The Strange and Terrible saga of the Fixer, part 2: The Hoodie, Great and Powerful

Danny Amendola is not Wes Welker.

So he doesn’t have big shoes to fill, and he shouldn’t try.  He should just be himself and sooner or later, even the most ardent Welker supporter will come to appreciate his game…

Jan 20, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the fourth quarter of the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

…but there are going to be some fans that will stem on this and cause their faith in the Patriots to come into question, and that’s something personal between a fan and themselves – but before these fans go all Hunter S. Thompson on the Patriots, take a few minutes to reconsider.

It is times like this that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick becomes vilified as the unfeeling cyborg that ships our favorite players off to play elsewhere – then we bitch and moan when the Patriots don’t look as sharp as they could the first few games and blame Belichick for dumping this guy or that guy…

…but then around Thanksgiving every year, fans start to realize that the moves that he made, while unpopular at the time, are now paying off and the Patriots are once again favorites to go to the Super Bowl.

It’s an annual tradition, the vilification of the hooded one.

He expects it – he just doesn’t care.  He’s a businessman, and his business is building a football team that can dominate their opponents, and that’s important to remember here.  He does not make the moves he makes with personnel to just win football games, he does so to dominate – and with a mentality like that, and with the dedication he shows to his job, appearing to be ruthless and unfeeling just goes with the territory.

Anyone who saw Belichick sharing the Gatorade shower with his father as the clock ticked down on the most recent of his Super Bowl victories, knows that the man has a heart.  Sharing that moment with Tedy Bruschi dumping the cooler over both of them was a heart-rendering example of the affection and respect his has for family and friends in a personal respect.

In fact, tales abound of his respect and admiration for players, but successful is the businessman who can manage to separate his personal feelings from his business dealings, and both Belichick and his boss, Bob Kraft, have been very successful indeed.

The Kraft story is just as moving, but more of a private and personal thing, so I’ll refrain.  Anyone who is a Patriots fan knows the story – but even then, staring mortality right in the face, being almost entirely consumed with grief, there was Kraft doing his job – and his job was to carry on the good work that he and Myra had spent a lifetime doing together.

Were it not for Robert Kraft and his no nonsense approach to life, love and business, who knows how long the lockout would have lasted.  Myra told him to go fix it and, with a heavy heart, he did.

So when I hear Bob Kraft say he loves Wes Welker, I don’t doubt it for a second.  When Bill Belichick said he wanted him on the team, I don’t hesitate to believe it…

Just like when Belichick says when you build a team, you build it to be playing it’s best ball after Thanksgiving.  How many times have you heard Belichick say it?  How many times have we heard the players echo this statement?

How many times have we seen it come true?

Right, every single season – including the Matt Cassell led 2008 season.  They didn’t make the playoffs, losing a tie breaker for the division title, but they were playing as well as anyone in football when the season ended, and there are many that feel the Pats would have made some noise in the playoffs.

Bottom line, it is dark business doubting Bill Belichick.

It has been a little over 48 hours since the NFL New Year was celebrated with the opening of free agency, and criticism of Belichick is mounting for his seeming passive approach, and every free agent signed by another team piles another swine atop the Belichick pig pile – and again, we tend to dismiss the lessons we have been taught.

Free agency is a process.  You target the players you want, set a dollar amount for said players and wait.  Yes, wait.

Unlike the unpleasant business that Belichick had to address yesterday with Welker where Bill felt compelled to set the price for slot receivers to finally resolve the “Welker situation”, he now reverts back to form and waits for the market to drive the lower tiered players toward Foxboro.

The deeper the NFL gets into free agency, the less and less money there will be.  Free agents will get nervous knowing that the money is drying up when, suddenly, Oh look, it’s Bill Belichick with upwards of $20 million in cap space – and since teams like Miami, St. Louis, Cleveland, Seattle and, yes, Denver blow their cap loads early on, it’s going to be teams like New England and Cincinnati feasting on the below market price talent that wins teams championships.

In part one of this twisted tale, the question arose:  If the Patriots are going to a more tight end-centric attack that was going to limit Wes Welker’s impact on the offense, why immediately sign a guy that was widely considered to be a “Welker Clone” to take his place?

The answer to that is that he is not a Welker clone.

Amendola is taller, faster. more explosive and, ultimately, younger.  He was the Rams go-to option on a mediocre offense and lined up not just in the slot, but also did work on the outside, projecting him as a possession receiver with a hybrid skill set that combines the work in space skills of a Welker and the sideline work of a Lloyd, only with more yards after the catch.

Versatility?  The ability to line up just about anywhere in the formation and to satisfy the route tree?  Sounds like a perfect fit for the 13 personnel package to me…

…and just the fact that Belichick was exploring the possibility of surrendering a 2nd round draft pick last season to pluck Amendola away from the Rams as a Restricted Free Agent tells you everything you need to know about why the Patriots moved on Amendola.

Does that make Lloyd expendable, too, since Welker appeared to be?  Not necessarily, but the Patriots have just three days to make that determination before a roster bonus of $3 million kicks in on March 17th.  After a season which saw him reasonably productive as a tight rope walking, outside the numbers possession receiver, reports of “erratic behavior” have surfaced and allegedly threaten his roster spot.

And if they do end up cutting Lloyd, there’s no shortage of receivers out there that will be anxious to settle their status, and Belichick will be right there to help them out…

It is very dark business to doubt the Hoodie, Great and Powerful.  It’s even more sinister to doubt his boss.  When they said they loved Welker and wanted him to return, they meant it…but it had to be on their terms.  When he rejected them a second time, Belichick did what he had to do.

And Belichick is going to continue to do what he has to do.  It’s a business putting a team together, and for the past decade and a half, there has been no one better in the business.

Wouldn’t you think he’s earned at least the benefit of the doubt?

Topics: Bill Belichick, Bob Kraft, Danny Amendola, New England Patriots, Wes Welker

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