By Konnor McIntosh @easymoney_MAC
Normally when you think of an underdog, you don’t think of a team that has gone 201-71 with five Super Bowl titles over a 17-year stretch. It would appear that that team has players so talented that no one else can compete. While this is true with quarterback Tom Brady, the rest of the New England Patriots roster signifies a different kind of underdog.
During coach Bill Belichick‘s run in New England, the composition of the team’s roster relies on a very simple formula: invest in importance, and re-tool elsewhere.
The three highest paid players come at the three most important positions: quarterback, left-tackle, and middle-linebacker. The captain of the offense, the bodyguard of that captain, and the captain of the defense builds the spine of a football team.
As we saw with the 2016 Super Bowl Champion roster, after those three positions, New England gets the most out of cheap contract players at positions like wide receiver, cornerback and running back. These positions tend to be the ones teams overpay for, as seen with the Lions giving wide receiver Calvin Johnson nearly $113 million in 2012.
Belichick and Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio take risks on players with attitude problems, a skill deficiency or a commodity not valued by rival teams.
Running back LeGarrette Blount was busted for marijuana possession while with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was subsequently released. New England brought him in to be a bruising runner and banked on their winning culture to have him correct his personal issues. Making only $1.025 million, Blount rushed for a league leading 18 touchdowns and provided a balance to a great offense.
After a four-game suspension to begin the season, Tom Brady came back with a vengeance and threw for 28 touchdowns to only two interceptions. What makes this impressive is the fact that star tight end Rob Gronkowski was lost halfway through the season with injury.
The highest reception totals for the team came from Julian Edelman, Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan and James White. These four combined made only $15 million, showing financial value and flexibility.
While you can say that not every one of these four had a great game in the Super Bowl, each had a moment that made an impact on a game.
Julian Edelman, a seventh round draft pick who played quarterback in college, made a ridiculous catch off a tipped pass from Brady that extended the game tying drive. Chris Hogan, let go by rival Buffalo, and Martellus Bennett, acquired from Chicago, each had key blocks on the game-winning touchdown run.
The last man mentioned, James White, was third-string on the Patriots depth chart for most of the season. A fourth round pick making only $699,272 this season, had 14 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown to go along with two rushing touchdowns.
After Brady, White was the next choice for MVP of the game. One may argue that just because you have a low salary doesn’t mean you are a bad player. While this is true, the point of mentioning the salary of the player is that the Patriots get production and find value to be able build a very deep roster.
Even though he gave up a big pass play in the game, the Pat’s best corner, Malcolm Butler, also is an example of the great scouting and salary efficiency of the team. Butler made only $600,000 this season. He joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of small West Alabama University in 2014, who is mostly remembered for his game-winning interception that held Falcons difference-maker Mohamed Sanu to two catches for 25 yards.
Danny Amendola, following the undrafted trend out of Texas Tech in 2008, had 8 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown and the game-tying two-point conversion. Amendola has been known around the league but was not expected to have this big of an impact on the Super Bowl.
While the Patriots as a whole don’t seem like an underdog, they consistently find value on undervalued players and then develop them into a specific role that helps the team.
The Patriots aren’t and underdog, but are a collection of them. This combined with the ultimate underdog, the four-time Super Bowl MVP, a sixth round draft pick out of Michigan, and arguably the greatest quarterback ever, produced another title this season.