Now, more than ever, it’s all about Bill Belichick.
We assume that's a good thing.
The Pats have been as busy over the first month of free agency as they've ever been, trading away a franchise quarterback and a longtime defensive captain while bringing in eight new players and resigning six of their own. The draft will be another swap meet, with the Pats owning six picks in the top 100 of what is supposed to be the deepest class in years. Along the way, the Pats saw key assistants depart from the scouting and coaching staffs. And it's all occurred in an environment where the collective bargaining agreement is expiring and no one really knows if there will be a salary cap in 2010 and what the landscape will be beyond that.
It's been a remarkably active and important time in the franchise's history -- and Belichick has had to lead the way while reworking much of his football staff.
Yes, many of the “new” faces in coaching and scouting are either in-house promotions or friends. And the Krafts and their business models remain firmly in place. It’s not like everyone is speaking a new language at Gillette Stadium.
But that doesn’t change the bottom line:
Scott Pioli is long gone, and up and down the football operations offices there are people who have to be brought up to speed. Belichick doesn't just have to coach up the players this year; he has to coach up the coaches who will coach them and the scouts who will scout them.
It's hard to imagine there's been an offseason this decade where Belichick assumed more responsibility than he has in this one. He’s always made the big calls, of course. It's just that he had Pioli's reports to draw from, as well as input from other trusted assistants throughout the operation, many of whom were confidants who knew what to do without being told.
In some respects, he's starting over.
The turnover on the scouting and coaching staffs has been dramatic. And, remember, Belichick has always leaned heavily on his assistant coaches when it comes to scouting the draft. The most famous example is the late Dick Rehbein tipping the scales in favor of Tom Brady over Tim Rattay in 2001. These guys are important starting right now, not just come the spring workout program or training camp.
Now Belichick is looking at a football staff where he has had to replace a lead personnel man (Nick Caserio for Pioli), a lead contract negotiator (Floyd Reese for Pioli), an offensive coordinator (presumed to be Bill O’Brien for Josh McDaniels), a quarterbacks coach (O’Brien for McDaniels), a receivers coach (Chad O’Shea for O’Brien), a tight ends coach (Shane Waldron for Pete Mangurian), a special teams coach (Scott O’Brien for 10-year veteran Brad Seely) and a secondary coach (Josh Boyer for Dom Capers). He also promoted a new director of college scouting (Jon Robinson for Thomas Dimitroff, after the title was vacant for a year) and a new national scout (Monti Ossenfort).
Again, most of those moves were made in-house, and Reese is an FOB (friend of Bill) of over 30 years -- so there is some continuity. But I think you’d have to go back to the day Belichick arrived in New England in 2000 to see as many key moves on his staff. The 2005 offseason was tough, when Belichick lost longtime coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, but it was nothing like this.
Pioli is the big one, obviously. Belichick had final say and ultimately picked the players, but Pioli always said that if either disagreed with the other on a player strongly enough, they wouldn’t go ahead with that move. Translation: Pioli had the clout to talk Belichick out of things. Pioli also knew as well as anyone in the business just what constituted a “Belichick guy.” Now that’s gone. Belichick has to go find those guys himself.
And by the looks of it, he’s doing just that. Belichick is skipping the owner’s meetings in California this week to work on the draft (he was reportedly at the UConn pro day, of all things, on Wednesday). When he talked to the Big Show last week, he did so while in Florida scouting. He was a big presence at the combine in Indy in February. There were some good photos of him and Bill Parcells sitting together at the Senior Bowl in Alabama in January. Belichick told Glenn Ordway that his workload from a personnel standpoint has been about the same as in years past, but it’s hard to see how that could be the case.
Pioli used to have a hand in things, but now there is only one set of fingerprints. Matt Cassel. Mike Vrabel. Shawn Springs. Greg Lewis. Fred Taylor. Joey Galloway. The Julius Peppers flirtation. The cap. The draft. The CBA. It’s all on Bill.
Something tells me he’ll figure it out.
Anyway, on to the d-bag mailbag. We were a little light this week, and I think I know the reason why….
Subj: Weekly mailbag?
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009, 1:15 p.m.
I thought the venerable Mr. Bradford allowed your mailbag to return to a weekly post. I was looking forward to reading it today, but I am stuck with a new website format and no mailbag. Can you please enlighten me as to the frequency of new mailbags?
Subj: Weekly mailbag
Sent: 1:19 p.m.
Just found it. Can they bury it any deeper in this new website?
A: It’s a nice redesign, Rob. Very spiffy. But does that mean you need to put a muffler on the very engine that drives this operation? Forget breaking retirement announcements from Curt Schilling and exclusive interviews with Belichick. Small potatoes. If there’s not a place for readers to log on and call me a douche bag, then we don’t have anything. Remember, Rob. It’s all about the small pleasures.
I print out the mailbag every week, but the new weei.com has made it much harder to do so. Instead of being able to print the mailbag all at once like I used to be able to, I have to page by page and click print numerous times. I’ve twice contacted (an executive at weei.com…..not Bradford, of course, because I obviously wouldn’t have a problem calling him out), but nothing has anything changed on the site. Mike, can you please get his attention to this issue?
A: I got a bunch more where these came from, Rob. But I’ll stop. You get the idea. Don’t disrespect the bag.
By the way, did anyone else notice how Bradford brought down the mangina for his appearance on Ch. 7 last Sunday night? What, Rob, we’re not good enough for you here at Comcast?
I agree with you about Seymour. I do think the guy is a great player, BUT the internal fire doesn’t burn as hot as it did before he got his big contract. The guy is hurt quite a bit, they went on the ‘04 Super Bowl run without him and did just fine. He wasn’t on the field when they went to Pittsburgh and won the AFC title and the Pats dominated. I think Wilfork is the younger, more durable player and in my opinion it all starts with him in the middle. I don’t want Seymour to leave, but if I did have to choose it would be Vince I paid.
A: Me too. And I would venture to guess the Patriots feel the same way. But here’s one thing that interests me. If the league can’t hammer out a new CBA and they go uncapped in 2010, every team will be allowed to use two franchise tags next year. That means, if the Pats are so inclined, they could franchise both players. It would cost a lot, but remember, there would be no cap so the Pats could handle it. This year, the franchise tag for defensive tackles was $6 million, which would be a reasonable expense for someone like Wilfork. The franchise tag for defensive ends was higher at $9 million, but still not off the charts. Let’s say the cap numbers go up a couple million bucks across the board next year and it would cost the Pats around $18 million for both players. That’s still not a deal-breaker. Heck, Carolina is shelling out $16.7 million for Julius Peppers alone this year.
Seymour and Wilfork, especially, would HATE being franchised. I almost want to see the Pats do it just to see how they would react. Anyway, it’s an option, one that teams across the NFL will use if it gets to that point. Talk about a nuclear winter.
When Bill Belichick talked to the Big Show about both the Peppers and Cassel situations, the national media ran with the fact that he had said there were no trade talks for Peppers, but there was something very important they seem to be ignoring on purpose. They are neglecting to report that he also said that Denver had never contacted him about a trade for Matt Cassel. I must be a complete idiot, because that would seem to be a very important piece of the story. This one comment, if taken to be a true one, seems to pull the rug out from under Jay Cutler's riff with Josh McDaniels and his excuse for demanding a trade from the Broncos. Why has the national media ignored this comment? Are they afraid it will ruin the story quicker than they are ready to let it go? Also, doesn't this really just make Jay Cutler look like a very immature player who really has different reasons for the whole escapade and has created this in order to force a trade that normally would never have happened?
A: I don’t think Cutler is smart enough to engineer something like that, Jason. I just think McDaniels felt like exploring his options at quarterback, and he arrived way too late to the party. He wasn’t prepared to act on Day 1 as Pioli was. That was McDaniels’ fault. Anyway, Cutler got wind of it and threw a tantrum. Simple as that.
As an aside, I think McDaniels said something very interesting on the Cassel topic at the owner’s meetings this week, according to Boston.com.
“I don't think Bill Belichick wanted to trade Matt Cassel to me. Why would he want to do that?” said McDaniels. “It would help our team. He knew and does know that I've coached the player. He saw what happened this past year.”
A little cocky don’t you think?
“I don't know that I would want to do that with any of our players -- send him to a guy that had coached them and had success with them,’’ continued McDaniels. “That would improve their team significantly. I can't speak for him. I just know that's one of the reasons why we never came up with the scenario. It just didn't make any sense.”
So is McDaniels saying that Belichick was scared of trading Cassel to Denver? That giving McDaniels the quarterback he wanted would spell trouble across the AFC? I don’t know whether to admire McDaniels for his self-confidence or chastise him for his hubris. All I know is I like it.
Hope you take this opportunity to do some more BC bashing now that the basketball team couldn’t make it past the first round. Don’t hold back.
A: It’s just too easy, John. I mean, I’m sure there are Eagles alums somewhere complaining about the draw, the travel, and the refs -- whatever. It’s what they do. Let ‘em. They were a No. 7 seed that lost to a No. 10 by 17 points. Freaking awesome.
But that wasn’t even my favorite night for BC hoops this year. That came Jan. 7. We were still hearing that day about how awful we were as Boston sports fans for not paying attention to the Eagles after their big win at North Carolina three nights earlier. The scolding was in full force as BC tipped off against Harvard at Conte Forum. Let’s repeat that: HARVARD AT HOME. Final score: Harvard 82, BC 70. The Eagles didn’t just lose to an Ivy at home after beating the No. 1 team in the country on the road, they were BLOWN OUT. Like I said, John. Too easy.
As you correctly put it, the B’s were lucky against the Devils. But you also fail to point out that there were a few games in the recent slide were the other team was lucky. So when the Bs win and they get some lucky goals, they are not quite good enough. On the other hand, when they lose because of some ad luck, the other team out played them badly. You cannot have it both ways
A: Let me clarify: I never said the B’s didn’t deserve to beat the Devils. I’m just saying they weren’t as good as the 4-1 final score would indicate. I still think it can be a big springboard. Let’s see what they do when they get back to work after their 17-day layoff.
Anyone here see Bull Durham? When Crash Davis is in a heated debate with the ump and says, “I never called you a ****sucker, I said it was a ****sucking call?’’ Well, I don't have $25k for you to take from me, so I'll come out and say it. Billy Kennedy threw Doc out for saying “what?’’ after being taunted repeatedly by an official who shouldn't be officiating WNBA D-league games. Billy, that was not a ****sucking call. You actually are a ****sucker.
The real problem is David Stern and the duplicitous nature of this policy. So you fine Doc a new pickup truck for telling the press that Kennedy was unprofessional and laying out the facts, which, if you watch the DVR of this game is EXACTLY what looks like happened. I say DVR because I triple dog dare anyone to find a tape of this incident. It’s amazing to me, the degree to which Stern protects referees who over the last three or four years have a habit of making him and his league look foolish. You can't find this video on YouTube, a news outlet, Wikipedia or anywhere via google and that is not a coincidence.
He admitted that Kennedy was at fault by fining him. I understand that you need to preserve the integrity of the league, but what you fail to realize is in a league filled with corrupt (Tim Donaghy), incompetent (Bennett Salvatore), and ego maniacal (Joey Crawford/Billy Kennedy) officials, you have no integrity left to preserve. Sometimes, Dave, you need to come out and say, “we have a problem, we’re aware of it, and this is what we are doing to correct it.’’ You are two years past that point, and yet you are still the only one who doesn't recognize it.
Here's a two-part plan for you:
1. Fire incompetent officials! Make a system for rating these guys/girls and EVERY year, the bottom five-ten percent should go and be replaced with more consistent officials. You tend to perform better at your job, if your job performance leads to continued employment. If you are focused on getting into news reels and video games, or betting and fixing games, how can you be doing your best to call the most consistent game possible? Taunting coaches or players or issuing fouls as a “punishment’’ for disrespect indicates a level of emotional involvement that should NEVER exist for an official.
2. Set the example. You seem to have no problem taking off your glove and slapping coaches or players in the face for mouthing off, or throwing fictional gang signs, but when it comes to these officials, daddy Stern seems content to say, “we'll talk about this when we get home.’’ The next time a Billy Kennedy or Joey Crawford has one of those “ME’’ moments, I recommend the Shooter McGavin treatment....i.e. ”5 Iron huh...well, you're fired.’’ Do it once and you will likely not have to do it again. Don't do it, and other referees who caught Joey/Billy's act will decide that they would like to make a play to be included in EA Sports NBA Live 2009.
Either way it’s time for this guy to admit that NBA officiating these days looks like something I might have stepped in and I don't like the smell of it. Dave, get out a pooper scooper and clean off your lawn.
P.S., Violet Brown could call a better game than most of these guys while in the kitchen cooking me bacon and eggs....arrrrr
A: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Of all the problems the NBA has (and there are many), the way these games are officiated may be at the top of the list. The playoffs, for example, have long been a joke. The favorites always win. The home teams always win. Why? Because the refs in basketball are influenced by the stars and the crowd more than they are in any other sport. And to make matters worse, the NBA, for whatever reason, decided to start calling charging a few years back. Now you have a whole new set of questionable judgment calls being thrown into the mix. Add that to the refs who cheat, the ones who want camera time and the ones who are plain incompetent -- and the result is a crap sandwich. No joking. A real problem.
You had me rolling tonight on Comcast Sportsnet. I literally just finished saying the exact same thing to my buddy on the way in to the gym. He asked if I “filled out my bracket today,” to which I of course responded absolutely freaking not. When he asked why, I told him exactly what you just said. I don't care to be involved in such nonsense, where people make crapshoot picks, and then when a few of their upsets pan out, it's all we hear about in the office, at home, on the train, and at the urinal. I don't care if you luckily picked some random team to win a 5/12 matchup. It matters not.
Even worse is seeing people walk around at work with their brackets printed out, just so they can check scores on the fly to see how they look. It's ridiculous and worthless, and it takes no knowledge and no talent. In my younger days, prior to my retirement as a fantasy athlete, I partook in many pools where the winner wound up being some random woman in the office who has watched zero college basketball in her life. But yet even still, you'd undoubtedly still have to hear some blowhard tell you how “three of my final 4 were correct, I almost won.” The fact that some random, non-sports watching, elder female won the pool doesn't phase these clowns. Still have to sit around and tell everyone about their picks.
Get over it people. It's ridiculous behavior. My boy Felger and I are eye-to-eye on this one.
Your Boy BHL
A: Look, I love the competition of the NCAA tourney. You watch enough of the NBA and the NHL and you see way too many games where the guys just take the night off. That never happens in the tournament. I acknowledge that.
But you can have the rest. To me, nothing is more overrated than the ends of these games. They are all the same, folks: An endless series of fouls, free throws, timeouts, commercials and bad three-point attempts. I don’t get why these coaches have to call so many timeouts in the final minute. There are only two strategies. If you’re on defense: foul. If you’re on offense, get the ball into the hands of your good free throw shooter. And if you’re down, chuck up a three. I also don’t know if these players are all that well-coached. Or maybe it’s that they just can’t take the coaching. Either way, I see so many bad plays and boneheaded decisions in these games that it's hard to get excited about it.
Take the end of the Marquette-Missouri game (I decided to watch that one). Over the last 1:59, there was a grand total of one basket made between the two teams. In that same span, there were six fouls, 10 free throws and three timeouts. Marquette lost when a kid stepped on the end line trying to inbound the ball. Sorry, I just don’t find that very exciting.
Earlier this week, I heard Tanguay say that nobody needs KG more than Rondo. Is he insane? In 8-of-11, non-KG games that he played in, Rondo had eight or more assists, including a 17- and several 10-assist games. Meanwhile, he upped his season scoring average by four points per game in that span, including 32-, 27-, and 26-point games. Huh? Is this just Tanguay being Tanguay?
A: I love these. I get to bring in Gare-Bear directly. Your response, Tanguay?
GT: Did I really say that? I don’t remember that, but I’ll take your word for it, George. Take a look at the alley-hoops between Rondo and KG. No one can stop it. But, more than anything, KG helps Rondo immensely on defense.
I keep hearing people (like Merloni on TV on Monday) say that Dice-K has a history of wearing down late in the season. Really? In 2006, his first WBC year, he had his best year in Japan in both ERA (2.13) and record (17-5). He also played in more games that year than average for his Japanese career. And in the MLB, he made just about every turn in 2007 and made every turn from June 21 through the end of the season last year. So it's not exactly like Dice-K is the pitching version of J.D. Drew.
A: Couldn’t agree more, Josh. Matsuzaka was the least of my worries when it came to the WBC. I’ve long felt the Sox should pretty much let him go when it comes to pitch counts. He was brought up differently in Japan. He can handle it.
Any time I hear that new Kings of Leon song (my ass is on fire? what?) I always think of The Bucket. And when I hear the Bucket I think of you. This is not good, Felgy, not good at all given the rotation this song is getting. I think I have a problem.
A: Have I mentioned that I don’t like their new stuff -- at all? Some of it barely sounds like the same band. And I’m someone who typically likes bands as they age. These guys need to get back to the swamp.
Saw this and thought of you.
The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show
A: Thanks, babe, although I’m not sure the entire New York Giants starting defensive line is what I had in mind.
While we’re on the topic, I saw “Milk” this week and I have to say -- it sucked. You’d have thought I would like it, right? Wrong. Trite. Goopy. Predictable. And a total over-reach by Penn when it came to the make-out scenes. I mean, really. By the third time I had to watch him mack with his boyfriend, I felt like screaming. “I GOT IT! YOU’RE GAY! I UNDERSTAND. NOW CAN WE GET ON WITH THE MOVIE?” I hated it so much I flipped the TV off before the credits rolled. I reached my limit right after he got shot and turned to see the opera house as he went down. (Copy Ed Note: Down on the ground, just to clarify.) Barf. Click. In terms of gay cinema, Brokeback was ten times better. The Bradford-Beckett fishing trip was also pretty good.
Felger You DB!
Uh, did someone at the NFL combine tell Andre Smith that he had to do the Truffle Shuffle before they would let him in? Get Cosmo Kramer on the horn and get this guy a Bro pronto because his moobs were flopping more than Ordway on a trampoline. Not pretty.
And speaking of not pretty, have you seen A-Rod's new hooker friend? Yikes. When I first heard people mention Kristen Davis I thought it was the semi-cute Sex in the City girl with a penchant for naughty photos. No such luck. After seeing the photos of the object of A-Rod's obsession on the D&C Producer's blog, I physically shuddered, and the text message exchange didn't do much for my lower GI either. Was former WWE wrestler Chyna's cell not working? Honestly, this girl looks like Janice the Muppet after a sex change, a boob job and two cycles of East Germany's finest equine enhancers.
It’s only going to only get worse when Selena Robert's hatchet job comes out. If that book contains allegations that Alex harbors a long simmering lust for Bull from Night Court would anyone be surprised at this point? That book is going to be a complete bleep show and I think that everyone (our friends in pinstripes excluded) will be thanking Ms. Roberts for hours of uncomfortable entertainment. Just make sure you skim Dino's notes before you interview her buddy!
A: Trust me, Mike. I’m reading that one. I don’t care if I have to quit THREE jobs.
Meanwhile, “Moob” has now made the spell-check. Awesome. And Janice the Muppet? Wow is that good.
Hey Mike in “up your ass-leboro,”
Who the hell is Spaulding Smails? Sounds like a Dick Tracy character. Either use analogies outside of your comic book collection and take the cue from the DB: If he responds with four words to your 400, you’re wasting key strokes you stroker.
A: Well, you’ve arrived, Mike in Attleboro. I’m now getting your hate mail. Congratulations. And if this guy doesn’t get the Smails reference, then that’s his problem, not ours. Twenty bucks he eats it.
Felger can be seen nightly on Comcast Sportsnet and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.