New England Patriots Hall of Fame inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi and ESPN Boston beat writer Mike Reiss record the New England Patriots podcasts on ESPN Boston, and they recently did their first pod of the 2013 season. In my opinion, it is one of the best podcasts they have done, as Bruschi gave some incredible insight on what it means to be a veteran in this league, thoughts on Aaron Hernandez from his perspective, and the kinds of players the Patriots need to target. To me, the last of those three topics was the most interesting, especially due to the turmoil surrounding Hernandez and second-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (the former moreso than the latter, on that note).
From ESPN Boston, “Bruschi reflects on some of the players signed during the championship run of the early 2000s, citing the likes of Otis Smith, Anthony Pleasant, Bobby Hamilton, David Patten etc. as “quality veteran guys.” A player like Pleasant, for example, had character that was “unrivaled.” Bruschi thinks more of those players need to be targeted. “Instead of getting experience and character, now they lean toward getting youth, speed and immaturity. That’s where it has to change,” he says.”
It is no secret that the New England Patriots have gotten a lot younger on defense, and they recently underwent a youth movement at the wide receiver position. It should be noted, though, that the Patriots added a number of high character rookies in Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, T.J. Moe, Logan Ryan, Steve Beauharnais, and Duron Harmon. However, they also took fliers on a few prospects with character issues by deciding to take chances on Michael Buchanan, Jamie Collins (those issues are overblown, in my opinion), and Mark Harrison.
What Bruschi says is interesting, and the Patriots could re-sign a guy like Deion Branch if they feel the same way. Mike Reiss recently wrote in a mailbag piece that although Brandon Lloyd is the superior player and would have more of an impact on the Patriots offense, he believes that Deion Branch has a better chance of re-signing. Although both are veterans, I am sure everyone agrees that Branch has higher character and is more likely to aid the young players on the roster. Personally, I feel that Branch is done in this league and that doesn’t warrant his decline in ability, but I am also not a fan of bringing back Lloyd either (unless if he is dirt cheap and Dobson and Boyce look awful in training camp).
Character is important in building a football team, and it is fair to wonder whether or not the New England Patriots have enough veteran character guys. However, I feel that the Patriots have taken the right amount of risks and have plenty of high character players among the younger crowd (Devin McCourty is one name that jumps out). Adrian Wilson is a recent signing that fits that bill as well. I am a proponen of taking the most talented guys and building the best team available, but sometimes you do need to target those quality veterans. I hope the Patriots decide to sign one of those kinds of guys, but they also have to be able to have the talent to make a positive impact on the roster. Veteran leadership is important, but you can’t have an albatross on the roster either who only gets by on his experience.
What do you guys think? Are the New England Patriots not targeting enough quality veterans? Should they do what Bruschi says and go after another vet or two who adds intangibles to the table? How important are intangibles and experience to a football team and at what point are they more important than talent? Some really difficult philosophical questions to answer.