Although Wes Welker can hardly be labeled anonymous with regard to recognition for his talents and abilities, some still contend that he is the most underrated wide receiver in the league. The 2013-2014 NFL season was rich with analysis devoted entirely to the potential legendary status of Peyton Manning. Further, it was in fact, a constant theme peppered into virtually every conversation involving the league throughout the year. Later in the season, the chatter turned toward the imagined rivalry between two great quarterbacks in both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Nevertheless, the one common factor linking the two was rarely mentioned, let alone legitimately analyzed. Moreover, the facts lie in the statistics, which suggest that Wes Welker might be the secret weapon for record-breaking quarterbacks.
Rejection and underestimation is nothing new to Wes Welker, as Rod Warner, Welker’s high school football coach can attest. Warner, who coached Wes for his entire high school career, knows first-hand, the frustration with having such a talented athlete overlooked simply because he was small. During Welker’s time at Heritage Hall School, the 5’7″ receiver amassed a record-breaking four-year term. This included breaking the school’s tackling record and field goal record (for kicking a 58 yard field goal).
Additionally, he led the school to its first ever, State championship. Since then, Heritage Hall School later retired Wes’ #5 jersey; with which he shared with his brother, Lee.
Notwithstanding the accolades, coach Warner received no replies to his over 100 requests for scholarship offers for Welker. Welker received zero scholarship offers despite the fact that his highlight reel impressed every scout, recruiter and coach that viewed it. They all came away with the same excuse, reasoning that Welker was both too small and too slow, even though all evidence suggested that no one could catch him. Finally, due to coach Warner’s persistence and a last minute recruit back out, Welker received a scholarship from Texas Tech.
Fast forward three and half years later, armed with a business degree and a tied record for eight career punt-return touchdowns, Welker was snubbed again with no invitation to the NFL combine. Welker was not drafted in 2004, but he was picked up by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent, but was later cut. Marty Schottenheimer, the Chargers head coach, has since said that cutting Welker was the biggest mistake he ever made.
Thereafter, Wes played for the Dolphins, but was eventually traded to the Patriots, where NFL history was made.
The first year Welker played for the Patriots, they achieved a perfect 16-0 season. Incidentally, for that season, Tom Brady achieved his highest completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns for his career. Additionally, the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl, and although they failed to win, Welker tied the record for receptions, earning 11 in a single game. This record marks the first evidence, which supports the assertion that Wes Welker is indeed the secret weapon for record-breaking quarterbacks.
Following the 2007 season, Tom Brady was placed on the injured reserve due to a knee injury that required surgery. To the dismay of Patriots fans everywhere, untested backup quarterback, Matt Cassel, replaced Brady. Although the Patriots failed to make the playoffs, Cassel experienced his best year to date with regard to yards and completions, and the record was only one touchdown short of his all-time best. Coincidence, or is Wes Welker really the secret weapon for record-breaking quarterbacks?
In 2009, notwithstanding and injury that put him out of two games, Welker still managed to achieve the 2nd highest total receptions in NFL history, with 123 for one season.
In 2011, Welker tied hall of famer, Jerry Rice, with 12 receptions in one game.
Welker’s summary, after his last season with the Patriots in 2012, resulted in a franchise record for consecutive receptions, which basically translates to the fact that for every single game Welker played as a Patriot, he always had at least one reception.
Following the 2012 season into 2013, Brady played without Welker for the first time in six seasons. Brady’s record for completions took a dive by four percent and his yards by 11 percent, which may not sound like much, but for a QB in his prime these numbers should be increasing, not decreasing. Could Welker have been the x-factor for the outcome of these statistics?
Following a somewhat messy haggling between the Patriots and the Broncos, Welker eventually signed with the Broncos for the 2013 season. The 2013 season, which incidentally became record-breaking for quarterback, Peyton Manning, and, despite a sit out of three games for Welker, comprised the most career touchdowns for Welker and included career highs for both touchdowns and yards for Manning and a tie for completions.
Analysts from both ESPN and NFL have no qualms about hailing the records of both Manning and Brady, but with consideration to Welker’s record, is there reason to doubt that he is the missing link in the chain that connects quarterbacks to legendary status? After careful review, it is reasonable to assume that Wes Welker might just be the secret weapon for record-breaking quarterbacks.
By Chavala Trigg