The notion that the Patriots were “all in” for 2014 was all wet from the start.
It’s based on the notion that the team went bananas in the offseason to make a push toward a title. It’s centered around the acquisition of Darrelle Revis.
But Revis is a Patriot today not because the Patriots felt any urgency to get the planet’s best corner (arguably), but because of a confluence of circumstances that put him in their lap.
The first domino was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s asking price. The Broncos best corner in 2013 wasn’t biting on the offer Denver extended so John Elway went after Aqib Talib and signed him on March 11.
Talib hadn’t loved what the Patriots were dangling – proclaiming the offer to be ”a little shaky.” So, that put the Patriots out of the Talib business and into the market for an elite corner.
Which caused them to fix their sights on Revis and hope that he would indeed be released by Tampa Bay. He was and the Patriots signed him a day after losing Talib. But if Talib accepted the Patriots offer and stayed, there’d be no Revis here.
And the false narrative the Patriots are “all-in” wouldn’t have taken root. Unless signing Brandon Browner and Brandon LaFell could have carried the banner on that count.
If the Patriots were “all in” would they have spent a second-round pick on a quarterback from Eastern Illinois who won’t help this year but could in two or three years? No. There were good and useful players on the board who would have had more relevance right now than Jimmy Garoppolo (this is where I mention C.J. Fiedorowicz).
If the Patriots were “all in” would they have dealt Logan Mankins on Tuesday and left their left guard position to Josh Kline, Marcus Cannon or Jordan Devey? Any of those guys may be better than Mankins in two years, but none of them will be better this year.
The only thing the Patriots are “all in” on is the sustainability of the program today and tomorrow. And next season. And the one after that.
Which is why Bill Belichick can say that Logan Mankins is the best guard he’s ever coached in a release announcing that Mankins is going somewhere else.
The “do what’s best for the football team” addendum is Belichick’s cover. Do you spend $6.25M on Mankins this year with a $10M cap hit and then release him next season and get nothing in return for the program or do you plan ahead and take a step back so that you’ll be as good in a year at left guard and also have a move tight end you didn’t have before you made the deal?
Do you stand firm on an incentive-laden, short-term deal for Wes Welker when you could tack on a couple million extra (hell, the team paid $6M for a one-year Ocho sideshow)? Or, do you take out the actuarial table and figure out how that deal will look in a year or two?
Always the actuarial table. Rarely the “all-in, this is the year, "Super Bowl-or-bust” decision.
Again, is it the right thing to do? Yeah. Maybe. For next year. For now? No. You have a quarterback who, for about five years, has gone to the whip with his teammates imploring them to be more mentally tough. Stating with no equivocation that an offense that can run the ball when the defense knows it’s coming is an offense he likes to be a part of.
The toughest offensive lineman in the game – physically and mentally – is in Tampa now. And with him went the road-grader ability he had at the point of attack, at the second level and on pulls.
The dropoff to Kline or whoever won’t be 100 percent. It’s not like you or I are going in there. But there will be a dropoff.
But to the Patriots, that’s OK. There are bills to pay, players to develop and a program to sustain. This year isn’t secondary to their attention. But the future is always on their mind.