Julian Edelman, seen here at the Grammys, has enjoyed his time in the spotlight since the end of the Super Bowl. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
1. If the first two weeks following the Super Bowl win over the Seahawks are any indication, the Patriot who stands to get the biggest uptick in recognition — and potential financial bounce as an endorser — is wide receiver Julian Edelman. Keeping in mind that guys like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were high-profile even before the 2014 season, Edelman has been America’s Guest since the end of the Super Bowl. Following a trip to Disneyland with cornerback Malcolm Butler, the former seventh-round pick has appeared on several network talk shows, including “Live with Kelly and Michael” and “Late Night with Seth Myers,” as well as making a trip to Disney and as a guest appearance as a presenter at the Grammys with cornerback Malcolm Butler and sat down for a quick Q and A with the New York Times (where he wouldn’t get into any talk about a Super Bowl concussion.) Edelman has always been keenly aware of his image and brand — he has promoted his JE11 gear in the same fashion as the quarterback has marketed the TB12 brand — and has also had a knack for starring in some offbeat videos, including a Google Glass promotion and the “Burger Tyme” and “Smoothie Tyme” videos, which vaguely recall a Zack Galifinakis style of humor. While the quarterback will always be the go-to guy on the roster as the No. 1 choice for endorsement possibilities, look for Edelman to raise his profile and cash in in his own right this offseason after a terrific playoff run.
2. While it’s always a little dicey to try and figure out scenarios for 2015 with the 2014 season just barely in the books, there are a few things we can point to when it comes to how next season is going to shape up. There’s a lot of time between now and the start of the season and the team-building process for 2015 is barely underway, but based on the 2014 win-loss records and list of opponents that’s already been named (the dates and times figure to be posted in April), we can tell you that the 2015 Patriots figure to have the 11th easiest schedule in the league in 2015. Their opponents posted a 122-134-1 record (.477) in 2014, but it is worth noting that there are few middle-of-the-road teams on the slate: New England will play 10 games against teams that finished .500 or better, including two contests against divisional foes Buffalo and Miami. At the same time, the Patriots will also face the Jets, Titans and Jags, all of whom failed to win more than five games in 2014. By way of comparison, the Falcons (whose 2015 opponents had a winning percent of .409 in 2014) have the easiest slate next year, while the Texans and Colts (.417) are tied for second and the Bucs are third (.425). On the other end of the spectrum, the Steelers (.579), Bengals (.563), Niners (.561) and Seahawks (.559) have the toughest schedules in 2015, at least at this point.
3. As the offseason really kicks into gear, there are various reports of Patriots players getting surgery and otherwise cleaning up medical issues that needed to be addressed since the end of the season. Earlier this month, the Boston Herald was the first to report the news that linebacker Dont’a Hightower played in the Super Bowl with a torn labrum — an injury he had since November — and is expected to undergo offseason surgery. And on Thursday, defensive lineman Sealver Siliga posted an Instagram picture of himself, apparently following surgery. Siliga didn’t specific what sort of injury he had worked on, but the defensive lineman was on injured reserve/designated for return for a sizable portion of the year because of a foot injury, returning in December and playing a key role up front for the New England defense. Expect more similar injury stories (and resulting surgeries) to leak out over the next few months.
4. A few stats on quarterbacks, age and their postseason chances: The last 12 years, only four over-30 quarterbacks won Super Bowls: 37-year-old Brady (Super Bowl XLIX), 31-year-old Eli Manning (Super Bowl XLVI), 31-year-old Drew Brees (Super Bowl XLIV) and 30-year-old Peyton Manning (Super Bowl XLI). In that same vein, because it’s never too early to start speculating about 2015, the 37-year-old Brady became the second-oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl when he led the Patriots past the Seahawks. Brady became one of five quarterbacks age 35 or older to win a title, joining a group that includes John Elway, Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett and Johnny Unitas. If Brady wins the Super Bowl again next season, he will be the second oldest quarterback to do it, 36 days younger than 38-year-old Elway when he won his second following the 1998 season. (Elway retired the following spring.)
5. Going back and revisiting our coverage from the week, and we were remiss that we didn’t pass along this note from a piece via TheMMQB.com on Joe Namath and his thoughts on Brady. In stark contrast to many former players who have taken their shots at the Patriots quarterback, Namath was effusive in the praise of the quarterback, saying that when it comes to quarterbacking, “one’s ever been better than Tom Brady…I go back to watching the guys earlier in some of the darker days, in the ’50s. One of my first heroes was Otto Graham. Come on, 10 straight title games in Cleveland. He was just spectacular. Bobby Layne was a unique quarterback, really terrific. Getting into the modern era, Peyton Manning has had his wonderful performances. Don’t tell me anybody is better than Aaron Rodgers, either. Better than, better than, better than. The best, the best, the best. To each his own. I have a hard time calling anybody in any sport ‘the best’ because of the changes in the game, certainly, and because of the greats that were ahead of them. But I will say, no one has ever played the game better than Tom Brady. You start looking at numbers, and sometimes statistics tell a story, and sometimes they don’t tell the whole story. It’s such a team game. But Tom has answered the bell. He has answered every challenge. He’s great. He’s great. No one has ever done it better.”
6. With the franchise and transition tag for the NFL opening on Monday and running for two weeks (until March 2), it’s worth revisiting how the Patriots have used the tag in the past and what happened as a result:
2002: Adam Vinatieri, contract extension
2003: Tebucky Jones, traded
2005: Adam Vinatieri, played it out and later departed as a free agent
2007: Asante Samuel, played it out and later departed as a free agent
2009: Matt Cassel, traded
2010: Vince Wilfork, contract extension
2011: Logan Mankins, contract extension
2012: Wes Welker, played it out and later departed as a free agent
7. The draft is still two-plus months away, but the pre-draft chatter hasn’t already begun. And while there were several excellent draft-related questions for the Patriots in this week’s Friday chat (the consensus seems to be the Patriots will go after an interior offensive lineman at No. 32), the biggest debate nationally now focuses on the quarterback position, namely: Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota? NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock — who will hold a much-anticipated conference call with the media this week in advance of the combine — has already stated that he ranks Winston ahead of Mariota, at least at this point. (Even after seeing this photo of Winston working out, a photo that was taken roughly a month ago and certainly causes some to wonder about his overall commitment level at the draft approaches.) Mayock loves Winston’s approach, telling NFL Network earlier this week that despite the off-field questions, Winston “has the physical skill set to play and succeed in the NFL at the highest level.” And while Mayock loves Mariota’s attitude and demeanor, he still questions how successful he’ll be able to be coming from Oregon’s spread offense into the NFL, where he’ll be asked to be more a pocket passer. Regardless of who goes No. 1, it appears the Bucs are clearing the decks in hopes of landing a quarterback, given the fact that they cut loose Josh McCown this past week. One thing that is certain — the two appear to be the only legitimate quarterbacking prospects worthy of starting as rookies, as many people believe (including Mayock) this is one of the weaker quarterbacking classes in recent memory. (With that in mind, maybe it wasn’t so crazy that the Patriots used a second-round pick on Jimmy Garoppolo last spring. But that’s a story for another day.)
8. With the combine set to open later this week, it’s easy to place too much emphasis not only on how players perform at the combine, but if they’re even invited at all. A handful of the most important players at the Super Bowl two weeks back weren’t invited to perform at Indy, a group that includes Butler and Edelman, as well as corner Kyle Arrington and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. In year’s past, players like Wes Welker and Troy Brown were notable combine snubs. In the end, while you should enjoy watching the combine — as much as anyone can enjoy watching football players engage in athletic events without shoulder pads on — you should keep in mind that it’s not the end all and be all when it comes to assessing a prospect.
9. The idea of the ties between the Patriots and Rutgers could get any deeper are laughable — at one point, there were so many former Scarlet Knights on the roster that Gillette Stadium should stop playing Bon Jovi and instead cue up the Rutgers theme song after a touchdown. But things could certainly go to another level; this week, it was revealed that Ben McDaniels, the brother of Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, was named the new Rutgers OC. The 34-year-old Ben, who is four years younger than Josh, joined the Rutgers staff last year as the wide receivers coach, but took over the offensive coordinator duties last week after former OC Ralph Friedgen stepped down. Our friend Dan Duggan spoke with Josh shortly after the announcement was made, and he sounded a lot like a proud big brother. “I’m really proud of him,” Josh said in a phone interview. “He’s been a few different places, obviously, in the last six or seven years and he’s learned a lot of different football from different people. He’s certainly carving out his own path. It says a lot about what he’s been able to do in whatever role he’s been given that they would feel good enough about him this quickly that they would give him this responsibility. I’m sure he’s earned it.”
10. Traditionally, one of the first stops on the offseason for both Brady and/or coach Bill Belichick has been an appearance at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. (They were in the same foursome a year ago, paired with professional golfers Ricky Barnes and James Driscoll.) However, it was announced last week that both Belichick and Brady won’t be a part of the event this year. It’s worth mentioning that while many of his teammates have made the media rounds this offseason — including Gronkowski, Brandon Browner, LeGarrette Blount, Shane Vereen and Rob Ninkovich — the quarterback has laid low, happy to put out a few Facebook posts since the conclusion of the Duckboat Parade that celebrated the Super Bowl win.