Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Bernie Kosar.
— We should have been reading the tea leaves. Or, at the least, we should have been reading between the lines of last week’s buildup to Buffalo. The Patriots were due for a letdown against the Bills, but no one wanted to admit it was even possible. It was.
— This isn’t revisionist history as much as it is finding clues or signs within a single chapter of the 2016 NFL season. The Patriots played with very little emotion against the Bills, almost as if they were waiting for something — or someone — to join them. Just sayin’.
— Could they have possibly just thought “Let’s bag this, and protect ourselves for the long haul?” There is precedent for this theory, and all you have to do is look back at the end of last season to find it (Miami, hello). It didn’t work well there, either. But last year’s team at that time was far too beat-up to matter.
— The Bills had the proper game plan, but it wasn’t a world-beater. The Patriots simply didn’t adjust to it, as if they accepted their fate with the realization that TB12 returns in a week and there’s still three-quarters of the season to play.
— Rex Ryan knew he escaped with one in Foxboro, and probably knew he escaped with his professional life intact. Ryan needed that win much, much more than did New England. His team was able to shut out a rookie, third-string QB. Attaboy Rex, and we still have you to kick around in the AFC East. Life is still good.
— At least, it should be good for Patriots fans, because Tom Brady is back. That’s what we’ve all been waiting for — and that includes his teammates. Like they were last week.
— ICYMI, anyone remember my calling Jacoby Brissett as the, um, possible IR list-designee with TB12’s return? Yeah, thanks. I’m here all week.
— If you’re expecting a #scorchedearthtour to follow for TB12 and the Pats, you might get it. You also might not, or at least not right away. Don’t be shocked to see some kind of “downtime” as Brady readjusts to his month-long absence.
— In an effort to lessen this downtime, it’s precisely why Brady split preseason and training camp reps with Jimmy Garoppolo, despite some pleas for Jimmy G. to get most of the time as No. 1. It’s a big-picture point of view, which the Patriots have been known to take.
— The ultimate goal is not necessarily to beat Buffalo in Week No. 4. That’s great and all, but the ultimate goal is to win Ring No. 5. And, throw a giant middle finger to the rest of the NFL at the same time. We’ll see if this strategy works, won’t we?
— And then there is Cleveland. Which has its own problems. Where is Jim Brown when you need him?
— The Browns are liable to make things quite uncomfortable for the Patriots on Sunday — at least for a little while. There’s nothing more dangerous in the NFL than an overlooked, underappreciated team. This being said, losing in Cleveland would be a shocker to end all shockers.
— Sorta glad right now that Clevelanders have an NBA title to celebrate. ‘Cuz the Browns could go oh-fer-2016.
— Speaking of oh-fers, mea culpa to the URI football program. Rhody grabbed the Governors’ Cup with a 28-13 win over Brown last Saturday, the Rams’ first win over the Bears since 2011. Never mind the numbers, which show Bruno’s defeat may have been more self-inflicted than Rhody-inflicted, the Rams have a mark in the left-hand column.
— PC’s nationally 10th-ranked hockey Friars open the season this weekend at Schneider Arena with the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks. The last two seasons have seen the Friars win a national title and then follow up with a 27-win campaign, which was the second-winningest year in school history. Oh, and a first-ever Hockey East trophy, too.
— Not for nuthin’, but the Friars were 15-1-2 at home last year, the best record they’ve ever managed on home ice in a single season. This year’s team is younger overall, with East Providence native Shane Kavanagh a part of the incoming class, but the Friars also return All-America defenseman Jake Walman.
— The PC men’s soccer team, in the final four two seasons ago, got off to a bumpy start this season as a predominantly younger team. But the Friars knocked off crosstown rival Brown this week, and freshman midfielder Danny Griffin was just named to U.S. Soccer’s U-19 training team. Griffin has four goals on the season, all of them game-winners.
— PC women’s soccer is 3-0-1 to start Big East play and 9-3-2 overall. The Friars get Marquette on Sunday (1 p.m.) on Chapey Field at Anderson Stadium.
— Oh, and PC women’s cross-country? No. 1 in the nation right now, over Colorado and New Mexico. The juggernaut rolls on for coach Ray Treacy’s runners.
— In case you missed it, the college basketball season is underway. NCAA rules allow for 30 practices to be held in the six weeks leading up to a team’s first game, so the Friars, Rams, Bulldogs and Bears all have hit the floor for 2016-17.
— Also, a new rule to keep in mind as hoop workouts get started — incoming freshmen are required to have at least a 2.3 GPA in their 16 high school core courses in order to be eligible. The “academic redshirt” rule already has affected defending national champ Villanova — with freshman Omari Spellman ineligible this season. The five-star big man still will have four years of eligibility remaining, if he needs them all.
— Early returns from Providence practices? Jalen Lindsey has gained muscle, Ryan Fazekas has gained weight, and incoming transfer forward Isaiah Jackson is chiseled. Sounds like strength coach Kenny White is getting it done in Friartown.
— Former Friar and current ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke is hosting Late Night Madness at Alumni Hall for the students on Oct. 15. But she’s the mere opening act — as basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal (aka DJ Diesel) will appear and perform for the student body as well. The kids have all of the fun, don’t they?
— Big East media day is approaching, as team previews for both men’s and women’s teams will come from Madison Square Garden this week. Expect much of the focus on the men’s defending national champion Villanova Wildcats, and perhaps rightfully so. Xavier should still be strong, and Creighton is poised to become an NCAA team again.
— In advance of the preseason coaches’ poll, here’s a prognostication for you: Villanova, Xavier, Creighton, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Marquette, Butler, Providence, St. John’s, DePaul.
— St. John’s will be overrated. Providence will be underrated. Top six are NCAA-worthy. And someone will unexpectedly rise, while someone else will surprisingly fall.
— Not surprised in the least that Greenville, South Carolina, was selected over Providence for the NCAA Tournament next March, replacing Charlotte, North Carolina. This is the kind of power wielded by Coach K at Duke, Coach Williams at UNC, and by the politicians in the area over the NCAA in the first place. I mean, South Carolina has never hosted before. On short notice, why wouldn’t a better choice be Providence, where the dance hall has been packed previously?
— Because the Dunkin’ Donuts Center is about a thousand miles further from home for Duke and UNC, that’s why. Influence — plus income — speaks loudly.
— Hearing that the Celtics’ final roster spot boils down to two players — James Young or R.J. Hunter. Former Friar Ben Bentil appears destined to start the season in the D-League, after all. Smh on that one.
— My buddy Statbeast sez Statbeast Junior had an interesting math problem this week in school. The teacher asked him, “If both of your parents were born in 1962, how old are they now?” Junior is a quick study, it seems. He replied, “That depends on who you ask, my mom or my dad.”
— Don’t know about you, but I see the same ol’ Red Sox in the postseason that I saw for most of the regular season. Leaving runners in scoring position, and a pitching staff that is not reliable enough to perform at the highest level necessary to win a pennant.
— Tough to bag on Rick Porcello because of his overall performance, but dude. The long ball? Three in one inning, including a pair back-to-back, Thursday night? Got any other pitches in your arsenal? Let’s try another one. Porcello hadn’t given up more than three runs in a game since July, and hadn’t ever given up three HRs in the same inning. Helluva time to be generous.
— Was it me, or did potential MVP Mookie Betts look like deer in the headlights his first couple of at-bats? And Andrew Benintendi is growing on me, quickly.
— Fire John Farrell? There’s no middle ground with the Red Sox manager, is there? Either love him or hate him, and judging by most callers to sports radio shows I’ve heard there is only hate. And yet, Boston wins the AL East after two straight last-place finishes in the division, and the manager wins his own bout with the “Big C.”
— But no, he’s no “winnah.”
— Farrell is fine. He has his in-game management difficulties, and his talented players often can bail him out of trouble. But as far as I’m concerned, especially when it comes to strategy, Terry Francona > John Farrell.
— There is little doubt that the one-game wild cards pack plenty of excitement for postseason baseball, and excitement is precisely what the sport needs. But do the best teams win, or do the hottest teams win? My argument is the best teams are the hottest teams, as they know they need to turn it on at the right time.
— Even so, I’d still like to see MLB move to a best-of-three for the wild card. And reduce the regular season to 154 games to accommodate better baseball at the end of a year. Makes too much sense, no?
— Why did Mets manager Terry Collins pull Thor from the mound after seven innings Wednesday night against San Francisco? Noah Syndergaard was utterly dominant, with 5 2/3 hitless innings, but the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner was equally so. One of the best-played, best-pitched games I’ve seen in some time.
— Just when it appeared baseball was going to let Barry Bonds back into the clubhouse, Bonds got the boot again this week. The major league leader in career home runs (with an asterisk, yes) was fired as the Miami Marlins hitting coach, even though the team finished fourth in the majors in batting average. Miami also was fourth lowest in run scoring. Selfishness has a strange way of following some people, doesn’t it?
— After two straight seasons of missing out on the playoffs, do the Boston Bruins appear any closer to a return? Seems to me the defense in front of Tuukka Rask still needs help, if not health.
— And here’s another question to consider: How much effect will playing in the recently completed World Cup of Hockey have on veteran players, especially early in the NHL season? Anyone care to ask Zdeno Chara that question?
— The vice presidential debate this week was barely more than an on-camera introduction to the men who occupy the back half of their respective party’s ticket. I mean, could you have picked Tim Kaine or Mike Pence out of a police lineup beforehand?
— If first impressions mean anything, I’m figuring Kaine to be like that mouthy, irritating guy you know who always seems to shut his mouth whenever his wife speaks up. And after trying to interrupt Pence as much as he did during their “discussion,” I’ll wager he has plenty of experience at that — which is probably why Hillary Clinton picked him in the first place.
— Pence’s problem is that he has to defend Donald Trump at every turn. Or simply not answer the questions about him. I like Option 2 better.
— Umm, LeBron James endorsed Clinton? Will that help or hurt her cause?
— Did you see where Tom Brady and Robert Kraft are two of the new celebrity investors in UFC? Now, if we could just get one of them in the octagon against Roger Goodell, we’d see a never-to-be-broken record in pay-per-view income, methinks.
— Bernie Kosar was one of those Miami Hurricanes football players you loved to hate back in the ’80s, probably because he was so good — and he knew it. That was at the beginning of the “U” swagger that swept over college football for the better part of two decades, and ultimately was met with the decline and near-destruction of the program. When Kosar was rumored ready to turn pro, he made it clear he wanted to play in his native Ohio for Cleveland, but as the NFL draft neared it became apparent the Browns were not his only suitors. He delayed sending his eligibility papers into the league, in effect taking himself out of the regular draft and instead making himself eligible to be selected in the supplemental draft — where Cleveland could take him.
— Kosar’s career with the Browns was star-crossed, at best. His top years were in 1986 and 1987, until injuries and a lack of support ultimately ended his time in Ohio. When Bill Belichick took over the Browns, Belichick ended up replacing one “U” QB with another, bringing in Vinny Testaverde to replace Kosar in 1993. After winning a Super Bowl ring with the Cowboys, Kosar ended his career back in Miami playing behind Dan Marino, retiring from the league in ’96. He’s been in and out — mostly out — of football since, and has had to deal with lingering effects of several concussions he suffered during his playing days. Kosar also has had to deal with lingering effects of several failed business ventures as well, as he currently faces bankruptcy, with the Browns listed as one of his creditors.
— Ramon from Caracas, Venezuela, posted on Facebook this week: John, do you think Gronk is not getting involved because the Pats feel the O-line is weak and has to be reinforced? Ramon: It’s probably not that simple, but I think you’re on to something. Fact of the matter is, Rob Gronkowski isn’t completely healthy, and his hamstring hasn’t come along like the Patriots had hoped. Putting him out there to block is different from his having to stretch a defense by running pass routes. And yes, the line has had some difficulties, so it makes some sense to keep him “in,” as opposed to letting him go all out. This being said, the time to unleash whatever he can give is now.
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