Chad Ochocinco has been released by the Patriots, and in the stories about what went wrong for him in New England, a consistent theme emerges: He simply never learned the playbook.
Whether Ochocinco’s problem was more a matter of being unable or unwilling to do the work necessary to pick up the Patriots’ offense, several reports say that nearly a year after he was traded from Cincinnati to New England, he still didn’t know his assignments, down to his last day with the Patriots.
One league source told the Boston Globe that Ochocinco is still physically capable of playing wide receiver in the NFL, but he continued to struggle with the playbook both before and after new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels arrived.
After an Organized Team Activity last month, the Boston Globe reported that Deion Branch had to tell Ochocinco where to line up, and after that Ochocinco jumped offside.
The Boston Herald reported that Ochocinco couldn’t get up to speed with the playbook, and the Patriots decided to part ways.
A report at NESN.com says that Ochocinco’s continued inability to understand the Patriots’ offensive system appears to have been the final straw.
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported that Ochocinco had “lingering issues with the playbook.”
It’s fair to ask why, if Ochocinco couldn’t grasp the offense in New England, he was able to play well enough in Cincinnati’s offense to have seven 1,000-yard seasons with the Bengals. But there’s word out of Cincinnati that he had those issues there, too: According to Bengals.com, T.J. Houshmandzadeh used to have to tell Ochocinco where to line up. Bengals.com also says some in Cincinnati believe Ochocinco never played as hard again after Browns safety Brian Russell drilled him in the 2006 home opener, although that explanation is a bit hard to swallow, considering that Ochocinco started all 16 games in both 2006 and 2007 and had a career-high 1,440 receiving yards in 2007.
Maybe getting cut by New England will spur Ochocinco to work harder in the classroom if he catches on with another team, or maybe he’ll find a team whose offense is easier for him to grasp than the Patriots’ playbook. But everyone seems to agree that Ochocinco’s biggest problem in New England was simply that he never learned the offense.