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Why I Said Ochocinco to New England Patriots Would Be A Mistake

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New England Patriot Chad Ochocinco Catches a Basketball Game

Yeah, I know the feeling Chad. Trust me.

I hate making predictions. Why? Cause I hate being completely wrong. I predicted former Cincinnati Bengal Chad Ochocinco would sign with the Raiders and be reunited with his good friend Coach Hue Jackson. But that didn’t happen. Ocho publicly pleaded to play for New England. At the end of the lockout he got his wish.

I couldn’t understand his thinking. I tweeted about it then (before it ever happened, or looked like it would happen). But now I’ll give my full explanation with some added details now that the season is here.

The first reason I worried about Ocho to New England was because of his age (33) and the fact that if you’re not productive on the team you’re traded to, most older players don’t suddenly become “journeymen.” They just fade into existence. Terrell Owens and Randy Moss are exceptions to this rule, but also their level of talent is much greater. But for most players once you’ve spent 9 years on one team, your next stop is your last stop. Better make it a good one.

Actually, this reminds me of Ocho’s former teammate WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Hous and Ocho played together in Cincy, and Hous put up numbers good enough to be considered a free agent prize when he left the team. Seattle was his eventual landing spot.  Seattle released him after one “okay” season (even though he came at a pretty high price). The Ravens picked him up for the veteran minimum and also released him after one season-though I suspect that his lack of production there had as much to do with the team as it did his own abilities. The Ravens could barely get Anquan Boldin involved in big games and he is undoubtedly a talent.

Point is, older players usually don’t get multiple seasons on new teams to prove themselves. It’s now or never. Hous is currently a man without a team.

Now here we find Chad Ochocinco barreling toward a similar circumstance of “well you didn’t have the impact I thought you would so therefore you must suck.” Low production for a season, advanced age, and the appearance that you did really badly on a very good team is an image killer.

And that is right where Ocho seems headed. He was never going to be “the man” in New England. Tom Brady spreads the ball as well as anybody but he does already have favorite targets like Wes Welker and also Rob Gronkowski.

The last cut the Pats made of a popular WR was Randy Moss whose ability to both run a route oddly to confuse defenders—typical of elite receivers— and still manage to get into place for the catch endeared him to Brady (who says he still talks to Moss on the phone). At this point, I don’t know what would be the endearing factor between Ocho and Brady but I hope Ocho finds one soon.

When Doug Farrar  of Yahoo’s Shut Down Corner blog looked at footage of the Pats versus the Bills he tweeted that Brady was often choosing to throw to one of the other receivers even if that receiver was covered and Ocho was open.

That will take time to fix, the question is will the Pats give him that time?

Beyond what low numbers do to a receiver’s future marketability, Ocho’s interest in being on the Pats team was odd to me from a marketing perspective.

When Ocho first started publicly saying he wanted to play for the patriots I suspected that he may have only said it as a way of sticking a finger in the eye of his dysfunctional team. Everyone has great respect for Belichick and Tom Brady and that mentioning wanting to play with them is a great way to highlight the fact that your team is nothing like them.

The Patriots are EVERYTHING that Cincy is not from a playing style, front office, management, coaching, and personnel perspective. But the Patriots also have not won a Super bowl in years, and have not been particularly successful in the playoffs recently.

In 2010, a public plea to play for the Pats is more of a thumbing of the nose rather than a genuine desire win a Super Bowl before your career is over—especially if you’re already 32.

For all the chatting that Chad Ochocinco likes to do, he is well-known through the league for his commitment to conditioning and his willingness to be a team player. I know that second part sounds strange given some of the dramatics that have occurred, but remember, this is Cincy we’re talking about.

But what Ochocinco is NOT known for is what matters the most to the Patriots—discipline on the football field. Heavy film study. Approaching the game from an intellectual standpoint FIRST and foremost. And sacrificing personal production in the interest of Tom Brady spreading the ball and keeping defenses guessing at which eligible receiver will be targeted next.

Why a player who likes to play as loose as Chad, and likes the spotlight as much as he does would want to sign with the Men-in-Black-Memory-Erasing Patriots organization is a mystery. Especially at a point in his career where his antics off field are actually very necessary.

If Ocho is going to remain relevant post-football he needs to keep up the momentum he had with his reality show work. Why would someone who is at the end of their career but wants to remain in the spotlight go to a team where the Coach says he doesn’t “myface or yearbook” and probably doesn’t think you should either?

It just felt like a bad match to me, and it still does.

The whole issue of not having OTAs and mini-camps has reared its ugly head in lots of ways-from the high number of ACL tears to obvious player discomfort with new playbooks and schemes.

Chad isn’t alone, but that doesn’t mean he will keep his job. I’m rooting for him to make yet another one of my predictions wrong. I hope his time with the Patriots is a success.


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