Curran: A series of lost gambles for Patriots

Curran: A series of lost gambles for Patriots
September 5, 2011, 1:12 pm
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By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
The New England Patriots had a weekend filled with calculated risks gone bad. Not crushers. Not anything they can't dust off their shoulders. But setbacks just the same. There's risk in every decision made. Walking out the door in the morning, buying a vacuum cleaner, or drafting a free safety who seems smart and talented but needs to grow up. The Patriots did the latter with Brandon Meriweather and the clock struck midnight for their patience with him on Saturday. The Patriots got some good performances from Meriweather. But in the end, the total package of on-field inconsistency and off-field refusal to be the professional they wanted caused them to pull the plug on the former first-rounder. They took a risk and - overall - it didn't work out. You want more than four middling seasons from a first-rounder. That's all they got. Everybody has their own treasured Meriweather moment from the past four seasons. The forehead slapper that I'll never forget was in Super Bowl 42. It was a stealth reason they lost the freakin' game. On third-and-11 from the Patriots 25 with 45 seconds left in the game, Meriweather chose to jam a Giants receiver who was already covered by Asante Samuel. Steve Smith crossed from the inside to the flat where Meriweather should have been and turned a 5-yard reception into a 12-yard gain to set up the Giants' game-winning touchdown. Oop. Another risk gone bad for the Patriots? Spending a third-round pick on Brandon Tate in the 2009 draft. After missing the final seven games of his senior season at North Carolina with a blown knee, the Patriots bought low on the still-rehabbing Tate. He played in two games in 2009 before blowing his other knee. He played all 16 games in 2010 and had modest success as a receiver and kick returner. Didn't fit. Next? The Patriots did well last spring and late this summer to find two big, strapping tight ends in Will Yeatman and Lee Smith, both of whom could block, run and catch. On Saturday, they released the undrafted Yeatman and the fifth-rounder Smith. Both were claimed by AFC East foes and added to rosters. Yeatman by the Dolphins; Smith by the Jets. Finally, the long-snapper situation continues to be a low-level concern going into this season. The Patriots signed undrafted rookie Danny Aiken out of Virginia on Sunday. He's the third guy this season to hold the job, replacing James Dearth who briefly replaced Matt Katula. Katula replaced Jake Ingram last year. All have been replacements for Lonie Paxton, whom the Patriots opted to allow to go to Denver when Josh McDaniels made Paxton a Godfather offer. Hard to blame the Patriots for not giving the moon to a long snapper. That's why this is the final "risk gone bad" I'll mention. Still, this weekend was a reminder that - even though there's been no team in recent memory that's done better with personnel dice rolls - sometimes they can come up snake eyes too.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran