Here are all the “weapons” the Patriots need. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
If the Patriots do nothing else in 2014 (and by the grace of God they’ll do lots more), one thing they’ve already accomplished is to effectively end the position of wide receiver in the NFL as we know it.
I’m not arguing they’ve made the position extinct. They’re not bringing back the 1925 Chicago Cardinals full-house T formation offense and putting all wideouts out of business like they’re telemarketers, travel agents or newspaper sports columnists. What I am saying is that the Patriots are proving once and for all that what I’ve been saying for years is true:
Wide receiver is the most overrated, overhyped and overvalued position in football, if not in all of sports.
I know even saying this is heresy. You could go to a matinee of “The Interview” at the Showcase: Pyongyang and see less shock and outrage than when you say wideouts don’t matter much, but I stand by it.
Admit it. You’re one of the ones who’ve been clamoring for years for the Patriots to get (choose your cliche) Brady more “weapons.” An “elite” wide receiver who can “play outside the numbers,” “stretch the field” and “take the top off the defense.” And the general consensus is they have done none of those things. Not through through the draft by (more cliches) by “moving up in the first round” to get “a playmaker” who can “make a difference.” And not by getting some high-priced cap space-eating veteran. They’ve handed Brady a receiving corps out of the $5 DVD bin at Walmart and asked him to win another championship, even while “his window is closing” (I’ll stop now).
Well, here is why you’re wrong. Prepare to be impaled on the razor sharp Thorn of Truth:
1. The Patriots lead the NFL in scoring.
Right now, as we speak, 14 games into the season (15 for those slappy teams that played Thursday night) the Patriots have put up more points than anyone. More than teams with so-called “elite” wideouts like Green Bay, Indy, Philly and Dallas. And they’ve scored 35 more points than the Broncos, who have a Swiss army knife of depth at the position. Meanwhile, the Patriots’ highest-drafted receiver is Aaron Dobson, a second-rounder who has been a complete non-factor.
And to further illustrate my point, last year I’d argue the Pats were even thinner at the receiver spot. And they finished third in the league in points. One point behind Chicago for second.
2. Championships aren’t won by “elite” receivers.
Defining “elite” receivers as highly drafted, highly paid, highly productive stud-types — meaning the kind that every offseason there’s a hue and cry from the masses for the Patriots to go get — when was the last time a guy who fit that description actually won a Super Bowl?
It certainly wasn’t last season, when Seattle won it all on the backs of Golden Tate‘s 64 catches for 898 yards and Doug Baldwin’s 50 for 778. Those are Brandon Lloyd-type numbers, and they were enough to beat Denver with all its “weapons.”
The year before it was Baltimore, whose best receiver was Anquan Bolden, a slot receiver taken in the second round in 2003 and who led the Ravens in receptions with only 65.
I’d like to concede Victor Cruz of the 2011 Giants to you, because he did have a monster year with 82 catches and 1,500-plus yards. The problem is he was undrafted out of that football factory UMass, so you’re making my case for me.
The point is that if you look back 20 years — back to the days when you needed a Michael Irvin or a Jerry Rice to win a title — the only times since then an elite receiver by that definition led his team to a title were Reggie Wayne with the Colts in 2006 and maybe Plaxico Burress with the Giants in ’07. And even he barely qualifies since he was taken by the Steelers before they got sick of his act and ran him out of town.
3. “Elite” wide receivers don’t win championships.
This is obviously the corollary to the point above. Who are the best wideouts in the game over the last 10 years or so, and tell me which one has a ring? Larry Fitzgerald came close, but that doesn’t count. Demaryius Thomas went to the Super Bowl and got blown out. Julio Jones? A.J. Green? Josh Gordon? Dez Bryant? You’ll find no postseason success at all there.
You can make a case that Calvin Johnson is having the best career by any WR since Jerry Rice. And he’s been in one playoff game. And in it he was immense, with 12 catches for 211 yards and two TDs against New Orleans in 2011. And his team got blown out, 45-27.
If receivers were as big a factor as they’re made out to be, Johnson would have more rings than Jared. And the above-mentioned collection of Pro Bowlers would have at least one.
4. The bust rate on wide receivers is off the charts.
You argue the Pats struggle to draft and develop wideouts? You still bellyache about Chad Jackson (second round) flaming out in 2006 or Josh Boyce (fourth round) last year and you’re losing patience with Dobson so you want them to finally make a move on draft day to get a stud? Do any of these names meaning anything to you?:
If they don’t ring a bell, don’t beat yourself up. None of them ever did jack squat in the NFL except cost the people who drafted them a valuable pick, tons of cap money and, in most cases, their jobs.
My favorite example there is Jenkins, who was taken by the 49ers and was cut after one year without ever catching a pass for them. This would be the same San Francisco team that twice since it whiffed on him came within a play or two of winning the Super Bowl. So in other words, if the Niners had taken anyone who did anything for them — a defensive tackle, a guard, a punter — instead of gone for the sexy pick, they’d conceivably have a championship instead of a coaching vacancy.
5. Great quarterbacks make receivers, not the other way around.
Everybody loves when you spend a high draft pick or a ton of cap money on a great wideout. It’s bold. It’s sexy. Fans, media and fantasy twerps go nuts over that stuff. If the offseason was the Home Show, wideouts would be the home spas. They’re overpriced, impractical and completely inessential, but they take up 90 percent of the floor space because everyone dreams about buying one. You go and fantasize about inviting all your neighbors over for a soak and a drunken hot tub orgy. No one goes to the Home Show to find out how to fix the crack in the basement. So when you draft a position other than a glamor spot like WR, everyone’s disappointed. Even though that’s how the Patriots’ championship teams were built.
The Pats won titles with non-glamorous, unsexy names like Troy Brown, David Patten, David Givens and Deion Branch (65th overall). Those were all the “weapons” Tom Brady needed because they were smart, reliable and on the same page as him. They were in balanced attacks with solid defenses and tight ends who could block and catch. Just like the Patriots have now, and didn’t have when they had the best receiving corps on the planet but still didn’t win titles.
So let’s put and end to the “weapons” talk once and for all. You’re welcome.