The bloodthirsty critics (yes, me too) were ready to pounce. The Patriots would rather be right than be champions. They were more concerned with nailing the market and staying out of Cap Jail than with going for broke. They were going to settle for another Adams Division championship.
They were willing to let Aqib Talib go to the competition. They were more concerned with True Value than Lombardi Hardware.
And then, it all changed.
And Bill Belichick is a genius again. And the Krafts are right again. And the fanboys will scold those who would ever question The Patriot Way.
E Pluribus Bill.
Hours after losing their best defender to the competition, the Patriots locked up the best lockdown corner on the market on Wednesday. They got Darrelle Revis to agree to a one-year contract for $12 million.
How perfect is this? The Patriots didn’t have to break their own rules. They got a better guy than the guy they lost. And they didn’t have to commit any money beyond this season. It was as if embedded stooge Greg Schiano was still calling the shots for Tampa and delivering his top talents to New England. Les Moonves himself could not have drawn this up any better for the Patriots.
It was a whirlwind 24 hours of NFL free agency drama. On Tuesday night, Talib got his $57 million, six-year contract. It was a kick to the gut of Patriots fans. Apparently, Talib was not as offended as Belichick by the vicious hit delivered by Wes Welker in the AFC Championship game. Watching Talib go to the Broncos was a little bit like seeing Jacoby Ellsbury go to the Yankees. It made New England’s rivals better and it made the locals weaker.
But Belichick didn’t flinch. Hoodie stayed the course. No doubt he knew he was going to get his man. There isn’t a star in Tampa who won’t somehow be delivered to Foxborough. Maybe Bill will invite his favorite farm team to come practice at Gillette again this year. The Buccaneers are like those suckers who come to Vegas as guests of the casino. They are treated royally, then go home with empty pockets.
Tampa Bay tried to trade Revis Wednesday, but nobody would give up a draft pick. So, the Patriots waited. And when Revis was released, New England pounced. The Patriots made themselves better, but didn’t have to give up any picks and didn’t have to commit future money. They didn’t have to bend on their everlasting principles. It was the best of all worlds.
This is what those silly doubting (Adalius) Thomases wanted to see. They wanted a little demonstration of urgency. They wanted the Patriots to show them that they are aware of a window closing on the Tom Brady era. Bringing Revis here is reminiscent of 2007, when Belichick went out and got Randy Moss and Welker and Thomas (OK, so that one didn’t work out). The result was an 18-0 run and a brush with immortality in Glendale, Ariz.
While Belichick and the High Chairs pat themselves on the back (nobody does it better), let’s not forget the added dimension of how this is going to play in New York. The Jets and their fans may never get over this. Rex Ryan is going to have to go have a bleepin’ snack. Gang Green is going to see red.
Now we can’t wait until the NFL schedule is released in April. When do the Patriots first play the Jets? Imagine the reaction the first time Geno Smith is intercepted by Darrelle Revis. This is a move that will haunt the Jets, and that is always a good thing.
Revis is a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He is only 28 years old. He gives the Patriots a guy who can stop people in a big playoff game. And he comes here for basically the same money it would have cost to franchise Aqib Talib.
How could we have ever doubted you, Bill, Bob, and Jon?Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.