Every so often, in a Patriot-hating world, there emerges someone who manages to separate himself from the pack, someone who stoops so far below the rules of good taste, and, in this case, good journalism, that we can't help but take notice.
In his recent article, Michael Silver makes a convincing case for Hack of the Year, as he seeks flimsy justifications to convince readers of the scurrilous conjecture he peddles against a team that he clearly hates.
He has provided us with such a wealth of ammo that my responses will have to be broken out into multiple posts, hence the "Part I" in the title.
Silver spent a lot of time talking about Wes Welker. Let's address his assertions one at a time.
Erroneous Assertion #1: Not signing Wes Welker was a "poor football decision by Belichick"
We're all human, including Bill Belichick, but when a man has been in this sport for 50 years, and has won five Super Bowls as a coach or coordinator, as Belichick has, then he gets the benefit of the doubt. With all due respect, Michael, a guy who taps on a keyboard for a living ought to check the facts before he questions someone with Belichick's resume.
Let's start with your conclusion, that failing to re-sign Wes Welker was a "poor football move".
Tell me, Michael: What was the right "football move"? What were the Patriots supposed to do? Offer Welker more money? More years? Whatever he wanted? What?
Take a look at the Patriots' last offer to Welker:
-Two years, $10 million
-$8 million guaranteed
-$6 million available in incentives
-Maximum contract value: $16 million
Now, the offer Welker signed with the Broncos:
-Two years, $12 million
-$6 million guaranteed
-$300,000 available in incentives
-Maximum contract value: $12,300,000
Welker didn't get rich joining the Broncos, or at least not much richer than he would have gotten in New England. In fact, he actually would have had MORE guaranteed money in New England, and the Pats' offer had a much higher max value than Denver's. Apparently the extra $2 million in base salary was really, really super important to Wes, important enough that he didn't care about the $6 million in incentives, important enough that he'd leave the team--and the fan base, and the QB--that had become like family to him. Yeah, it's business-but that cuts both ways.
You piss on the Patriots because they didn't give Welker more money. But you fail to see--or admit--that the Pats' offer was competitive. They offered Welker more guaranteed money and a higher maximum value than Denver did, but Welker refused the offer, over $2 million in base, which he would have earned anyway had he performed as he had the previous two years. The offer was more than adequate, as proved by the very similar offer that Welker actually accepted. Only one other team in the NFL--Tennessee--even expressed interest in Welker. If the Patriots' offer was so terrible, then why didn't other teams beat it? Why didn't the Jets or Cardinals pony up with a four-year, $40 million offer? Simple. Because Welker wasn't worth it.
Let's look at Welker's actual performance from 2013. You're familiar with performance, right? The stuff players actually get paid for?
Wes Welker - 2013 stats
13 games / 73 rec / 778 yds / 10 TD
Not bad, but a significant drop from 2012, when Welker broke 100 catches and 1000 yards, and nowhere near the top of the league, as he had been with New England. Still think that $8 million in guaranteed money was an insult?
Herrrrrrre come the excuses.
"But...but... Manning's got more weapons," you might say. "Welker is sharing the receptions with more people in Denver. And Welker missed three games due to injury."
Answer the question. Look at Welker's line from 2013 again. Are those numbers, or are they not, worthy of a $12 million contract? Didn't think so.
And I'm glad you bring up injury (I know you didn't actually bring it up. Work with me). Welker has been absorbing monster shots across the middle for years in New England. Matt Hasselback estimated recently that Welker may have had as many as 10 concussions before the new protocols were put into place. Welker's had three concussions over the past 10 months alone.
Let go of your bias and be honest with yourself. Wes Welker was a great player, but he is 33 years old now, and his best years are behind him. Now that he's started down the concussion path, they'll come easier and easier, and Peyton is apparently not too concerned with trying to protect him. Messing around with head injuries is a dangerous game, and I hope for his health's sake that Welker doesn't play too much longer.
I get that you don't like him, but I ain't buying this whole "Belichick made a mistake" narrative that you're trying to sell. Belichick knew how old Welker was. He knew what Welker's body had been through. He, along with Robert Kraft, decided that two years was the maximum that the Patriots should offer. If that were a mistake, other teams would have offered significantly more years and more money. None did. You're wrong.
"But...but...," you protest. "The Pats essentially chose Danny Amendola over Welker"
Why is it that, when I read the above, I hear a whiny nine-year-old's voice, complaining about how another nine-year-old just wiped boogers on him?
Maybe you're a sappy, 85-year-old lady at heart who should be watching the Hallmark Channel instead of the NFL. Or maybe you just don't know football. Why do you seem so incredibly butthurt at what you perceive to be a slight against Wes Welker? Football is a business. The cruel and painful truth is that, oftentimes, a team can replace an older player with a younger one for less money, and when they can, they are stupid not to. Is this concept foreign to you?
Now, it is true that Amendola's 2013 numbers were not what the Patriots hoped they'd be (54 rec / 633 yds / 2 TD), but Amendola only played in 12 games, and only started six of them. And, as it turns out, Brady developed significant chemistry with Julian Edelman in 2013, who, after only catching 21 passes in all of 2012, performed incredibly in 2013:
Julian Edelman - 2013 stats
105 rec / 1056 yds / 6 TD
What do you know? Those numbers are positively Welker-like! In otherwords, the Patriots replaced Welker's production with someone five years younger. And cheaper. And less concussion-prone. The Patriots found a way.
So - again - Michael, please provide evidence to prove your assertion that not signing Welker was a poor football decision, when the Patriots replaced Welker's production for less money. In fact, they exceeded it. Explain, or admit that you are biased.
Erroneous assertion #2: "Welker's presence in Denver has to be especially galling to Brady"
It "has to be"? In otherwords, you can't prove it. Brady didn't say that this "galled" him. No one close to Brady said it. In short, you have exactly zero proof.
You only have the Patriots' 2013 results: They won the AFC East - again - and reached the AFC championship game, despite losing their top defensive lineman, linebacker, and cornerback. Do you think Tom Brady stormed into Belichick's office after losing to Denver, screaming that Wes Welker would have won that game for the Pats? I don't.
Despite heroic efforts by you and most other NFL journalists, you have failed to prove that there is any discord in the New England locker room. But you really, really want us to believe it anyway, because it would make you happy if there was turmoil in Patriot Nation.