Originally posted on This Given Sunday  |  Last updated 5/24/12


Ever since Tom Brady and Belichick teamed up to win a few championships early in the aughts, the football community has held the team in this high regard that they can do no wrong.

Trade for Haynesworth and Ochocinco? They can get away with it because maybe these guys will buy into the "Patriot Way". Draft a kid from some unknown school? They can get away with it because it is all part of the master plan. Ignore glaring needs in your skill positions? No big deal, because Belichick will make it work.

Enough.

At what point are we going to call a spade a spade? They have been unable to get over the hump for the better part of the last decade, and we will all soon forget that magical season they had that Plax and Eli cut short. That season showed what Brady can do with a serious downfield threat along the lines of Randy Moss, so what have they done since then? Given him so serious threat down the sideline.

Gronk, Hernandez and Welker are all well and good for the dip and dunk, but there is never a threat of a big play which allows opposing defences to stack up and allow the plays underneath.

It would have made sense that at least one big time receiver or running back would have been brought in this offseason, considering the going rate for skill position players is at an all time low. But no, instead they call up Joseph Addai and Brandon Lloyd, decent players in their own right, but both far enough removed from their glory days that a significant impact might be out of the question.

The defence isn't exactly a thing of beauty either. After getting gouged consistently last year, it was clearly a priority to help the unit through the draft. But while Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower will surely step in and help the front seven from day one, the teams most glaring weakness last year was the secondary, and little was done to help that unit.

Devin McCourty got exposed, Kyle Arrington is after all still an undrafted corner and Ras-I Dowling could not stay healthy. They got a perceived steal in the seventh round when first round talent Alfonzo Dennard was still on the board, but the likelihood of him causing trouble on and off the field seems high considering his propensity for punching cops. Tavon Wilson was taken off the board in the second round, but everyone assumes its a genius pick because of the man in the hoodie.

It just might be possible that the Patriots have managed to fool us all along, and that they really are not quite as good as we think. They clearly have needs that they consistently struggle to get past, and while they can beat up on all the weak divisional opponents that they want throughout the season, they have been unable to win the games that matter in the second season.

Have we all been fooled? The almost unbeaten team was something to behold, there is no question of that. But since then it was been one failed trip to the postseason after another. Brady is not getting younger, and as the weapons around him continue to age as well, it is unclear how much longer this charade will continue.

Welker is unhappy with the chunk of change that he got, as the most prolific slot receiver in the league believed he deserved more. But heaven forbid the Pats actually pay one of their soldiers for his continued success. Thats not the "Patriot Way". Everyone can be replaced right?

Well if Welker goes down this year with any sort of ailment, the wideouts will include Deion Branch, Anthony Gonzalez and Donte' Stallworth, not exactly a group that would be feared by even the most meager of their opponents.

The running attack? The Law Firm headed for greener pastures in Cincinnati and Addai hasn't gone for 1,000 since 2007. Danny Woodhead is cute and all, but he is no every down back. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen? Have fun with that.

This team could reach a point where Brady simply gets frustrated with the lack of tools at his disposal, the defences continued inability to stop anything coming their way, and the arrogance of the coach who can do no evil.

The honeymoon has gone on long enough, and while it was very nice that they won a trio of rings almost a decade ago, they are no longer the feared team that they once were. Belichick is an evil scientist and all, but maybe taking guys that didn't even have a draft grade is not the greatest thing for the future of your franchise.

Or maybe they will go out and win it all this year.

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This article first appeared on This Given Sunday and was syndicated with permission.

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