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Monday, August 07, 2006

Will Patriots be rotten with missing core?

August 6, 2006

BEREA, Ohio – No doubt, the New England Patriots won three of the last five Super Bowls because of tremendous coaching and terrific personnel decisions.

But they also won because they had special players, something casual fans seem to overlook when discussing the strategic genius of coach Bill Belichick or the eagle eyes of personnel man Scott Pioli.

Willie McGinest, Adam Vinatieri, Ty Law, Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison were among the best at their positions during that run. And along with Tom Brady and Tedy Bruschi, they formed the core of those championship teams, the lone exception being the 2001 season, when Harrison was still with San Diego.

Now, McGinest is gone, Vinatieri is gone, Law is gone, and Harrison and Bruschi are injured. Couple that with star wide receiver Deion Branch holding out for more money and we could be on the verge of finding out whether one system can actually trump multiple aces.

McGinest doesn't buy it.

Continued...to "Read More" click link below


CONTINUED:

“When you start losing your core guys, it's kind of hard, especially when the guys who are coming in don't work as hard or play as hard,” he said this week between practices with his new team, the Cleveland Browns. “It's not always the system. Like I always say, 'Yeah, it's a great system (in New England); but you've got to have great players to play in that system.' I think we kind of found that out last year. The system was great, but it couldn't save us.”

The Patriots overcame some injuries to win their division with a 10-6 record, but their quest to three-peat ended with a second-round playoff loss at Denver.

“You had Ted Johnson retire and we had injuries,” McGinest said of 2005. “You had Seymour hurt early and Rodney Harrison was out. Those are some of our core guys, and some of the (replacements) coming in were terrible. Duane Starks, he came in and played like trash. He was terrible. You had other guys coming in that couldn't fill the shoes of some of those guys that had been there for years and (were) your core guys. . .

“You're missing Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Seymour and Rodney Harrison. It was kind of lonely on that defensive side of the ball. . . . As good as this system is, you've still got to have those core players in that system.”

While disappointing for followers of the team, some of the Patriots' offseason moves were understandable. Matching or surpassing the $24 million deal – $8 million in a signing bonus – that wideout David Givens received from Tennessee would not have been wise. And as nice as it would have been to see McGinest finish his career with the team that selected him in the fourth overall pick in the 1994 draft, there was no chance of that happening for a 13th-year player unless it was on the Patriots' financial terms.

In this age of the salary cap, many teams would rather get rid of a player a year early than a year late. So, when the Browns offered McGinest a contract that far surpassed what the Patriots had on the table, the outcome was a fait accompli.

But that wasn't the case with Vinatieri. He and the Patriots were said to be less than $1 million apart on average salary, but the Patriots chose not to increase their offer and Vinatieri signed a five-year, potential $12 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts, who would have been favored to win the Super Bowl in the 2003 and 2004 seasons if the Patriots hadn't eliminated them.

Vinatieri provided the decisive points as time expired in the Patriots' first two Super Bowl wins and arguably is the greatest bad-weather kicker in league history. The Patriots will choose his replacement from a pool of two: Martin Gramatica, who was out of the league last season and converted on just 57.9 percent of his field goal attempts in 2004; or Stephen Gostkowski, a rookie with potential but no experience.

One of them better excel, because the Patriots are built for close games that are decided at the end. In Vinatieri, they had the ultimate closer. Now, they have question marks, namely: Will New England succeed because of Belichick's ingeniousness or fail because of his arrogance? Can he and the Patriots make another championship run by acting as if they get replacement players on any corner without a dropoff in the team's performance?

We know what Belichick thinks. As he told the Boston Globe during the offseason: “There is going to be transition on every team. Every team in the league has that. We've had players come; we've had players go. That's the way it is.”

Stick a fork in Faulk?
Not that this comes as any surprise, but there is virtually no chance that former San Diego State star Marshall Faulk will play pro football again.

Rams coach Scott Linehan recently confirmed as much to the St. Louis media, saying that surgeons in Los Angeles were unable to repair Faulk's injured right knee. According to Linehan, Faulk's posterior cruciate ligament was so damaged the surgeons chose not to continue the procedure.

“If he wants to have a chance to ever play again, he's probably going to have to have a complete reconstruction,” Linehan said of Faulk, who would be entering his 13th season.
SOURCE:
SignOnSanDiego.com > Sports -- Will Patriots be rotten with missing core?

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