Wednesday Patriots Notebook 10/7: Belichick Impressed with Witten’s Stability
It was interesting to hear Bill Belichick talk about the consistency of Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten on Tuesday, with Witten in the middle of a pretty incredible streak as it pertains to his NFL leading number of consecutive regular season games played.
Witten has played in 191 straight games, the highest number of any player at any position in the NFL. That’s only better than the Giants’ Eli Manning, who has played in 171 straight.
With everything the Cowboys’ tight end has accomplished, the fact he’s been out there every week is something that stands out to Belichick, which he talked about during his conference call on Tuesday.
“He comes up big in big situations, does a great job for them in the running game and makes big and clutch plays for them in the passing game,” said Belichick. “They obviously have a lot of confidence in him. Both quarterbacks look for him in critical situations, as they have for years. The fact that he’s there all the time, has been there throughout his career, his durability has been remarkable.”
The ironic thing is, Belichick and the Patriots already have the premier tight end in the game on their roster in Rob Gronkowski, but his biggest problem previously had been a string of bad luck. It started with a questionable tackle by Bernard Pollard in the AFC Championship game in 2012 that left him ineffective in the Super Bowl with an ankle injury, which the Patriots lost to the Giants 21-17. The following season in 2012 he fractured his forearm in the fourth quarter against the Colts in Week 11 and then later re-injured his arm in the first quarter of New England’s playoff game against Houston. The latest blow he suffered came in 2013 where he suffered a season-ending knee injury on December 8, 2013 in a home game against the Browns.
Fortunately, 2014 saw him return to full strength and the Patriots won their first Super Bowl since 2004 and Gronkowski was a big reason why.
For almost a decade Patriots head coach Bill Belichick kept trying over and over again to find a tight end who could be deadly in New England’s offense and it certainly took quite a few players before they eventually found Gronkowski.
Overall, since 2000, Belichick has selected 11 tight ends in the NFL Draft:
2000 5th Round Dave Stachelski
2001 4th Round Jabari Holloway
2001 6th Round Arther Love
2002 1st Round Daniel Graham
2004 1st Round Ben Watson
2005 7th Round Andy Stokes
2006 3rd Round David Thomas
2010 2nd Round Rob Gronkowski
2010 4th Round Aaron Hernandez
2011 5th Round Lee Smith
2015 6th Round A.J. Derby
Only Graham and Watson were solid long-term players in the league, with Watson still with the New Orleans Saints. We all know what happened with Hernandez, but Gronkowski is still just 26 years old with plenty of great years left.
Hopefully his bad luck is over because it took Belichick a long time to finally find him and considering how well he’s playing, hopefully Gronk’s durability will someday be something getting attention by an opposing coach.
PLAYERS RECALL BELICHICK’S PRAISE:
In an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, author Kevin Clark spoke with several Patriots players and asked them to tell him the last time head coach Belichick told them they were doing a good job.
It apparently doesn’t happen very often, and players admitted it’s a good feeling when it does.
“Jacksonville, 2009,” Rob Ninkovich told the newspaper. In that game against the Jaguars, he had three tackles. “I made a play, the next day he said ‘that’s a good job.’ It was a great feeling.”
Special teams captain Matthew Slater’s pat on the back was a little more recent.
“Last year against Oakland,” said Slater, who had three tackles on punt returns, including one in which returner T.J. Carrie lost a yard. “He said ‘Good job, Slate.’ You’re surprised by it. But he’s not going to be drooling over you.”
You can read the entire piece via this link.
PATRIOTS STABILITY IS SURPRISING:
Following the firing of Joe Philbin in Miami, it was a reminder of just how fortunate the Patriots have been to have a head coach like Bill Belichick and the stability they’ve enjoyed since he took over as head coach, especially as it relates to the rest of the division.
In an article by Shalise Manza Young from Yahoo! Sports, she points out that Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell became the eighth head coach or interim head coach Miami has had since 2000, with the Bills having had the same number of coaches over that span. The Jets have had five.
The quarterback totals are staggering, although that’s been an issue in Miami for years and it remains to be seen if Ryan Tannehill will be that guy or not. Either way the number so far is 16, while the Bills have had 13 and the Jets have had 11.
Here in New England, it’s been all Tom Brady with the exception, of course, of 2008 after Brady tore his ACL just moments into the season-opener and missed the entire season and Matt Cassell led the team to 11 wins.
Cassell has since become an NFL journeyman while Brady remains the starter and is still playing at a high level. It’s not an exact science by any means, but fortunately the Patriots still have him and the two remain the longest active tandem in the league.
PATRIOTS vs JETS UNLIKELY TO BE FLEXED:
With the Jets sitting at 3-1 the match-up facing these two teams could be a potential battle for the division lead when they face off in Foxborough on October 25th.
One would think that would mean an opportunity to see their 1:00pm contest flexed to Sunday night, but so far it sounds like that might not be the case.
As it stands right now, according to NJ.com, a source told the site the game is “unlikely” to replace the Eagles-Panthers game.
Obviously things can change and a lot can happen before then. But for now it appears that game will remain a 1:00pm start.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary