Whelan & Dealin’

Ben Whelan

Is anyone else scared that there are four wide receivers from the University of Florida in the Patriots organization? Over the years, more crappy wide receivers have come out of Gainesville than felons have come out of Tallahassee. Since 1990, eighteen Florida receivers have been drafted, 12 were taken on the first day and three were first-rounders. Eighteen receivers is not an unbelievably huge number to be drafted over the course of sixteen years from one, big-time program; this is not an oddity. The strange thing? These receivers have a combined total of zero pro-bowls and three seasons over a thousand yards receiving (all belonging to Seahawk Darrel Jackson). It is absolutely mind-boggling for a football powerhouse like Florida to not be able to produce one decent receiver out of all of the 18 that were drafted; I mean sheer probability dictates that one of them other than Darrel Jackson should do something decent in the league, and it just doesn’t make sense that they should all go belly up once they reach the pros. Some people blame longtime UF coach Steve Spurrier for his gimmick schemes that make all his receivers look, some blame injuries, but for whatever reason, receivers from Gainesville just can’t cut it as pros.

This brings us back to the question of the hometown team: If these guys have such a huge reputation for being underachievers, why on earth do the Patriots have four of them (UF product Kelvin Kight is on the practice squad)? After losing the bulk of the receiving core in the off-season, the Pats drafted young speedster Chad Jackson from the University of Florida in the second round and signed former Charger (and Gator) Reche Caldwell to be a number two receiver behind Deion Branch. He had never been great in San Diego, but he had had a bunch of injuries and there weren’t very many other options, so it seemed like an ok move. I mean, who’d ever heard of Russ Hochstein or some of the other no-names the Belicheck and Pioli regime have dragged out to Gillette and then turned into valuable assets? Then Deion Branch was traded at the last minute and the Patriots scrambled to put together a semblance of a receiving core and had to rely on the Caldwell to step up and be the premier receiver he had never gotten a chance to be in San Diego. His response? Five catches for 118 yards over the last five games. The young phenom Jackson, also asked to step up and take on some of Branch’s duties and be a target for Brady responded similarly: four catches for 51 yards and a score, and the touchdown came against the Jets so it doesn’t really count anyways. So after this level of futility during the first five weeks from the guys they expected to carry the load, what do the Patriots do? Sign Jabar Gaffney, another Florida receiver who has been a disappointment so far as a pro.

There was a very good reason why all of these guys were available (did I mention Gaffney was still unsigned by week 5), and it begs the question, how much smarter than the rest of the league do the guys in Foxboro think they are? As I mentioned, they’ve done this before where they bring in cast-offs from other teams and guys other people gave up on and turned them into decent players. We as Patriots fans have docilely gone along with these moves since the beginning of the Belicheck era, (“In Bill We Trust”) but personally I think its time to start asking questions. The sports public in this town won’t be kept at bay for long, and soon they’ll be all over you for every mistake that would have gotten a free pass in previous seasons (see Donald Hayes). If they want to silence the doubters and regain their Carte Blanche, there is a very simple remedy: bring home another trophy.