The mailbag returns after a week off and we are determined to avoid any charges of "dogging it."
Bad week for a couple of dopes in the media. Mike Freeman over at CBSSports.com (fresh off of a column asking the governor of New York to pardon Plaxico Burress) repeatedly referred to Randy Moss as a "dog" in a piece that ran on the site Monday. Now, keep in mind Moss was questionable for the game vs. Atlanta with a bad back. Keep also in mind that none of Moss' teammates or coaches in New England have ever publicly questioned his work ethic — just the opposite, in fact. And let's not forget that in the game in question, Moss caught seven passes for 89 yards in the second half to carry the Patriots to a crucial (OK, not "must-win," but close) victory. But Freeman kept “a chart” that showed Moss performing like “an unbelievable dog.” Good enough for me. Guess that means I’ll have to go along with this little nugget of journalistic gold from Freeman:
“The league knows that Moss is sometimes a dog. Every team, every player. They all know the deal and it's built into their defensive strategies against the Patriots.”
Sold. I’m sure Freeman spoke to every player in the NFL before he wrote this, right? Right? OK, how about five players? Or maybe he just had an idea for a column based on something he might have heard on TV once four years ago? Check.
And it actually gets worse. Somehow, Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com turned that story into this:
“It’s possible that Moss isn’t deliberately taking plays off, but that he merely has retreated to his nature now that he has attention span has expired. But it’s also possible that Moss wants out, and that this is his way of making it happen.
Indeed, if the Pats made it clear two years ago that they wouldn’t tolerate this kind of stuff from Moss, common sense suggests that if Moss engages in this kind of stuff, they’ll send him packing.
But Bill Belichick is no idiot — he won’t be letting Moss walk away. Belichick knows that Moss has a friend in the league. A quarterback friend. And that quarterback friend is now playing for the team with which Moss initially made his mark. And that quarterback friend could be putting ideas in Randy’s head regarding the possibility of finishing together the job that Moss started 11 years ago.
Despite Sunday’s uncanny last-second catch from a little-known player whom the Pats jettisoned before the season, Brett Favre knows he needs a field-stretching receiver in order to duplicate John Elway’s ride into the sunset.
And Favre knows the perfect man for the job.
And Brett Favre openly has lobbied for Moss when Favre played for the Packers. So what better way to fulfill his repeatedly denied yet undeniable desire to stick it to Ted Thompson than by finding a way to bring Moss back to Minnesota?”
So, just to make sure I’ve got this straight: Moss is 29-6 in regular-season games with the Patriots, plus he has an AFC championship. He’s on pace to catch about 140 passes this season, and by every account he’s got a terrific relationship with Brady and Belchick. But down deep he wants to give that all up to get even with Packers general manager Ted Thompson, a man who he has no professional connection with. Done. And you wonder why the Internet gets crapped on sometimes? Pure fabrication.
More Moss here this week, and plenty of Tom Brady, Belichick and clown shoes. And yes, the mystery of Terry Francona’s R&B career will finally be solved.
To the 'bag we go (and, as always, feel free to e-mail away to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Everyone expecting the offense to mimic 2007 seemed reasonable, but it's a lot different when you think about it. It seems like a lifetime ago, but [Donte] Stallworth was a huge weapon for this team (26 days in jail, really???) and [Jabar] Gaffney looks like Jerry Rice compared to what [Joey] Galloway has been able to do. Combine that with the [Wes] Welker injury and it's been a slow start, simple as that. As for the fourth-and-inches, I'm happy they got it done but I still think that was outrageous. You get stuffed there and they could have lost this game, no joke. Ballsy call by the coach.
A: I also thought the fourth-and-inches call was nuts, but give Belichick his due: The guy has grapefruits. No other coach in the league has the twins to make that call, and he didn’t even think twice.
I agree that the Welker injury is huge, Chris. We all get a kick out of Julian Edelman, but he has a long way to go. And Galloway has been an absolute disaster so far. I didn’t think Stallworth was great in 2007, but he was miles ahead of what Galloway has given the Pats to this point. I think we can put any thoughts of 2007 part deux to rest. But a healthy Welker with Moss, Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, Ben Watson, Chris Baker and Brady should be a top-five offense, right? Well, guess where they rank in yards per game so far in 2009? Fifth (395 yards per). It’s just that the red zone stuff has just been awful (one TD in eight trips).
Try 24 days in jail for Stallworth, not 26. Twenty-four days for killing someone. That’s seven fewer days than the FedEx Cup in golf. That’s 1,071 fewer days than the guy who stole Lance Armstrong’s bike got for a prison sentence. These things make no sense to me. Keep in mind that I’m no legal genius, of course. Most of the stuff I know about the law was collected from watching the courtroom scenes in “Cop and a Half.”
Galloway is done. Even Doug Gabriel caught three touchdown passes. And Belichick was right in going for it from the . It wasn't even a foot and they were running the ball at will all game long. Easy call for BB that time.
A: I get that they were running the ball well, Todd, but it’s never an “easy call” to go for it from your own 24-yard line. And again, I disagree with Troy Aikman, this had nothing to do with Belichick’s three Super Bowls and the comfort of knowing he’ll never be fired. If he were in the same spot in, say, 2002, I’m thinking he might give it a shot.
And yeah, Galloway just looks completely lost to me. Strange. I figured he’d step right in and be a guy you’d never have to worry about. You know, 40-45 catches, 600 yards, five or six TDs. Guess it’s possible that may still happen, but I’m starting to think it’s more likely he’ll be waived by Week 10. Nice to see Greg Lewis make the catch of the year for the Vikings on Sunday. Cue the Bob Lobel bit: “Why can’t we get guys like that?”
Brady is missing high on a lot of throws. is it possible that shoulder injury from the preseason is affecting him more than we are led to believe?
A: I don’t really know the answer as to why Brady hasn’t been Brady so far, but I suppose his shoulder could be the reason. Maybe this is one of those injuries that sticks around all year and we find out three months after the season that it was far worse than he (or the Patriots) let on. Who knows with the Pats and injuries?
The reason Brady's throwing so much is because his timing is off. The only way to improve timing and bring back his instincts is to throw, throw, throw. They have a tough schedule this year and I think the Pats want Brady back as close to normal as soon as humanly possible. I expect him to continue to put up about 40 attempts a game until he's hitting Moss down the sideline 50 yards away with the ease in which we saw in 2007.
A: I’m pretty sure that isn’t how it works, Tim. I don’t think Belichick or Bill O’Brien or whoever is running the offense calls for 50 passes a game just to make sure Brady gets his feet wet. I think they believe it gives them the best chance to win. And I don’t know if 45-50 attempts per game gets him back to normal any quicker than 30-35 per game. At the end of the day, is there any difference?
It comes down to this: Belichick trusts his passing game and is lukewarm about the backs he has. In 2004 Brady attempted 474 passes, a number that didn’t even rank in the top 10 in the league. But guess what? Corey Dillon ran for more than 1,600 yards. If Belichick had a back that good there is no way Brady would be on pace to throw the ball 747 times.
People forget that the first few games of 2007 the Pats didn't air it out the whole time. They actually mixed it up and ran some three-tight end stuff a couple of games. It wasn't until Game 5 or 6 when they became the air show.
A: Good point, Mike. In the first five games of 2007 Brady only passed for more than 300 yards once. I had forgotten how well they were running the ball:
Week 1 vs. Jets: 134 rushing yards
Week 2 vs. Chargers: 144 rushing yards
Week 3 vs. Bills: 177 rushing yards
Week 4 vs. Bengals: 173 rushing yards
Week 5 vs. Browns: 147 rushing yards
And you know how many passes Brady had thrown through three games in 2007? Eighy-eight, or 54 fewer than he has attempted so far in 2009.
I agree that Randy Moss has been the MVP for the Pats so far in 2009. He felt like a hired gun when they brought him in two years ago, but know it seems like he has been on the Patriots for years. Another great move by Belichick.
A: Look, it helps that the Pats have been good the entire time Moss has been here (again, a 29-6 regular-season record), but I’m still a little surprised that we haven’t had a diva moment in his two-plus years. Terrell Owens has been in Buffalo for a month and already he's bitching and moaning. And did you see Steve Smith lose it on Monday night? None of that from Moss during his tenure in New England. And I give Belichick full credit for that.
This is a list of the top 10 Boston coaches, right? Have you ever heard of a guy named Jack Parker?
I know you're a lover of statistics, so I'll give you a few. Parker has been the head coach for the BU Terriers men's ice hockey team since 1973, and is going into his 37th season. His teams have won 3 NCAA Division 1 championships, four ECAC championships, and seven Hockey East championships. They have captured 21 Beanpot titles. Parker has been named NCAA Coach of the Year three times, and Hockey East Coach of the Year five times. He was won 30 NCAA tournament games, the most of any Division 1 coach. He is only the third D1 coach to record more than 800 wins, and the first to accomplish that feat with only one team, and ranks third overall in total number of wins. Finally, dozens of his players have represented our country proudly in the Olympics, and/or have gone on to celebrate illustrious careers in the NHL. In his job as a coach, mentoring young student-athletes, this accomplishment cannot be overstated.
On the other hand, Bill Parcells' stint as coach of the New England Patriots lasted four years. Only two of those years did his teams even manage to hold winning records, and his greatest accomplishment was a single AFC championship. I agree that his tenure brought back relevancy to the franchise and reinvigorated loyalty and interest in the hearts of fans, but that was due to his celebrity personality and past coaching record. His actual accomplishments as Patriots coach, or lack thereof, really can't be overlooked.
And Tommy Heinsohn? Terrific guy, yes. Fantastic player, sure. But outstanding coach? I don't think so. Give me a break. Both Jack Parker and Jerry York, Parker's rival coach at BC, deserve to be on the list before Parcells and Heinsohn.
A: You have to read the fine print (or whatever it is called online), Angelo. The 10 best PRO coaches in Boston sports history. Both Parker and York would have almost certainly found a spot on the list had college coaches been included.
I struggled with Parcells. A 32-32 record is a tough sell, I know. I guess I could have put Doc Rivers on there instead, but does anyone really believe that Doc Rivers is a better coach than Bill Parcells? If the Celtics had won that lottery and drafted Greg Oden, it’s a better than 50-50 chance you’d be watching Doc on TNT or ESPN twice a week. And I do think people forget how bad things were before the Tuna showed up. The 1992 Patriots averaged 12.8 points per game. They were shut out three times and scored 10 or fewer points SEVEN times. Jon Vaughn led the team with 451 rushing yards. Jeff Carlson started two games at quarterback, completed 36 percent of his passes and never played in an NFL game again. Throw in the remnants of Zeke Mowatt and Victor Kiam and a possible move to St. Louis still lingering and I’m not sure any franchise in league history has been worse shape. And Parcells got them to the Super Bowl in four years. Tough to overlook.
And Heinsohn absolutely belongs on the list. It’s just your perception of Tommy now that gets in the way of what he did as a coach — five division titles, two NBA titles and an average of 59 wins a year between 1972-76.
Kirk — When reading your article "The best coaches in Boston sports history," I noticed this fact about Terry Francona:
“In 1986, using the pseudonym “Midnight Snack,” Francona released a solo R&B album. Though it sold only 16,000 copies, it was a minor hit with the critics and even received a Grammy nomination for best R&B album (it lost to Billy Ocean’s “Love Zone”).”
I had never heard this before. Is this a joke? I cannot find any info about it anywhere. What is your source?
A: Got a few e-mails about this over the past week, so it’s maybe best just to set the record straight on this one. In 1986, did Terry Francona release a solo R&B record under the pseudonym “Midnight Snack”? The answer, of course, is “yes.” Now, you might be asking yourself, “Why have I never read this before?” or “Why is there NOTHING on the Internet about this?” or even “Gee, Terry Francona doesn’t really fit the profile of an R&B singer, does he?” I can’t help you with that. I do think the media should take a hit for never covering this story (seems a perfect off-day-in-Detroit angle to me, with Motown and all), but I won’t judge. And I won’t even get into his awful follow-up, 1988’s “More Cravings From Midnight Snack,” which pretty much ended his music career (though his duet with The Pointer Sisters — “Can’t Fly Without the Fuel” — is admittedly a guilty pleasure).
RE: The Jets Game. Don’t ever compare Brady with [Drew] Bledsoe ever again. I know you were half-kidding, but it still scares me. I was thinking the same exact thing watching on Sunday, and I’d just prefer that thought goes away.
A: I wasn’t “half-kidding” at all, Andy. That was a vintage Bledsoe performance on Sunday. And I’m a Drew fan, I think he really has received a raw deal over the years. You think Raiders fans wish they had got a QB of Drew’s caliber with the first pick in 2007? I actually think that JaMarcus Russell is the worst quarterback I’ve ever seen in the NFL. No small feat — believe me, I considered Ryan Leaf, Scott Secules, Vince Evans and Heath Shuler. Remember when Scott Bakula got hurt in "Necessary Roughness" and the kid with the glasses had to play QB for a few downs? That guy was better than Russell.
But the stuff that drove the Bledsoe bashers crazy — the panic when facing a rush, the tipped passes, the delay-of-game penalties — were all on display courtesy of Brady vs. the Jets. Is it a fluke, or will it become a thing as the season goes on? Something to watch the next time he faces a top defense (which will be Sunday).
(The hard-core Bledsoe fans still exist, by the way. A dying breed, but a few have managed to survive. They mostly live in the mountains, subsisting on berries and the knowing words of Ron Borges. And at night, when the sun goes down, they all gather around the fire, chanting “All he needs is an elite offensive line, a good running back and two top wide receivers.”)
One loss, and everyone wanted to get out their little tool kit and fix the broken Patriots offense. Brady isn't Brady just yet and is a little off. Peyton [Manning] went through it after his knee injury, and to expect Brady to not miss a beat is lunacy. That said, delay-of-game penalties in multitude are mental mistakes Tom just doesn't make. At the end of it all, I am fairly certain the offense will be looking A-OK by Week 8 or 9.
Beyond all that, Tom and Gisele are being sued by two paparazzi who allegedly got shot at during their wedding reception. The reasoning? Tom and G provided inadequate security when they knew the wedding would be a media event. So, you're saying you were allegedly shot at and not wounded while staking out a wedding you weren't invited to and are pissed that security who weren't hired to protect you didn't do their jobs. What a pair of useless doucheburgers. Tom and Gisele should sue the gunman for missing or hire Delonte West provided he can tear himself away from hunting the terminator, saving John Connor and preventing the annihilation of mankind.
Jake Scott, Boston
A: We can forever debate whether or not it is appropriate for the paparazzi to be skunking around the wedding ceremony, but I think on this we can all agree: I’m just happy Harvey Levin wasn’t injured in the shooting. I’m not sure he was at the actual event, but the idea of someone else running the board at one of those TMZ.com meetings sends shivers down my spine. The guy is the Vince Lombardi of hunting down C-listers.
I was just watching “The Sopranos” on A&E and the episode with Eric Mangini was on. Talk about a fall from grace — three years ago Tony Soprano was walking over to HIM. I don’t even think Artie would let him eat at Vesuvio’s now.
A: I’m sure Mangini would find somewhere else to eat, Jim. Have you seen him this year? He’s a dead ringer for Chubbs from “Teen Wolf.”
Sad to watch, really. This guy was poised to be Belichick’s main rival for a decade, and now it looks like he’s two years away from being the defensive backs coach for the Edmonton Eskimos. And he now just comes across as a paranoid maniac. Listen, making people wait until the last minute before announcing Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn as your starting quarterback is the NFL equivalent of waiting until the last minute to announce “Worth Winning” or “The Presidio” as the opener in a Mark Harmon film festival.