The New England Patriots are out of the playoffs and can take great pride in the effort they delivered during the 2008 season.
Coach Bill Belichick was correct when he recently suggested the team has chance to rest.
“I think one thing that we all need, and probably deserve around
here, is a little bit of rest. Again, a lot of our players, in the last
couple of years, went from the end of the season, to rehabbing an
injury, to jumping into the offseason program, to getting back on that
“I think that maybe this year is an opportunity for some of those
guys to take it at a little bit of a different pace, and that would
include the coaching staff as well. Our guys around here work hard, put
in a lot of hours, they’re very dedicated. So I think it will be a
useful break and you can include me in that group.”
As the players and coaches start to recover physically from the battering they have taken this season, mentally Belichick must be still playing a game of chess.
As in recent years, vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel are sought after commodities (this year the Browns wnat both of them). No one in Patriots Nation needs to be reminded that the Patriots have not won the Super Bowl since then offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel left for other pursuits. Having two key people from the coahcing staff or front office leaving at the same time will be choatic for Belichick. Who does he turn to for help if both Pioli and McDaniels goes?
The major area for the Patriots will be retaining and obtaining players through free agency or trade for 2009 (This does not include Matt Cassel – see below). But the Patriots have 5 or 6 restricted free agents, 15 or so unrestricted free agents to contend with as well as concerns with Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel. I think Junior Seau and Rosy Colvin may again be on-call next year or maybe if healthy enough, be at training camp…
Obviously, the past two to three years the defense has been less then spectacular and health has been a consistent concern. The cornerback situation is still not resolved (how many years have we been saying this?), the safety position needs an upgrade and the linebackers continue to age n front of our eyes each week. The progression of the rookie linebacking corp of Jerod Mayo, Gary Guyton and even Vince Redd in 2008 has been tremendous and I believe restricted free agents Erick Alexander and Pierre Woods may not make it through camp if they are re-signed with the team. But we still do not know if Bruschi and/or Vrabel will retire.
As much as people believe the Patriots need to worry about Cassel, I have more fear of losing McDaniels whether Cassel stays or not. Tom Brady will be coming back off of injury to a new offensive coach? If Brady is not ready to go then Kevin O’Connell or Matt Gutierrez have to learn a new routine and start the season? Oh boy!
Offensively, the Patriots have a concern at quarterback and Tom Brady’s health. Cassel is not the answer to the ‘franchise’ and the Patriots will not be offering him big bucks to stay. Yes I
said wrote it. The next area of concern has to be the offensive line. I thought Logan Mankins deserved to go to the pro-bowl again, but that was about it. We still need to shore up our left and right tackle spots. Koppen is a good center and Russ Hochstein is the best filler we have at guard, center, fullback and tight end.. and he is now an unrestricted free agent.
The running back situation may work out well enough in 2009, but the questions concerning Maroney and the fact he has not played consistently or well enough since being the number one draft choice in 2007, he could already be a bust before 2009 starts. The idea of trading him during the offseason is an intriguing one, but there are so many running backs available in the market who would want Maroney?
The Patriots may have the 24th overall pick in the 2009 draft and I believe they will take an offensive lineman or tight end…. I am calling it first – a blind three bid!
Well, I hope Belichick rests and puts the mental madness behind him for the next couple of days and enjoys time with his family and friends as we ring in a new year (oops sorry coach!).
Thank you Robert Kraft, Coach Belichick and the other coaches and the Patriots players for making this season interesting on so many levels.
IN BILL WE TRUST!!