The return of Julian Edelman Saturday afternoon was a weekend capper to a wild four days.
Over 96 hours, the team lost a skinny guy (Aqib Talib) and – most likely – a fat guy (Vince Wilfork). They added an abnormally big guy (6-4 corner Brandon Browner), an abnormally good guy (Darrelle Revis) kicked the tires on an abnormally crazy guy (Steve Smith) and brought back a little fast guy (Edelman).
Are they better or worse? That’s the question people want answered. And I get that. But I counter that with: “What difference does it make?”
What is talent but a collection of reputations? And no fanbase should be more aware that talent is ephemeral than New England’s.
In 2001, the Patriots became the least-talented team to win a Super Bowl. In 2007, they became the most talented team to lose one.
The 2010 team was the AFC’s No. 1 seed and went 14-2. They had no business doing that with their collection of young, unproven talent (rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski at tight end; running backs Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis; Deion Branch exhumed to become an offensive force). They got what they probably deserved – a loss in the Divisional Playoffs.
In 2011, they were really not that good. They wound up in the Super Bowl where they lost to a less-talented Giants team.
The Eagles Dream Team didn’t make the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins allegedly won the offseason last year. They didn’t enjoy their 2013.
Why the historical detour?
Because the shrill, extreme reaction in the media and fanbase this week was embarrassing to watch. Panic. Anger. Self-righteouness. Threats. Joy. Exultation. More panic. Cynicism. Worry. Worry. Worry.
And that was all just from Tony Mazz.
I’m not advocating being detached, clinical, condescending and ponderous. That’s for the sports analytics crew.
The NFL is entertainment and people identify with the local team and want it to do well. A little disappointment is OK.
But you know what I was reminded of this week listening to the bipolar chatter of the masses?
Those very special Little League parents. The ones that hang off the fence living and dying with every pitch. The ones that are personally angry when their kid strikes out. And not just at their kid. At his coach, the other team’s coach, the opposing pitcher and a few of the parents around whose kids did not strike out.
You know what’s next for the shrill set? Deep concerns over the aerial attack.
Now that Edelman’s back, let’s consider that concern for a moment. Over the last 10 games, Tom Brady was the best quarterback in the league. They have two rookies in position to make a leap after very promising starts to their careers. They have a slot receiver who showed in his very first game with the team that he can take over. They have the most devastating tight end in the league. And they have the remarkable Edelman.
Every single one of the targets I allude to has injury issues to overcome or keep at bay.
Would I have taken Steve Smith over Edelman? Yes. But that wasn’t an option because the Ravens got him in a room. What New England is left with is a complement of offensive players that was good enough to score 27.8 points per game last season. And a defense that has been shored up at the back.
The apparent needs still remain. The Patriots could still use another linebacker, especially if Dane Fletcher doesn’t re-sign. A situational pass-rusher is a need. A big defensive tackle via the draft is necessary as is a more athletic tight end. And they need to get the interior offensive line locked down.
Did they do enough to overtake Denver? Heard that a lot this week too.
Consider this. They lost to Denver in the AFC Championship (weren’t competitive, really) without Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly, Aqib Talib, Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski or Sebastian Vollmer.
And the Broncos played that day without Chris Harris and Von Miller.
Now the Patriots are losing Talib and the Broncos are adding him but the Broncos are losing Eric Decker and the Patriots are adding Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. But DeMarcus Ware is now joined with Miller on the edge. Ware replaces – a year late – Elvis Dumervil who signed with the Ravens but didn’t make the playoffs, although they now have Steve Smith who I would have signed instead of Edelman. Steve Smith was with the Panthers who beat the Patriots in the regular season a week before the Patriots beat the Broncos when Wes Welker muffed a punt.
So you want to know, on St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, 2014, who the best team is?