Bill Belichick’s decision to
let Wes Welker leaveand replace him with the younger Danny Amendola was one of the most interesting personnel moves of the offseason.
Since Belichick is such a genius player evaluator, he didn’t face the criticism that other executives would have if they made that move.
But this was always an incredibly risky move. And 11 games into the 2013 season, it looks like he made a miscalculation.
Belichick let go of a known quantity and replaced him with a guy who only projected to be as good as that known quantity.
When you compare Welker and Amendola from 2009 to 2012, it’s not even close. Welker is the better, more consistent player in every facet. He also missed a minimum amount of games compared to the injury-riddled Amendola. Yet it was Amendola who got the long-term contract from the Patriots, for roughly the same annual salary as Welker:
The decision to dump Welker in favour of Amendola was based on one thing: age.
Belichick is a master of rotating his roster — getting rid of ageing players right before they drop off and become officially “old.”
But when we refer to a player’s age as a mark against them, we’re really talking about injuries. Being old doesn’t make you bad at football, being injured does. And since you become more likely to get injured as you age, older players tend to have less value.
Despite this week’s concussion scare, Welker has been perfectly healthy. He has been durable this year, just like he has for the past four years.
Amendola is the one who has been hurt, playing in just six of New England’s 10 games (which is roughly his career average injury rate).
When Belichick made this decision last spring, he essentially gambled that a guy who never gets hurt (Welker) would suddenly start getting hurt, and a guy who always gets hurt (Amendola) would suddenly stop getting hurt.
It made sense (regression to the mean and all), but it has backfired so far. Right now Welker is having a positively Welkerian season (61 catches, 9 TDs) and Amendola has been unable stay on the field (29 catches, 1 TD).
Tom Brady might only have a few years left to make a final Super Bowl run, and the loss of Welker made his job much more difficult.