September 03, 2003
From Belichick To Buffalo, Milloy Switches Bills
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
Wonder if Lawyer Milloy is of more help to the Buffalo Bills this Sunday on the sidelines as an advisor rather than in the game?
It makes sense, actually. Milloy can't possibly learn the Bills defense in three days or so. So, put him on the sideline next to Gregg Williams and let him tell his new coach what's coming. Put Drew Bledsoe on the other side of him so that the old "deer in the headlights" aspect of Bledsoe's game won't likely happen.
Yeesh. For all those folks out there who are trying to appease themselves by hopping on the Rodney Harrison bandwagon, the worst possible scenario involving the release of Milloy happened Wednesday. It would have been okay if Milloy had gone down to the NO and enjoyed a reunion with Tebucky Jones. It would have been all right if Daniel Snyder had enticed the former Patriot strong safety with several million dollars to come to our nation's capital -- yeah, we play the Redskins this year, but at least he goes into the other conference.
But noooooooooo, spoken in John Belushi style. For the second straight year, a Patriot cornerstone player shuffles off to Buffalo. And you thought the Exit 16-W pipeline was bad. Losing Curtis Martin to the Jets still stings, make no mistake. But the Bills are now the proud owners of both Milloy and Bledsoe. Let's hope that the travel plazas at Iroquois, Chittenango and Seneca along the New York State Thruway are all up and running well, so as to make Milloy's trip across the Empire State as pleasant as possible.
Meanwhile, all of Patriot Nation has gone into a denial/healing phase. We're still okay with who's left. Harrison is an upgrade, and whoever gets to play free safety (maybe Johnny Damon is available) is being treated as literally an afterthought. Antwan Harris? Aric Morris? No prob. Anyone can play free safety. Who needs Lawyer and his fat contract?
Okay. Let's assume Ron Borges of the Globe was a little off in his assessment of things when he said, and boldly so, "Regardless of what you may hear or read in the next few days, the Patriots\' defense is not as strong (Tuesday) as it was Monday." Let's also assume that Milloy's stats (taken for what they're really worth, of course) indicate that his career is on the downside at the ripe old age of 29. Let's also assume that he has really lost a step (which this writer saw firsthand in San Diego last year when LaDanian Tomlinson's long touchdown run early in the second half came about thanks to a running lane opened up by him running right through Milloy) and that his rushing defense skills have definitely tapered off. And finally, let's further assume that he is still no better at defending fleet wide receivers than he was as a rookie in Super Bowl XXXI when Antonio Freeman beat Milloy on an 81-yard touchdown pass that put Green Bay up for good, 17-14.
Man. Anyone ever tell you what happens when you assume? You know, what it makes out of you and me?
If all of these assumptions be true, and they all could well be, the Milloy release took a horrid turn for the worse on Wednesday with his signing with the Buffalo Bills. This was the one really bad thing that the Patriots could not have had happen to them, despite a few bits to the contrary which we will, in fairness, mention later on. Milloy will be on the other team this Sunday, which by itself is a lousy way for the Patriots to begin their season.
The Patriots had their way with the Bills twice last year. In "allowing" Bledsoe to go to a division rival, Bill Belichick came out smelling like a rose in that deal. In both meetings last year, the Patriots dominated Bledsoe and the Bills, and made Bledsoe look like he always does against a Belichick defense -- confused, harried, and overmatched.
But when you allow Milloy to join the Bills, it makes for an even worse situation. Milloy can, as stated at the top of the article, help Williams and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride how to better scheme against the Patriots. He can also be of great help to former teammate Bledsoe, especially given his poor track record against Belichick.
It also has to be demoralizing for the Patriots to see a captain of theirs suddenly playing for the other side. The mere sight of Milloy in a Bills uniform will be hard to stomach for a while. The same thing did happen with Bledsoe, but Bledsoe had to go and the Patriots had time to prepare mentally for the shock.
Naturally, there is a train of thought which sees Milloy leaving New England, and even going to Buffalo as a good thing. Thank goodness for the Pollyannas of the world.
Many folks think that Harrison makes for an ideal replacement for Milloy. The day after signing Rosevelt Colvin, Belichick surprised everyone in Patriot Nation by signing the former Charger strong safety, giving the Patriots two All-Pros at one position. It can now be concluded that Belichick had Tuesday in mind when he signed Harrison. This deal really comes down to who can play free safety, not whether or not Milloy can be replaced.
People hem and haw over the cap ramifications, and state that more maneuvering could have been done to keep Milloy a Patriot. The Patriots did free up around $4 million with this move, though it remains to be seen what good $4 million can be right now. Assuming Ty Law is dealt with in a similar manner next year, the Patriots will be miles under the 2004 cap and in a position to secure some more high profile free agents without damaging the core of the team. Again, it's not a nice thing to plan for 2004 when 2003 hasn't happened yet, but financially, the deal does make some sense.
Finally, there is the oddest and craziest scenario of them all, and that is Belichick actually hoping Milloy would land somewhere like Buffalo.
One rumour coming out of Foxborough was that Charlie Weis was behind this deal (though the most reliable of reports have Milloy wanting to be released above everything else). The thinking here is that Weis can exploit Milloy's weaknesses to a degree which would offset any information Milloy can give to his new coaches. And this actually does make sense: Milloy's biggest problem is that he is a subpar pass defender, especially on deep and intermediate routes. Keeping in mind the earlier allusion to Super Bowl XXXI, it is not unreasonable to expect Weis to try and throw at Milloy, especially with speed wideouts like David Patten, Deion Branch and Bethel Johnson running like hummingbirds out there. If the Patriots choose to emphasize the pass, and if three or four wide receiver sets are used, it could force Milloy to have to defend in man-to-man coverage, and that would present a huge advantage for the Patriots.
That is, if Milloy does play Sunday like Williams said he would/might.
Sadly, the most Milloy can do to hurt the Patriots is to sit out the game, take a week to learn the Bills defense, and to spend this Sunday hanging with Bledsoe and the coaches and help them come up with plays the Patriots would have problems dealing with. Of course, there's always the possibility that Belichick might totally change his defensive packages and come up with something which Milloy perhaps knows nothing about.
There. Feel better?
Nah. They were under the cap anyway. Call the deal off. Bring Milloy back.
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