As the white smoke flew, the Patriots waved the white flag on Wes Welker and replaced him with Danny Amendola.
Welker was gone to the Broncos, John Elway and Peyton Manning.
Horse Power topped horse manure. Robert Kraft proved to be full of the latter when he spoke of wanting Welker to be a "Patriot for life" just a few days ago. Kraft inserted his disclaimers, but the message was clear. Perhaps it was all part of the mixed message that so many "in the know" fell prey to in propagating the party line that the market for Welker was soft? Yes, $12 million over two years smacks of collusion. But countering it with $10 million over two years smacks of disdain.
Speaking of smoke(screens), stay tuned for the papal bull from Foxborough via State Run Media and the NFL intelligentsia about how Amendola is a younger, cheaper and quicker version of Welker. Just because he's another small white guy doesn't make him another Welker. The injury-prone Amendola coming from St. Louis bears an eerie resemblance to the injury-prone Carl Crawford coming from Tampa Bay. No one cares about the Rams until they play in London. There's no guarantee Amendola is going to be able to handle the bright lights and big city of Foxborough, never mind the high performance expectations in Archbishop Belichick's diocese.
The Patriots are set to pay Amendola $31 million over five years, $10 million of which is guaranteed. So it's not as if they are afraid to spend money. They just didn't want to spend it on Welker. Last year, when the Patriots offered Welker two years at $16 million, it was still considerably lower than market price, to wit the fact that it cost New England $9.15 million to franchise him.
The "Art of The Deal' trumped the importance of the player. Front office philosophy and ego defeated talent and guts.This is nothing new with the Patriots. Adam Vinatieri, Deion Branch and Troy Brown - among others - were all excommunicated by Pope Robert for daring to seek fair-market value for their services.
The "Patriot Way" is batting about .250 when it comes to allowing "key players" to walk, if things are judged in the prism of Super Bowl titles. Brown, Vinatieri, Branch, Willie McGinest and Ty Law all departed Foxborough for greener pastures since the Patriots won their most recent Super Bowl. The Patriots had plenty of money and cap room to keep them all, but chose to maintain positional salary discipline rather than a football dynasty.
The infallibility of Pope Robert and Archbishop Belichick has faded with each passing presidential election since New England's last Lombardi Trophy. It's hard to blame the loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII on any decisions made by the front office. New England finished 18-1 and not 19-0 primarily because David Tyree caught a ball off his helmet 32 yards downfield on 3rd and 5 with 1:15 left as he was being mauled by the best safety this side of Ronnie Lott.
But the Patriots were just flat outplayed in Super Bowl XLVI, as well as their 2010 playoff loss to the Jets and this past January's AFC title game debacle and fell a player or two short against the Colts in 2006. Welker's drop with four minutes to play at the Hoosier Dome certainly cost the Patriots a victory against the Giants in Feb. 2012, but it was not the reason they lost.
Watching Manning connect with Manningham to beat the Patriots on that Super Bowl winning drive was the stuff of childhood nightmares. Watching the other Manning connect with Welker to beat the Patriots in the AFC championship game won't be less painful. Think Yankee third baseman Wade Boggs on his horse after the 1996 World Series.
How much are the Patriots hated these days outside New England? Well, the rest of the NFL is rejoicing when Peyton "Cut that Meat" Manning and John "He looks like Mr. Ed" Elway got the best of someone else since it was Tom Brady and Belichick.
And after the deal @JohnElway Tweeted: "Holy #@%$ - we got #Welker for $12 million over 2 years! OMG! Thanx, Bob & BB. #SuperBowlXLVII"
Or maybe not. Certainly those thoughts raced through his mind after the Patriots went the extra mile to lowball Welker on his way to the Mile High City.
First, it should have been no surprise that Welker bolted New England once he became a free agent. Nor was it a surprise that a rival team like the Broncos coveted him as soon as possible. Those sentiments about Welker's inevitable exit were shared here last week and here in December.
This foresight was not the result of a secret source, secret sauce, inside information or wiretapped telephone calls. Rather it was the only undeniable logical conclusion to Welker's fate once he was free to kick the NFL's tires, especially given the Patriots' history.
The Jesuits at Marquette knew how to teach logic, whether I was paying attention remains undetermined 30 years later. Pope Francis will have a slew of Jesuit schools to choose from in his NCAA bracket Final Four since five are ranked in the AP Top 25. Perhaps the Holy Father can deliver Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard to the Patriots as penance for the suffering caused by the Ravens.
Welker was Brady's favorite target and he knew how to take a beating, if not make a Super Bowl-clinching catch. Here was a chance for the likes of Elway and Manning, or some other shrewd tandem, to swipe Brady's security blanket, cause rancor in New England and improve themselves in the process, all at a bargain price.
Father, forgive my vanity as I quote myself:
"Welker is not your typical 31-year-old future Hall of Fame slot receiver who made 118 catches last season. He's Tom Brady's target of choice in all the toughest situations. There will be always be a substantial market in the NFL for Tom Brady's favorite target, especially when you can take him away from Tom Brady."
Seriously, why wouldn't they do it?
The Manning brothers already had three of Brady's Super Bowl rings, now they have his binky.
And Brady, or someone close to Brady, or someone who knows Giselle's stylist, or anyone who bothered to speak up about this team was beyond pissed. How could No. 12 not be enraged after restructuring his contract for this? The Patriots stiffed Welker and shafted Brady all at once. Amendola is no cure-all. He's not the poor man's Welker. He's the upper-middle class version of Julian Edelman.
Amendola played under Josh McDaniels in St. Louis. That's going to be portrayed as a positive by the same geniuses who told us Welker would never leave Gillette Stadium. Last time we checked, McDaniels was being crucified after the Patriots put up zero points in the second half against Baltimore. And if Brady was in on this deal from the get-go, he's a lesser man than we thought.
Even working with resident boy genius McDaniels, there's going to be steep learning curve between Brady and Amendola. All this while Brady ages and Gisele fumes as her husband is tied up 3,000 miles away from their Brentwood estate until age 40. She might go after Linda Holliday if given the chance.
Archbishop Belichick was making all nicey-nice via Linda's Twitter account Tuesday night, hitting us with knowledge like this:
Just hours later Patriots fans went into post-Welker apoplectic shock and lost their appetite for the Moules Marinieres at Cafe Des Artistes.
How close were Brady and Welker? Look no further than their trip to Costa Rica last year. Think about this, they went to Central America with their better halves (Welker was engaged at the time) just a few weeks after Gisele tore into Welker and Friends since her husband "could not throw the ball and catch the ball" at the same time.
Football players are people, too. When was the last time you went on vacation with a co-worker and your wife/girlfriend? And did it after your wife/girlfriend inadvertently ripped those same co-worker(s) in public? How about never.
The BFFs are now two time zones apart.
The Patriots allowed Welker to walk and make one of their competitors infinitely better over a lousy $1 million per year. Two years means Manning's biological clock is ticking louder than Brady's.
Patriots fans are justifiably angry today. But there is no justice in the sporting world for players, either. Welker is going to get $6 million this season to get pounded without mercy after each catch. David Ortiz is going to get $13 million to fill in for Jerry Remy this season. Co-hosting "Red Sox Small Talk" can't be far behind.
And $1 million is only $270,000 less than John Lackey gets every two weeks during the season from the Red Sox. While Lackey has gotten the key to the city for showing up in Fort Myers for barely being in shape, Welker caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards this past regular season and was nearly decapitated by Pollard in the AFC championship game. Note to parents: Consider this when deciding whether to give little Jimmy a football or a baseball glove and stocking full of Popeye's gift certificates this Christmas.
Enough fire and grimstone.
In all this fury, Welker's career in New England deserves honor and recognition. He was simply the best and most prolific receiver in the history of the Patriots. He will someday see his No. 83 retired in Foxborough and find a nice spot in the Patriots Hall of Fame, if not the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His drop against the Giants is an undeniable part of his legacy, as was his ooopsie against the Ravens. Welker also caught 11 passes against the Giants in Glendale and was a key reason why New England held a lead when the offense walked off the field with just 2:42 to play on that nightmarish evening. He caught over 100 passes in five seasons and totaled 7,459 yards receiving as a Patriot. And, in the end, he even got to "stick it in Bill's face."
Thanks for the memories, Wes.
Too bad it had to end like this.
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