By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff
Jeez is it almost football season? Where did the 2010 offseason go? With the Bruins and Celtics playoff runs, the World Cup and the Olympics, it seems just yesterday that I shelled out $250 for that despicable debauchery of a playoff game against the Ravens. That 33-14 thumping left a bewildered fan base searching for answers. Was this the end of a dynasty? What did the future have in store for Belichick and company?
Now with preseason just around the corner, the fans are split into two generalized camps: the pessimists vs. the optimists.
The long-standing loser’s mentality is ingrained deep into certain Boston sports “fan’s” DNA, and a decade-long championship streak has not squelched this hard-to-kick habit. The gentle folks at 98.5, as much as I love them, do their best, “The sky is falling” shtick. It’s got as many layers as my grandma’s lasagna and goes something like this:
- A Disinterested Quarterback. Tom Brady has lost his competitive edge because he is working out in California and leaves his sack in Gisele’s Prada bag.
- An Unhappy Receiver. The era of a disgruntled Randy ‘Straight Cash Homey’ Moss has arrived, and it will poison the well and will make an already anemic offense even more predictable. Stats be damned! And the fact that Wes Welker might never be the same again poses a serious downgrade in the receiving corp.
- A Horrible Defense. There is no credible pass rush because Tully Banta-Cain will never be this good and Willie McGinest is not walking through that door.
- A Bad Running Game. Fragile Fred Taylor and the propensity of Laurence Maroney to fumble in key situations have the fans screaming for the Law Firm.
- Bad Coaching. The coaching staff is depleted now that Weis, McDaniels, Crennel, Pees and Capers are gone. And unfortunately Bill Belichick is taking on too much and spreading himself too thin. On top of that, Coach O’Brien is way too green and the vanilla schemes he runs have ruined the once potent offense.
- No Team Leadership. With Rodney, Tedy, Vrabel and Seymour gone there is nobody to stand up and stiffen everyone’s backbone. Not to mention that the team lacks the “winning mentality”
- Bad Drafting. Because Bill Belichick is not an Oracle and has missed on some draft picks the fan base now cannot in good conscience trust that anybody from the 2009 or 2010 drafts will produce.
These insufferable ‘fanboys’ (according to the pessimists…and the media) believe anything that the Patriots front office feeds them. They are a gregarious and hopeful bunch and believe that at least some of these things will come true:
- Great Quarterback. Last year, Tom Brady was clearly not himself after a year off and will without a doubt return to his old level of greatness.
- Great Receivers. Randy Moss played for much of the year with a separated shoulder, and still had a top 5 year. He will come back with a vengeance and have stellar season yet again. Wes Welker has already been spotted running routes during training camp and now the question is whether he will be back in time for the season opener. Julian Edelman will make a massive leap in his second year and improve on what was an impressive rookie campaign. Brandon Tate should have been a first rounder had he not had the injury problems and he will shine through this season. Torry Holt was once the best in the business and is nothing like Joey Galloway because Holt is a precise and crisp route runner while Galloway was a speedster who lost to much tread on his tires.
- Emerging Secondary. Last year, the secondary was too young and inexperienced, but showed enough glimpses of greatness that gives these optimistic fans hope. Meriweather is already a Pro-Bowler. Bodden has been really solid. At least some of the young pups (Butler, McCourty, and Chung) will come into their own this season.
- Emerging Linebacking Corp. It’s pretty much universally agreed that there needed to be major improvement at this position. However, how much better the 2010 group is then its much maligned predecessors is highly disputed. Optimists claim that Mayo started off last year with an injury and will surely return back to his 2008 rookie of the year form. Tully Banta-Cain came out of nowhere last year, finishing the year with 9.5 sacks on the year which is a top 10 result. Brandon Spikes and Tyrone McKenzie will beef up the middle and bring a certain toughness that was clearly missing last year. Gary Guyton is too small to be used as an every down player and is much more effective when his speed can be maximized. Finally, Ninkovich and Cunningham are a significant improvement over a disgruntled Adalius Thomas.
- “In Belichick We Trust”. It is believed by many that Bill’s dynasty is a dynasty to end all dynasties because it is built around a system, rather then specific players, a sort-of perpetual dynasty. So until that is proven wrong people still hold out hope. And why shouldn’t they, he brought New England 3 Superbowls and a 16-0 regular season. So it can be assumed that he knows what he is doing and that his choice of O’Brien to head the offense this year is a good one. McDaniels, after all, had a pretty bad first year as well and it wasn’t until his second year that he really excelled.
Which camp will be proven right? This question will be answered at the end of what will likely be yet another exciting Patriots Season. Enjoy folks!