Thursday, March 14, 2013

Theory Is Always a Six-Point Underdog to Dollars

The theory, as expressed by Greg Bedard of the Globe and others, is that the departure of Wes Welker from the Patriots wasn't about money, but about New England's desire to reorganize its offense so that other guys caught more passes, therefore enabling the franchise to win the Super Bowl that has eluded it since the start of the Pats' Offensive Boom of 2007-2012.

It's a plausible theory. After all, why pay more money for a player you're planning to use less? However, in this plausible is a least two bus stops short of convincing. Some untoward facts remain between the theory and its scheduled destination of reassurance for Patriots fans.

The primary fact, of course, is the offensive boom itself. When a team has set or come close to setting NFL scoring records over a six year span, it's hard to argue that the offense needs rebooting to carry it to a championship.

The Patriots' playoff losses in that span have been caused by, in order, being overwhelmed by the opponent's defensive line and one miracle play by the enemy offense (Super Bowl XVLII),  a total team effort 45-man suck job (Ravens 2009), another total team anti-effort (Jets 2010), a second failure to prevent the same Super Bowl opponent from scoring a touchdown in the last minute (Super Bowl XLVII) and a complete second-half ass-kicking (Ravens 2012). One searches in vain to find Welker's fingerprints at the scene of these crimes or to locate a change in "philosophy" that would've helped either.

Then comes the fact that less than two hours after losing Welker, the Pats signed Danny Amendola, a cheaper more-or-less reasonable facsimile of Welker, at a not all that much lower price, after making  an offer to Welker at a not much lower price than he obtained from the Broncos. That's not a franchise looking to move in a different direction, that's one seeking the method of getting there.

Thirdly, there's the issue of who's going to catch the 110 or so passes Welker caught on an annual basis? Who will move the chains on 3rd and 6? The logical assumption is that it'll be Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Both have been signed to much larger contracts than Welker wanted. Gronk has earned his so far, Hernandez hasn't. Both had injuries last year.  Neither was a particular standout in any of those playoff losses in which they participated.

I have to believe those contracts have as much to do with any changes in New England's passing game as do tactical concerns. It's what I'd believe about any of the other 31 NFL franchises. And that's trouble. The real danger to businesses isn't the investments they make, it's the actions they take to justify those investments.

I see no other way to describe what's happened yesterday than this. For reasons known only to themselves, the Patriots replaced an All Pro player with someone not as good for not quite as much money. And the justifications offered by others fail to make sense to me.

There is such a thing as addition by subtraction. Unfortunately, it's ever so much rarer than subtraction by subtraction.


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