If you were wondering how going from the Thor and Marvel's The Avengers-era hair to the Thor: Ragnarok look was going to affect Chase Winovich's performance and playing time in New England, your level of interest is as peculiar as it is admirable. But I don't many of us were asking the question because it seemed unlikely he'd ever see another snap in Foxboro. And unless he comes back as a free agent in a few years, he won't.
It's disappointing Winovich didn't work out here. The word "bust" is one of the most overused and lazy terms in the football language, and anyone who applies it to a 77th overall pick who lasted three full seasons with the team that drafted him is the worst kind of person and deserves to be shunned by polite society. But I call him "disappointing" just because he was that type of guy with an oversized personality and a carefully crafted image who could really become a folk hero, if only his play matched his performance. The way Gronk has or Matthew Judon is right now.
When Winovich was a draft prospect, I put him under the heading of "Some Red Flags" and said:
What I say? One man’s passionate, high-octane, nitro-powered funny car of football energy is another man’s self-promoting douchebag. It’s a matter of what kind of player you want to hand your coaching staff. As pleasant a surprise as his speed was at the Combine, some scouts who interviewed him were turned off and thought he was a little too high on himself and his celebrity. Not many of the draft pundits are in agreement, either. I’ve seem him ranked as high as the ninth best prospect at his position and as low as 26th. Wherever he ends up he’ll be a folk hero for as long as his somewhat limited athleticism will keep him around. I’d just hold off on buying your kid his jersey for a year or two. If you can rent one somewhere, that’d be the smart play.
So he came to the Pats, put together a travel series on his Instagram page, going around to different towns in New England and basically tried to tap into the culture and become a thing. And at times, he flashed. It's just that we never saw the consistent production it takes to truly break out in a region with four sports, dozens of stars, and a football Dynasty all competing for attention. And deserving it more.
And with those flashes and his typically high motor came the negatives. A game against San Fran in 2020 when he got pulled off the field and was pleading his case while a visibly cheesed off Belichick yelled at him to get to the bench and shut up. The fact that his playing time dropped off the edge of the Earth in his third season:
2019: 293 total
Most tellingly, that in three meetings against the Bills he played a total of zero snaps. It's hard to sell a lot of jerseys or inspire a generation to grow out their hair and bleach it when you're that expendable.
What they're getting in return in Mack Wilson is a different variety of Front-7 defender. An off-the-ball, flow-to-the-ball type as opposed to a pass rusher. The numbers speak to the differences in the two:
Also a part timer in Cleveland with just 193 snaps, Wilson nevertheless made use of the time he got. Among all linebackers with 190+ snaps, he graded out 3rd in tackling on Pro Football Focus, 18th against the run, and 13th overall. And perhaps most interestingly, 15th in coverage, with a passer rating against of just 87.0, which was almost identical to Kyle Van Noy. But that's on a very small sample size. Wilson is a 6-foot-1, 240 pound Alabama product who'll be expected to add run-stuffing capabilities to a front that already released Van Noy and might still lose Dont'a Hightower and Ju'Whaun Bentley to free agency.
Hopefully it'll be one of those trades that benefits all involved. Because Winovich, while it sometimes got testy between him and his coach, was much more the "football energy" guy than the "douchebag" that made the critics raise the red flags. It's just too bad the level of production couldn't match the style.
There is one guy who loves this trade. And his opinion counts almost as much as anyone's: