Tons of feedback (both in comments and e-mail) off the Bill Belichick column I wrote on Monday. I was surprised that most were in my camp (which is basically this: The guy is still a great coach having a rough year) or at least didn't completely disagree with what I wrote.
But there are always The Others. And they let me have it this week. I still can't believe that it is possible that someone may hate me as much as I hate, say, Pau Gasol. Or Billy Packer. Or Johnny Pesky (kidding, of course. My way of checking to see if you are even reading this).
So Belichick is Topic A this week. But we also break down the pass rush (or lack of one), re-examine Tom Brady vs. Matt Cassel, suggest a new line of work for Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess, cut Phil Kessel some slack, poke holes in "The Departed" and answer a question from a man named Stinky.
So to the 'bag we go (and as always, feel free to fire away at firstname.lastname@example.org)...
Wow, this article just took the reporting standards of WEEI.com into the local dump. This is awful. Its so awful, it cannot even hide the poor method of using one quote over and over and over. ... It's not funny, nor does it underline any point you try to make. This is a poorly written, poorly conceived, piece of trash. I will skip your columns in the future. Also, for you to think you can sit back and question this coach and his track record: Its laughable. Just like your article.
A: Which chapter of "The Education of a Coach" do you have your mother read to you to help you fall asleep the night of a Patriots loss? Or do you go the "Patriot Reign" route? Oh, and there really is no reason for an assistant manager at Arby's to keep a replay challenge flag in his sock. Please skip my column in the future. I implore you to do so. In fact, never look at WEEI.com again. Go lurk somewhere else. And that girl at Papa Gino’s didn’t think you were funny. She was laughing at your tired jokes because she saw the lonlieness in your eyes and took some pity. Trust me, when you left, she called her boyfriend and they laughed and laughed at you. Go practice cutting your sweatshirts and never bother me again.
Sometimes I wonder if the dopes with the wooden teeth would have thought twice about the whole "freedom of expression" thing if they had the opportunity to spend 15 minutes on the Internet. Though I could see James Madison getting a kick out of "Guess That Ass."
Why so bitter, dude? It's a game — and you weren't even on the field. Get over yourself.
A: Well, I’m not sure how bitter I am, exactly. But I agree that I wasn’t on the field. Guess you think only the players should write about the game. OK. Works for me. There is no end to terrific writing from the modern-day athlete. Every time I turn around I run into five or six Bill Bradleys or Roger Bannisters.
I have to agree. The D is horrendous, which was expected, but the offensive play-calling is just maddening. So predictable it's ridiculous. I know there are so many things wrong about bringing in a new offensive scheme, but anything has to be better than what we have seen recently. I'd be for giving [Charlie] Weis a shot. What do we have to lose at this point?
A: Of course (for about a million reasons) you won’t see Weis here this year, Mike. Not gonna happen. And it doesn’t sound like he’ll be here next year, either. And that’s not a big deal. This team still scores a ton of points (fifth in points scored, second in yards per game). The biggest beef I have with the offense is the fourth-down stuff, and it doesn’t matter who the offensive coordinator is when those situations arise. That is going to be Belichick’s call. Nope, the pass rush is Problem A to about Q for this team right now.
Why do people have to say it's ARROGANT going for it on fourth-and-1? This is freakin' football, not politics or a popularity contest! Bill Belichick goes for it on fourth down because he's an aggressive coach who feels the offense NEEDS to pick up the first down in order to win? Is he right? Well, that can be debated, sure. But my God, Bill Belichick ISN'T BEING ARROGANT by going for it on fourth down. Was Tony Sparano arrogant when he went for it on fourth down? It's the same deal.
A: I agree with you that it isn’t arrogance, W.D. Good e-mail here, actually. My only problem is there is absolutely no consistency with when he goes for it and when he doesn’t. I think we’d all feel better about this if he HAD gone for it on fourth-and-inches from the New England 40 on Sunday. If you go by the thinking of Belichick (and every probability chart we were shown by the pro “go for it on fourth-and-2” crowd) this was a no-brainer. I don’t understand the thought process.
(Speaking of things I don’t understand, how is it possible that Matt Damon’s character in “The Departed” was able to buy what appeared to be a multimillion dollar condo in Boston without attracting attention from Alec Baldwin and his group? Wouldn’t that raise a red flag somewhere? Oh, he has an anonymous co-signer? That explains everything. What a lazy script. I stand by the statement that “The Departed” is the most overrated film of the last decade. Not even close (I’d put “Gran Torino” second, I guess). In fact, I think I’ll give you a weekly “Departed” flaw over the next few months. “Rambo III” is a better film.)
Keep going for it, Coach ... it's not like you lost by a single point ... oooops.
A: All these years I’ve tried and failed to get into a Bob Villa mailbag and he gets into mine with his first attempt. Doesn’t seem fair. My only other mailbag goal is a little more old school — just once, I’d like to get my question answered in “Walter Scott’s Personality Parade.” Every week I try, and every week I end up longing. I don’t get it. How can stuff like this miss?
Aug. 22, 1998
Like you and millions of others, I really enjoyed the chemistry between Amy Irving and Mandy Patinkin in “Yentl.” Any chance we’ll see these two on-screen (or TV) anytime soon?
And nothing. But it will happen. You throw enough “Where in the world is Judy Tenuta?” questions out there and one has to stick.
OK, after watching this game I have to admit that the Patriots are not in the top five anymore. I hope that this offseason they really do some house-cleaning, in the coaching staff and personnel. The pats need a new offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. The play-calling from both sides sucks. 1) A three-man pass rush is not going to work with the players they have. 2) Make some adjustments on offense when you are getting stopped. 3) Get a pass-rusher, another wide receiver, just a start.
A: Keep in mind that I have no idea what I’m talking about, but I expect Romeo Crennel to be back with the Pats next season. Makes sense, right? He’s had a year off, ready to get back to work, all that stuff. And I’m sure he’d be a swell addition to the staff. But it won’t matter much if they don’t bring in a pass-rusher. And not a "Jason Taylor on his last legs" type, either. A legit, double-digit, commanding-double-teams type. An impact guy. You know, like Derrick Burgess was supposed to be. Oh, well, when you make a deal with a guy as crafty as 98-year-old Al Davis, you reap the whirlwind.
You are correct to point out that the most obvious weakness with this team is the lack of a pass rush, but I would argue that the offensive line is almost as big of a problem. Whether it be age or injury, this group simply cannot open holes. Also, Bill's total unwillingness to bring in a solid back is killing this offense. Why didn't they consider Larry Johnson? Is he really worse than Randy Moss was when they traded for him?
A: I don’t know, Jonathan, you think? The offensive line has been pretty good, I think. Sure, they aren’t built for run-blocking, but the Pats still are averaging four yards a carry. Right around the league average. And they have only allowed 16 sacks, or four fewer than the Pats defense has this season.
And I’m not sure about Larry Johnson, either. Is he, at this point in his career, really better than Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk or Laurence Maroney? Or Fred Taylor (who could be back as soon as Sunday)? I don’t think it was a character question with Johnson (though I know Belichick is a huge “Milk” fan and often has the team watch it before a big game). He just isn’t that good anymore. Too many carries in those three years. With Moss, there was still a lot left in the tank. Didn’t hurt that he basically took two years off in Oakland.
Just read your piece on WEEI.com this morning. You are right on the money. Sounded like you may have been listening to my postgame rant yesterday.
I was thinking last night as I watched the highlights that in a league that is supposed to be all about parity, barring a real surprise, we will have two undefeated teams this regular season — either of which could go all the way — and two years ago we had a different team (the Patriots) go undefeated and if not for a miracle catch by David Tyree they would have run the table.
During this same period we have seen the usual doormats — Lions, Browns, Rams, etc. — remain just that.
Is this just a big coincidence or has does the NFL's concept of 'parity' need a little tweaking?
A: I’m OK with the current state of the NFL when it comes to parity, Mike. Really it mostly comes down to this — the teams with the best quarterbacks will be good, and the teams with the lousy quarterbacks will suck. For the most part. The Colts have been good for a decade because of Peyton Manning, The Patriots have been good for a decade because of Tom Brady. The Saints were terrible until Drew Brees showed up. When Rich Gannon was playing like an MVP, the Raiders were good. Since he left, they have started guys such as Andrew Walter, JaMarcus Russell and Josh McCown. More than ever, this is a QB league. That is how you first divide the haves from the have-nots. Believe me, if Matthew Stafford becomes an All-Pro, the Lions will not be winning just two games a year.
Be fair, Kirk. This is a column straight from the Ron Borges playbook. They are a play or two away from being 9-3 or even 10-2. Belichick isn't a genius anymore because Sam Aiken drops a ball or Kevin Faulk is an inch away from converting that fourth down in Indy? Total overreaction.
A: And, why, exactly, did Mark Wahlberg’s character hate Leonardo DiCaprio’s character so much? Sorry, it’s on FX now and the movie really does bother me. And Martin Sheen is bringing an all-time top-five-worst Boston accent to the table.
A play or two away from 9-3? Maybe. But be fair, Todd. If Leodis McKelvin doesn’t fumble and Derrick Mason catches that fourth-down pass, the Pats could be staring at 5-7 right now. And that scenario is just as likely as 9-3. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this phrase before, so I’m taking credit for it here. The Patriots are what they are. Feel free to use it at your discretion.
Overreaction. We are closer to a better record but without the momentum we would need to survive the playoffs. You gotta work with what ya got. 1) Install blitz packages. 2) Maybe the best veterans to sign aren't the ones with the big salaries. Is there any disagreeing that players such as Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess weren't worth it? 3) Alex Smith. 4) Is Seymour worth it to Oakland? Back to the overlooked youngish midlevel veteran, a la Mike Vrabel, Wes Welker. Bill, go for it on fourth down, but you gotta do a misdirection play. Stacking all your chips in the middle takes away the statistical advantage you are correct about. It lowers the chances of success to 50-50.
A: Again, I don’t think they are any “closer” to a better record. Could as easily be 5-7 as 9-3.
I’m with you on the under-the-radar free agents, Dano, but it isn’t as easy as Belichick and Scott Pioli made it look in 2001. If it were, they’d be doing it every season and the Chiefs would be 10-2. It’ll be interesting to see if Belichick is hesitant to pull the trigger on a potential free agent he likes if the guy is (A) over 30, like Burgess or Thomas or (B) comes with a big price tag. Worth watching.
I’ve read and heard some suggest that the Seymour trade looks bad now. I totally disagree. First of all, the 2009 Richard Seymour (4 sacks) isn’t an impact player anymore. Would he help a little? Sure. But not a solution. It’s not easy to be patient, but that first-round pick in 2011 could bring the pass-rusher that is needed. And I think I’d rather wait two years for what could turn out to be 10 years of high-level play than have Seymour for just 2009 (and remember, he would have been gone after this season).
As a fellow Rajon Rondo hater, I’m sure you were thrilled with his “challenge” to Chris Johnson. What is wrong with this guy, anyway? Just play basketball. Leave Chris Paul, Chris Johnson, Chris Matthews and Chris Isaak alone. Should this bother me so much or I am just getting old?
A: I’m the same way, Dave. And I’m not a Rondo “hater” by any means, but it drives me crazy that he acts as if he should be treated like a 10-time All-Star. OK, you won a title (you were the seventh-best player in that series, by the way, and were pretty much a wash against Derek Fisher) and played great against a Bulls team that won 41 games. Swell. Nice start to a career, but I’d think we all agree that a little work might be needed before we send him to Springfield, right? And no NBA player who shoots 40 percent from the foul line should be allowed to speak. And I’m not just talking about to the media, either. I mean anywhere or anytime. Complete silence until 65 percent.
The Pats defense is just terrible. Can't rush the quarterback, and as a result, our corners are forced to cover the receivers FOREVER ... which is a recipe for disaster! On top of which we still can't run the ball. Maroney runs to the line of scrimmage and then ALWAYS hops sideways!! Hit the damn hole!!
The Pats will now be lucky to win the (VERY weak) AFC East. My guess is a first-round exit from the playoffs.
A: That Rondo question is out of place, I know, but I needed a little intermission from the Pats stuff.
That’s the thing, Andre. I have no idea if Darius Butler is going to be any good or not. How can you accurately judge a cornerback when there is no pass rush? Ty Law in his prime would look like a stifferoo on this team.
First-round exit? Nah, they’ll beat Jacksonville (or whoever gets the 6 seed) in the first round. But if you are a Patriots fan you have been conditioned to believe that any season that ends without a Super Bowl is a lost season. And you know what? That’s not an unfair expectation with an in-prime Tom Brady. But this team simply does not have the defense to beat Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and either Drew Brees or Brett Favre/Adrian Peterson in three staright games. They did in 2001, 2003 and 2004, but not now. I still maintain that this is a Super Bowl-level offense, though. But some disagree.
Good article. I only disagree with one thing. The biggest problem for this team is not pass rush. The biggest problem is the offense in the second half. In all four of the gut-wrenching losses this year (Jets, Broncos, Colts, Dolphins), the offense had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win the game or run out the clock (close out the game). In all four cases, the offense failed miserably. Go back and look at the drive charts. I have. Three-and-outs, fumbles, interceptions. Pathetic. THIS is the biggest problem on this team. The defensive problems are frustrating, but I place the blame for these four losses squarely on the shoulders of the offense.
A: Can’t blame that Colts game on the offense. Blowing a 17-point lead with 12 minutes to ago is on the defense. But I get your point. For me, the first Brady pick Sunday was easily the biggest play of the game. They score a TD there and the game is over. A jump ball to Moss on first-and-goal just isn’t a good call.
But who is to blame for which loss isn’t really my point. I think the offense still can play well enough in the playoffs to win the Super Bowl. And the defense isn’t close to that level. If you want to tell me this is a rebuilding year for the defense, I can go along with that. Jerod Mayo (who has looked terrible since he came back, but I know he’s still a terrific player) and Brandon Meriweather are the foundation. I want to buy, really I do. But until I see a legitimate pass-rusher, I just can’t. Quick, name me a great defense that didn’t have at least one guy that got to the quarterback. And there isn’t that player currently on this roster. So it’s a wait 'til next year deal.
We saw what a Hall of Fame QB does against a non-existent pass rush and what a mediocre QB does against a non-existent pass rush. Any playoff team will eat that defense alive. One of the many problems now is not just that the Pats aren't willing to spend money, but when they do, they spend it wrong (take a long look at Shawn Springs' contract).
A: Exactly right, Matt. A couple of lousy drafts and free agent offseasons equal the defense we have watched the past few weeks.
(And why are Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess late for anything? They are stealing money from the Kraft family already. Really, if Bob Kraft told either of those guys to work a couple shifts a week at the Showcase Cinema at Patriot Place they should be happily ripping tickets. If I’m Belichick, I put those two clowns on a bus and never worry about them again. Tom Brady had a kid (you know what I mean) the day before and he made it on time.)
Even if the Pats win out the regular season from here, they will only match what Cassell did last year (11-5). Doesn't that seem unexpected??
A: Sure does, Metro. I had this team at 14-2 before the season started. But I’m pretty sure that I’ll take Brady over Cassel. I get that this hasn’t been his best season, but he’s already thrown more TD passes in 12 games than Cassel did last season. Cassel threw the ball 516 times in 2008 and wound up with 3,693 yards passing. Brady has thrown the ball 458 times so far in 2009 and has 3,638 yards passing. Again, I know that Brady has probably thrown as many shaky picks in 2009 as he did in his previous eight years combined, but having a quarterback that is on pace for 4,850 yards passing and 30 TDs is never a bad thing. If not for 2007 you would be watching the best season by any QB in Pats history.
And I’ve watched enough Chiefs games this season to know this: Cassel is nothing without Welker and Moss. Total product of the system. My prediction is that they’ll give him another season and then he is released. I’ll put the over/under on how many NFL teams he plays for at 4.5.
You're so right on many points. Granted the defense didn't play championship football Sunday, but the offensive play-calling in the second half was, well, offensive. The Pats were running the ball (with Brady under center? wow, what a concept!) down Miami pretty good, and the play action worked on the TD to Moss. Maroney was running as if someone on Miami made fun of his momma.
Yet, whoever the offensive coordiantor is did a horrible job in the second half. The play-calling was more terrible than a 14-year old playing Madden at 3 in the morning. And I was thinking the same thing ... fourth-and-3 inches, you punt? OK ... but on fourth-and-a-full yard, when a field goal on the road against a team that almost beat the Colts and Saints would give you a 10-point lead, you go for it? In the words of my wise father, "WTF?"
And by the way, this team could easily be 10-2, believe it or not, and the second-half stats just show that opposing defenses are making the proper adjustments while the Pats aren't changing or fooling any defenses (they have lost four games with a halftime lead!). When Brady is in shotgun 75 percent of the time, you're not fooling a JV eight-man team from Kansas. But I need to digress or my head will explode, 1980 David Cronenberg "Scanners" style.
A: Way too focused on the offense, guys. Chad Henne. Remember Chad Henne. This offense is going to finish in the top five in points scored this season. Is the play-calling bizarre at times? You bet. Is it more than a little strange that we have no idea who is actually calling said plays? I think it is. But the real problem is on the other side of the ball. Let me put it this way: Which seems more likely to you, the Patriots offense scoring 35 points at Indy in the playoffs or the Patriots defense holding the Colts to 17 points in the playoffs? No contest, right?
You didn’t lose the clown shoes moniker, I just needed to reserve it for guys like Phil Kessel, Tiger, Jamiee Grubbs and anybody else who made monumentally foolish decisions and statements this week. It was a week that championed idiocy, so if you want the title back you are really going to have to step your game up. It was a week of texting, or sexting, or some other kind of abbreviation for a permanent digital message that is likely to get you in trouble. This was a good week for the realization that things aren’t what we misled ourselves into believing they were.
The Patriots field a no-name defense, but this is not the same no-name defense as 2001 (which coincidentally had a lot of “names” playing for it). This really is a bunch of guys past their prime, (Burgess, Banta-Cain, A. Thomas) and a bunch of not-ready-for-prime-time players (Butler, Wilhite, Merriweather, Guyton). The combination is just not good enough, and the linebacking corps, unlike the defensive backfield, has no real upside.
This is not the same Jerod Mayo that it was last year. No joke, this guy is a shell out there, getting outrun to the corner repeatedly by running backs and tight ends and secondary coaches. The Defensive Rookie of the Year looks like he could be in the Just For Men commercial right next to Emmett Smith. Jerod, your beard is weird … and Pepper Johnson looks like he could trade that backward visor for a helmet and outplay you right now.
This is not the same UNH education my sister got. Texts, voicemails and other digital communications are forever. The 24-year-old Jamiee Grubbs got a free lesson from Rachel Uchitel this week. Grubbs got paid $150k to tell all the details and release a voicemail, and then UNH alumnus Rachel Uchitel gets reportedly $1 mil to say nothing but “no comment.” The voicemail alone was worth $1 million, and in fact was the most valuable piece of intelligence thus far produced in this whole scandal. I didn’t realize it was going to lead to the discovery of mistresses so slimy looking you need hand sanitizer just to read the Producers blog on weei.com.
Phil Kessel is not the next coming. After texting Marc Savard his expert advice, Phil comes in and lays an egg at the Garden. You play physical against this Dorothy and he gets exposed quicker than a tramp stamp on one of Tiger's swing doctors in a Bickford's parking lot. He's a scorer, not a hockey player. Case closed.
A: Unlike the man who once owned this piece of real estate, I claim to know next to nothing about hockey. But Phil Kessel strikes me as the NHL equivalent of one of those early 1980s NBA players who did nothing but score. So from now on I will refer to him as World B. Kessel. But that is the extent to which I will criticize someone who is missing one of the twins, Jake.
Good point on Mayo. You forget that the 2008 Mayo is also missing from this defense. He’s been replaced by whatever Mayo has been since he’s returned. I suspect that sometime in training camp next year you’ll read about how he was never healthy and fought through the injury all season.
I don’t think any less of Tiger Woods than I did a month ago. I’m serious. I have to admit I’m surprised at the extent of this stuff, but I never looked at him as anything more than the best golfer in the world. People get confused sometimes. They think because someone does one thing better than anyone else alive that they must do EVERYTHING better. Not the case, as we’ve learned about a million times in the past 25 years or so. But the last two weeks, or more commonly known in the Mickelson house as The Greatest 14 Days in History, have turned the dominant athlete of my lifetime into a punchline. Just a bizarre fortnight. And when the divorce is done and all the endorsements are gone (and except for a few, they will be), Tiger Woods will have paid about $300 million to screw around with a Perkins waitress, a few porn stars and a couple of women who would kill to be on “Celebrity Sex Rehab.” Not great value, Tiger.
That’s it for now. I think the Pats get fat and happy with Matt Moore (or Jake Delhomme) this week. Call it 34-10 in a game that will tell us nothing about this team.