With the Patriots at 3-0 without Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels has every reason to smile. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
1. My colleague Ryan Hannable artfully laid out the reasons why the Patriots 3-0 start with two different quarterbacks is a tribute to the work of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in this piece here. But McDaniels’ work over the first three games also begs the question: Will it lead to another head coaching offer? Provided the Patriots continue down their current path, it’s almost a certainty that he’ll be considered a head coaching candidate again following the 2016 season, and as is the case every year, expect a handful of intriguing jobs to open up. While McDaniels might not have his pick, he should get an offer. However, this is where it gets dicey: McDaniels was a washout in Denver, and so theoretically, this might be his last real shot at a big time NFL job. He can’t fail this time around, or he’ll likely be relegated to assistant/coordinator status the rest of his life. (There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that — it’s just the reality of the situation.) But McDaniels will almost certainly be courted by other teams with vacancies at the end of the season. And if a team with a former Patriots’ front office staffer has a year where things go south (Detroit? Atlanta?), it would only make sense for them to at least inquire about McDaniels and his status.
2. On Thursday night, LeGarrette Blount became just one of 19 backs to break the 2,000-yard barrier while in a New England uniform, moving into 18th place overall in franchise history with 2,054 regular-season rushing yards. While Bill Belichick has never had a running back finish with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, if Blount is able to stay on his current pace — which is a longshot, given the fact that the offense figures to change dramatically when Tom Brady returns — he would finish with the second-highest rushing total for any back of the Belichick era over a combined two-year span. This year, Blount is on pace for 1,589 rushing yards, which would be second in franchise history for a single season behind Corey Dillon’s 1,635 yards in 2004. But you add last year’s 703 rushing yards, it would give him a two-year total of 2,292, just a few off Dillon’s mark from 2004-05 (2,368 yards), the best two-year total of the Belichick era in New England. In addition, if Blount can hit the 1,000-yard mark, it would represent just the second time he crossed that plateau in his career. He’d also be just the second back in franchise history age 29 or older to hit the 1,000-yard mark. (Antowain Smith did it first in 2001.)
3. The possible Brady-to-Jimmy Garoppolo succession plan has been a thing since Garoppolo first showed up as a second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois in the spring of 2014. But one underrated aspect of the whole conversation is that they’re both repped by the same agent, Don Yee. Yee has always played a big role in New England’s team-building process because he’s handled Brady, but he’ll take on greater importance going forward. In the best possible scenario, he’d be the guy to assist in facilitating a smooth transition from one to the other. At the very least, with Yee’s involvement, the Patriots would be able to avoid the sort of murkiness that plagued the Broncos’ quarterback position this past offseason as they started the post-Peyton Manning era.
4. Devin McCourty, as well as teammates Martellus Bennett and Chris Long, have helped spark conversation locally regarding Colin Kaepernick and his protests. Speaking with the NFL Network this past week, McCourty — who could be seen raising his fist at the end of the anthem in the season opener — said he plans on taking the next step sooner rather than later. “I’m going to have a chance with the extended weekend to hopefully talk to someone in Boston, a police officer, and see how as players how we can help out, how we can bridge the gap and try to avoid some of these things,” McCourty said while referencing the recent riots in Charlotte. He also added that he’s tired of the #sticktosports hashtag. “I think it’s very important. I think the whole motto of just shut up and play football is ridiculous,” he said of his involvement in social issues as an athlete. “For many of our athletes in the NFL, before we’re athletes, before we’re football players we’re African-Americans. For everyone, we’re Americans, we’re humans. To look out there and see treatment of people that you wouldn’t want of yourself, I think you have to take a minute and look at that and say this is wrong.” Check out more from McCourty’s interview here.
5. The elections for team player reps have been ongoing throughout the month, and while no official announcement has been made, it would be a surprise if Matthew Slater isn’t going to be this year’s player rep for the Patriots again. New England’s special teams captain has held the position for a few years now, and is one of the more respected guys in the locker room. He’s been vocal on NFLPA issues, including his recent statement saying there’s “room for improvement” when it comes to the NFL’s drug policy. Expect an announcement on the election and outcome in the coming weeks.
6. Through the first three games, six Patriots have played every possible snap. On offense, it’s been offensive linemen Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney and David Andrews. On defense, it’s been cornerback Malcolm Butler, linebacker Jamie Collins and McCourty, While New England has done plenty of mixing and matching over the first three games because of personnel, matchups and health, it’s worth noting that Logan Ryan, Shaq Mason, Nate Solder, Jacoby Brissett, Martellus Bennett, Cameron Fleming and Garoppolo are the seven other guys who can boast of having gone wire-to-wire in at least one of the three games this year. It’s also worth noting that Bennett has missed just three offensive snaps this season; he played the whole game against Miami, but missed one snap against Houston and two against Arizona.
7. Best 0-2 team right now? I’d go with the Dolphins, Colts and Saints as the three best, with Miami holding a slight edge because they were in both games in the late stages of the fourth quarter on the road against the Seahawks and Patriots. The Dolphins should be able to get their first win of the season this week, as they’re home against the woeful Browns, while the Colts’ schedule in the pillowy-soft AFC South should allow them to turn things around. We’re not saying that they have bigger and better things in their future — since 1990, just 12 percent of the teams that started 0-2 have made the postseason — but the playoffs are still a possibility. After all, the Texans started 0-2 last year and went on to make the postseason, And three teams started 0-2 but went on to win the Super Bowl — the 1993 Cowboys, 2001 Patriots and 2007 Giants.
8. The flip side? If you’re a 2-0 team that wins this weekend like the Broncos, Ravens, Steelers, Giants or Eagles, it already bodes well for you playing in January. Since the current playoff format was instituted in 1990, 75.6 percent of teams (99 of 131) that started 3-0 made the playoffs. Of course, there are teams that endure that sort of collapse, a group that includes the 2014 Eagles, 2013 Dolphins, 2013 Bears and 2012 Cardinals. Meanwhile, the 2009 Giants and 1993 Saints started 5-0 and fell short of the postseason, while the 2009 Broncos and 2003 Vikings started 6-0 but somehow missed the playoffs.
9. Time for the picks! Last week, I went 10-6, and after two weeks, I’m 23-9. (Follow me and my picks at the WEEI.com Pro Football Pick ‘Em.) This week, I’ve got the Patriots, Buffalo, Oakland Miami, Baltimore, Green Bay, Denver, Carolina, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Kansas City, Indy, Pittsburgh, Dallas and New Orleans.
10. “NFL Sunday” is back this week with me, Gary Tanguay, Tom E. Curran, Field Yates, Christian Fauria and Pete “Rotobahn” Davidson from 9-12:25 on WEEI. Listen live at 93.7 or WEEI.com/listen.