Richard Martin

Did The Vikings Set The Patriots Up For Disaster?

Created on Jul. 31, 2013 12:39 AM EST

Bill Belichick has the reputation of being Merlin. He’s pulled off coup after coup, performing miracles with talent that, aside from quarterback Tom Brady, appears to be somewhere below great and perhaps only a bit better than average. 

Fans and sportswriters widely assume that any trade involving New England will end up benefiting the Patriots. He has the same reputation as fellow Boston coach Red Auerbach, who snookered many an NBA executive. As, for example, when he traded the No. 1 pick in 1980, which ended up being Joe Barry Carroll (a k a Joe Barely Cares) and an additional first-round pick for the third selection, a draft pick that was used for Kevin McHale, with Robert Parish thrown in.

Belichick has won three Super Bowls, but fans are quick to note that of the sports teams in the Boston area, (Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) have all won since the Patriots garnered their most recent Super Bowl trophy.

Aaron Hernandez, we all know, has been arrested and charged with homicide. Those stories have provided fodder for Tabloid Nation. It’s a compelling story, and we’ll all find out plenty more during his trial. No one knows how that will play out.

Sports Nation is more interested in the football ramifications of the Hernandez story. Inquiring football minds want to know: How will Belichick manage to pull it off, turning a disaster into another great season?

If the Patriots do well this year, it might be Belichick’s greatest miracle of all. If he doesn’t, many will go back to Draft Night.

That was when he traded the Pats’ No. 29 pick to the Minnesota Vikings, which was used to select the man widely believed to be the receiver with the most potential in the draft, Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson. Minnesota gave up its second, third and fourth round picks for that. Most thought Belichick got the better of that deal.

Many draft analysts said the Vikes drafted well, getting two fine picks in the first round, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes, when they should’ve been off the board. But they also thought that ol’ Bill was crafty, wangling a deal that left his boys with lots of draft picks, and that the Vikings gave up far too much for the one pick.

Perspective has changed that view. The two teams both had weaknesses at receiver, but the Vikings appear to have a much stronger receiver corps than last year. The Patriots seem to be weak at that key position with Wes Welker gone, Hernandez jailed and Rob Gronkowski hurt. 

Brady’s a great quarterback, perhaps the best in the league. But he needs decent receivers. Who does he have?

As fate would have it, one of them is Michael Jenkins, who played for Minnesota last year. He was OK, not great, making a great catch that helped the Vikes beat the Packers in the last game of the year. He’s not known for speed.

A brief scan of New England’s receiver roster reveals only a couple of names fans will recognize, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. If there’s a deep threat on the roster, it isn’t clear who it would be.

Now you have to ask the question: Would Belichick have drafted Patterson if he hadn’t made the trade with the Vikings?

We may never know the answer to that question. Belichick, among his many tricks, can turn into the Sphinx. Reporters find it difficult to get any quote at all out of him, much less a revealing one.

And no one has ever made much money betting against Belichick. But his receiving corps appears weak. I can almost hear Brady raising his voice to his coach. 

Where will the Patriots turn to for receivers?

Perhaps the Vikings. After all, they have a spare tight end, John Carlson, who signed for big bucks last year, got hurt and missed the whole season. It’s unlikely he’s going to replace Kyle Rudolph as Christian Ponder’s favorite target. And the Vikes, for a change, have plenty of good receivers, at least on paper. Greg Jennings, Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Rudolph, Jerome Simpson, Patterson.

What’s certain is Belichick won’t stand Pat. What he’ll do, well, no one knows. He may have more tricks up his sleeve. He’s going to have to prove he’s Merlin for the Patriots to do well this year.

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