The Patriots should have done more to shore up their depth chart behind Brady. In the past, they’ve had Damon Huard, Vinny Testaverde and Doug Flutie around Just In Case. Last year was the first time they went without a veteran backup.
This year, they may pay for it. They went through the 2008 training camp with Brady, Cassel, Matt Gutierrez and rookie Kevin O’Connell. The team’s working out Chris Simms on Monday. He’s more experienced than Cassel and probably more talented.
But their decision to not have someone who wasn’t soaking wet behind the ears in the fold could bite them since it will take Simms (if he’s signed) time to get up to speed. But that ship’s already sailed. How now does the head coach respond? Well, he’ll be spending more time with the offense, that’s for certain.
And, given the needs the Patriots have on defense with a fairly raw group of corners and rookie linebacker Jerod Mayo in the regular rotation, he’d probably prefer to be spending his teaching time over there.
The whole coaching staff is going to have to tighten up their units because the days of 38 points on the regular are probably over. But Belichick is an expert crisis manager and has shown in the past he knows the right levers to pull. Getting his team to mentally move past the loss of Brady and reconfigure expectations is the first job.
Or, more specifically, receiver. Randy Moss has been a model teammate in New England. He's beloved in the locker room not only for his production but also because he’s neither been a complainer nor an attention-seeking diva. Will that continue when his output, touches and role is diminished as it may very well be? He’s got a leadership role on this team and he’s seemed to respond to that. Expect Brady, with whom he’s got a very good relationship, to impress upon Moss the need to be a strong and positive voice for the offense.
But this situation reminds me of something my father told me a long time ago. When gas prices went above a dollar for the first time, my dad pointed out that the happiest people were the ones who made the little numbers for the tops of the pumps. Suddenly, everybody needed more numbers.
Misfortune for Brady and the Patriots means opportunity is now knocking in Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, San Diego, Indy, Buffalo, Cleveland and New York. When Padraig Harrington looks at the Claret Jug he won at this year’s British Open, do you think he feels it’s diminished because Tiger wasn’t in the field? Me neither.
The loss of Brady doesn’t mean the NFL won’t still thrive. But whether or not the Patriots can survive is another matter.
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