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NFL Open Thread: Capped Out Edition

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Bill Belichick speaking at length during the regular season is unusual and entertaining:

Belichick explained the team is relying more on young players for a number of reasons. He specifically lists the team’s salary cap situation. Belichick says the Patriots have been up against the cap in previous seasons, and are fixing that situation in 2020. Because of that, he says the team lacks its usual depth.

On top of that, Belichick says a number of players opted out, and that the team is dealing with injuries. His response doubles as an answer to Charlie Weis’ question and also an explanation for why the Patriots are just 2-4 this season.

The second excuse is a valid one. The Patriots lost some useful-to-critical pieces, and it was probably inevitable that they would be victims of their own success as players weighed the risk and reward of playing under COVID — what does Dont’a Hightower have left to accomplish? He has a point about the cap issue too — after all that was the reason the Pats had to draft N’Keal Harry over A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf and Sony Michel over Courtland Sutton and D.J. Chark, so no wonder they arguably the worst collection of receving options in the NFL.

Seriously, you can’t put much fault in any particular whiff (aside from the folly of blowing a first round pick on a low-ceiling running back when your only decent wideouts played high school football with Methuselah.) But the fact is that their recent draft history has been abysmal — the best offensive skills player they drafted after the (in)famous two-TE class of 2010 was…James White, certainly a useful 3rd down back who played a critical role in the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever but not a foundation player for the offense. The last few years that haven’t come up with much of anything at any position. (The Pats drafting like Mike McGagnan’s dumber brother since Trump was inaugurated is certainly some kind of poetic justice.)

And until Cam Newton became available for almost nothing, this was the QB he planned to start the year with:

Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in NFL history. But Jarrett Stidham may be the worst quarterback in NFL history.

Stidham wanders onto the field for each of his increasingly-frequent relief appearances like a neighborhood kid whose hippie parents forbade any form of competition venturing onto the sandlot for the first time, a violin bow tucked under one arm and a Dungeons & Dragons module under the other.

Each throw looks like the first time in his life he ever tried to move his arm that way. He doesn’t appear certain his goal is to throw the ball to a teammate. Stidham couldn’t have a weaker command of the quarterback position if he were raised by a family of friendly sea otters.

Stidham went 6-of-10 for 64 yards and an interception while mopping up the 33-6 New England Patriots Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The interception was ugly. His few completions were solely the result of a soft prevent defense. Stidham even tripped over his own feet during one of his first dropbacks: Daniel Jones, but without the initial burst of success.

Stidham now has six interceptions on 27 career pass attempts. Compared to Stidham, Nathan Peterman is a cross between Joe Montana and Hercules.

It takes a coach as brilliant as Belichick to get stuck with a quarterback situation as bad as the one the Patriots now face. Belichick, the legendary rehabilitator of broken down veterans, must have assumed that he could graft rickety Cam Newton onto an offense that was built for the diametrically opposite type of quarterback, saddle him with a receiving corps that would embarrass the Jets and strut away with another AFC East title.

The Patriots’ “adjustments” for Newton consisted of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hot-gluing some designed runs onto a Tom Brady game plan and the organization making lots of patronizing public comments about Newton’s professionalism and work ethic to assuage the sort of fans who get their Newton information from websites that Joseph Goebbels would consider a little edgy.

Did I mention that the guy chosen directly after the plodding gentlemen’s-replacement-level RB Belichick went with in 2018 was the 2019 NFL MVP?

It’s true that the Patriots are always drafting at the bottom, but other top organizations like the Ravens, Steelers, Chiefs, Saints, and (at least on offense) Seahawks have been able to get premium talents without premium picks, and of course the Pats used to be too. Belichick can build another winner, but 1)they can’t keep having o-fer drafts and 2)he needs to get more serious about finding a replacement for Brady than he’s been since Kraft made him trade Jimmy G.

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