Mailbag time, and we touch 'em all this week.
Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers? Check. Joe Paterno vs. Bernard Law? Covered. Is this Patriots defense good enough to win the Super Bowl? Examined. The death penalty for Jerry Sandusky? You bet. The case against Jonathan Papelbon? Done and done. A full investigation of Erin Andrews? Well, we take her intellect out for a spin (it's a really short ride -- Armen Keteyian's interview with Mike McQueary took longer).
Patriots, Paterno, Papelbon -- to the 'bag we go …
"This team simply doesn't have the defensive talent to win three (or four) playoff games."
Yeah, because the NFL is based on talent rather than matchups. There is no guarantee that the Packers will reach the SB, and the Patriots can beat anyone in the AFC. We have no idea if one of the other top teams will have injuries either. All it takes is one key injury to seriously change things. I'm not calling a Patriots SB, too much can happen and I'll always take the field over one team, but acting as if it's impossible is laughably terrible "journalism." Minihane, you are a joke as usual.
A: Sorry, I don't see this defense winning four playoff games. Let's be fair about this: The defense has played better the last two weeks (save for the final minutes of the Giants game, not insignificant). But this is still a group that is on pace to shatter the NFL record for most passing yards allowed in a season. Last in the NFL in total yards allowed and first downs allowed. There is simply no precedent for a team winning a Super Bowl with numbers like that on defense. And I get that everyone still has the warm and fuzzies from Sunday night. Fun to watch the cast of unknowns take down Rex and Sanchez. I get it. And I'm sure most of the media will pen power ballads to this defense if it manages to shut down Tyler Palko (undrafted, 13 career passes) on Monday night. But -- and I've written this and said it on the air a million times -- this team won't be judged by what happens against guys like Palko in November. It's Super Bowl and Super Bowl only. That's how it goes with Brady and Belichick. It's the standard that has been set. And I suspect the Patriots will lose the last game they play this season. And I suspect -- if you really step back and think about it -- you do, too. And when Philip Adams and Sterling Moore and Tracy White are on the field in key spots of a playoff loss there will be serious anger around here, and justifiably so. Look, can they beat the Steelers or Ravens or Bengals or Texans or Bills or Jets or Raiders or Chargers? Of course. Can they beat two or three of those teams and then beat the Packers or Saints? Nope.
Brady has played hurt before so much throughout his career, but you'd think when reading this article that's not the case. Who cares if he ices his elbow, the dude has ice water flowing through his veins. When it comes down to crunch time and the fourth quarter is ticking down to its final moments, I have the utmost faith he'll get the job done. He did it against the Cowboys, he did it against the Giants, and he's done it ever since he became the starting QB of the New England Patriots. When he's missing throws or not playing as well as he can, nobody knows that better than Brady himself. Rather than get frustrated, he usually starts elevating his game and starts heating up. Brady played like he has pretty much all season, but the difference in this game was that multiple guys stepped up on defense, and the result was a blowout road win. I think this team has the potential to do that every game, despite whatever their lack of talent on defense may be. One game at a time.
NY Pats Fan
A: Yeah, Brady was awful -- again, by his standard, we don't measure him against the likes of Mark Sanchez and Carson Palmer, it's Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas -- for 50 minutes against the Giants and the first 20 minutes or so on Sunday night. Missed easy throws, looked almost Bledsoe-esque (defined as: acting like there is pressure when no pressure exists) at times, all that stuff. But he was tremendous in the second half vs. the Jets, can't play the position better. He's no longer the best QB in the league -- it's Aaron Rodgers by a mile -- but I'd still rank him an easy No. 2.
It must kill you to write good things about TB. It's obvious you don't like him but you have to respect his talent. I love the comment: Chad Ochocinco had the two first-quarter catches for 65 yards (including the 53-yard catch that could have been a TD with a better Brady throw). You can't help yourself, gotta put Brady down whenever you can. He may not be as good as AR right now, but he'll do in a pinch. Still would like to read your answer how much better than TB AR would be with the Pats team this season, and more importantly, how much better TB would be on GB than he is with the Pats this season.
A: Impossible to know, Craig. But I think it's frankly hard to believe that Tom Brady would be playing better than Rodgers if he were on the Packers. Rodgers has 28 touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating is 130.7. I think Brady has two of the five best seasons in history at the position, but if Rodgers keeps up this pace there is no debate as to the very best season in history. It'll be blown away, Nicole Eggert style. Aaron Rodgers is better than Tom Brady. Has he had the better career? No, not even close. Long way to go for Rodgers to get in that kind of historical mix. But he's a better QB today. It happens. Rodgers won the Super Bowl last year, has an undefeated team this year and the best passer rating in history. Brady is second to Rodgers in passer rating this year, and his 102.0 is closer to the guy in 27th place (Tarvaris Jackson) than it is to Rodgers. There is no case for Brady. Torches get passed -- Brady is 34 years old. But Brady is still plenty great, on pace to throw for more than 40 TDs and 5,000 yards.
Mr. Prickly Pair,
Did I hear you on the radio defend the Red Sox for not signing Papelbon? The best closer they've ever had is gone, the best manager they've ever had is gone, and the GM that won two World Series after an 84-year drought is gone. Makes a lot of sense to me.
A: I'm not giving any closer (Mariano Rivera in his prime included) 63 million bucks (or $50 million over four seasons). It's beyond moronic, makes absolutely no baseball sense. That kind of dough for 60 innings a year can't be justified. And that's not a knock on Papelbon, who is easily the best relief pitcher in franchise history. So I think Cherington (and by Cherington I mean Lucchino and the folks at PATN -- the Pizzuti Approved Television Network) did the right thing by punting on Papelbon. If they hand the ninth-inning keys to Daniel Bard or take a shot on Joe Nathan for a couple of million and spend the money on something else? I'm all for it. But if they let Papelbon go and sign someone like Ryan Madison for $40 million it's as dopey as what the Phillies just did, maybe more so. If you are determined to allocate that much money to the ninth inning, you have to keep A) the better pitcher and B) the guy with a proven record of closing in Boston and against the AL East.
Who gets the Paterno interview? It'll probably be Chris Fowler or Tom Rinaldi, but I'm hoping Ali G comes out of retirement.
A: "Yo check it! I'm here with my main man Joe Paterno. Total respect. It's been real, but it's been quite racialist, to be honest."
Won't be Ali G, but they'll go with someone younger than Paterno, a guy that the Paterno camp feels connects with a younger audience, a different generation than JoePa. A real "hippie type" -- I'm guessing Morley Safer.
(Sadly, Ryan nailed it. You know it's going to be Fowler or Rinaldi or someone from the Worldwide Leader in fluff. Erin Andrews strikes me as a candidate as well, Jerry Sandusky will named president of the Disney Channel before she ever asks a tough question.)
You've got it completely backwards. JoePa's legacy has been and always will be that he put everyone else before himself. He is humble and caring and always aspires to do the right thing. He made a mistake, and he admitted it and took responsibility (something no one else involved has bothered to do). The board of trustees should never have treated him like this.
A: What's frightening is that these people actually exist. A "mistake"? A mistake is forgetting to take your contact lenses out before you go to bed. A mistake is leaving the milk out. A mistake is spending $11 to see "Jack & Jill." Passing the buck on the rape of a 10-year-old boy isn't a mistake, it's an indictment. Joe Paterno just didn't care, at least not enough to risk tarnishing his reputation as the Portrait of Purity in the evil NCAA. He thought he could make it all go away. Why? Because he's Joe Paterno. He's won 409 games and two NCAA titles, with no serious NCAA violations. I'm sure all he's heard for the last quarter-century (at least) is ass-kissing and worship. There is no question in my mind that he thought this was never going to blow up. All ego.
In this article you admit to thinking people with mental illness should receive the death penalty? Idiot.
A: Here's what I wrote last week.
I hope that wish comes true really soon for Jerry, the perfect example for people (raising hand) who believe the death penalty should be the punishment for those found guilty of sexually assaulting children. Sandusky is a monster, plain and simple. But -- and this is just the reality of it -- Sandusky was also mentally ill.
I'm all for rehabilitation of the mentally ill in most cases. But sometimes a sick, rabid dog just needs to be put down. And paint me with a right-wing brush if that gives you a level of comfort, but to me death is the only way to punish someone who has anally raped God-knows-how-many children. Sorry, 30 years of TV, books, lifting weights and three meals a day doesn't strike me as justice.
(Oh, and a piece of PR advice to Jerry Sandusky? The next time you are asked on national TV if you are sexually attracted to young boys, don't answer by slowly repeating the question. Listen to that interview, read that grand jury report, and then tell me that Joe Paterno should still have a job.)
Joe Paterno = Cardinal Bernie Law. Diddler enabler.
Great piece, Kirk. I read all of your columns, and this one might be your best.
A: Thanks. And yup, the Cardinal Law-Joe Paterno comparison is perfect. Rape enablers all the way. And understand this: We are just in the infancy of this story. Just wait. If you have a sliver of sympathy for Poor Ol' Joe right now, it'll be wiped out when the inevitable "Paterno was told about Sandusky and Child X in 1988" story breaks. Hope when that happens it'll finally be enough for Peter King (what a disgrace he's been on this), Ivan Maisel, Joe Posnanski and all the other Paterno ball-washers to admit that maybe -- just maybe -- Saint Joe might've been a little bit at fault. You see, these fellas need to wait until all the evidence comes out before they pass judgment. For me, Paterno's actions following the 2002 locker-room rape is evidence enough. Again, if that's Joe Paterno's grandson in that shower, does he handle it the same way? Of course not. And that's all you need to know. Nothing else.