When the news broke across the Twitternet Tuesday afternoon that the Patriots had traded Laurence Maroney, I have to admit I was a little stunned.
Not by the news itself. If you’re still even mildly surprised by any roster move this team makes, then you’re obviously new at this. After all, this is a team that benched its franchise quarterback midseason, then traded him to a division rival. These Patriots cut their defensive captain a week before the season began. They traded the best defensive tackle they’ve ever had for a draft pick two years later. The greatest advice you could ever give a Patriots fan is the words of wisdom Dalton gave the crew at the Double Deuce in the epic "Road House": “Always expect the unexpected.”
So, the fact that they traded their putative 2010 starting running back a week into the season didn’t phase me in the least. What surprised me was my own reaction. I wasn’t shocked, puzzled, dismayed or perplexed about the move. I was … relieved.
And this is a big deal for me. Because more than anyone else I know, I was a Laurence Maroney supporter. When it came to “Kool-Aid,” I was drinking the Kool-Aid. By the gallon.
And believe me, it was never easy. Because no one I know liked having Maroney as the Patriots' lead back. It was like having the same conversation every day for four years. I’d argue his numbers, and friends would argue what they’re eyes told them. I’d talk about his yards per carry, and they’d talk about how he “danced” at the hole. I’d point out his stats (4.2 YPC) were comparable to the Colts’ Joseph Addai (4.1) and the Cowboys’ Marion Barber (4.3), or that he’s a full half-yard better than Reggie Bush (and now tied in the “Most Heisman Trophies Owned” category) and I’d hear about his negative carries. I’d say the coaches go out of their way to praise him, and they’d talk about how they used a first-round pick to get him.
I’d go into long diatribes about the Pats inside/outside zone running scheme and how Maroney’s style of “hesitating” at the hole was really him being patient and waiting for a cutback seam to develop, and they’d ask me why Fred Taylor looks so much better running behind the same line. I’d point out that LoMo has the highest per-carry average in Patriots history, and they’d tell me to go pee up a rope.
There was no winning the argument. Laurence Maroney’s Patriots career was a Rorschach Test; you saw what you wanted to see. In that way, he was J.D. Drew in shoulder pads — a stat geek’s dream, but someone who made the purists throw up in their mouths.
And that’s why I’m glad he’s gone. Because I don’t have to fight any more. Laurence Maroney was that girl you dated whom none of your friends liked. And the more you tried to argue on her behalf (“No, really. She didn’t force me. I really wanted to go to see "Eat. Pray. Love." I heard it was really good.”) the more desperate you sound and you end up convincing no one.
Well, now it’s over. Now he’s Josh McDaniels’ and some naïve, cockeyededly optimistic, column-writing Broncos fan’s problem, not mine. And like I said, I’m relieved. Even though now I guess I have to admit, I was dead wrong all along. I mean, when you draft a guy in the first round, and after four years and less than 2,500 total yards, you’re trading him midseason for basically some pizza coupons and scratch tickets, you can’t really call that a success.
If you were on "Wheel of Fortune," the clue was “Laurence Maroney” and the puzzle was “B [ ] S T,” any one of us would buy a “U” at this point and not an “E.” At least I can admit that now.
I guess the real reason I believed in Maroney through thick and thin (and more thin), is that I’m an adherent of the Belichick Infallibility Doctrine. And it’s awfully hard to believe in the B.I.D. right now in 2010 looking back at the dog’s breakfast that was the 2006 Patriots draft. Maroney, Chad Jackson, Dave Thomas, Garrett Mills — it’s the "Waterworld" of drafts. Something that was going to perpetuate a dynasty but turned out to be a colossal, expensive failure that almost destroyed it instead. And we’re left to hope that none of the drafts since ‘06 turn out to be "The Postman" or "3000 Miles to Graceland," or the Pats might never recover.
I suppose I should feel pretty foolish for believing in Maroney in the first place. I mean, the writing was on the wall right from the beginning. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy. Just that he never, ever established himself as a true Patriot kind of guy. One of the first things we learned about LoMo was that he had his SUV painted purple with the Kool-Aid guy on the side. Now, I’m not suggesting everyone has to conform and there’s only one type of personality that will allow you to be a success in the NFL. I’m just saying that Sam Cunningham, Curtis Martin and Corey Dillon are the three best running backs I’ve ever seen run the ball for the Pats, and not one of them detailed a annoyingly creepy cartoon sugar water spokesman onto their vehicles. Cause. Effect.
The next thing we learned about Maroney was that his Facebook page, like so many others, listed his all time favorite quotes. And if you thought they were from the Bible or Martin Luther King or Vince Lombardi or someone, guess again. Here are some examples, edited for the Internet:
”wash u ass" ... ”bout time we got some construda in dis motha[expletive] ... ”u begul [expletive] ... ”Your ass backwards if you chase hoes, chase the cheese they come with the [expletive].”
Listen, I’m not saying you’ve got to be Dr. Albert Schweitzer to follow your blockers and carry the rock through the hole. It’s just that as giveaways go, the Kool-Aid MAACO treatment and the odd phraseology should have been the deadest.
I’ll make one last attempt here to say something positive about Maroney’s time here. Because in spite of what we’ll all remember, it wasn’t all Riverdancing at the line of scrimmage and regurgitating the ball on the line of scrimmage. Maroney had his moments, for sure. The 14-carry, 156-yard performance he had in ‘07 to bring the Pats’ record to 15-0. The back-to-back 122-yard games in the cold in that year’s playoffs. The nine TDs he had last year. But none of them were so memorable and game-changing that I could remember them without looking them up. But the injuries, the fumbles and all those times I saved household chores to get them done while waiting for him to hit the hole? Those we’ll all remember.
And so now the Patriots are playing out the remainder of the season with a backfield that could star in a Hoveround commercial together, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has fewer career carries than names. And we can officially declare that Laurence Maroney was one of the biggest busts in recent memory. Unfortunately, it took me until his trade to see it, but now I’m glad it’s over.
The Patriots got sick of seeing LoMo run in SloMo. And now? He’s NoMo.