Do The Patriots Need To Hire A General Manager?
Bill Belichick can do it all. Or, so he thinks.
In terms of Patriots' decision-making, Belichick has the first and final say. He acts as the checks and balances for the the New England Patriots as the head coach and general manager. He's had scouts that went on to be general managers in former Chiefs' GM Scott Pioli and current Falcons' GM Thomas Dimitroff. In the past, those men were leaders and vocal, critical thinkers in the franchise. But now, Bill Belichick is the most powerful coach in NFL by far. The Patriots are one of two teams without a GM. Some teams have GMs and assistant GMs. The Patriots just have Belichick. At one point, Belichick was the head coach, general manager and defensive coordinator -- as he didn't name one back in 2010.
Is Bill Belichick in danger of jeopardizing the Patriots' AFC East kill spree because he's too stubborn to hire some help with player personnel?
The Patriots certainly don't look as bad as they did in the Week 4 loss to the Chiefs, and the sky isn't falling in New England anymore. There aren't any questions about Tom Brady. There aren't even major worries about the Patriots' surprisingly close 27-25 victory over the Jets in Week 7. And most people don't think that it is the end of the era. "The era" is supposedly still alive.
But there are some very serious issues on this Patriots team. The offensive line is unimpressive. Their pass catchers generally don't catch passes. Their vaunted defense is incredibly thin at linebacker and defensive line. And these aren't new problems. The Patriots have been trying to replace Richard Seymor since his departure. They've been trying to replace Randy Moss since he left. And Aaron Hernandez. And Wes Welker. And Logan Mankins.
It all has a lot to do with the stock broker in Bill Belichick. He loves to sell high on players he thinks are on their way out of their prime. In many cases, he's right. There was Dieon Branch, who was a benign force without the Pats. Randy Moss was useless on the Vikings. Denver has gotten one very good season out of Welker, but he seems to be slowing down considerably. The jury is out on Mankins.
But Belichick also loves to buy low on players. He's worked with Adalius Thomas, Albert Haynesworth and Chad Johnson. He bought low on cornerbacks like Darius Butler and Ras-I Dowling -- that didn't work. However, he did manage to get a steal in Alfonzo Dennard. Welker and Moss were great acquisitions. He's also had a great deal of success buying low and selling high on running backs, allowing LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvus Green-Ellis to leave while filling their carries with draft picks like Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
So, it's not like the Patriots are completely broken. The stock brokerage has kept the Patriots open for business.
Back to the problems, though. Most recently, the offensive line has been awful. And it's largely due to his misevaluation of talent. Three of the offensive linemen that the Patriots have let go are starters elsewhere. The Patriots released both Arizona Cardinals starting left guard Ted Larsen and Chargers starting center Rich Orhnberger. Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Logan Mankins is, of course, a starter. Mankins left in a trade. Part of the struggle is to due the departure of Dante Scarnecchia, who might have helped steer this offensive line -- and the personnel moves involved in forming it -- in the right direction.
The offensive line is an odd and new problem, but the Patriots can't let the problems keep adding up. They're starting to look like every other team in the AFC East. There are two problems that have been slow fixes. Belichick's got some chronic problems maintaining a pass-rush and pass catchers. Chandler Jones has been a revelation and Rob Ninkovich a pleasant surprise, but the Patriots had relied upon stop gaps to generate sacks. Jones may finally be the legitimate force the Patriots need. But it's been a long time coming.
The Patriots have also struggled mightily with wide receiver evaluation. The only player they've drafted at the position who had success in recent memory is Julian Edelman, who technically wasn't even a wide receiver. He was a college quarterback. Aside from that, it's a laundry list of failures: Chad Jackson, Taylor Price, Brandon Tate. Now it seems Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce are busts, too.
It may be too harsh to say Belichick has lost his touch altogether. But it's not too harsh to say that the mastermind needs some help. The Patriots talent seems to be dwindling. A general manager could challenge Belichick and question his personnel moves. So long as Belichick respects the opinion of the GM, it could be a fruitful relationship.
A second pair of eyes would go a long way.
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