Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

19 Oct 2005

Moves in Spring Led to Slip in Fall

Michael Felger takes a look at all the Patriots' offseason acquisitions along with their respective costs. Yeah, maybe Scott Pioli is having a bad year, but losing half your roster to the IR doesn't help either.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 19 Oct 2005

17 comments, Last at 20 Oct 2005, 9:04am by MDS


by random (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 2:09pm

God, i saw this article coming a mile away when the pats were losing to san diego. I'm not even a patriots fan but i know they will be playing deep into january. How much worse is this team compared to 2001? That team started 5-5. All Belichick is doing is resting guys like dillon and seymour for the stretch run instead of overworking them just to win a few more regular season games.

by zip (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:06pm


I’m not even a patriots fan but i know they will be playing deep into january.

I think they'll win a game wildcard weekend and get eliminated at Indy or whoever the #2 seed ends up being. Dunno if that counts as "deep" into January.

by ABW (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:11pm

Well, 2001 was by any reasonable measure an extremely lucky, even flukey, year. The Patriots really were not that good that year - even Belichick was quoted as saying something like "I can't believe we won a Super Bowl with this team."

Given how critical home-field advantage is through the playoffs, the strategy of "resting" guys for the "stretch run" is just not a good idea. In a 16 game season, you need to win all the games you can to try and get at the very least a first-round bye. I guarantee you that Belichick is not doing anything like that - you need to win, plain and simple, even early in the regular season.

I have to say, as much faith as I have in Pioli and Belichick, they just didn't do as well as they have in the past this off-season. When Tim Dwight is your best off-season pickup, well, that's just a bad off-season. I'm not calling for Belichick or Pioli's head here, but we've given them plenty of credit for the amazing job they've done with personnel the past few years(the Traylor and Washington signings, finding guys like Randall Gay and Hank Poteat) and it's only fair to also point out when they haven't done as well.

by mogh (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:13pm

The Pats did start off 5-5 in 2001 before going on a tear and that could happen again here if defenders can come back and stay healthy. However, I doubt Belichick is resting anyone on purpose -- he has shown in the past that if you are healthy, you play (even meaningless games at the end of the season against teams like the 49ers).

by pawnking (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:17pm

Everyone said before the season started that the Pats had a brutal schedule for the first six games. And so they went 3-3. I can promise that no team in the NFL would have gone 6-0 that stretch, and the best teams would be more likely to go 3-3 than 5-1. Just my 2 cents.

by Purds (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:40pm

Regardless of schedule, we're looking at individuals in this article. No two ways about it: this was not the best off-season for the Pats. To me, this year's mediocracy only points out how great their off seasons were in 2003 & 2004. They didn't bring in anyone this year who has turned into a stud, and they did that with regularity the last two years.

by marc (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:48pm

I'll remember this article and chuckle while the Patriots are losing to the Packers in Superbowl XL.

by ABW (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:33pm

For what it's worth, the Patriots have now resigned WR Andre Davis and CB Hank Poteat and released Wesly Mallard(again), which kind of dates some of the info in this article(although not the basic point).

Not that Poteat is a world-beater, but he can't be much worse than what the Pats have now. Now get Duane Starks off the field before he gets fined by the NFL. Having a fork sticking out of you is a uniform violation.

by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 6:26pm

OK, I don't think Bellichick is resting guys to give up games. However, he probably is willing to lose a game (Denver) right before the bye rather than play injured players (like Dillon and Seymour) and risk aggravating them and losing them for a lot of the season. Remember last year when the Pats desparately needed Dillon playing Pittsburgh? Dillon was physically able to perform in top shape, but had a slight injury that could have been easily aggravated by a bad hit. Rather than risk losing him for 5+ games or the season, the Pats were willing to lose one game.

Regarding the offseason--I don't think anyone would argue that it wasn't as wildly as successful as some of the previous offseasons. But let's not come down too hard on people undeservdly. Look at the major acquisitions 1 by 1:

David Terrel: OK, a bust. But not an expensive one.

Tim Dwight: Success.

Andre Davis: Impossible to tell yet (his lack of production thus far is due to injury, which Pioli couldn't have seen).

Chad Brown: Impossible to tell. He obvisouly hasn't been a success at MLB, but that's not what he signed up for. He was expected to be an OLB rotating in with Vrabel, McGuinest, and Colvin, and that is where his impressive skills apparently lie. He was never expected to be a solid MLB like Bruschi until Johnson unexpectedly retired and Beisel played more poorly than expected.

Monte Biesel: Probably a bust, but maybe still too early to tell definitively. I think they were imagining rotating him with Ted Johnson and occasionally Vrabel while he learned the ropes of playing MLB for the Pats. Now all of a sudden, he's one of two starting MLB's in a difficult 3-4, with an injury racked secondary behind him and an injury racked DL in front (and unexpectedly no offensive running game to give the D a chance to rest).

Chad Scott - Very impressive until the injury put him on IR. Probably too early to tell, though.

Duane Starks - OK, I know it's fashionable to bust on him, but all the fact that he got vicimized says is that (1) he's not an ELITE CB, and (2), he's not as good as Asante Samuel. Not a huge surprise. But remember, he's playing injured, unable to rotate out as much as he probably should because so many other CB's are hurt, and is behind an injury racked DL and suspect LB's (see the above comments about the LB's). Yes he's probably less than they were hoping, but he's still better (probably) than Dexter Reid or Earthwind Moreland, and possibly worth a 3rd round pick next year (depending on when that pick is and who is on the board).

So out of 7, only one complete bust. One success, two players that can't be judged because of injury, and three that were forced to play in far more adverse circumstances than expected. Of course, it would be nice if all three had stepped up (as happened in past years), but at this point it looks like only Chad Brown, so far, is maybe stepping up a little.

by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 6:42pm

The "resting guys" argument has been sufficiently debunked, so I won't get into that.

As far as Starks goes, I agree that he's not as bad as he's been made out to be. He did look like crap against Denver, but I think he's capable of better. However, in the context of this discussion, I think he should be held to a higher standard than the other names on this list. They gave up a first day draft choice for him. Granted, it'll probably end up being a late-ish 3rd rounder, but you could have Maurice Clarett for that!

by thad (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 7:42pm

the pats defense sucks.
They are giving up over 27 points per game.
They have 10 sacks.
Opposing qb's have a rating of 99.2.
They are horrible. Now i don't want to assign blame quite yet because,
A. They have had a lot of injuries
b. I am not sure how Starks and Brown will look at the end of the year.
C. As other people have posted, defensive players get hurt more than offnsive ones. I know this happens to the Pats a lot, but i have no idea who they could solve it

by ABW (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 7:50pm

Have you guys been watching the same games as me? Starks has been that bad. He was bad against Atlanta as well. Describing him as "not an ELITE CB" is an understatement. I'll grant that maybe Brown would be better if he was playing OLB, but the fact is he's playing ILB and has been mediocre. Beisel has been simply bad. Not maintaining his gap responsibilities and not tackling well when he does have a chance. Chad Scott was OK I guess, but "very impressive"?

These are professional football players. I think it's reasonable to expect them to step up and not give them a pass because they are playing in a tougher siutation than they might like.

by james (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:57pm

Patriots arent getting a pass rush. It's leaving their less than mediocre secondary vulnerable. They didn't have this problem last year. When Seymour gets back that will change.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:06am

Re #5: Everyone said before the season started that the Pats had a brutal schedule for the first six games. And so they went 3-3. I can promise that no team in the NFL would have gone 6-0 that stretch, and the best teams would be more likely to go 3-3 than 5-1. Just my 2 cents.

You're right, the Patriots have had a tough schedule. According to DVOA, they've had the 7th toughest schedule in the NFL so far. Only six teams have had harder. Which six? I'm glad you asked.

#6- San Diego (3-3)
#5- Oakland (1-4)
#4- Cleveland (2-3)
#3- Denver (5-1)
#2- Houston (0-5)
#1- Jacksonville (4-2)

Just something to think about next time before promising that no team could go 6-0 against that stretch, and that the best teams were more likely to go 3-3 than 5-1.

Trust me, these Patriots are clearly flawed. Even accounting for their schedule, they haven't been a top-half team to date. Their defense is so susceptible to the big play that Denver actually added a play to their playbook called "Atlanta" just for the New England game, because Atlanta was taking New England to task with it. Result? 72 yard completion to Rod Smith, 55 yard completion to Ashley Lelie.

If Matt Schaub were a more experienced QB, and didn't miss so many wide-open receivers, New England would be sitting at 2-4. Will they improve? They better, if they hope to make any noise this season. If they don't, they still stand a chance to reach the postseason in the flawed AFC East, but they certainly aren't going deep.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:15am

Sorry for the double post, but it's nice to see people starting to realize that the immortal Bellichick and Pioli are, indeed, human, and they make as many errors as anyone else. They had a great 2-year run where they had no significant misses. So did Mike Shanahan, and he parlayed them into 2 superbowls, as well. And now he's seen as a bottom half GM (unfairly, I might add- he's clearly a top 50% GM) by the rest of the league.

I got so sick of everyone judging the Pats draft and saying "I don't get this pick, but I'm sure he'll be a stud, since the Pats liked him" or, in Denver, when they drafted Darrent Williams, "Well, the Patriots were going to take him if we didn't, so he must be great". Please. Give me a break. The Pats are not going to be any more than marginally better at scouting than the rest of the NFL in the long run (I still think that Ozzie Newsome has to be the gold standard at GM). Anyone else remember 2001, when they drafted Richard Seymour, Matt Light, and then spent 7 consecutive picks on players that are no longer with the team (and, to the best of my knowledge, the overwhelming majority of whom are currently out of the NFL entirely)?

Everyone has short-term memory when it comes to the NFL, especially with small sample sizes. For instance, the overwhelming wisdom was that Shanahan simply couldn't draft cornerbacks, because he missed on O'Neal and Middlebrooks in the first round (and Jeff Shoate last year). What they don't talk about is how 50% of drafted CBs wind up as busts, anyway, so the odds say it's not that uncommon for someone who is just as good at identifying CB talents as everyone else to go 0-3 during a stretch. And sure enough, Shanahan goes out and hits on 2 straight CBs in the draft this year (Darrent Williams and Dominique Foxworth, both of whom have earned defensive rookie of the week honors and have bumped Lenny Walls down to #4 on the depth chart).

In the end, like I said, nobody is going to be significantly better than anybody else at judging talent... but random chance says that some guys are CERTAINLY going to go through hot phases. Pioli and Bellichick did that. Now they're past it. This isn't news, it's the law of averages.

by masocc (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:43am

Belichick is a genius. He deliberately planted this article to keep Pioli from leaving to greener (i.e. $$$) pastures after this season. Seems to be working, since everyone is buying it.

by MDS (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 9:04am

"Bellichick and Pioli are, indeed, human, and they make as many errors as anyone else."

They are human, but they don't make as many mistakes as anyone else. Trust me. I'm a Lions fan. Matt Millen makes more mistakes before 9 a.m. than Belichick and Pioli make all season.