By: Russ Goldman
On Thursday the Patriots reportedly made inquiries to the Seattle Seahawks regarding possibly trading for Deion Branch. When I read this news I got very excited. At this point it is speculation, and nothing seems imminent on a deal right now. However, it got me to think that the Patriots now have a chance to go back to the future and bring in a player that I believe is one of the better wide receivers in Patriots history. The Pats also have the opportunity to correct a mistake that I think changed their fortune in recent years.
The Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since they traded him. After Branch left the Patriots, the team actually suffered horrific losses similar to the Red Sox during their 86 year drought. The Patriots time without a championship of course is much shorter, but I think similarly painful. It is time to bring back the the wide receiver from University of Louisville. The Patriots need to “reverse the curse” that they appear to be left with after he left.
Now, I am sure many are thinking I am being too dramatic and blowing Branch’s importance to the Patriots out of proportion. I really don’t think so. I will go through a timeline, and show you what has happened since Branch left the Patriots.
Before the 2006 season Branch was looking for a new contract from the Patriots. He was asking for a good amount of money. However, I thought he deserved to be paid as a top receiver, considering his production especially in the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
I think both sides of this dispute were wrong. The Patriots had a number, and Branch probably had his figure. I am assuming they were pretty far apart. Branch also had bad feelings towards the Patriots because of his rookie contract.
Branch held out and was trying to force his way out of New England. The Patriots allowed his agent the opportunity to talk to other teams. Branch’s representative found a deal with the Seahawks and the rest is history.
This trade I believe set off a chain of events that effected the team for years to come. In the 2006 season, the Patriots did not have a suitable replacement for Branch. Reche Caldwell or Jabar Gaffney could not give the Patriots the production that Branch did as a member of the team. The offense suffered tremendously, and I think the lack of Branch showed itself the entire season.
It really was on display in the AFC Championship game against the Colts. There was a key drop in that game by Caldwell that I kept saying to myself that Branch would have made that catch.
That season it was difficult for the offense to move the ball because the opposition did not respect the passing game of the Patriots. I really believe if Branch was still on the team in 2006, the Patriots quite possibly would have had their fourth Super Bowl ring.
Now, going into the 2007 season, the Patriots went overboard trying to improve the offense. The Pats were trying to make up for the mistake of letting Branch and David Givens leave. They brought in Wes Welker, Dante Stallworth, Kelley Washington, and Randy Moss.
Tom Brady in 2007 would lead arguably the best offense of all time. However, looking back at that season, the Patriots completely changed their offensive philosophy. Instead of having a ball control offense, the Patriots became the “Greatest Show On Turf”.
The 2007 New England Patriots were exciting, but they were different. They became a team that was centered around out scoring their opponent by a huge amount of numbers. The championship teams were all balanced for the most part. It did not center around the offense as much as the 2007 season.
The 2007 New England Patriots, as we all know were one drive away from winning the Super Bowl. When I look back at that team though I still don’t see it in the same way as the championship teams. Again, this team lost in horrific fashion to the Giants.
The 2008 season saw the freak injury in the first game to Tom Brady. This season to me though was a huge success. I got to see Matt Cassel develop, and I saw a team play together. That team reminded me more of the “old school” Patriots teams than the 2007 version.
Now, let’s go to the present time where Moss was just traded to the Minnesota Vikings. Before the trade I noticed an offense changing. It was starting to return to the ball control unit of the “old school” Patriots. I am now very hopeful for the future as I see the Patriots going back to their roots.
I say they need to make one move to make this transition complete. The Patriots need to trade for Branch and bring him back to Foxboro. Now, I have heard he’s not the same player. He is 31 years old so I can understand that he has probably lost a step. However, he knows the offense well, and can easily fit back into this scheme.
The speculation in Seattle is they could be ready to move him. I don’t think he has lived up to the expectations of the Seahawks when they traded for him, and it’s looking like he might have finally worn out his welcome out there.
The funny thing is you will be surpised to know that his statistics are very similar to his time in New England. With the Patriots in 53 games, he had 213 catches for 2,744 yards. He also has 14 touchdowns with a 12.9 yards per catch average. With Seattle in 51 games, he has 190 catches for 2,347 yards. He also has 15 touchdowns with a 12.4 yards per catch average.
So his production has been very similar with both teams, and I don’t think you can call him a bust with the Seahawks. I just think the fans, and the media out there for that matter, thought they were getting a Moss caliber type of wide receiver. Branch I don’t believe met everyone’s expecations based on the contract that was given to him.
So I think it makes perfect sense for both clubs to make a deal. The Patriots need a wide receiver, and I think Seattle could use another draft pick as they continue to rebuild under Pete Carroll.
For the Patriots, this is their chance to go back to the future, and fix a mistake they made four plus seasons ago. With the Pats offense changing back into a ball control style of play, doesn’t it make sense to bring back the wide receiver that thrived in that situation?
I am obviously a huge fan of Deion Branch. I don’t expect him to be the same player. If he is 70% of what he used to be, I would be happy. In this transition the Patriots are making I think there is one piece missing that could push the team forward in the right direction. The return of Branch could help bring back the “old school” Patriots, and could also reverse the apparent “curse” that he has appeared to have left them with.