NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan and talked about the Patriots' outlook as well as the struggling Jets and their future.
Lombardi took a positive approach to the Patriots' 41-34 loss to the 49ers on Sunday, a game in which New England trailed by 28 points in the second half before rallying to tie the score.
"In the past when teams have tried to play the Patriots in a certain style -- like the Jets did in the [January 2011] playoff game -- the Patriots didn't seem to have an answer for it," Lombardi said. "I think they did have an answer for it [Sunday night]. It took a little while. Maybe the lights were too bright for some of the young players, and they turned the ball over way too much. But once they got into a groove, once they got comfortable, they got themselves back to 31-31. … I think what you saw was a Patriot offensive attack that can score rapidly, that has mental toughness and has the will to keep fighting. And I think it's going to benefit them come playoff time."
Looking at the situation in New York, Lombardi said the focus on the quarterback situation doesn't paint a clear enough picture of the issues that surround the Jets.
"I think people are missing the point here on the Jets," he said. "It starts with their cap. They're $20 million over going into next year's cap with the players they currently have. And some of those players that they currently have on their team have guaranteed contracts. That's skill, injury and salary cap, which means you can't get rid of them. Sanchez, for example, has that in his contract, as does Tim Tebow. They're going to have to have somebody take him off their hands and rid themselves of him, but they're going to eat the cap charge essentially. It's really problematic in New York and it's going to be interesting how they solve these riddles.
"I think what people misconstrued is last offseason after they didn't make the playoffs, the Jets put together what they thought was a two-year plan for their football team. Part of that two-year plan was guaranteed contracts of a lot of players. Now what we're seeing is those plans and the players they counted on to be effective who they guaranteed are no longer effective players. So the two-year plan is no longer in place, but the money's still in place. That's going to affect them. Next year's going to get worse than it was this year for them."
Added Lombardi: "You're not going to fix the Jets in just one year. … It's going to take some cleaning up to do, and it's going to take some losing of games before you're going to fix the Jets' mess."
Lombardi said the Jets are trying to emulate the Patriots, but they're not going about it the right way -- especially when it comes to the Tebow situation.
"I think the Jets are a reactionary team," he said. "I think they want to be like the Patriots, they really think they can be like the Patriots because some people in their building have had association with people at the Patriots. But the reality of it is they don't understand the core element of what the Patriots do. And therefore they always are trying to find ways to be creative. And they confuse hope for a plan. They were hoping Tebow could come in and help them. But there was no plan for Tebow to come in and help them.
"Is it really Tim Tebow's fault that you have a press conference for a backup quarterback? Is it really Tim Tebow's fault that you make him available after practice every day for an interview? Do you think that's the Patriot Way? No, I don't. So, I don't know who made this decision, but I think the plan was flawed. I think they didn't have it really ironed out. And I don't think the planning of their football team, the building of their football team has been very effective. I think if you look at their team the last three years, they have steadily gotten worse every single year."
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is rumored to be a hot candidate for a head coaching position. Lombardi said McDaniels' performance as head coach in Denver from 2009 to 2010 should be put in the proper perspective.
"I think Josh has got unique skills in terms of his vision of football, his ability to command and the results he's proven on the field," Lombardi said. "He starts out 6-0 in Denver, things fall apart. A lot of times we confuse youthful mistakes and we think they're permanent -- and they're not. I think we all are growing and we all are learning and we all are understanding each day what we can strive to get better at and perform at. I think the work Josh has done this year in New England proves beyond any reasonable doubt that he's an outstanding football coach. And he's made an offense that was outstanding better."
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