Patriots

In Order To Repair Their Current Offensive Problems, The Patriots Need To Look To Their Past

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Completely irrealizable trade proposal that I’m damn well going to dream on anyway:

The Patriots trade offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the University of Kansas for head football coach Charlie Weis and their two best letter-winning offensive linemen. Hell, make ’em redshirt freshmen if that gets the deal done.

Who says no? Yeah, I know, everyone obviously — if professional teams could trade with college teams, Pete Carroll would have already found a way to do it. But hypothetically, I think you could put the Jayhawks fan base down for the swap. And the youthful McDaniels …

… would be in his element bro-ing it up on a college campus.

As for actual reality, I’m not putting the Patriots’ offensive struggles, so aggravatingly prominent in their 16-9 escape of the Raiders yesterday, entirely on the offensive coordinator. That would be foolish and unfair. It was a collaborative effort of incompetence, beginning with the offensive line, so porous that it brought on a domino effect of ineptitude elsewhere.

I’ll forever wonder whether McDaniels’s success with Brady is a collaboration or a ride mostly hitched on the quarterback’s coattails. It does work in his favor that Brady trusts and respects McDaniels, 16 months his senior. It might work in his favor more if McDaniels didn’t almost always reciprocate by putting the football in Brady’s right hand whenever whenever a more balanced game-plan begins to go awry.

No, I don’t really believe Josh McDaniels should be replaced by Charlie Weis. But I absolutely do believe the way for the Patriots to begin repairing their offensive issues is by revisiting the way the offense operated during Weis’s years here.

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The Patriots have two fundamental problems, neither of which is news: That brutal, demoralized offensive line can’t give Brady the time he needs to fully utilize his receivers. And on those special occasions when the line does give him time, he too often doesn’t realize it, rushing throws to open receivers. Sometimes he just plain misses them.

It seems to me that the solution — perhaps temporary, probably permanent — is to stop putting it all on Brady’s right shoulder. The Patriots need to be creative, balanced, and deploy their personnel in situations where they can thrive. They need to emphasize pace of the game and demand Brady to throw to the open receiver, not just the most trusted receiver. They need to commit to the run even on days like yesterday, when, as Mike Reiss noted, they had eight runs in 29 attempts that either lost yardage or gained none.

The spectacular days of 2007, of Brady-to-Randy Moss and Air Coryell flashbacks, are gone. What they have now is a talented, flawed offense that isn’t being utilized to its potential.

The retreating and collapsing line is a big part of that, sure. I thought it was telling to hear Scott Zolak and Andy Gresh suggest that McDaniels is asking linemen to do things that are not in their repertoire. In the past, Dante Scarnecchia would have been blunt with him in regard to, say, asking Marcus Cannon to be a pulling guard. New line coach Dave DeGuglielmo doesn’t have that clout yet, and the offense is suffering for it.

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The easy solution: Ditch the cutesy bells and whistles and just pound the ball. Stevan Ridley is one of the top dozen backs in the league. The underutilized Shane Vereen is more dynamic than Kevin Faulk ever was.

Running the ball –even using the run to set up the pass — will give this shell-shocked line confidence. They don’t miss Logan Mankins, the player, as much as they miss Logan Mankins, I’m-not-taking-#*#*@@-today-and-neither are you. Let them hit some people and be the aggressors for once.

Then, perhaps the line will solidify and mesh and the passing game will come around. Julian Edelman has become everything that Troy Brown was. Rob Gronkowki has two touchdowns in three games despite running like his name is Rob Hoomanawanui. He’ll get there.

Danny Amendola? He’s a mystery — Brady treats him like he argued that Heidi Klum is the greatest supermodel of all time. But he’s been productive before, and Brady has missed him (or ignored him) when open.

Brady isn’t blameless here. He doesn’t have the patience in the pocket he had pre-knee injury. His accuracy has been off by his usual standards. He needs to spread the ball around like he did in the days of Brown, David Patten, Deion Branch, David Givens and so on. You know, the seasons where his numbers were good, but the final result — a championship — was greater.

Hey, all is not lost. They still beat the Raiders even though they … well, they played like the Raiders. Brady managed to survive another week behind that brutal line (save us, Bryan Stork). The defense can steal a game when necessary this season. They have a long way to go, and a long time to get there.

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I know it doesn’t feel that way this morning, but this is an extraordinary opportunity. They won a second straight game with another lackluster performance. No one is satisfied. Now let’s see if that leads to an epiphany.

No, not that facetious McDaniels-for-Weis trade. This:

To win that fourth Super Bowl, it’s time for the offense to start playing like it did when they won the first three.

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