New England Patriots: Three New Year's Resolutions For 2015
The Patriots haven’t averaged 12 wins a season by resting on their laurels. They are ruthless self-evaluators, pushing everyone in the organization to work harder and smarter than the competition. Their drive and intelligence are what’s made them a model franchise in North American sports.
However, they are not quite perfect yet. They are hamstrung by some blind spots, things those self-evaluations haven’t brought to their attention. So here is some unsolicited advice, suggested corrections to what they themselves have missed.
Here are three New Year’s Resolutions that could help the Patriots break through and get their favorite Lombardi Trophy: the next one!
Slide #1. Don’t. Break. The. Rules.
The Patriots are clearly the team of the century to this point, one of the greatest dynasties ever. They have one of the best coaches in NFL history, one of the best quarterbacks of all time, and are about to play in their sixth Super Bowl in 13 years.
And they simply don’t need to break the rules to win. Bending the rules is fine. Everyone in the NFL runs “pick” plays that are technically illegal. But please, make the resolution today -- everyone from owner Robert Kraft to the ball boy -- bend the rules but do not break them!
If you won’t do it for yourselves, do it for your fans. They must be tired of repeatedly bailing you out in the court of public opinion.
Slide #2. Hire the best coaches available, period
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick does everything he can to maximize the potential of his players and team, with one exception. He refuses to hire the best coaches he can find. Ever since 2006, when Eric Mangini left for the New York Jets, Belichick seems to value loyalty over experience or excellence. And it hasn’t worked out all that well.
The situation reached its most absurd in 2007. The Patriots hired veteran coordinator Dom Capers, and put him in charge of the secondary. There is no way in hell Dean Pees was more qualified than Capers to coach that defense, not at that point in either man’s career. But Belichick insisted on staying loyal to Pees, even though Capers was vastly more accomplished.
Slide #3. Spend some draft capital on the O-line
For the better part of a decade, the Patriots got by with lesser talent on the offensive line. O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia worked near-miracles with rookie starters, street free agents, and even a college wrestler. But Scarnecchia retired last year, and the line crumbled.
The current Patriots depth chart lists nine offensive linemen. Here are their draft positions (starters in bold):
1st round: Nate Solder
2nd round: Sebastian Vollmer
4th round: Bryan Stork, Cameron Fleming
5th round: Marcus Cannon
Undrafted: Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Jordan Devey, Josh Kline
Unsurprisingly, a unit that’s 45% undrafted free agents has been by far the least consistent of any on the Patriots this year. Time to give new offensive line coach Dave DeGugliemo some talent so the team can properly evaluate if he has what it takes to be a good coach. He didn’t look good this year, but the only coach who could have looked good has already left the building.