Mailbag time and the people think Bill Belichick is not doing enough by doing too much. Plenty of love songs penned for Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel in the 'bag this week, "Almost Paradise" style. And I never knew how much the folks missed Eric Mangini until I read some of these emails. And evidently nothing says Camelot like Josh McDaniels.
Rough week for the Pats -- another second-half meltdown to the Jets and a blow ACL for Kevin Faulk. Can't get much worse.
So where is it heading? Do we put more stock in Week 2 than we did in Week 1? Is this a team on the decline or a young group that needs time to figure it out? Is Belichick trying to sneak a rebuilding year past us with Brady, Moss and Welker as camouflage? And would it kill BB to let someone else do, you know, something?
Lots of questions. Time to get to the answers. To the 'bag we go ...
Ok. Stop trying to be Bill Simmons. I wasn't clear who was at fault for covering Keller. Chung or Spikes? I have never heard of you, but I don't like how YOU think you know more about being a coach than the Patriots coaches. I will not read any more of you opinions. Go cover the Bills.
A: And we're off. I think you are confusing the fact that I drop endless 80s references, write a mailbag and put together a snarky weekly NFL picks column with some desire to be Bill Simmons. I mean, how dare you? That's just high comedy, really. I'm making a Derek Lowe face just thinking about that insinuation. How dare you? I'm bringing this up with my buddy during my next Podcast.
I might not know as much as the Pats coaches, but if you watched the game Sunday it didn't exactly take Bear Bryant (or his son Dez) to figure out the Pats couldn't stop the tight end. This isn't exactly a new development. Jermaine Gresham caught a TD last week, Dallas Clark went bananas last year and so on and so on. It's a legit concern. And yes, I watched both Chung and Spikes match up one-on-one with Keller Sunday and fail. They just don't have a guy to match up with a good tight end, and there are a bunch of would-be AFC playoff teams with quality players at that spot (Chargers, Jets, Steelers, Colts, Todd Heap is off to a good start in Baltimore).
The Pats lost 5 of 6 road games last year when they led or were tied at the half. Who shoulders the blame there? If you say the players, you are partially correct, as BB is also the GM. Kraft needs to spend some coin on some playmakers and BB needs to get them in here. How would Clay Matthews Jr. look in a Pats uni? it could have happened. But, look at it this way, we traded out out and got "good value for the trade." uggggggghh!
The Shaggy Show
A: Look, the blame starts and ends with Belichick and Brady. That's the reality of the situation. They are the first two guys we look at when handing out credit for the dynasty (rightly so) and it's only fair that when the ships sinks they have to take the hits. Brady, in his own words, "sucked" in the second half Sunday and the coaching staff (and as far as we know that means Belichick as HC, OC and DC) had no answers for Mark Sanchez.
As for the drafting:
2004 draft: One starter (Vince Wilfork)
2005 draft: Two starters (James Sanders and Mankins)
2006 draft: Zero starters
2007 draft: Zero starters (to be fair, they turned picks into Welker and Moss)
2008 draft: One starter (Jerod Mayo)
That's the GM letting the head coach down. And that kind of crap buffet catches up with a team eventually, and I think that's exactly where we are.
I didn't realize the Pats blew a "14-pt lead".
A: Small typo in the first paragraph of the report card. Mike and a couple of other folks picked up on that one. So I play it fast and loose with the facts sometimes -- the bottom line is that 14 points fit my case better than seven points. I will never let the facts get in the way of a solid opener. Never.
I've been saying for years that Belichick is overrated. He hasn't had an aggressive defense since Romeo Crennel left, he had a chance to get him back and his ego wouldn't even allow Crennel a chance to interview. Everybody said when he got rid of Asante Samuel to wait and see, because genius Belichick had a plan. He did, to spend way more money on guys that can't play at all. All you have to do is look at Belichick's record against Peyton Manning since Crennel left and his record against rookie quarterbacks too. Go back and see what the genius did in Cleveland.
A: Well, you and I have no idea if it was Belichick's ego that stood in the way of Romeo coming back. But I agree that poor drafting and free-agent decisions has turned Belichick into just another defensive coach. I'm sorry, but them's the facts right now. If you give Belichick great talent you get great results. That's not a knock -- there are a million coaches that do nothing with top talent. Belichick wins Super Bowls and goes 18-0 when he has the best players in the league. Right now the Patriots don't have anywhere close to the best talent in the league. You can scrape by at 10-6 or 9-7 with these guys as long as Brady is around, but there will be a day when they call a press conference where Brady will retire and the media will sit there and eat chicken fingers and Belichick -- unless he figures it out again -- will be screwed. But to me it's a question of talent, not Romeo or any other coaches.
It'll be interesting. What does BB do in next year's draft. Could we see 5 2nd round picks after trading out of the first in 2011?
This team has too much youth at key positions, and I agree with where you were heading...the 2nd half adjustments (or lack of) are killing this team. The offense looked great in the first half with ball control, good mix of running (keeping the defense honest) and passing, play action, hitting different WR, TE, and backs on passes. Then the 2nd half was as if the Pats were losing the game by 21 and needed to shotgun their way back, like last year: too predictable on offense. The offense has to help the defense this year with controlling the clock and scoring points. Even BB's coaching staff is a bunch of guys learning on the job. I imagine BB a meticulous control freak, who has let his ego get in the way of what may be best for this team instead of trusting in others; such as he did with Weis, McDaniels, and Crennel.
A: Look, the "Belichick is Nixon at the end and trusts no one" angle is as good as any, I guess, but we have no clue if that's the reality of it. He might lean on Bill O'Brien and Matt Patricia all the time for all we know. My guess is that he felt better about his supporting cast when Romeo and Charlie and Scott Pioli were around, but none of those guys ever made a catch or a tackle.
Again, and tattoo this to the back of your eyelids if you have to: It's all about the talent.
Would you rather have Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Willie McGinest and Asante Samuel with Matt Patricia running the defense or last year's group with Romeo in charge? Great coaching is swell but without talent it means zilch.
BB is doing too much. Look at the staff he had in the SB years, Weis, Crennel, Mangini, McDaniels etc. Not a bad staff at all.
A: Was anyone calling for Charlie and Romeo when this team was 18-0? Romeo isn't going to turn Darius Butler into Ty Law and Charlie isn't going to turn BenJarvus Green-Ellis into Corey Dillion. Unless either had some hand in the drafting and free agent moves from 2000-04 I'm not sure they'd be a huge help right now.
I agree with you on Faulk. He's my all-time favorite Patriots player and I'm crushed that his career might be over. I think they are in serious trouble at RB now, no clue what they'll do to replace him. You think they make a move of some kind?
A: Such a huge loss, Matt. Forget all the leadership stuff you've been reading about over the last few days. I'm not suggesting the guy isn't a leader -- clearly he is -- but what's most important about Faulk is that he's a really good football player. The best blocking back on the team (and franchise history) and so reliable in third-down situations. Welker has probably moved to the top spot on the Brady Binky chart but Faulk was at 1A.
What will they do? Nothing. Belichick said Wednesday that a Faulk replacement "doesn't exist" and that's about right. We all know that. I suspect that you'll see a little more of Sammy Morris and Danny Woodhead (or Morehead, as Faulk called him Wednesday) and a lot of Julian Edelman. Why not? Edelman was basically a RB in college (rushed for 1,370 yards as a QB in 2008 at Kent State) and should be a good receiving option out of the backfield.
But here's what you'll miss about Faulk -- on the first play of the second TD drive on Sunday the Jets blitzed and Eric Smith had a clear shot on Brady -- and this is a guy that likes to go head-hunting. But Faulk comes in at the last minute and picks him up with a terrific block. Saved Brady's breakfast and gave him a chance to make a play. Stuff like that is measured all the time.
Does Edelman make that block? We know Sammy Morris has had trouble with that in the past. How about Woodhead? Faulk was the ultimate "guy you never had to worry about" player.
(And the idea that the Pats could use Maroney now that Faulk is out is a convenient thought but not true at all. All the things that make Faulk great is what Maroney lacked. If Laurence Maroney took HGH 24 hours a day for 500 years he wouldn't be able to lift Kevin Faulk's jock.)
After seeing it for myself the last 2 weeks (No, I was not fooled by the Bengals game) and listening to D&C break down the second half performance last season for road games (London game aside (neutral field), the Pats were ahead or tied in 6 of 7 at halftime and lost 5. In the game they won the Pats scored only 3 points in the second half) I have a new 'suspect' to add to the "Why can't the Pats adjust at half time like everyone else does" discussion....Bob Kraft.
My theory: In my experience, with leaders like Belichick, all is well when they trust their management team. (Weis, Crennel, maybe even Mangini and McDaniels.) When they don't, they try to assume direct responsibility for every aspect of everything. The result is usually a diluted effort as no one person can effectively do the work of 2, 3, or more people. Just can't do it. The only person who can reign in a leader in 'do it myself' mode is his superior. In this case, Bob Kraft. Of course Bill will say none of this is an issue. However, the numbers say something else.
I know the failure of the Pats to adjust can't be a result of 'don't know how to' or 'don't want to'. It has to be something else...like perhaps a leader with too much on his plate to focus effectively.
A: Well here's the problem, Mike: Doesn't matter if Belichick has too much on the ol' plate. If he wants to be the head coach, GM, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and perform a 15-minute acoustic set for the crowd at halftime of every game he's going to get to do it. Three Super Bowls, four AFC Titles and seven division crowns gets you script approval. And it's going to take a lot more than some 10-6 seasons to get Bob Kraft to suggest that the roof might be leaking. So just dig in and hope that the 2009 draft class (Chung, Edelman, Vollmer, Tate) and what we've seen so far from Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and McCourty is a signal of a return to form for Belichick. Might as well be patient, because Kraft is going to be. Name me a coach in pro sports today with more job security.
RE: Gary's Old Towne Tavern
Oh man, I am still laughing, thanks!
A: Thanks, John. Problem is that no one under the age of, say, 35 gets the reference.
Do you realize that Cheers debuted in 1982? That's 28 years ago -- is this how long ago 1954 felt to people in their 30s when Sam, Diane, Coach and Cliff first went on the air?
Here's another one to feel old on: If they re-made "Back to the Future" today Marty McFly would travel all the way back to …. 1980.
How dare you say an unkind word about "The Shawshank Redemption"...... blasphemy! An A- from the same tough grader who has Tony Romo and Aaron Rogers ahead of Brady in his quarterback rankings. You're suspect Minihane...suspect
A: Good to have my man Jakey back in the closer spot.
Again, I just didn't buy that Andy could dig and dig every night for 19 years and not get busted once. Always been a problem for me when I watch it. I like the movie fine but it's a little overrated, right? Number one on the IMDB top 250? Better than either Godfather or Goodfellas or Cuckoo's Nest or Pulp Fiction or 12 Angry Men? Come on.
And I want a mulligan on last year's comment that Romo was better than Brady. Moron File, total whiff, complete overreaction. But Aaron Rodgers is no joke. He's not as good as Brady was at his peak, but he's just as good today.
Patriots 34, Bills 14. Getting Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick while on the rebound is a nice gift from the schedule gods.