Bill Belichick will likely pass one of his coaching idols this season on the all-time wins list. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
1. Bill Belichick kicked off his 41st season in the NFL this week, and his 21st as a head coach. With 211 career victories in the regular season, he’s sixth overall when it comes to head coaching wins, and will almost certainly pass his coaching idol Paul Brown this year for fifth place on the all-time wins list in 2015. (Brown is fifth overall with 213 victories.) Never say never, but while it’s unlikely he’ll take down Don Shula‘s top mark of 326 career wins, he still has an excellent shot at reaching third place overall before everything is said and done. Curly Lambeau sits fourth overall with 226 (Belichick is 15 wins behind him). Meanwhile Tom Landry is third at 250 wins (39 wins ahead of Belichick) and George Halas sits second with 318 victories. For the record, Belichick has the fewest career years of any coach in the top 10 when it comes to regular-season wins; Marty Schottenheimer, who he passed in wins last year (Schottenheimer finished with 200) was a head coach for 21 years.
2. The Pro Football Hall of Fame and the family of the late Junior Seau deserve some credit for coming to an accord in the case of how things will be handled regarding Seau’s induction next weekend in Canton. Initially, the Hall was simply following established protocol when it mandated that Seau’s family would not be allowed to speak at the ceremony for the late linebacker, with only a video highlight package to be shown in place of a traditional induction speech. (The Hall of Fame established its video-only policy for posthumous inductions to shorten a lengthy ceremony.) However, the Hall has apparently changed course, and it was announced Saturday that Seau’s daughter Sydney will speak in an interview after her father’s bust is unveiled. The former Patriots linebacker, who committed suicide in 2012 reportedly because of CTE, is scheduled to be one of several former players inducted on August 8. However, it was reported last month that the Hall of Fame would not let his daughter Sydney or anyone else speak on his behalf. “It’s frustrating because the induction is for my father and for the other players, but then to not be able to speak, it’s painful,” Sydney told the New York Times. “I just want to give the speech he would have given. It wasn’t going to be about this mess. My speech was solely about him.” On Saturday, David Baker, the president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said that Sydney would be allowed to speak in honor of her father. “Our goal is to maintain our policy regarding enshrinement speeches, but also show compassion and understanding,” Baker said in a statement. A positive move for all concerned.
3. One of the youngsters who has managed to stand out over the first three days of Patriots camp is linebacker Eric Martin. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder who spent the last two years with the Browns (where he played in 29 games and registered 14 total tackles), was acquired in December and added to the New England practice squad. He first made his mark in the offseason when he was named one of the offseason award winners. And on Saturday, he surprised some in the one-on-one drills when he went up against the offensive linemen and held his own — on one play, he flashed some nice quickness when he got past left tackle Nate Solder. No one is suggesting that he will unseat either Rob Ninkovich or Chandler Jones for a starters’ job coming off the edge, but through the first few days of camp, he’s earned the right to at least be part of the conversation when it comes to potential backups.
4. Consider this nothing more than a clip-and-save piece looking at some of the future personnel decisions that will face the Patriots. With that in mind, here’s a look at some New England players who have expiring contracts, broken down over the next few years (all info via Rotoworld):
Contracts that currently expire following 2015 season: LeGarrette Blount, Ryan Wendell, Nate Solder, Jerod Mayo.
Contracts that currently expire following 2016 season: Sebastian Vollmer, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon LaFell, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Malcolm Butler.
Contracts that currently expire following 2017 season: Tom Brady, Bryan Stork, Jimmy Garoppolo, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola.
(Other notable contracts that are looming include Rob Gronkowski, who will see his current deal expire following the 2019 season, and Stephen Gostkowski, who has a contract now that will take him through the 2018 campaign.)
5. One of our favorite semi-annual traditions is checking to see how the Patriots are doing when it comes to keeping “New England” in the “New England Patriots.” On the current roster, the Patriots have two players with local ties on the roster in fullback James Develin (who went to Brown) and cornerback Robert McClain (who attended UConn). On the coaching staff, the most notable name with New England roots is offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, who attended Boston University, coached at Boston College and UConn and was born in Cambridge.
6. We were reminded just how quickly time passes this week when the Titans signed Tebucky Jones Jr. to the roster. A former Fordham star, the son of the ex-New England defensive back is one of the first players to reach the league who had a father who played for the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI team. However, there are more like that on the way; an alert Tweeter noted that the son of Asante Samuel was recently offered a scholarship to Clemson. And former Florida State cornerback Mario Edwards — who was taken 19 spots before Brady in the 2000 draft — has a son who was taken 35th overall in the draft this past spring. (Mario Jr. was selected by the Raiders.)
7. Three former Patriots are currently plying their trade in the CFL, and after we got a good response when we wrote about them a month or two ago, we figured it was time to update their status: Wide receiver Austin Collie, who spent a brief stretch with New England in 2013, has 19 catches for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns this season for British Columbia. Meanwhile, defensive lineman Aaron Lavarias (who was on New England’s roster in 2011 and 2012) was placed on injured reserve with an arm injury by the Montreal Alouettes in June. And wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, who was with the Patriots in 2011 before getting cut on the eve of Super Bowl XLVI, has 10 catches for 111 yards for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this year.
8. One of the more familiar sights over the course of training camp (as well as the preseason) last year was the connection built between Jimmy Garoppolo and Brian Tyms. The two hooked up on a memorable touchdown pass in the preseason against the Redskins, and seemed to find each other with regularity over the course of training camp in 2014. While Garoppolo hasn’t turned his back on Tyms to this point in the summer, it’s been hard to miss the fact that this year the QB is focused frequently on new receiver Brandon Gibson. The two made a few nice catch-and-throw plays on Friday and Saturday, and have displayed a good level of cohesiveness throughout the start of camp. There’s still no real clarity surrounding Tom Brady‘s situation to start the season — and Gibson likely remains a bubble candidate at this point — but if Garoppolo has certainly shown a fondness for Gibson. We’ll see if that helps the receiver land a roster spot.
9. Here’s a quick look at some key upcoming dates on the NFL calendar:
Aug. 6-9: Hall of Fame Weekend, Canton, Ohio.
Aug. 9: Hall of Fame Game, Minnesota Vikings vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, in Canton, Ohio.
Aug. 13-17: First preseason weekend.
Aug. 20-24: Second preseason weekend.
Aug. 27-30: Third preseason weekend.
Sept. 1: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 75 players on the active list.
Sept. 3: Final preseason games.
Sept. 5: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List. Simultaneously with the cut-down to 53, clubs that have players in the categories of Active/Physically Unable to Perform or Active/Non-Football Injury or Illness must select one of the following options: place player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness, whichever is applicable; request waivers; terminate contract; trade contract; or continue to count the player on the Active List.
Sept. 6: Claiming period for players placed on waivers at the final roster reduction will expire at 12 p.m. ET. Upon receipt of the personnel notice at approximately 1 p.m. ET, clubs may establish a practice squad of 10 players. No club, including the player’s prior club, will be permitted to sign a player to a practice player contract until all clubs have received simultaneous notification via the above personnel notice that such player’s prior NFL player contract has been terminated via the waiver system. After 4 p.m. ET, a club is permitted to place a player on Reserve/Injured as “Designated for Return.”
Sept. 10: Regular-season opens, Pittsburgh at New England.
10. From this viewpoint, we’ve always been big fans of the work of Ben Austro, who runs the Twitter feed (and web site) for Football Zebras. In a world of hyperbole and hot takes, Austro offers smart and rationale analysis of referees and their work on his blog and Twitter feed. We’re happy to announce that he has a book that’s set to come out next month — you can buy it here. We’ve seen an advanced copy, and it’s well worth your time. Two other book-related notes: one, Chris Brown of Smart Football also has a new book out, which is a terrific read. And two, the new edition of the Football Outsiders Almanac will also be released in the next couple of weeks. I was lucky enough to fool Aaron Schatz into thinking I was worthy enough to join his writing crew again this year — you can look for my analysis of the Jets and Dolphins. Hopefully, I didn’t embarrass myself too much.