by Dan Snapp, Patriots Daily Staff
September 10, 2009

I sometimes wonder if I’m watching a different game than everybody else. When did football become about making sure everybody’s happy? Since when did approval ratings trump winning?

Yes, it sucks for Richard Seymour to be traded to Oakland, and yes, he just built a house, and yes, he now has to uproot his family. This may sound callous, but that’s life. In the game he chose to make his profession – one in which he’s worked hard and was handsomely rewarded – this was a possible outcome in the scheme of things.

Seymour’s entitled to feel however he feels about it, but the Patriots owe him nothing beyond respect and gratitude for his contributions to their success.

The transaction garnered a predictable response from the usual suspects: Dan Shaughnessy called us toadies for rooting for the laundry; Ron Borges urged Vince Wilfork (again) to sit out; and former Seymour slammer Michael Felger shrieked that his departure was the first sign of the pending apocalypse.

It’s really no wonder Bill Belichick is so tight-lipped. He comes within minutes of the league’s first 19-0 season, loses his MVP quarterback the next year yet still leads the team to an 11-5 season with a QB who hasn’t started since high school, and that’s not enough? They want him to be Dick McPherson, as well? Hugs all around. Cold cuts and doughnuts in the pressbox. Christmas bonuses and personalized holiday greetings. “Best wishes for a swell 2010 to my favorite cub reporter. You’ll get me one of these days. Love, Bill.”

Give up the ghost, guys. It’s never gonna happen. And yes, fans do prefer wins over keeping players past their primes. Seymour’s still in his prime, but the Raiders’ compensation was so over the top, the Patriots would be fools not to take it. All the pundits agree on this. The ones outside Boston, anyway.

Shaughnessy made an interesting analogy Monday, ostensibly as criticism, imagining Belichick’s moves helming the late-80s Celtics:

If the 1980s Celtics had been managed by Belichick you can be pretty sure Kevin McHale would have been traded. Maybe Robert Parish, too. The Big Three would not have gotten old and broken down on Coach Bill’s watch.

If he’s saying that’s a bad thing, the Celtics of the ’90s don’t help his cause much. If a Belichick figure could have parlayed an aging McHale into a Shaq or Mourning two years down the line, would you have taken it?

Borges, ever the union man, bemoaned Wilfork’s lack of leverage as a rookie, saying he had no choice but to sign the six-year deal which he has now obviously outperformed. His remedy, as always, is for the player to sit out . But what’s management’s option when a player underperforms a contract? The 49ers in 2005 signed rookie Alex Smith to a megadeal, then were stuck with him when he foundered. It’s not like they were going to get their money back, and if they cut him his sizable bonus would have ballooned their salary cap. Where’s Ron’s crocodile tears for that injustice?

Seymour and the Patriots were equally loyal to one another. When not liking his  situation, Seymour twice sat out and was rewarded. His last deal made him one of the highest paid defenders, and it’s arguable whether he performed up to that stature. The Pats paid him at the first two impasses, and traded him this time, well within their rights.

Both parties treated football as a business, and both took risks associated with that decision. By sitting out, Seymour risked just this kind of transaction occurring the next time his contract was coming up. And the Patriots are taking a risk now in not having Seymour’s services for the year.

The price for being a successful team in the salary cap era is that you can’t keep all your good guys, and your roster is constantly in flux. The media seems shocked that only four Patriots remain from a Super Bowl that occurred eight years ago, in a league where player careers average half that.

What’s more impressive is that 14 Patriots from the 2001 season were still playing football in 2008, eight of whom were still Patriots. By contrast, the 2008 Rams had four players left from their 2001 roster, the 2008 Colts had six, and the Steelers and Ravens each had four.

Tell me, which team is most loyal?

Hating losing Seymour as a Patriot and loving the Raiders deal are not mutually exclusive events.  As fans, we’ll continue to have the memories to cherish, and can even be so magnanimous to actually wish the best for somebody wearing a Raiders jersey.

But at the end of the day, we’re loyal to the guys wearing the laundry.

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