There’s a pervasive myth surrounding the New England Patriots, and it has nothing to do with Deflategate, Spygate, or any other gate in the history of gates.
Instead, we’re talking about the idea that the Patriots wide receivers are in the NFL only because Tom Brady makes them look good.
There’s no doubt playing with perhaps the greatest football player of all time will make you a better pass-catcher. We’re not here to dispute that. But on this week’s Make Me Smarter football podcast, Cris Carter and Nick Wright explained just how good the New England receivers are — and why people consistently underrate them.
CRIS: Now, they might not have the dimensions you want. They might not be 6’2″ to 6’4″. They might not be 225 like Julio [Jones]. But what they do have is the things you want in a receiver. All of them catch the ball very, very well. All of them are very, very smart football players that they can play multiple positions inside of the formation. That is very, very important to New England. They’re also low-maintenance guys. Bill Belichick has decided that when I slice up the pie, as far as a cap, I’m not going to spend a lot on wide receivers.
So you have to fall in these categories of: not being a guy that’s a whole bunch of maintenance, a guy that’s very smart, a guy that’s not going to be demanding from an economic standpoint. And these guys are good athletes. They’re just as good an athlete as I am. Now, their body might not be imposing as me at 6’2″ and 215, but they still are very good athletes.
The crux of the issue, as Carter and Wright discuss, is that the Patriots wide receivers are white. So despite the fact that Chris Hogan was an outstanding college athlete, and despite Julian Edelman’s ridiculous speed, people stereotype New England’s receivers. Yet as Carter points out, the Patriots receivers have the same skill set that made him a Hall of Famer. In fact, he would have loved to play for Bill Belichick’s team.
NICK: The other part of the race thing is it makes us think they’re all Danny Amendola. Chris Hogan was a star lacrosse player. He ran a 4.5 40. He’s not 5’9″, he’s 6’1.5″. If that guy were a black guy, people would be like, “Man, that’s a hell of a receiver.” People see him and our own, like, unintentional biases make us think these guys can’t be great athletes.
CRIS: You said they’re unintentional. Some of them are intentional. There are certain people that think that because of skin color, you can’t play a certain position. … For me, I had the same skill level as these guys. Short-area quickness, great route-runner, very, very dependable. I wish I could have played for New England. Now, I’m probably a better all-around athlete than these guys, but I think Edelman is 10 playoff receptions from becoming the second all-time receiver?
Then Carter hits us with the perfect analogy:
CRIS: If you have a half a gallon of pure orange juice, and a half a gallon of manure, and you put ’em all together, Nick? You end up with a gallon of manure. You don’t have a half a gallon of freshly squeezed juice no more. … Tom Brady is working with something, and then he’s putting the Tom Brady magic on top of the juice. That’s why we’ve got a gallon of goodness coming out of New England, it being white, black, short, tall — those guys can play football.
Carter and Wright aren’t done making you smarter about the Patriots receivers, though. They continue to discuss that particular set of skills shared by Carter and New England’s pass-catchers — and how the Patriots take advantage of certain areas of the field to maximize their passing game.