The Ballad of Bill and Wes

The Ballad of Bill and Wes
March 8, 2013, 1:15 pm
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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a very special, and dare I say historic event here inside the Boston sports media bubble.

I don’t want to overstate the importance of the following achievement, but I feel comfortable saying that it’s something you’ll someday tell your grandchildren about.

If you already have grandchildren? I suggest you get them on the horn immediately and take in this experience together. Because as the great Billy Joel once said: “These are the times to remember, and it’s still rock n’ roll to me.”

Before moving on, I should mention that none of this would be possible without the tireless effort of those who came before me. That I’m able to share this with you all is almost entirely product of their hard work.

For that, I sit here at the keyboard this morning, not as one man, but as a representative of something bigger. Something bolder. Something . . . much more repetitive.

So without further adieu, I present:

The city of Boston’s 5000th column about Wes Welker and the Pats!!

(Waits for applause, grinning triumphantly. Hears only boos, while narrowly avoiding an onslaught of tomatoes and poison-tipped blow darts)

Thank you, folks. No, really. I’m so happy you all could make it.

By now you’re more than familiar with the ins, outs and what-have-you’s of No. 83’s potential future in New England.

You’re familiar with all the reasons why the Pats might go in another direction, namely: Age, durability, drops, jokes about Rex Ryan’s feet, tweets about “leaps of faith” and not-so-subtle references to sticking it in Bill’s face.

You’re familiar with all the reasons why Welker might go in another direction, namely: Money. Money. Money. Spite. Money. Money. Money. Freedom. Money. Money. Money. Belichick. Money. Money. Money. Money.

Above all else, you’re familiar with all the reasons why the two sides will very likely meet in the middle, with Welker returning for another few years at a reasonable but still substantial rate, namely: Winning, Tom Brady and . . . do you need anything else?

I don’t think so, which is why despite all the insanity of these last few weeks — and the better part of these last few years — I really don’t see Welker going anywhere. I think he’ll fight the urge to take the fattest offer on the table (whether it’s from Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis or whomever) and tell Belichick to screw. In turn, I think Belichick will fight the urge to use Welker as yet another example of why you don’t mess with the Pats; to let him walk, all while screaming: “Fine! Go then! Who needs you? You think I’m gonna lose sleep over this? You think you’re bigger than the system?!” and then go on a binge that end with the additions of Greg Jennings AND Danny Amendola.

I think, ultimately, that Wes and Bill will find a way to iron out their differences, even though, if we’re being honest, the pair has quite a few.

The relationship between Welker and Belichick has always been an interesting one. When it all began, Welker was one of those players that coach Belichick fell in love with from afar. You know the kind of player I’m talking about. You know how Belichick gets. Every once in a while, he’ll notice a guy on an opposing team and start acting like a billionaire sultan who just spotted a beautiful woman sitting with her husband at the bar. “Bring her to me,” he’ll whisper to one of his bodyguards. “I don’t care about the price. Give the fool anything he wants. Just know she must be mine.”

He wanted Welker. He got Welker. And in the six years since, Welker has been everything Belichick could have dreamed of on the field. But off the field, there was a feisty side that maybe the coach was unaware of, or one that perhaps has worn on him as the years have gone on. Most notably, there was the “foot soldier” incident with Rex Ryan, and the decision to bench Welker for the opening drive of that playoff game; a drive that resulted in an interception and kick-started the Jets painful upset. And since then, there’s been a string of very unBelichick off the field behavior from Welker, whether it was the leap of faith tweet, the incident in Aspen during his bachelor party, the extended absence from last summer’s training camp and, of course, his “nice to stick it in Bill’s face” comment during an episode of Patriots Post Game Live.

By the way, I’m not taking a stand against anything Welker did. Frankly, I couldn’t care less. But you know that sort of thing really sticks in Belichick’s hoodie. And as Welker has gotten older, combined with his two enormous drops in consecutive postseasons, you know that behavior hasn’t done him any favors at the negotiating table. You know Belichick has started to weigh whether Welker’s on field production is worth the constant threat of insubordination.

On the other side, Welker doesn’t have to look very far to find his own reasons to wonder whether the grass would be greener out from under Belichick’s iron fist. Over the his time in New England, he’s watched as the Pats flushed millions of dollars down the toilet, investing in the like of Albert Haynesworth, Adalius Thomas, Chad Ochocinco and Jonathan Fanene. Meanwhile, all Welker's done is out-perform his contract about as much as humanly possible. At the very least, the Pats were previously in a position to redo Welker’s deal once it was clear that he deserved so much more. But it never happened, and to Welker’s credit, he never let his frustration carry over in between the lines.

More so, you know he was insulted, and had every reason to be insulted, by the way he was treated at the beginning of last season, especially when — just reading between the lines — he’s seemingly yet to receive a BS-free explanation for what exactly was going on, or an assurance that it won’t happen again.

The same way that Belichick might be growing tired of putting up with Welker’s act, you can be damn sure that Welker’s growing tired of the Belichick Rules. And when you consider that at 31 years old, this is his last chance to make SERIOUS bank as an NFL player, it’s nearly impossible to question any decision he might make over the next few weeks. It’s his world. He’s earned it.

Still, I think he’ll be back. If for other reason than, despite everything that stands between he and Belichick, because of those two enormous factors that tie this pair together.

Winning and Tom Brady.

Do Belichick and Welker have a communication problem? It certainly appears that way, but they have the good fortune of also having one of the most powerful mediators in the world working on their case. Make no mistake, for all the distance that Belichick places between himself and his players, Brady has his coach’s ear. Brady has Welker’s ear. Brady wants these two to find a common ground. He wants the Pats to make use of his generous restructuring. Likewise, Belichick wants Brady to be happy, and bringing back his QB’s binky at a reasonable rate will go a long way towards making that happen.

As for Welker’s mild disdain? Tom can help iron that out, too. After all, his relationship with Welker goes beyond QB/WR, these guys are real friends. They vacation together!

And lets be honest: it won't take too much to meet Welker's needs. After all, he likes New England. This is where he wants to be here. That's why he took that #leapoffaith to begin with.

He just wants a fair shake.

And when push comes to shove, I fully expect Belichick to reach out a callused hand, and extend an offer that meets Welker's needs.

Will it exceed some of the other offers on the table? Probably not.

But I doubt the difference will out weigh the opportunity to finish his career with Tom Brady and annually compete for that elusive ring.