated approximately 2 weeks later, and then promptly got signed to the active roster last week. Moncrief’s done his job. And the Patriots, to their credit, showed that they valued his contributions and potential accordingly.
That’s, um, quite the contrast to the approach to Isaiah Ford, which seems to boil down to “we’re gonna waive this guy and hope nobody claims him and also that he doesn’t sign with anyone else and then maybe we can keep working with him if that all works out”.
Then, of course, the question is “Why?”. Why cut bait this quickly when you have multiple means of keeping a player on the team in some form or another, especially for a team like the Patriots that makes practice squad transactions like most of us switching up our midnight order at Taco Bell?
The only logical answer would seem to be one of the following: either Ford clearly demonstrated in just the few weeks he was in town that he couldn’t cut it here - remember that the Miami Dolphins’ offense these days is run by Chan Gailey, a well-known spread offense guy that was brought in to replace ex-Patriots coach Chad O’Shea and his allegedly overly complex offense......
.....or after spending some time in New England, Isaiah Ford was one of those guys that realized “yeah, all due respect but this is NOT for me, please get me out of here ASAP”.
Or both. Both are equally feasible.
And that brings us full circle to arguably the biggest elephant-in-the-room team-building gripe of the Belichick era:
What is the T-Rex-size blind spot this team has with wide receivers?
And how has nobody in the building figured out how to rectify it?
It’s arguably been the biggest issue facing the Patriots for the larger half of the past decade, and in a league when the elite teams can hang 50 points on the scoreboard week in and week out, the importance of nailing the skill positions is only going to be magnified if Bill and the gang can’t find an answer soon.