By: Bob George/
January 04, 2011

No Brady or Gronk, but plenty of storylines at Patriots OTAs
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not at the start of the team's OTA's today
NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates

A door opens. Out steps the late Rod Serling. He has been sent back to earth by the Ghost Of Super Bowls Yet To Come. His mysterious and laconic voice is heard once again. You hang on all of his chilling words. He really is the most interesting man in the world, not some phony huckster for a beer you've likely never drank in your life.

Submit for your approval: Over here, you have the man with the most substantive, expansive and all-engrossing knowledge of football, a man with a fanatical approach to coaching that can sometimes border on the megalomaniacal, a man who is a veritable and personified walking football compendium. And then over here, you have a man who has stared the Peter Principle straight in the eye, leaving a program that he was just as amenable to as a sea anemone is to a clownfish, a man who looks at his job the same way a hedonistic beach inhabitant would view each passing moment in correlative proportion to the size and quality of the next wave he might see. The first man took a team and brought it to the championship game with the best record in the league. The second man also took his team to this culminating event, only that his team ended the regular season with an anomalic 7-9 record, yet somehow managed to win his team's division. This man guided his aberrant team of fallible tenderfoots past three of the league's established monoliths, one of them being the defending champion New Orleans Saints. Making this Super Bowl matchup enter into a new compartment of incredibillium is the fact that this coach with a losing record, returning to the sanctum where he has proven time and time again that he belongs with baccalaureate students and not professionals, happens to be coaching against the professional team in which he was previously employed. The first man is coaching against the man whom he replaced as head coach. Impossible? In the normal elemental context of that which we call the general status quo, one might conclude affirmatively. But in this elemental context, nothing is impossible. That is because…you have crossed over into…the Twilight Zone.

Dateline: Arlington, Texas, February 2011.

Kevin Faulk is hanging out with his teammates. On injured reserve since Week 2, he's enjoying the Super Bowl experience for the fifth time in his career, winning three of the previous four Super Bowls he has been in. Along comes Danny Woodhead, the former Jet who took his place as third down/simply amazing/do-it-all back. Faulk grabs him and talks to him about the good old days when "I used to take the direct snaps on those kooky looking plays" and "Nobody picked up blitzing defenders better than me".

Woodhead then asked about somebody named Bobby Grier, and who the heck he was. "Oh, yeah. He was the guy that drafted me. We got six draft picks for Bill Parcells and Curtis Martin. He whiffed on all of them. I was the only guy in three years that he didn't whiff on." Woodhead mentioned that when he was a Jet, some guys in the front office still talk about how they snookered the Patriots in the late 1990s. Was Grier really that bad a GM, asks Woodhead. "Well, look at me!" says Faulk. "The best thing is that since they drafted me, we've won three Super Bowls while the Jets haven't even been to...

"Oh, jeez. Here comes my old head coach. Catch you later, Woodie!"

Walking right near him is Dan Shaughnessy, wearing a big grin as wide as the Charles River. Next to him is Gerry Callahan, who looks like he just hit the lottery. Right behind is Jim Donaldson, who looks like Providence College just beat Duke. Next to Donaldson is Ron Borges, who looks like he finally did take Bill Belichick's lunch money. Nearby is Kevin Mannix, who came out of retirement and looks like he just shot a 3-iron on a 210-yard par 3 and the ball rolled right into the cup.

They surround Pete Carroll, Belichick's coaching opponent in Super Bowl XLV. Seattle became the first team to win a division and make the playoffs with a losing record since the merger. Then his Seahawks beat New Orleans, Atlanta and Chicago, the latter two on the road, and are now one win away from becoming the least likely sports champion in modern American sports history.

Now, here he is, coaching in the Super Bowl, against the team that discarded him in favor of Belichick after the 1999 season. Carroll wound up at USC and enjoyed an historic run as Trojan head coach before the John Calipari Syndrome hit and Carroll had to hit the road. Trailer for sale or rent, this man of means by no means wound up in Seattle, and after his first year, here he is on the doorstep of the NFL championship.

"Hey coach!" yells Faulk. "What in the (colorful word deleted) are you doing here?"

"Kevin! Yo! Wow! This is too groovy! You still playing ball?"

"Yeah! Got three rings, coach! Been injured since Week 2. But I'll be back next year!"

"Man, I'm so pumped and jacked to see you! So, who's this Brady guy? Is he as ragin' as I hear he is? Is he as good as Bledsoe was?"

"Uh, yeah…he's pretty good, coach!"

"As good as Sanchez? Or Palmer? Or Booty? Or Leinart?"

"Hey, coach, go watch your film and see for yourself!"

"I hear you got this rookie All-Pro defensive back…is he a good press corner?"

Shaughnessy hears this remark and his grin grows to about the size of Cape Cod Bay.

"What's a press corner?" asks Faulk.

"Man, you don't know? Stick to offense, little guy!"

"How come you left USC, coach? You were doing great there!"

"Yeah, well, I got bored, it was time to go…hey, you can't go to a Super Bowl if you're at SC! Look at me now, Faulkie! We're in the Big Show, bud! Sorry I had to get there against you instead of with you!"

"Yeah...hey, I gotta go, good luck on Sunday!"

"Thanks, little man, hey, good luck too, should be a real groovy game, Kev! Later, man!"

"Later, coach!" Carroll leaves with his adoring press entourage in tow, who seem like a bunch of adolescent guys chasing a Playboy playmate.

Woodhead comes back, having heard the whole conversation.

"So, he used to be your coach here?"

"Yup, my first NFL head coach. That's him, Pete Carroll!"

"He seems like your high school coach!"

"Come on, Woodie, let's go and tell Bruschi who we just bumped into!"

On Sunday, the Patriots see Carroll across the field and cannot stop laughing. The Seahawks look like cheerleaders all game long, the Patriots come out flat as a pancake and lose the game, 42-7. Carroll is carried off the field, while Belichick heads into the locker room at the two-minute warning without shaking Carroll's hand. In the Seahawk locker room, the game ball goes to Grier, visiting his old compatriot and loving the dismantling of his old team that let both he and Carroll go in 1999.

Now, Serling reappears.

The worm turns. Every dog has his day. On any given Sunday. You can inject any object of cliché, but the melancholy conclusion remains unchanged and indelible. The lighthearted and whimsical free and blithe spirit of professional football has prevailed over the man with the Brobdingnagian football cranium and his obsessively calculated approach to the game in general. This game violates every tenet of anything coherent or sensical, rendering any a priori assumptions or postulations completely and totally nonpractical. The clear and undeniable conclusion of this Sophoclean debacle for the Patriots, no matter how untenable it may be, is that this game struck a victory for downtrodden, the ridiculed and deprecated, and put the arrogant braggarts in their proper place. The carefree je ne sais quoi young man flies home with sensations of victory still crystalline in his jubilant and refreshed conscious, while the defeated and disgraced omniscient football immortal must pick up his sword and retreat to his homeland with his head bowed in shame and anguish. Such as things go for the Davids and Goliaths in the world, even in professional football…which is sometimes the predisposed modus operandae...if you happen to reside…in the Twilight Zone.

Poof. Everyone wakes up, and New Orleans goes into Seattle and wins, 59-0.