Curran: Why Pats' spending spree is different than others


| "We are not collecting talent. We are building a team."

The first time I heard that phrase uttered in relation to the Patriots was probably about 20 years ago. Mighta been Scott Pioli. Mighta been Bill Belichick. Mighta been something either one of them heard said by Ted Marchibroda, Dom Anile, Ernie Accorsi or some other wise old head who showed them the NFL ropes. But the phrase became a philosophy and – as you can see in this video -- attained “put it on a placard” status within the Patriots scouting department.

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There is no refuting that, since last Monday, the Patriots collected talent in a nearly unprecedented way. Not just for them. For anyone. They bought up so many guys owner Robert Kraft felt compelled to acknowledge a splurge like this is usually snickered at in Foxboro, saying to MMQB’s Albert Breer, “We always used to make fun of the people who won the headlines in March—but here I believe we really improved our team.”

The only year comparable? The 2007 offseason when they brought in Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and Adalius Thomas. Pretty good yield that year, going 16-0.

How’s this one gonna go? We’re seven months from late October, which I generally believe is the time you can make proclamations about what a team is all about. But the reason the Patriots talent-collection spree is different from the ones we’ve seen other teams enact through the years? They know how to build a team with the talent collected.

Look, Belichick just went 7-9 with an expansion-level array of players at tight end, quarterback and wide receiver. He went 7-9 with a defense that allowed opposing running backs to go through them like poop through a goose. He went 7-9 with (like everybody else) no offseason and no preseason but also with more opt-outs than anyone else and a yawning void where the greatest quarterback in NFL history used to be.

What the Patriots trotted out there was offensive. The roster didn’t have to get that bad. Belichick flailed around in the draft and ignored key positions and the positions he addressed last week validates that he agreed that the players he’d drafted just aren’t good enough. And still – STILL! – Belichick and Josh McDaniels conjured ways to hover near .500.

And to me, that’s why it’s OK if you want to hang a tiny banner on your computer that says, “NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, 2021 OFFSEASON CHAMPIONS.”

Because now that Belichick’s got those players in house – and believe this, he wouldn’t have gotten them here based on personality alone: he PAID for them – he only needs to wind them up and go.

I asked Kyle Van Noy on Wednesday if this team was motivated at all to serve everyone a plate of “STFU” to everyone who danced on the Patriots’ grave.

“I think that’d be nice, but I’m not too worried about that because I think we all have different chips on our shoulder,” he said. “I have a lot of (individual and team goals). It’s 0-0. Everybody can say whatever they want. But everybody’s gonna be ready to go. It starts with the head man. He knows what he wants and he knows how to get the pieces he wants and puts it together.

"I just think as players, we just gotta come together as quickly as possible and have one goal in mind. Everybody’s got that right now. I can just tell you from speaking to some of the players how hungry and excited they are. And I’m really excited. I got a big chip on my shoulder too.”

Ranking Belichick's first-round picks during Patriots tenure

The interesting thing about the 2021 Patriots is that – unlike other woebegone teams who think they found their pots of gold in free agency – the Patriots are not going to be thinking they arrived with a bunch of signings. Because they happen to know what the destination looks like first-hand. And they are a long way away.

The motivation level for some of these players? Through the roof. If you’re David Andrews, Lawrence Guy or James White, you are back in New England after the rest of the league said, “No thank you.” If you’re Cam Newton, you’ve heard nothing but criticism about your throwing ability. If you’re Jonnu Smith, you just got told your particular skillset can be the catalyst for an offense directed by the most accomplished offensive coordinator in the league. If you’re Van Noy, you just got turned out by Miami after one season for no apparent reason.

If you’re Bill Belichick? You just listened for the past two years to a recitation of your personnel failures on repeat and had open discussion as to whether Tom Brady was the chicken AND the egg for the New England dynasty.

Is there unfinished business? No doubt. Quarterback – kind of a critical spot – is not sorted out. Even if Newton is better by osmosis and Jarrett Stidham takes the step he didn’t take last offseason, the Patriots still have one of the worst QB rooms in the league on paper. The offensive tackle spots concern me. There’s business to be attended to with Stephon Gilmore.

But it’s not even April Fool’s Day. There’s a load of time to find “the right guy” at quarterback not just “a guy.” And if the right guy isn’t there? That’s no small detail. But neither is it impossible to overcome if the team built with the talent collected is in the hands of a master craftsman.

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