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A closer look at the Patriots’ decision to release Chad Ochocinco

06.07.12 at 4:42 pm ET
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Chad Ochocinco, released on Thursday, caught just 15 passes in 2011. (AP)

Chad Ochocinco, released on Thursday, caught just 15 passes in 2011. (AP)

All you really needed to know about Chad Ochocinco’s time with the Patriots could be summed up in an OTA session late last month. New England’s first-team offense broke the huddle, and Ochocinco went to the line of scrimmage … only to be redirected to where he needed to be by teammate Deion Branch. Even after spending nearly a year in the system, the 34-year-old Ochocinco still had issues with the New England offense.

Despite a professed desire to play for Bill Belichick and alongside Tom Brady that went back several years, Chad Ochocinco never seemed to fit with the Patriots. There were some interesting moments, including a touchdown catch against the Broncos and a 53-yard surprise reception against the Jets in November, but those were few and far between. Instead, there was talk of his inability to learn the playbook, and speculation as to why New England had someone on the roster who was making a base salary of $6 million who had slipped so far down the depth chart that Tiquan Underwood was taking snaps from him.

In the end, the Ochocinco experiment — which resulted in 15 catches, 276 yards, one touchdown — just never seemed to coalesce with the Patriots. As a new receiver, it’s not so much about learning the playbook and assimilating to the “Patriots’ Way.” Instead, it’s about gaining the trust of the quarterback, and that never really happened. (Watching newcomer Brandon Lloyd work with Brady in the three OTA sessions the media has had access to, it’s clear Lloyd already has far more of a rapport with Brady than Ocho ever did.)

It’s not complicated: Listen to Jabar Gaffney, who spoke to the media Thursday, on the subject of working with Brady. “We have a great relationship, on and off the field,” Gaffney said. “On the field, we just have that rapport with each other and he knows where I’m going to be and I know he’s going to put it right there. I have all the confidence in him, he has all the confidence in me. That’s a great thing.” It was clear that as the 2011 season went on, there was none of that trust between Brady and Ochocinco. In truth, there were several moments late in the year where Ochocinco was open, but the quarterback went in another direction.

Ochocinco will get a job somewhere else for several reasons, not the least of which is that he remains a masterful self-promoter — even in the twilight of his career, few athletes can still move the needle like Ochocinco. But history will show that in the end, the receiver may have wasted his last best opportunity to win a championship.

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