By: Ian Logue
When Patriots fans heard the news that wide receiver Chad Ochocinco was joining the team, it’s safe to say that the majority of fans were excited about his arrival.
They had visions of the former Bengals wide out expanding an already solid group of wide receivers and tight ends that would allow Tom Brady to be that much more effective heading into this season.
He would be that guy that would take this team to the next level, and thanks to his relationship with head coach Bill Belichick he wouldn’t be an issue buying into their system and would fit right in.
He called Foxboro, “heaven”, and seemed genuinely excited about the opportunity to be here.
Are Ochocinco’s days numbered here in New England? (FILE:Icon/SMI)
One training camp and six regular season games later it definitely looked like a better idea on paper than it does out on the gridiron.
His struggles early on throughout the preseason and the first couple weeks of the season while he tried to get acclimated to the offense were dismissed as “growing pains”. After all, this is a perennial contender that has already won three titles and has been in the mix year in and year out for over a decade. They’ve got some of the best players and coaches in the business and two guys that are among the best in history in Brady and Belichick.
This isn’t the Bengals. Clearly for as hard as he tried, Marvin Lewis isn’t anywhere near the same level as Belichick. For a guy who never knew what it was like to go deep into the playoffs, their system was never even in the vicinity of what exists in Foxboro. By all accounts, that system consisted of numbers that apparently must have been pretty easy, because two months later Ochochinco seems to be just as clueless as he was 12 weeks ago when it comes to understanding how things work here in New England.
He had the benefit of the doubt, both from the fans and his teammates. Everyone was rooting for him to succeed. Everyone wanted him to be an entertaining guy off the field, and a productive player on it.
But his playing time has diminished each week, and consisted of just 7 offensive snaps on Sunday. To make matters worse, the one play he did see a pass thrown his way saw him run inside instead of outside, and that was the last we saw of him.
That’s not a good sign, and you have to wonder how much longer they’ll stay with him, or decide to simply cut their losses.
It’s disappointing. But regardless of how bad fans may want him to succeed, it’s clear that so far his place here in New England just doesn’t seem to be a good fit. As the team heads into the bye week, it’s safe to say there will likely be some changes coming over the next two weeks.
Roster spots are tough to come by, and it’s tough to keep one occupied with a guy who only saw 7 snaps after their offense was out there for 69 plays, not including penalties.
Brady talked about Ochocinco on Monday during his weekly appearance on WEEI, and continued to voice support for the receiver.
“Look, he’s working hard at it. We’re all working hard at it,” said Brady. “I’d say there’s definitely a lot of improvement that we’ve made and that we’re going to continue to make. I have a lot of trust and confidence in him. I don’t lack for that at all.
“He didn’t get a lot of opportunities yesterday. I think that’s the reality of that game. There were a lot of other guys that were in there. Aaron [Hernandez] was in there a lot, [Rob Gronkowski] was in there a lot, obviously, Wes [Welker] and Deion [Branch] have been out there. That was just primarily the way it turned out yesterday.
“How it turns out when we play Pittsburgh, I have no idea. It will probably be pretty different there, too. Every single person that’s on the team is expected to contribute. Like I said, I have tons of confidence in Chad.”
Brady’s a good teammate, so he’s not going to throw anyone under the bus. However, clearly there’s something wrong with the way things are working out, and how much longer #85 continues to dress each Sunday here in New England is definitely something to keep an eye on.
After all, we’re nearly at the halfway point of the season. As these games become more and more crucial, Brady and Belichick won’t have the time to try and continue holding Ochocinco’s hand and hoping that one week he suddenly “gets it”.
You don’t even see the two talking on the bench anymore. Considering all the adjustments, the audibles, the changes in the alignments based on the defensive situations, Brady’s got enough on his plate. He spent the entire preseason and the first few weeks of the regular season trying to help him, and probably doesn’t feel like investing time away from looking at field shots and reviewing what the defense is giving him in between offensive series trying to explain things to Ochocinco if it’s just not going to do any good.
That’s just a guess, because what they’re really thinking is something we obviously don’t know. All we can do is look at the fact his playing time is diminishing, and another receiver on the field in his place would certainly make guys like Wes Welker, Deion Branch, and the tight ends that much more effective. Whether or not that guy is someone like Taylor Price or another veteran remains to be seen.
Unfortunately we thought Ochocinco would be the guy to give them that added dimension, but he’s not giving them much of anything. Now the question is whether or not they decide to look elsewhere for more production from someone else.
It’s disappointing, but sometimes you just need to cut your losses and realize that it was a nice thought, but it just didn’t work out. Needless to say it will be interesting to see if New England decides to do just that over the next couple of weeks.