Offensive linemen aren’t the most glamorous guys. They’re big, fat, smelly, usually bearded. You never see one of them with a supermodel draped under their arm. The only time you hear their name or number called during a game is when they get a penalty called against them.
At the same time, they are the lifeline of a team. They are the pounding heart of a team. You can have the greatest running back — say an Adrian Peterson — in the backfield, but if he has two or three defenders bearing down on him as soon as he gets the ball handed off to him, he’s not going anywhere. Same with the quarterback. You can have the greatest quarterback — say a Peyton Manning or, hmmm, Tom Brady — back there and if he has two or three 6’7″ linemen with arms extended in his face every time he takes a five-step drop, he won’t be effective.
Tom Brady knows he can’t do it himself. I can assure you he is embarrassed by all the praise bestowed upon him for his career. He understands that it is his surrounding cast that helps transcend him from an above average NFL quarterback to one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Remember that credit card commercial from early in his career where he has his offensive line following him around everywhere?
That’s why Brady was rightfully upset when the Patriots didn’t re-sign his favorite wide receiver, Wes Welker, last year. Now, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, he is “very upset” over the Patriots trading away six-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Logan Mankins. And he should be.
The offensive line is a quarterback’s protection. They are his bulletproof vest. The Patriots’ decision to skimp on their offensive line is like a police commissioner sending out his officers with less effective bulletproof vests due to budget constraints– or, better yet, so they can have better shoes.
I understand Logan Mankins is not the same player he was five years ago. But he is still Logan Mankins— the heart and soul of this team. The biggest flaw of the Patriots teams since the days of Rodney Harrison, Corey Dillon, and Tedy Bruschi is they’ve become a soft, finesse team. They became what we mocked the 2001 St. Louis “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams for being.
Mankins was the only one on the field you could trust who would come to the defense of his teammates. Some might call him a “dirty” player, but every team needs a player like that. The Bruins had Shawn Thornton. The Patriots had Logan Mankins. Mankins was the Patriots’ enforcer. He was a dominant presence in the locker room. And he can still play. You can’t replace that.
And Mankins was as tough as they come. He was no prima donna. One year after holding out for a new contract, Mankins played the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL in his right knee. He may have played the Super Bowl that year with torn ligaments in both knees. Think about that for a second. In nine seasons, he only missed seven games due to injury. That’s unheard of for offensive linemen.
A quick look back at the Patriots 2014 draft should have been an indication that Mankins’ spot on the team was in jeopardy. The Patriots drafted three offensive lineman. The thinking at the time was that veteran Dan Connolly was the one whose job was in jeopardy. As it turns out, it was Mankins who was on the hot seat.
There has been speculation that the Patriots traded Mankins as retaliation for holding out in 2010 and saying some disparaging remarks calling Robert Kraft a liar. Mankins, after receiving his new contract, denied calling Kraft a liar.
There was little doubt that Mankins didn’t fit the Bill, pardon the pun. He was more outspoken than most. I remember following a game early last season that he expressed in a TV interview that he wished the Patriots would run the ball more. Seems innocuous enough, but you just don’t do that in Foxboro.
I think it’s ridiculous to think this deal was done for retaliation for him holding out in 2010. I understand the saying “revenge is a dish best served cold,” but five years later. Come on.
This deal was done for the one-word reason which should be emblazoned in neon on Gillette Stadium– VALUE. The Patriots didn’t think the 32-year-old Mankins was worth the $6.25M he is owed this year and the $6.75M he is owed in 2015 and 2016. They think they have younger, cheaper options that are ready to fill in and do a near-comparable job as Mankins.
That’s the way the Patriots do business. You want to know what the “Patriot Way” is, there you have it.