Sports Illustrated senior NFL writer Peter King joined Mut & Merloni Wednesday afternoon to talk about the affected legacies from Super Bowl XLVI, the recent Hall of Fame vote and what defensive players the Patriots would be smart to look at in free agency.
Now three days removed from the Patriots falling short of their fourth Super Bowl title in the last 12 years, King said that several legacies were impacted by New England's loss to the Giants, most notably that of Eli Manning. The legacy of Bill Belichick was diminished by the loss, according to King.
"I think Bill Belichick’s legacy was affected negatively from the standpoint that he now has lost to Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning in the same way three games in a row, twice in the Super Bowl, so that hurts," King said.
Despite some criticism that the Patriots quarterback has received, King says that Tom Brady did nothing to hurt his legacy by losing to the Giants for the second time in a Super Bowl.
"I think the Brady stuff, I mean, we live in a society of overreaction and the stuff about how Brady stinks now is just so absurd, it’s disheartening to read," King said. "And I’m not talking from fans, I’m talking about people in the press now questioning whether Brady’s any good anymore."
Most notably, King said that while Brady had mistakes in the game, the oft-criticized drop by Wes Welker had nothing to do with Brady's throw. Rather, it was simply a catch that Welker should have made, according to King.
"Anytime a receiver gets two hands on the ball, is not contacted by a defender, and not just the fingertips on two hands -- he had the ball in the palm of each hand and though he was twisting when he had that, that is definitely a catchable ball," King said.
"The thing I fault Brady for the most is underthrowing [Rob] Gronkowski when he’s got a two-step lead on the slowest linebacker the Giants have, Chase Blackburn, and Brady underthrows him by five yards. That is a bad, bad play by Tom Brady. It wasn’t his best game, but Tom Brady had a lot of help in losing this one."
With the Super Bowl loss now in the past, the Patriots will now have the offseason to work on improving their roster. King notes that an easy way to do this will be to key in on landing an elite pass rusher, as many of the NFL's best may be free agents this year. In particular, King singles out Mario Williams of the Texans, Calais Campbell of the Cardinals and Cliff Avril of the Lions as possible targets for the Patriots.
"Quite honestly, if I’m the Patriots, I’m looking very, very hard at those three guys," King said. "The Patriots kind of got away with it this year with Andre Carter, Mark Anderson and some good rush-from-the-interior guys. The Patriots have gone far too long without getting a good young pass rusher on their team and they may be able to do it in free agency this year."
Following are more highlights from the conversation.
On Bill Parcells falling short of the Hall of Fame: "First of all, let me just say this -- the 44 voters basically agree when they go in there that they don’t discuss the ebb and flow, the pros and cons, what is said in that room. So, respectfully, even though I’d love to talk about it, I can’t talk about whatever negatives anyone had about Parcells. What I can say is this -- there was a 53-minute discussion in that room. I believe the only longer one there ever was was Paul Tagliabue a few years ago when there was a 57-minute discussion on him. I was hugely disappointed by the results with Parcells just from a couple of standpoints. Number one, in 2001, Marv Levy got in despite having as it turns out to be 29 fewer victories, no Super Bowl wins. I just thought it was bizarre and I hope that it’s one of these things that gets corrected as time goes on."
On Curtis Martin's election into the Hall: "I thought he deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. I thought he and [Jerome] Bettis were very, very close to each other. It’s fitting that they’re right next to each other in the all-time rushing standings. I’m very pro Cris Carter as well, so I’m on the side of a lot of people who aren’t getting in these days. I think Curtis Martin winning a rushing title in his 30s helped him. What really made my decision -- and this was a year ago -- when people first come up, I examine their careers and he was up for the Hall a year ago and I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but what really impressed me is how when he went from New England to New York, if you look at the Patriots’ record in the three years he was on the Patriots compared to the Jets and then the first years he’s with the Jets, you look at the Patriots. You can talk about how Bill Parcells was a key factor in the decline of the Patriots and rise of the Jets. I think it’s as much or more what Curtis Martin, what his loss meant to New England and what his game meant to the Jets. Clearly the two franchises went in opposite directions when Martin changed teams."
On Peyton Manning's future and his likely landing spot: "I think they’ll probably break up sooner than later and then it’s just simply going to be a matter of whether Peyton Manning can line up and throw a football with significant enough arm strength for someone to give him a contract. Now, he’s certainly going to get multiple offers from other teams, but the question is how the contracts are going to be structured, because most teams are probably going to look at Peyton Manning and say, ‘I don’t want to guarantee him a lot of money because I just don’t know how he’s going to play.’ I honestly think Manning is going to be OK with that and I think he’s going to look for a situation a lot more than he’s going to look for money. He’s definitely going to make a lot of money wherever he goes. I said over the weekend and I believe now in some order it’s going to be Washington, Miami, Arizona or the Jets, with I believe Washington being the most aggressive out of the gate because Mike Shanahan believes that if Manning can play three more years, I think Shanahan feels with the defense that they have, they are a quarterback away from being a deep-into-the-playoffs team next year."
On the likelihood of HGH testing in the NFL next season: "I believe they will. I think that’s the biggest looming issue that is to be decided this offseason and I think the NFL feels like it has done everything humanly possible in order to resolve this with the players. I talked to one owner last week who said, 'Listen, we have basically tried to make this happen with the players, we’ve been unable to do so, and now unfortunately it may have to go the Congressional route and Congress may literally force the players into doing something about this.' I say it’s unfortunate because clearly the NFL thought that it had an understanding with DeMaurice Smith around the time the CBA was agreed to in late July. Clearly that understanding was either a misunderstanding or somebody on the players' side didn’t live up to what the players said they would do. At this point, I think it’s going to get done, I just can’t tell you exactly when. But I would think that by the start of the season, there will be HGH testing in the NFL."