Outside of the two flawless "Do Your Job" specials, trying to get the Patriots to talk about their organization is like having a boozy brunch with a Buddhist monk under his final vow of silence. You better hope they have bottomless mimos because there's going to be a lot of awkward pauses.
The best part about former players like Teddy Bruschi and Randy Moss finding their way into broadcast booths is every now and then they can provide a little insight as to what goes on behind the curtain. And that's what we have here with NINK. I'm not willing to say I'm happy that this is NINK's biggest contribution so far this season, because I'm still positive he suits up for us at some point, but for now I'll take as much of this bearded SOB as I can get. This is cutting edge analysis from NINK, and since he arrived in New England we've always been able to count on him setting the edge. (I'll show myself out)
The big stories in playing time from this past week were the lack there of for Malcolm Butler and Alan Branch. I've already addressed some of this in previous posts this week, so that shouldn't be news to any of you. Butler played 47 of 65 snaps (Gilmore played all 65) and that number was only that high because Easy-E Eric Rowe left with an injury. That might seem like a high percentage but in the past Malcolm has never gone off the field. Alan Branch had it much worse, playing only 6 snaps.
A lot of takes out of the gate trying to explain these decision were repeating the same thing. Match ups, match ups, match ups. The Saints have big receivers. The Saints have small shifty backs. We don't need tiny cornerbacks or slow linemen in the game. I called bullshit right away on this, and that's obvious.
Even the coaching staff didn't go that route to defend themselves. They went with the more traditional Patritos response, basically saying everything you've ever done means less than nothing to me, all I care about is what you're doing for me right now.
Bill: "Well, look, we're into a new season, so I don't think anybody's performance this season is really where it needs to be or where it will be. We all need to do a better job -- players, coaches -- all of us across the board. Hopefully, we'll all continue to get better during the course of the year. That's why we practice, and meet, and come in here and work hard, so hopefully we'll all be able to improve."
Mad Matt Patricia: "It's all about this year. I think what things have gone down in the past don't really matter to us. We're trying to get better for this year and the guys that are out there and positions are where we think they need to be right now currently, and to help us win that particular week. So, certainly with Eric Rowe involved, having a full offseason, OTAs, training camp and doing a good job for us from that standpoint. I think all those guys that go out there and play have earned some time on the field, and whatever that is, depending on how the game is going, kind of just plays itself out when we're in the particular situation we're in."
Allow me to break out my Rosetta Stone for you real quick. The translation of the above is "If Alan Branch doesn't get hit fat ass to start two-gaping and if Malcolm Butler doesn't stop having technique breakdowns when turning his hips for the football then I don't give a flying Elvis fuck how many run stuffs or Super Bowl winning picks they USED to have."
I'm not mad these guys were benched. I'm mad about their performance. And so is Bill. But his job is to figure out a way to get the best out of them. So the question becomes, what point does the benching serve. I agree with NINK. He said, "Yeah, I saw they had some personnel changes. I think they were stirring the pot to try and get guys motivated. I know they do a lot of different things to try and motivate guys. They'll push buttons to try and get the best out of people. At the same time, they're trying to get the best guys on the field."
You have to know who you're dealing with. Some people need to be coddled. Some prefer tough love. God knows this isn't the first time Bill has pulled this stunt. Last year Jabaal Sheard was playing so below our standards for him he was left home in week 11 against the Niners. He never got the starting job back, but he sure as hell showed more effort the rest of the way.
People have been sent home for being late to practice. Sometimes it breaks a player and essentially ends their tenure with the team. (See Thomas, Adalius) Others strive to be better. It helped to Malcolm once already when his plane got delayed and he missed a practice. Bill benched him at practice for three weeks and then he put out a pro-bowl caliber season. Hopefully Malcolm will react the same way this time. I'm more worried about Branch, who I could see making a stink about this. And if you make a stink, you become a distraction. And if you become a distraction, you get traded to the Browns real fast. So both these guys better check their egos at the tunnel when they make their way onto the practice field this week. There are plenty of hungry guys below them on the depth chart looking for playing time.
Most importantly though, I hope they figure it out. This could be the last year both of these guys are Patriots (Butler almost definitely) and I had big things planned for them in their final season. No reason it shouldn't end with hoisting another trophy, but it's going to take solid contribution from 21 and 97. Bill might get paid to ignore their past performances, but I know the fight is inside them somewhere, and Bill also gets paid to bring it out.