This one is for the Patriots historians ...
If you’re a sports radio enthusiast or dare I say connoisseur like me, then you may recall listening to the dynamic Patriots writer duo, “The Touchdown Twins” Kevin Mannix, formerly of the Boston Herald and Ron Hobson, formerly of the Patriot Ledger. I loved listening to those guys originally with Eddie Andelman on any and all of his shows, then later on during the original NFL Sunday show of the 90’s with Dale Arnold and former Patriots Pro-Bowl linebacker, Steve Nelson.
Once upon a time, when Patriots fans were starved for information, “The Touchdown Twins” were a tonic for the soul, even when the news wasn’t good. Basically any Patriots talk was welcomed for those who were clamoring for it. Contrary to public opinion, we were out there. I was one of them. Ron Borges covered the Pats too, but for too many years being a Patriots fan on its own was hard enough, those who loved the team didn’t need him piling on which he was one to do.
Regardless, as I was watching and enjoying the Pats literally run their way to victory over the Dolphins on Sunday, a story that the aforementioned “Touchdown Twin” Ron Hobson once told on the old AM dial struck me.
Dateline 1981: Hobson was telling the story of a conversation he had with then Patriots Head Coach Ron Erhardt, whom two years earlier took over a very talented Patriots team, constructed by and subsequently deserted by its coach and creator Chuck Fairbanks. The talent was there and Erhardt’s Patriots just concluded the pre-season with a perfect 4-0 record. The year prior, the team was 10-6 so there was reason for optimism. As Hobson told it, he greeted Erhardt, congratulated him on the strong preseason, insinuating that the coach must feel good heading into the regular season; to which Coach Erhardt replied, “We’re in trouble.”
Explaining himself to Hobson, Erhardt simply told him that “They showed too much.” Translation, the play book was emptied and published for all to see before the games that mattered even started. The result? The Patriots went 2-14 that year and Erhardt was fired.
I don’t think this team is going 2-14. In fact, I think they could and should be a playoff team, but as I watched on Sunday that memory of Hobson’s story did occur to me; a story that had long since been buried in the deepest areas of my Cliff Clavin-like brain. For some reason, my brain stores a fair amount of useless and innocuous information like this and it surfaces when triggered.
Sunday, that old story by Hobson got triggered.
As I watched the Patriots roll out a variety of different personnel packages, RPO’s, different formations and plays we simply haven’t seen in New England, my first feeling was enjoyment, it was fun to watch. As the game went on however that old Hobson story occurred to me and I wondered, are the Pats selling out to win this game? How many plays do they have like this? How effective can they be over the long haul? And like Erhardt’s 81’ Patriots, are they showing too much?
In a league that rewards good weekly game-planning (look no further than your own New England Patriots under Bill Belichick), I wonder how affective Sunday’s game-plan can be moving forward. Were the Dolphins ill-prepared for it? Or are the Patriots suddenly so good at it that maybe it won’t matter? I don’t think the latter is true. Several NFL defenses these days are really good. Many of the defensive coaches are as well and are smart defensive strategists, certainly capable of adjusting as needed.
If you’ve been reading me the last two-plus years then you know I’m a total believer in Belichick and McDaniels for that matter, but I’m just wondering how much they have up their collective sleeves for this style of play. How effective can this offense be and for how long? Lots of different looks on Sunday and lots of variety in terms of the playbook was revealed. I’m just wondering how deep it goes. Hopefully for the Patriots sake, it’s as deep as that memory of a rather benign story told on this station more than a couple of decades ago.