We appreciate you convincing Bill Belichick to back up the Brink’s truck for Darrelle Revis. As you know, our Bill can be stubborn and reluctant to change. You can’t blame him with how proven his methods are. But you have a way of making him see the light by lighting up his defenses. You and Demaryius Thomas are welcome to come and visit Revis Island any time. Signed: the Foxborough Faithful. P.S. — We really enjoyed your performance in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Revis has landed in Foxborough on a two-year, $32 million deal (it’s really one year for $12 million), as the Patriots have landed the game’s preeminent shutdown corner. Like a Revis hip flip, it’s a sudden change of direction for the Patriots to have the highest-paid player at a position where nickel and dime have been more than just the personnel packages the Patriots deploy.
Bringing Revis aboard is also a tacit admission from Belichick of an inexorable truth of defense in today’s NFL — it’s about skill over scheme.
To combat the pass-a-palooza of today’s NFL, cornerback has become like quarterback. Everyone who has an elite one looks a lot smarter. Enter Revis, a man who takes blanket coverage to duvet-level denial.
Yes, Manning seems to have a knack for getting Belichick to reconsider his gridiron gospel. There was the wide receiver binge of 2007 after being out-gunned by Manning and the Colts in the 2006 AFC Championship game and the famed fourth-and-2 call in 2009.
Then we have last season’s AFC Championship game, where absent Manning’s new Denver teammate and ex-Pat, Aqib Talib, the Broncos caught more air than one of those slopestyle skiers from the Winter Olympics. Manning threw for 400 yards, completed 74 percent of his passes, and led the Broncos to scores on six straight possessions to defeat the Patriots, 26-16.
The days of playing Randall Gay, Earthwind Moreland, Hank Poteat, and any other warm body at corner and winning Super Bowls on Belichick’s blueprint are over. The Patriots have been a bit slow to adapt, not prioritizing pass rushers and cocksure man-cover corners at a level commensurate to the rest of the league.
Since 2010, no team in the NFL has allowed more net passing yards per game (265.7), passing first downs (886), and pass plays of 25 yards or more (146) than the Patriots.
Quarterback Tom Brady has carried Belichick’s defenses like a baby bjorn.
So, bringing Revis to town wasn’t a reinforcement of the Patriots’ system of values and value. It was an acknowledgment that talent trumps any long-held team-building tenets, that loading up for a year isn’t foolhardy and that having the best bottom third of the roster is not the way to stand atop the NFL.
(I’m waiting for the bowl of porridge concession stands at Gillette this season, by the way.)
The former smack-talking, snack-eating Jet didn’t come here because of the Patriots’ methodology.
Revis came here because of their capital, both monetary and human. He will benefit from Brady’s golden arm and Belichick’s beautiful mind and still retain his alpha male status as the highest-paid corner.
Here are the primary starting quarterbacks that Revis has played with during his career: Chad Pennington, Kellen Clemens, an aging Brett Favre, (Off the) Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, and Mike Glennon.
Revis once referred to Belichick as a jerk and got in a silly snit with Patriots reporters on a teleconference in 2009 after Belichick intimated Revis had safety help when he shut down Randy Moss. But that’s water under the Gillette Stadium bridge for a chance to win.
It’s a quarterback-cornerback league. Now, the Patriots have the best of both.
Credit Belichick for playing the Revis situation masterfully. He was shrewd enough not to send a draft pick to the Buccaneers to secure Revis, forcing Tampa Bay to cut him.
The result is that the Patriots got Revis at a 25 percent cash discount from the $16 million salary he had, got to set his cap number for this season at $7 million, instead of $16 million, and didn’t have to surrender a draft pick to the Buccaneers.
The deal pays Revis a $10 million signing bonus this season, a guaranteed base salary of $1.5 million, and allows him to earn up to another $500,000 if he is on the active gameday roster for at least 15 games. The Patriots hold an option for 2015 that would pay Revis $20 million ($12 million comes in an option bonus).
The refrain around here when there is any critique of the Patriots is how can you criticize a team that has gone to three straight AFC Championship games? But it’s worth considering a few small tweaks to the formula when you have lost the last two by double digits.
The signing of Revis to replace Talib, who signed a six-year, $57 million deal to change sides in the Brady-Manning horse race to history, stands in stark contrast to the way the Patriots went about replacing the last lockdown corner who valued his bank account more than a place in Fort Foxborough.
When Asante Samuel left after a first-team All-Pro season in 2007, the Patriots replaced him with consignment shop corners, bringing in Fernando Bryant, Lewis Sanders, and Jason Webster during the offseason and Deltha O’Neal the week of the ’08 season opener.
Back then, I asked a front office member who had worked with Belichick about the Patriots’ rationale.
“He kind of thinks as long as he can get somebody that plays disciplined in the system they’ll be OK,’’ he said. “He doesn’t have any fear that I have to get a top-flight corner.”
Six years later, the hubris of the Hoodie has given way to pouncing on the game’s best cornerback in his prime years.
From Buicks to pizzas to All-Pro corners, Peyton Manning really can sell anything.