Bill Belichick says “They played better than we did,” and we think he’s being candid. Tom Brady says, “We didn’t play very well,” and we think he’s admitting the obvious.
But at what point does, “We didn’t play very well,” switch to “You know what, we played the best we could. We’re just not very good”? Because you know what? I’m beginning to think the Patriots aren’t very good. They tried to hang their hat on the fact that they were the third seed in the AFC, but the only two playoff teams they beat were the Jets and Ravens — and they lost to both, too. They struggled to win games on the road. They were weak defensively when it mattered. They were inconsistent offensively. And the reason for all that can boiled down to a simple truth: The Patriots are no longer very talented.
We’ve been over this before. The drafts of the past several years have been terrible. They tend to find someone between serviceable and pretty good in the first couple of rounds, and then they swing and miss a lot. Attempting to address the defense, they selected Patrick Chung, Ron Brace and Darius Butler with their first three picks last year. That’s their bridge to the future? Glass-half-full fans will look to Sebastian Vollmer and Julian Edelman as “hits,” but two pretty good players out of 12 picks is not a good draft.
Leaurence Maroney in 2006. Brandon Meriweather in 2007. Jerod Mayo in 2008. Along with a couple of guys in 2005, this is the entire crop of talent the Patriots have brought in through the draft over a long period. Vince Wilfork is the last really great player the Patriots have drafted, but that was six years ago — and they’re in danger of losing him. Clearly, while you’re getting rid of Pro Bowl players like Richard Seymour and Asante Samuel, and others like Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison are retiring, you need to do better than picking a handful of good players over five years.
Leigh Bodden, Adalius Thomas, Derrick Burgess, Joey Galloway — need I continue listing the failures? The Patriots used to get guys like Harrison and Mike Vrabel. They have far less talent on the field now, and consequently, they win fewer games. And their seasons end a lot earlier.
– Bob Halloran is a sports anchor, reporter and author.
Follow him on Twitter @bobhalloran63 .