Score another one for Bill Belichick.
Of course, I could be talking about any one of a hundred decisions or maneuvers by the Patriots coach. But today's subject is Darrelle Revis.
-- Belichick: I'm not talking Springsteen, I'm not taking banners . . .
-- Belichick: 2015 loss to Dolphins was 'sickening'
-- Cardinals coach calls out players by name after loss to Patriots
Belichick nailed this one. When he strongly advised the Krafts to pass on type of five-year, $70 million contract (with $39 million guaranteed) the perennial Pro Bowl corner signed with the Jets in the spring of 2015, I -- along with many in New England -- howled. The Pats had just won the Super Bowl, Revis had helped transform the defense into a championship-caliber unit, and it felt at the time like the Pats choosing finances over talent.
Eighteen months later and Revis is a shell of his former self. Last season, he showed up to Jets camp out of shape, apparently suffered a nagging leg injury, and never recovered. Last Sunday against Cincinnati, the first game of what some believed would be a comeback season, Revis just looked plain lousy.
Meanwhile, the Pats continue to get much better play from Malcolm Butler for around $15 million less a season.
That's what we call . . . wait for it, wait for it . . . value.
There's no better example of Revis' fall from grace than his play against one player: The Bengals' AJ Green.
With the Pats in Week 5 in 2014 (the infamous "on to Cincinnati" game), Revis got in Green's hip pocket early and never let him breathe. When Revis was on him, Green managed just four catches, one of which he fumbled after a Revis strip. For much of the game, the Bengals avoided Green altogether. The only time Green got free was in the second half when Revis left the field for one play with hamstring tightness and Andy Dalton took advantage with a TD strike to Green over Logan Ryan. But when Revis was out there, Green was a non-factor.
Fast forward to last Sunday in New Jersey, when Green went up against Revis again and came away with 12 catches (on 13 targets) for 180 yards and a huge 54-yard yard TD over Revis (who said he was looking for safety help). This time, the Bengals not only didn't avoid Revis, they targeted him. When they needed a few more yards to set up a go-ahead field goal attempt in the final minutes, they went right at him and picked up 11 yards with another toss to Green.
Same players. Same matchup. Two different results.
So what happened? I don't think a player like Revis loses his talent overnight. But he probably lost his drive. He was always a player who liked to be pampered, always expected special treatment on the field and off. But when joined the Pats in 2014 he was still without a title and had one final contract score in his sights. He was motivated.
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By the time he went back to the Jets, he had finally won his ring and the contract in New York figured to be his last big score. So what was left? He had his money and he had the jewelry. Some players (see Brady, Tom) are driven beyond those things. But some aren't. Some, after they've accomplished everything they set out to accomplish, simply play out the string. (See Revis, Darrell.)
My guess is that Belichick saw something from Revis in 2014 that gave him pause over what he'd get out of him going forward. The analysis couldn't have been based solely on what Belichick saw on the field, because Revis was mostly outstanding that year. It was a character evaluation -- and Belichick nailed it. For the umteenth time he was right and I was wrong. So there. Mea culpa.
Now on that Malcolm Butler contract . . .
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