(I’d like to preface this article by saying that Wes Welker is one of my all-time favorite players. Not just Patriots players either. It’s going to hurt watching him in a Broncos uniform. That aside….)
The Skip Bayless of New England sports-talk has struck again, but the Patriots will get the last word in by the time its all said and done.
First, he showed his disdain for Bruins announcer Jack Edwards game-calling tendencies in a 2011 article. Then, in December, he got Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia so riled up that D-Ped challenged him to a pay-per-view match (FF to the 10:15 mark of the podcast). Now, WEEI.com writer Kirk Minihane’s most recent and blatant attempt to poke the hive is up on their site, titled “Bill Belichick drops the ball with Wes Welker” (Was the headline “Belichick Handles Welker with Butterfingers” shot down? Remember THIS? That would have been SO CLEVER ALSO!). By the way Kirk, even though many New Englanders identify with them, this fascination with sub-5’10, 190lb-or-less white guys has to stop.
But I want to take a few minutes to really dive into what he’s written, because I am finding fault with much of it.
Let’s begin with a direct quote from his article published on March 12, written about the issue of Welker leaving the Patriots:
“My best guess is personal feelings — the Rex Ryan jokes, the “freezing out” of Welker early last season — has played very little factor from a Patriots perspective. I don’t think Belichick is particularly interested in revenge, it really does seem a question of value. How much is a slot receiver — even the best slot receiver in history — worth? “
(We’ll ignore the improper usage of the word “has” in that sentence, since its obvious from reading other articles on the site that whoever does their copy editing ignores Minihane’s articles.)
His viewpoint is being clearly expressed here, stating that, in Minihane’s own best guess, Belichick is NOT concerned about revenge when it comes to Welker, but that its a matter of the perceived value at the slot wide receiver position within the Patriots offense. Hold this thought for a moment.
From the most recent article on March 14:
“There is no way for the Patriots to spin losing Wes Welker — the greatest slot receiver in the history of the NFL, still in his prime and still hugely productive — to the Denver Broncos for a total of $12 million over two seasons.”
There’s no “spin” needed. That “greatest slot receiver” moniker is arguable at best. If we base it on production and longevity then former Charger and NFL Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner is in the argument. If we also then include championships, then players like Art Monk, Tim Brown, and the guy who right now holds the “greatest” title….Hines Ward need to be included (with Victor Cruz hot on their heels). Yes, Welker was hugely productive last year again, catching over 110 passes for the fifth time (all with the Pats) in his career, and going for over 1300 yds with 6 tds. There’s no arguing that.
However, to say Welker is “still in his prime” is to have a naive view of the wide receiver position in the NFL. You know who is in his prime? Danny Amendola! Welker will be 32 by the time preseason starts in July, meaning that signing him to even a 2 year deal would keep him on the team until he’s 34 years old. There are plenty of stats showing NFL players’ decline in ability and production after the age of 30 at the skill positions. The Patriots have benefited from two years of a post-30 Welker. Why push their luck when there are alternatives?
“Nope, this at some level is personal. The “mild disdain” seems to be an undersell and also seems to be mutual between Welker and Belichick.”
Remember when I said to hold that thought? A mere TWO DAYS LATER from the previous article, its now personal!
Think about it: Six million bucks a season was too rich for Bill Belichick to keep a player with 672 catches over the last six seasons. Put it another way: The Patriots traded for Chad Ochocinco at $6 million for one season and let Welker walk at $6 million for two seasons.”
The way this is worded is incorrect, because it makes it sound like they were going to get 2 more seasons of Welker for a TOTAL of $6 million when in fact it was $6 million PER season. In any case, that Ochocinco deal worked out GREAT didn’t it? So why are the Patriots being chastised for learning from a prior mistake?
“and the folks who form the blindest wing of the In Bill We Trust Party will tell us he’s a younger if not cheaper ($31 million over five years, $10 million guaranteed — wasn’t he supposed to be the lower-cost alternative”
I definitely fall into the “In Bill We Trust” party, and proud of it. If you’re a Patriots fan, how would you NOT be a card-carrying member?? I’m also a member of the “In Kraft We Trust” and “In Brady We Trust” parties (Given recent events however, I have held off on registering officially as a Rondopublican, and have put my Soxocrat status on hold also). Also, Amendola IS in fact younger, so that’s not up for debate (I hope). I’m not sure who ever said that he was the “lower-cost alternative” to Welker, because he ends up at just about the same per year, but for a longer term (as much as any player in today’s NFL and especially on the Patriots can be there for the long-term).
“And spare us all the idea that Amendola could replicate Welker’s numbers, OK? No one is going to do that, because no one has ever done it before.”
Love this argument. Its never been done before, but then Welker did it, and now it will never be done again….this is what Minihane is contending. Its like saying that smartphones could never be replicated, because prior to the iPhone they never existed, then Apple created them, an no others will ever exist ever again. (Who is reviewing these articles before they get published?)
“Where’s the sense in choosing the unknown (with a greater, established injury risk) over what we’ve seen since 2007? Why mess around with extraordinary success?”
My second favorite argument put forth here. Yes, Welker has been phenomenal since 2007 on the Pats, so lets just keep going with that until he’s not and THEN find a replacement. This goes back to the argument of wide receivers’ diminishing production after they hit the age of 30 (nevermind that Welker is 32, just ignore that).
As for the “greater, established injury risk”, give me a break (no pun intended). I have heard this argument uttered the most out of anything, and to me its silly. When dealing with the NFL, injury is a factor with ANY AND EVERY player in the league, because any one guy can be instantly knocked out for the season, and it can happen at any point…preseason, regular season, playoffs, etc. This makes it nearly a NON-factor. How many times, especially in the middle or end of the season, do you hear players, coaches and announcers say, “Everyone is injured in one way or another out there right now”? If Amendola is injury-prone, then so is Anquan Boldin. When Amendola dislocated his clavicle, the estimated time for his return was 4-8 weeks. He was back the 5th week after the injury and had 11 catches for 102 yards versus the NFC champion 49ers and their vaunted defensive secondary in San Francisco, and was a prime factor why the game went to OT and resulted in a tie (which was basically a victory for St. Louis).
“But tell me it’s a stretch to paint a scenario that has Welker catching 14 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown in an AFC Championship win over the Patriots with Amendola on the sideline with an injury. Let me ask this: Who do you think is going to lead the NFL in catches next season? I’m setting the over/under for Welker at 112.5 and for Amendola at 72.5.
And I don’t want to hear about how the Patriots never won a Super Bowl with Welker, that’s irrelevant to this discussion.”
This falls into the category of predicting specific game scores in my opinion, another irrational practice. Could you paint that scenario? Sure. Could you also paint one where Amendola has the same type of numbers in a Patriots win over Denver in the same situation, with Welker on the sideline due to multiple concussions? In the NFL, when players go downhill, it happens fast, and it’s impossible to predict. So yes, if I were the Patriots I would rather take my chances with a younger player who has not experienced as many hits to the head as a player in the same role who is 5 years older.
As for the over/under prediction….since Welker has maintained that production over the last 5 or so years, and the Patriots have failed to win the Super Bowl, then yes, I agree that is an irrelevant statistic to discuss.
“It’s the ultimate head-scratcher, a no-brainer gone wrong, and is as indefensible as Welker could prove to be when he faces Belichick and Patriots next season. This time, Bill Belichick dropped the ball.”
I think the “ultimate head-scratchers” are reserved for other actual head-scratchers, like Shelley Long leaving Cheers, or the Panthers re-signing Jonathan Stewart AND D’Angelo Williams to new, big money, long-term deals (and THEN also signing Mike Tolbert as a free agent!)
Its a difference in philosophy and opinion that doesn’t just apply to sports in the region, it applies to everything. (I spent the first 3/4 of my life in the middle of it all in Providence, believe me I know). The general New England philosophy is to avoid change. Stick with what you have until its value has been entirely diminished, and then (and only then) is it ok to disregard it and move on to a replacement. As one example, people stay in their jobs FOREVER. There is little opportunity for growth or advancement. Job security is fantastic for those that are already in those jobs, not so fantastic for college graduates or transplants. So it makes sense that fans of the team are annoyed, upset, and dismayed that they’re losing Welker, who had seemingly done everything possible to deserve a new contract from the team that would keep him there until he retired. Just like Minihane says in his article: “Where is the sense in choosing the unknown?”
Does anyone TRULY think Belichick does NOT know what he’s getting in Amendola? And that he had NO idea what the reaction would be all-around from this situation?? If the Patriots had that aversion to going with the “unknown” this whole time, then guess who wouldn’t have been a New England Patriot to begin with?
THANK GOD the team (primarily Belichick) has HAD the sense and foresight to take educated chances on the unknown.