Monday, October 17, 2011

Pats continue to be right on dubious moves

The New England Patriots have certainly made some questionable moves in terms of player personnel over the past five years, but their regular-season success hasn’t wavered much because of it.

Sure, they haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2004, but they’re still a team that is consistently on the radar every season, and rightfully so. With a coach like Bill Belichick and a quarterback like Tom Brady, the rest of the guys are just puzzle pieces, right?

That’s how the Patriots front office must approach their team roster at the end of the year. If a player isn’t doing what is expected of him for whatever reason, replace him. That’s the simple thing in sports, and most teams follow that guideline. But Belichick and his staff have gotten rid of players who seem to be at or just approaching their playing peak, sending them on their way for some draft picks and starting a new puzzle.

And he’s been nearly dead-on every time.

I can think of at least five instances over the past few seasons then I heard about a trade or release made by the Patriots and asked myself, “What the hell is Belichick thinking?”

Well, he showed me.

Like last season, when New England sent first-round running back Laurence Maroney to Denver. Maroney had a career-high nine TDs in 2009. But he hasn’t scored since. And trading Randy Moss to the Vikings after four games last season? Keep in mind, Moss had three TDs in those four games and that monstrous 2007 campaign. Boy, was Belichick right about that one. And releasing two-time Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather just before the start of the regular season this year? Meriweather is already riding the pine in Chicago.

And, yes, there were some moves that weren’t so clear-cut, too. In this year’s NFL draft, the Patriots had 10 draft picks. The two drafts preceding that, they had more than 20 picks. People have compared Belichick to the crazy cat lady — and his draft picks to her cats. But he wasn’t simply given those picks; he had to give up something for them in return. That’s how a trade usually works.

Do the Patriots miss Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Asante Samuel, Ben Watson, etc., etc? Yeah, probably. But business is business. And finding ways to make ends meet is just as important as anything else in the NFL and any other sports league.

Plus, when you’re putting a puzzle together, sometimes you have to strategize until you find the right piece. And there’s no better way for Belichick to look for the right piece than drafting.

Next year, Patriots have six more draft picks.

Follow Sam @SammySports