History has shown us that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick believes every player on his team is replaceable, with the possible exception of quarterback Tom Brady.
Belichick absolutely refuses to take extraordinary steps to convince any player to stay with his team and has released, traded or refused to compete for some of the best, best-loved players the Pats have ever had.
In Belichick's mind, with his coaching, his system and his quarterback in place, any reasonably talented player can prosper and no one is irreplaceable, no matter how much they have contributed in the past.
I think that the 2013 season will give us our best indication yet as to whether or not Bill's philosophy is right.
You've probably already figured out that this is going to be a post about Wes Welker and Danny Amendola, haven't you?
To be frank, the thought of Welker playing for the Broncos and catching passes from Peyton Manning inspires just a little bit of awe in me. If I were Denver, I would have killed to bring Welker's passion, intensity and hands to my team. I think that one move will make a huge difference for the Broncos, as long as their line play continues strong.
That being said, it's clear to me that we're going to find out for certain if Belichick is right this coming season. He has let Welker walk and plugged Danny Amendola in his place in the Patriot offense. Let's see if the Patriots continue to hum.
Now, don't get me wrong, Amendola is no slouch. It's not like Belichick has gone and hired Johnny CouchPotato off the street to take Welker's place but do we really believe that the Patriot system is so perfect that there will be no dip in performance with Welker replaced by Amendola?
Although we all know that statistics often lie, they are also a good place to start in any comparison.
Danny Amendola is going into his fifth year in the NFL, the first four with the Rams, and his stats look pretty good: he's caught 196 balls for 1726 yards and seven TDs, with an 8.8 yards-per-catch average. Not bad. He's coming off arguably his best year as a pro with 63 catches for 666 yards, three TDs and a 10.6 yards per catch average.
Not bad, not bad at all.
Now let's look at Welker. Ol' Wes has been in the league for eight years, the last six with New England. His career totals are awesome so far: 768 catches for 8560 yards and 38 TDs, with a yards-per-catch average of 11.2. In his six years catching passes from Tom Brady in New England, Welker has AVERAGED 112 catches per year for 1243 yards, six TDs and an 11.4 yards-per-catch average.
In simple numbers, Welker has been in the league twice as long as Amendola but so far has about four times the catches, four times the yards and more than five times the TDs. His yards per catch average is about 25% higher than Amendola's.
Counter argument for a moment. Those stats are all well and good but let's not forget that Welker had the benefit of being the go-to receiver for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time on one of the powerhouse teams of recent history for six of his years. Amendola has played on a mediocre team with a talented but struggling quarterback and not much team success.
Do I have a conclusion? No. My point is that the Amendola-for-Welker tradeoff provides us with one of the most clear tests of Belichick's approach to personnell decisions we've ever had.
For Big Bill to be proven right, however, it's not necessary for Amendola to match Welker's recent stats in his first years with New England; all we have to see is little or no disruption in New England's overall offensive performance and success
If, however, the Patriots start to sputter on offense without Welker, well then maybe we have to admit that Belichick and his no-one's-irreplaceable-but-me-and-Tom philosophy isn't quite so perfect.