Alan Branch Didn't Make the Trip to Tampa and It Looks Like He's Finished in New England


You know how I know Bill Belichick is done with his defense’s dicking around? Because a perfectly healthy Alan Branch wasn’t allowed on AirKraft One for the trip to Tampa, that’s how.

At the quarter pole of a season where the defense has not just been bad, but historically gawdawful, the stuff bad quarterbacks’ agent’s take into the bathroom for a little “quiet time,” the one thing we have yet to see from The Hooded One is his annual Human Sacrifice. Unless you consider throwing Kony Ealy (who by the way is playing pretty well as a rush specialist for the Jets) into the volcano is enough to appease the gods. A few weeks ago, it looked like Malcolm Butler was going to join a long and distinguished list of preseason/midseason dumps that includes Jamie Collins, Logan Mankins, Randy Moss and stretches all the way back to Lawyer Milloy. Well now it looks like Alan Branch is the 2017 winner of the Pats version of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” (Google it. That is an A+ literary reference. There’s more to me than just nerd movies.)

Not that I’m putting Branch in the class of those guys. But let’s not diminish how much he was supposed to mean to the team this year. After having arguably his best season in 2016, with 15 starts and 49 tackles, GM Belichick rewarded him with a 2-year extension, with a $2 million bonus, $3 million guaranteed and incentives that could have gotten him up to $12 million. This in spite of the fact he was bench for a week in the preseason and has history of flicking his effort on and off. Belichick gave him the extension with the idea that he’d be the space-eating, 2-down  tackle alongside Malcom Brown so they could plug four gaps between them and give the Patriots the numbers advantage up front. And from the start of camp it’s looked like he was happy to take his 3-mil and call it a career.

Sunday against Carolina, Branch played all of 12 snaps and showed all the effort of my son that one time I asked him to mow the lawn. Seriously even Albert Haynesworth could’ve watched that and said “What a dog this guy is,” and public service unions still use his game tape to teach their rank and file how to not do any work.

I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say that Branch has played his last game in New England. Leaving the worst defense any living person has ever seen with Brown, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Vincent Valentine. A stud, a 7th rounder, and undrafted rookie and a guy who’s injured. So the Front 7 that looked like a strength of this team two months ago continues to evaporate before our eyes.

So assuming Branch is cut sometime in the next couple of days, which I definitely am, it’s going to have to be one of those situations like with Collins where it’s addition by subtraction. And the message that Belichick is going to reward effort and banish anyone who doesn’t pull their weight will be heard loud and clear. We better hope it is, because the thinnest front in football just got thinner.

P.S. This blows.