Is it Bill Belichick for letting talent go? Is it the players he’s kept? Or is the coaching staff of the group, led by Defensive Backs Coach Josh Boyer and Safeties Coach Matt Patricia?
Let's look at a little history. When Belichick came on in 2000, he brought his protege Eric Mangini along with him, who would serve as his DB Coach. Mangini flourished in his work with the secondary, eventually earning him the Defensive Coordinator title after Romeo Crennel's departure in 2005.
A year later, Mangini himself would be gone, becoming the NY Jets Head Coach. Here's where the secondary coaching starts to decline. Call Mangini what you want - Traitor, Whistleblower, Belichick Wannabe, but Eric knew his football, and did a damn good job at his position.
After the record breaking 2007 season, the Patriots let free agents Asante Samuel, Randall Gay and Eugene Wilson all walk, and then we watched as the secondary saw a steady stream of unprovens, has-beens and nobodys. Not all of them, but a good bunch of them.
And how did they make up for losing those three for 2008 (a combined 122 starts)? Enter rookie Safety Brandon Meriweather, picked 24th overall. Enter Lewis Sanders and Fernando Bryant, and let's not forget UFAs Jason Webster and Tank Williams. How'd that work out? No wonder Belichick brought in Dom Capers to help guide them. That's not an elite group by any stretch of the imagination.
Fast forward to 2009, the Patriots actually brought in some potential talent in S Patrick Chung and CB Darius Butler. Chung was an excellent draft pick who is definitely bearing fruit right now. Butler, as we all know, was a disappointment and joins a long list of departed draft failures.
Looking back, the Patriots have gotten consistently worse in pass defense from 2009 to the present.
Total Passing Yards Allowed, 2009-2011
It’s no coincidence that 2009 also marks the year of former Coaching Assistant Josh Boyers' ascent to Defensive Backs Coach. Prior to joining the Patriots staff, The Muskingum College alumnus was the DC at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Oh, you should hear how they glow about ole Josh in the halls of SDSM&T.
If Boyer's origin fails to impress, meet Matt Patricia. The 1996 graduate of Rensselear Polytechnic Institute was as dedicated as can be when he joined Belichick and company. Word is he used to be so into his work, that he'd sleep in the office. By the looks of him, I think he's the same bearded man I used to see sleep on a heating grate in Downtown Crossing. The guy's beard was a little neater, but I swear it was him.
All joking aside, these are the two men that Belichick has entrusted his secondary to, and the geek squad is failing miserably. Blame them for this sorry performance, but also blame the head coach for his thinking that he could pour syrup on anything and call it a pancake.
At some point, Bill will have to come to terms that ‘it is what it is’ and realize that not every ball boy and lacky can be brought up through the ranks and become an Eric Mangini.
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