The 2015 New England Patriots began their Super Bowl defending campaign by opening the season 10-0. Down the stretch, due to key injuries and ineffective play the team imploded to end the regular season finishing with a record of 12-4. (the worst record in NFL history by a team to begin at least 10-0 since the schedule expanded to 16 games in 1978)
The 2-4 end to the season was the worst ever by a Belichick-Brady team. It cost them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which directly lead to a premature end to a season full of promise in a loss to an offensively anemic Denver Broncos.
The first big move of the 2016 off-season was the releasing of WR Brandon LaFell and TE Scott Chandler, in doing so the Pats will save about 4 million in cap space, which they desperately need.
In a season with the highest of expectations, (despite losing Revis, Browner, and Wilfork in the off-season on defense) the Patriots were bringing back almost the entire offense of the 2014 Super Bowl Champion team.
One of the biggest free-agent signing for the team in fact was TE Scott Chandler who in his time with Buffalo had a tendency to always be a thorn in the side of the Pats. I personally was excited about the signing when it happened and still was for the first few weeks of the season.
We all know how deadly the combination of Gronk and Hernandez was for the short period they were together and healthy at the same time. While Chandler was never the talent of the Bristol Pistol (nickname I just made up on the spot NBD) he was on paper the best TE the Pats have had to compliment Gronk since Hernandez "left". It just didn't work out, for tight ends blocking and pass catching are pretty much the biggest responsibility and Chandler really didn't do much of either. Most notably his performance against Denver in the regular season where despite having one of his best statistical games of the year, he did only have 5 receptions on 11 targets, highlighted by many key drops. After the week 13 loss to Philly, he basically never played again, (one target for the rest of the season including the playoffs) and today he was released, a move that did not surprise many.
See ya Scott, we barely knew ya. The best thing Chandler contributed all season IMO was the inspiration for a tweet I had about Chandler Jones' acrobatic INT v. Denver in week 12.
Which leads me to the real story, the Patriots moving on from Brandon "JoJo" Lafell, another move that didn't really surprise me. He battled injuries, but for the most part, Patriot fans were disappointed in Lafell's production in 2015. The nickname "LaDrop" quickly began to stick after a dreadful performance against the Jets in week 7 after returning for PUP.
Lafell did not score a single TD that counted for the Pats during the 2015 season. (I hate the Cauldron but couldn't find other footage of the dance vs. Houston for his one TD that didn't count this season)
Much like Chandler, Brady began to lose trust in Lafell, which is all but a death-sentence for a Patriot pass catcher. (however Danny Amendola was able to resurrect his relationship with Brady) JoJo was essentially not a part of the team's offense in the playoffs.
While Lafell frankly sucked in 2015, I really want to focus on how big a part of the Patriots success he was in 2014.
To put it in very simple terms, the Patriots do not win Super Bowl XLIX without the production of the one they call JoJo. The LSU product was a huge part of the Pats offense, racking up nearly 1,000 receiving yards (953) and 7 TDs in the regular season. He was also a key contributor to their success in the postseason, bringing in 13 receptions for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Lafell's biggest highlight and most memorable moment in his short time with the Pats IMO is his game-winning TD reception against the Baltimore Ravens in the 2014 Divisional Playoffs. It may also be the best pass of Brady's career which is saying something.
JoJo also scored the opening touchdown of the Patriots' 28-24 Super Bowl XLIX victory against the Seattle Seahawks.
While his career with the Pats did not end well, you cannot take away from what Brandon Lafell did in 2014. I compare it to Shane Victorino for the Sox in 2013, yeah he sucked in 2014 & 15 but without him the Red Sox don't win the World Series in 2013 so to me his time with the Red Sox was a success.
Lafell was a vital part of the 2014 Patriots in which they ended their 10 year title drought. While the end was ugly, in my eyes the Lafell signing was well worth it. I will always appreciate what he did for New England and have no malice against him (despite a huge drop in production this year that may have lead to the Patriots not winning the Super Bowl this year) unlike many former Patriots.....cough, cough.....Revis
I wish nothing but the best for you Brandon "JoJo" Lafell. Thank you for all you did for the Patriots.
Good Luck, just don't sign with the Jets, Broncos, Ravens, Giants, or Dolphins and you'll always be in the good graces of Patriot fans.
P.S. Nothing personal, just has to be done, our time together is over.