The mess in the secondary--and the genius of BB
posted at 12/21/2011 9:41 AM EST
The Pats' pick up of DB Vincent Fuller made me think two things:
- First, our secondary is an absolute mess -- and how on earth could BB have let it get this bad?
- Second, BB's brilliance as a coach has never been more evident than in the way he's managed to win games with two wide receivers playing safety and a bunch of no names in the defensive backfield.
There's a weird paradox here. In many ways BB is responsible for the woeful lack of talent in the defensive backfield. After all, it was BB who decided to cut Meriweather, Page, Bodden, and Sanders and instead keep Barret, Brown, and Molden. At the same time, it's BB who was able to recognize potential ability in special team guys like Slater, Edelman, Arrington, and Ihedigbo and coach them up into reasonable, if not great, players at safety and corner. How can a coach so good at recognizing player abilities--and getting them to perform at such a high level even in positions at which they have no prior experience--also end up with a roster so devoid of raw talent?
Well that question made me decide to go look at what's happened to the guys BB cut:
- Merriweather is a back-up in Chicago who's really done nothing much at all since going there
- Page played six games for the Eagles then got cut and has been warming the bench with the Vikings
- Bodden is still out of football
- Sanders is a part time starter in Atlanta and having a typical season for him--nothing too fancy, but a lot of solid play
When I look at what has happened with these guys, the only possible mistake I can see is cutting Sanders. But at the time BB did that, it seemed like a logical decision to release a high-paid, medium-performing veteran who was mostly a back-up in favour of youth with Brown and Barrett. Barrett unfortunately got injured and Brown's been a disappointment. But if Barret had stayed healthy, he may have been just as good as a back-up as Sanders . . . and at 27 he's a year younger and a bigger guy than the somewhat undersized Sanders. Plus Brown at 23 has maybe more upside potential should he develop well. Chung was supposed to anchor the secondary and Merriweather was still around as the likely starter (but apparently just regressed in camp). So although the Sanders decision probably was a mistake in retrospect, at the time if was made it made a certain amount of sense.
Other than that one mistake, though, you can't really say BB has done anything wrong (unless you want to question his drafting of guys like Wheatley and Butler and Wilhite and Merriweather). What instead stands out is how masterfully BB has coached himself out of the impending disaster that the problems in the secondary seemed to portend. The fact that the Pats in week 15 are the number one seed in AFC is truly an amazing testament to BB's ability as a coach. While the defense isn't playing well--it is 32nd in the league in yards given up--it is amazing that it's playing at a high enough level to keep the Patriots in games given the fact that guys like Ihedigbo, Arrington, Slater, Edelman, Jones, and now maybe Fuller are starting or playing significant minutes.
In some ways, this could be BB's best coaching feat yet . . . but then there are so many great coaching feats to choose from when it comes to BB that it's maybe best not to try to choose one and just stand back in awe at the marvelous coach we're so fortunate to have on our side as New England fans.