Here’s a look at this morning’s top stories:
No Surprise With McDaniels News – The news about Josh McDaniels on Monday potentially lining up to be the eventual successor to Bill Belichick shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to anybody who’s followed his story over the past few seasons.
In fact, Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston actually wrote several years ago that McDaniels was the most illogical candidate to take over when the future Hall of Fame coach does finally decide to retire.
Granted it’s a situation that hopefully won’t be an issue for a while, but this is an organization that for the most part has always promoted from within, not brought anybody in from the outside. Given his relationship with Robert Kraft and the organization, McDaniels clearly has the trust and respect from ownership and was welcomed back with opened arms in 2012 after leaving the to coach the Broncos in 2009. After he was fired in Denver in 2010, he spent time as a coordinator in St. Louis in 2011 and returned to New England after that season when the Rams fired head coach Steve Spagnuolo. But he’s been here ever since, having been a big part of their success which has included another Super Bowl championship in 2014. As a result, having him here after losing someone like Belichick would certainly help make the transition to move forward a little smoother.
But how long he has to wait is obviously the next question. Belichick seems to be having as much fun coaching as he ever has and he also has his son working with him, which likely makes coming to work every day a little easier. However, on the flip side, he does have a new granddaughter, and he’s probably going to reach a point where he may want to have some time to start enjoying the little things a bit more.
The other question obviously is the quarterback situation. Right now you have Tom Brady, who doesn’t look like he’s slowing down even at the age of 39. Brady said many times he would like to play into his 40’s, and so far he’s not showing any signs that that would be an issue. But what happens over this offseason might be a hint of what’s ahead in terms of how they handle Jimmy Garoppolo in the event they’re trying to set him up as the long-term successor to replace Brady when the veteran’s playing days come to an end.
It’s hard to it’s hard to imagine not having him as head coach anymore, but if McDaniels has really decided to wait until his time comes here in New England, that may signal that the conversation has at least quietly happened and that Belichick may be finally considering a timetable of how much longer he plans on coaching. For now all we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride and know that when it’s over, at least there might be a familiar face stepping into his place to try and keep it it going.
LB Dont’a Hightower appears a little frustrated right now. (USA TODAY Images)
Hightower comments on lack of playmakers – Patriots linebacker Donna Hightower on Tuesday made an interesting comment when it came to New England’s defensive personnel situation.
He was asked a question pertaining to whether or not he’s comfortable with the lack of playmakers, obviously referring to Jamie Collins’ trade to Cleveland two weeks ago, and Hightower came back with an answer that certainly raised some eyebrows.
“Whether I am comfortable or not, that’s something that is out of my pay grade,” Hightower said via WEEI. “I do what I am told. I am a linebacker and I don’t get to make those decisions.”
It’s a little bit of a surprising response from Hightower, who has to know that after the trade of Collins, it likely signals that the organization has him as a priority moving forward in their linebacker group. However, it’s also worth noting that so far he hasn’t signed an extension, which many thought might have happened over the course of the last offseason, with him being potentially the candidate to be the among the first to receive one.
He’s done a good job stepping in and emerging as a leader in this defense since being drafted, and seems like he’s definitely a player who fits in well and should be somebody that they try to ensure sticks around for a long time.
Hightower did go on to point out that despite some of their recent issues, they’ve still done a reasonably good job of keeping teams from scoring. However, he knows that they still have some work to do.
“I think the number one job on defense is to prevent the other team from scoring and right now I think we are No. 3 in that,” said Hightower. “We’re doing a good job of that. There might be a few things we have to pick up — third down, just getting off the field and getting after the quarterback. Those are things that you just have to work through as far as being a defense. We know what we want to do and we have the right mindset and have the right people. We just have to go out and execute every week.”
Brady says he’s faster now than he was when he was drafted – On Monday during his weekly appearance on WEEI, Tom Brady said that he’s improved in one area that was certainly a weak point when he was drafted back in 2000.
The veteran quarterback, who is talking about some of the things he’s tried to improve on with his body over the years, said that he’s actually a little bit faster now running a 40-yard sprint at the age of 39 then he was as a rookie.
“I’m never going to run a 4.7 40 [yard dash]. I never have been able to do that,” said Brady. “I never will be able to do that, but I’ve timed my 40 from what it was when I was coming out of college and what it is now and it’s maybe two- or three-tenths faster.”
When asked about the his 40-yard run at the scouting combine back in 2000, Brady joked, “I was really slow back then.”
Brady’s ability to move around and extend plays has been one of his biggest assets this season, but there’s still a little bit of reason to be concerned. On a couple of those plays, including the 53-yard touchdown pass he threw two Malcolm Mitchell, he took a big shot after releasing the football as he was going to the ground after getting outside the pocket. He was also nearly caught from behind on a couple of other occasions while moving around, and managed to avoid defenders that, it almost looked like, he didn’t see until the last moment.
So far this season it’s been a formula for success but hopefully it doesn’t become an aspect of his game that could one day put him in harm’s way and he sustains a hit that he can’t immediately bounce back from.
But right now he’s looked about as good as he ever has from that standpoint and since it’s working, as long as he doesn’t get hurt, hopefully he can continue having success doing it.
Branch’s loss is costly – Not only is the lack of Alan Branch’s services going to be a big loss for the Patriots whilehe serves his 4-game suspension that he received on Monday, it’s also going to hit him pretty hard in his wallet.
According to the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, Branch’s absence will cost the veteran defensive tackle over $1-million in lost salary and incentives.
The worst part about this situation is the fact that that there were several steps involved in order to get him to this point, which looking at it from this standpoint just shows how avoidable it really was given the number of violations required to be suspended.
NFL’s marijuana policy:
1st failed test: Entry into program
2nd: 2-wk fine
3rd: 4-wk fine
4th: 4-gm susp
5th: 10-gm susp
6th: 1-year ban
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) November 21, 2016
For now it’s a misstep that is likely leaving Belichick frustrated over what is going to make an already difficult situation on defense even more difficult. The veteran had played in all 10 games, and his void will definitely be felt.
Branch originally signed a two-year, $6.6 million extension after the 2014 season after he became an important part of their defensive tackle rotation. New England picked up his $400,000 option back in March.
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