September 18, 2007
Grogan's Grade: Week 2
BY: With Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall
R.R. Marshall: Steve, you'll have to excuse me but I have the strangest feeling someone is trying to steal our signals as we do this interview regarding the Patriots 38-14 demolition of the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night. Why do you think that is?
Steve Grogan: Okay, that's about enough of that! I have done so many interviews this past week regarding the Patriots' videotaping-spy episode that it's starting to be a bit much. Why don't we all just enjoy the Patriots big win over the Chargers on Sunday night and let it go at that. If the Red Sox had played a little better it would have been a perfect New England weekend.
RRM: All right, let's clear out the backfield and go five-wide and jump right in. The Patriots wasted no time in this one, going with the no huddle at the start of the game and methodically marching 69 yards in just seven plays to take a quick 7-0 lead. You couldn't help but think they were trying to make a statement with that initial drive?
SG: The Patriots came out on their first drive and just threw the ball down the Chargers' throats, and you could tell they were very intent on vindicating their head coach and showing San Diego they were still a good football team. With the weapons this team has offensively this year I'm not sure they have a style. They can just do everything, so you don't know what to expect from them. Was it something that they haven't done? Absolutely, but I would expect to see it happen more with the success they have had with the no huddle, empty backfield set. They just spread the field and said here we come, see if you can stop us. They went right down the field, bing, bing, bing and into the endzone. Then they came out a couple series later with three tight ends and just rammed it down their throats with the ground game, so this team can do it all.
RRM: Bill Belichick couldn't have been too distracted this week because his initial script of plays worked to perfection. Exactly how many of the plays are scripted for the start of the game?
SG: A lot of coaches will script the first 15 plays of the game, and some coaches will go even 30 plays into the game with minor adjustments here and there depending on down and distance situations. You could tell Tom Brady was right on and felt very comfortable with what they were doing. They lined up in the no huddle which caught San Diego off guard because they stayed in their base defense, and Brady kept zinging the ball down the field.
RRM: I know you were in attendance at the game so you could get a firsthand sense of what was unfolding in front of you. Were you surprised the Patriots' players were so intense for this one?
SG: No, I had a feeling they would be that way for this game. This is a veteran group of players that take adversity and turn it into an it's-the-world-versus-us kind of mentality that draws them all together to put forth a great team effort. I think that's what they did. Their head coach got caught cheating and he's paying the price, but at the same time they wanted to show people that the championships they won and all the games they won were legitimate efforts by a good team. They proved that last night by hammering a pretty good football team in front of a national TV audience.
RRM: The home crowd got to see the Tom Brady and Randy Moss connection up close for the first time. With three touchdowns in two games already is the sky the limit for them?
SG: It's pretty special already, isn't it? Randy Moss is a tremendous football player and he's showing everybody he still has something left in his tank. You can tell he's enjoying playing the game again, and you can look forward to getting some great performances out of the two of those guys.
RRM: With all the attention they Patriots' offense is getting after putting up 38 points in consecutive weeks their defense has gone relatively unnoticed by the fans. Somehow I think the New York Jets and San Diego Chargers have felt its presence?
SG: The Patriots held the best running back in football LaDainian Tomlinson to only 43 yards, and that's a great accomplishment. They're getting great pressure up front with the defensive line and linebackers. They can blitz Rosevelt Colvin on one side and Mike Vrabel on the other side. When Adalius Thomas intercepted that ball and flew down the sidelines he looked like a running back and he's 275 pounds. When he got shaken up for a stretch they bring in Junior Seau to replace him and he ended up being the leading tackler. He's 38 years old and still playing good football. Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison are out and yet they don't let people move the ball on them. They have so many players offensively and defensively that somebody is always stepping up to make a play. This team is just so deep with so many good players; they are really going to be fun to watch.
RRM: Before I forget, what's with LaDainian Tomlinson wearing the sun-shield visor for a night game? Are the lights that bright at Gillette Stadium?
SG: I have no idea. I don't wish to criticize a truly great player but for some reason he's kind of decided he's some kind of spokesman for the NFL and he's made some really stupid comments.
RRM: The San Diego Chargers fired their head coach Marty Schottenheimer and replaced him with Norv Turner. Isn't that like swapping one used car for another?
SG: That's an interesting analogy. The Chargers haven't looked very good the last two weeks under Norv Turner and they fired a coach that led them to the best record in the league at 14-2 last season. I think a lot was expected of them this year with all the talent that they have and so far you're not seeing it. It will be interesting to see if they can get their act together.
RRM: The crowd at Gillette Stadium gave Belichick a standing ovation when he was introduced before the game and in a rare moment he actually acknowledged them with a wave. Wasn't that pretty unusual for him?
SG: He's been through a lot in the last week and I think he appreciated the way the fans were behind him, and I also think the team appreciated the way the fans were with him. To go out and totally dominate one of the NFL's elite teams sent a statement to not only the fans but the rest of the league that Bill Belichick can win with his players any way, any shape, any time.
RRM: Well, I've put it off long enough. I have to ask you what is your take on the great Belichick taping scandal of 2007?
SG: My view as a former player is as far as this helping the Patriots win games I think it's blown way out of proportion. Understand that everybody is trying to steal signs in football. Did Bill Belichick take it to the next level by videotaping the sidelines? Probably, but were there other teams doing the same thing? Probably not everybody, but some others. Belichick got caught and he paid the price and it may ruin his reputation a little bit in the years to come, but if you listen to former players they will tell you this has all been blown way out of proportion. Taping things like that doesn't really help you when you get on the field. You listen to other NFL coaches and none of them are saying this is a terrible, terrible thing because everyone tries to steal signs. Most of it is visually during a game; they have an assistant assigned to watch the other team give their signals, but Bill Belichick took it across the line and he got fined for it.
RRM: You were one of the last NFL quarterbacks to call his own plays. Would knowing the opposing defense's signals have helped you that much on the field?
SG: Not really. If you know in advance if it was going to be man or zone coverage that might help you a little bit, but you still have to go out and execute. I know I'd be asking, "Are you sure the signal is right?" Someone is hollering to you blitz, blitz, blitz and then they don't blitz and you throw an interception because they told you the wrong thing. You're much better off just reacting on the field.
RRM: The really interesting subplot to this story is that all of this stems from the Jets-Patriots, Eric Mangini-Bill Belichick feud. The Hatfields and McCoys feud lasted over a decade, do you think this one may outlast it?
SG: You never know. I heard about the Jets accusing the Patriots of wiring their defensive linemen with mikes to pick up their offensive line calls, and I don't know where that is coming from. You're going to hear all kinds of stories coming out of this. You don't what to believe and what not to believe. There's definitely a grudge match going on between those two and I think this is going to go on for some time. Another element to this is Belichick is not the most friendly guy to the press and media, and this is their chance to pile on and they are taking a huge advantage of that opportunity.
RRM: I can understand the fans across the country that don't like the Patriots believing all these wild conspiracy theories, but when someone like Jerome Bettis comes out on TV and says this calls into doubt the Patriots wins over his Steelers teams in the 2001 and 2004 AFC Championship Games you have to throw a flag, don't you?
SG: Is that what he is saying? Give me a break. I think that's totally ridiculous. It may be just an anti-Belichick thing from a lot of the people in the media. I was on the San Diego pregame radio show Sunday night with two former players and we all agreed that this was being blown so far out of proportion that this isn't helping anybody. You could give the other team your entire playbook for the game the next day and they aren't going to have enough time to figure out what you're going to do and when you're going to do it, and it's really not going to make that big a difference. I really think it's all a bunch of media hype.
RRM: So how long do you think the press will hold onto this story?
SG: Well, it was leaked that the Patriots signed Belichick through 2013 so another 6 years or so [laughs]? As long as Bill is still here antagonizing the media they'll keep it going.
RRM: Did you think the punishment doled out by the NFL was too severe or not severe enough?
SG: In my opinion the Patriots' franchise is being punished more than the head coach is being punished, and I don't think that's right. The coach is the one that made the decision to do these kinds of things. He is paying the $500,000 fine but I thought he should have also been suspended for a game or two. But to take away a team's #1 draft pick and fine the Kraft family even though they didn't have anything to do with it I personally think is wrong.
RRM: So you agree with NBC commentator and well-known Patriots-hater Chris Collinsworth that Belichick should have been suspended?
SG: I would favor suspension as opposed to giving up a draft pick. Giving up a draft pick AND being suspended I don't think would have been fair. It should be one or the other.
RRM: Be honest, wouldn't you have liked to have been in the room with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Bill Belichick when the head coach tried to explain why he interpreted the rules as to allow him to videotape from the bench?
SG: If you take a cue from his press conferences he probably said it is what it is [laughs]! I'm sure he had an interpretation and I'm sure it was within the realm of what Goodell had said about the rules, but it was obvious Goodell wasn't buying it.
RRM: After two very emotional games for the Patriots if there was ever going to be a time for a letdown it would be this Sunday when the woeful Buffalo Bills come to town. Any concerns on your part that it might happen?
SG: The Bills have a lot of issues going on with them right now, especially the devastating injury to Kevin Everett who we all hope makes a full recovery. The Bills gave the Patriots a tough game in the season opener last year but I'm not looking for a repeat here. This is the proverbial trap game and the Patriots will need to be really careful, but I just think this team is such a veteran club that has been through enough wars together that they're smart enough not to let that happen.
RRM: What are Grogan's grades for the pulsating 38-14 win over the Chargers in primetime?
SG: I didn't give the Patriots an A+ last week because Matt Cassel dropped a snap on a field goal attempt, but I'm giving them an A+ this week. They played great football in every phase of the game against a very good football team. The special teams had some issues with Stephen Gostkowski missing a field goal and Ellis Hobbs fumbling a kickoff, but I'm feeling generous today.
There was only one point where it looked like the Chargers might get back in the game. San Diego went on that impressive drive to start the second half but they took a lot of time off the clock and time was not their ally, so in a way they played right into the Patriots hands. They really needed to score a lot quicker than that. Then after the Chargers scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-7 Hobbs fumbled the kickoff but the Patriots rose to the occasion and sacked Philip Rivers on consecutive plays and the threat was over.
If San Diego is as good as everyone says they are and for the Patriots to go out and beat them so convincingly, well let's just say that I'm impressed. We'll still take it one game at a time but buy your Super Bowl tickets now [laughs]! But no, there are 14 games left to play and things can change but right now they are playing as good a brand of football as any Patriot team ever. Let's all enjoy the roll they are on right now.
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