Re: salary cap hell, huh?
posted at 3/2/2014 3:24 PM EST
I don't think the teams we've brought to the playoffs since the 2009 season have been all that good. Great QB, great coaching, but serious holes in talent. That's why we were embarassed at home by the Ravens in 2009, beaten at home by the Jets of all teams in 2010, nearly beaten at home by the Ravens in 2011 and then beaten by a mediocre Giants team in the Super Bowl, beaten badly at home by the Ravens in 2012, and beaten badly by the Broncos on the road last year. Now injuries have played a role just about every year, but this team has been vulnerable to key injuries because the talent just hasn't been good or deep in too many positions. A few key injuries, and the team greatly declines in competitiveness.
Now I said at the beginning of last season that I thought the team was as talented as it had been since 2007. I still feel that way. I think we're finally on the upswing, especially on defense. However, this doesn't mean we didn't have some holes in 2013 that came back to bite us. There were two in particular:
Interior defensive line. Most of us knew we were vulnerable there. Sure, Wilfork and Kelly were both good players. But both are getting old. Wilfork has been on the field for too many snaps in recent years because of the lack of talent around him. Many of us were worried he was due to breakdown. Relying on Kelly (also old) and Armstead (known health issues) seemed risky. We can say it was bad luck that both Wilfork and Kelly were hurt and Armstead didn't play, but it wasn't just bad luck. The risk was clear right at the beginning of the season and the risk materialized. We didn't have a good insurance plan to protect against a fairly obvious risk.
Similarly, we haven't done a good job building our WR corp. This has been a problem since 2009 and we continue not to get it right. With Gronk and Hern, we are fine because the TEs compensate for the lack of quality WRs. But Hern was a character risk and Gronk an injury one and we had no back up plan for losing them. Bad luck that Hern went to jail and Gronk got hurt for the third year in a row? Maybe, but the risks were clear and they materialized and we had no back up plan. We let Welker go, we didn't keep Lloyd, and we just had untested rookies, an injury prone free agent (who, surprise, got injured), and Edelman. We left ourselves vulnerable and got burned. Is that just bad luck or is it bad planning? If you live on a mountainside in California and don't buy insurance against fires and mudslides is it just bad luck when you lose everything you own? The risk was a known one, so maybe you should have bought insurance . . .
The secondary now seems to be coming together, but prior to last year it was a similar mess. We never had a plan for replacing Asante Samuel. On the D line we let Seymour go (maybe not a bad decision) but did we have a plan to rebuild with anything other than duct tape and paper clips?
These decisions have their consequences and they've left us with teams that can make the playoffs, but aren't all that competitive once they are in, except against fairly lame teams (Tebow's Broncos, the Texans, the Colts). I appreciate what the Pats have done, producing winning seasons year after year, but I also have not seen a team that going into the playoffs I felt very good about. Last year's team without the injuries would have been an exception, but the injuries are part of the game and the positions where they hurt the most (DT and WR/TE) were positions where the risks were evident before the season started. Not addressing those risks adequately left us particularly vulnerable when the risks materialized.