Some thoughts on this Saturday as the Patriots continue getting ready for Sunday’s game against the Bills.
1) Guerrero Story Overblown – One of the biggest stories this week has centered on the status of Tom Brady’s trainer, Alex Guerrero, who was the target of a story by the Boston Globe this week that brought to light the fact that he’s reportedly had his sideline access revoked, no longer rides the team plane, and is only allowed to treat Brady – not any other Patriots player – within the confines of Gillette Stadium.
That has some within the media questioning whether or not that apparent decision by Bill Belichick will cause any problems between he and his star quarterback, using the terms “rift” and “friction”. Others have even speculated that it could be a big enough frustration with Belichick to cause him to leave after this season to pursue the job as head coach of the Giants, the team everyone knows he holds very dear to his heart.
It’s surprising that there’s so many who are equating this as something that could split apart Belichick from Brady and Owner Robert Kraft. It seems like a little bit of a reach, especially considering that this isn’t anything like what happened when Bill Parcells was overruled on the selection of the late Terry Glenn back in 1996. That moment drove a stake between Parcells and Kraft for the season, leading to his departure to the Jets after the club’s first Super Bowl appearance under Kraft.
But with Guerrero, it just appears that there may have been some blurred lines between what he was permitted to do and what he was doing, with the more likely scenario being that a discussion may have been had between members of the team’s strength and conditioning coaches with Belichick, that lead to the need to make this decision for the sake of keeping peace among the people assigned to properly prepare the players each week. As most know, one of the biggest points of emphasis is a unified message and if there was a conflict, it simply may have come down to Belichick doing what he’s always done, which is making a tough decision that he felt would be best for the team.
From what we’ve seen, Brady gets to continue working with Guerrero just like he always has, and any players who wish to workout with Guerrero at the TB12 center are still permitted to. All the other speculation seems like people reaching for things that aren’t there while simply making more of it than it really is.
Belichick dismissed the Globe’s story quite quickly on Friday, which was among several attempts this week to try and spark more interest by multiple media members.
“Yeah, this is another one with no sources, right?” said Belichick, referring to the Globe article. “Yep. I’m not going to get into that.”
He’s probably better off.
Garoppolo is now 3-0 as a starter in San Francisco.
2) Watching Garoppolo Succeed is Tough, But “It is what it is” – Now that he’s 3-0 as a starter out in San Francisco, Jimmy Garoppolo has captured the hearts of the Bay Area and his success sparked discussion this week after many here in New England appear to be feeling a little bit of remorse about the trade that sent him there. While New England will receive San Francisco’s 2nd round pick in exchange for Garoppolo, many are beginning to wonder if the Patriots cost themselves their future by letting him walk.
There’s no question that the move was a difficult one and Belichick explained the decision after the trade was completed, saying that they had run out of time and their hand was forced due to the timing of where Garoppolo was in his deal since he was in the final year of his contract. Franchising him and moving him could have potentially gotten them a higher selection than what the Patriots received, but the end result would have still been the same if they moved him. He wouldn’t have been on the roster either way.
So far, Garoppolo is off to a huge start, extending his career record as a starter to 5-0 while also having thrown for more yards (1008) in his first three games in San Francisco than any other 49ers quarterback has in 17-years. That success has more or less confirmed what many in New England already knew, he appears to be a legitimate starting quarterback in this league. That essentially leaves the Patriots forced to go back to the drawing board to figure out what to do when Brady’s career eventually comes to an end.
Given the level that Brady has continued to play at, injuries aside, it’s hard to argue the logic of the team making the difficult decision to move forward with the man who has won five championships for them. Brady appears like he still has a few more left in him, which meant that they simply found Garoppolo at the wrong time. Unfortunately, as tough as it was, it meant having to part with him since it would have been tough to keep the former Eastern Illinois standout here for 2-3 more years as a backup.
The one thing to consider is the fact that Matt Cassell proved that even without Brady, this team will still be competitive and oddly enough, for anyone who watched the 2008 season closely, it actually would have been interesting to see how far they could have advanced into the postseason with Cassell at the helm. That was a year where they finished 11-5, which was the same record as the Dolphins. It was a crazy season where the Dolphins won five straight games to close out the year to also finish 11-5, but the Patriots lost the tie-breaker due to a lesser Conference record. That cost them the Division and it left them on the outside looking in on the postseason.
The point is, this is a team that’s done a good job getting the most of the quarterbacks they’ve developed when they’ve been in this system, although it hasn’t translated into success elsewhere. That hopefully means that whoever’s hands this team’s future falls into, if nothing else, they’ll help them remain competitive with a shot at playing in February. While “it’s a little early to put him in the Hall of Fame”, if Garoppolo goes on to be San Francisco’s version of Brady, he’ll be remembered by the fans here as the one that got away.
Hopefully, if Brady can at least keep winning for the foreseeable future, it will be a while before they truly need to worry about it.
3) Understanding the “Brady Effect” – Listening to newcomer Kenny Britt this week, after having already cashed in prior to his arrival here, Britt admitted that this has been a place that has been on his wish list and the money was far down his list of priorities before signing. However, the more notable take was the fact that after working with Brady, the one thing the veteran receiver noticed is that Brady instills confidence into his players, making them believe that they can be better than they are.
“A guy that builds confidence into his players,” Britt told Mike Reiss of ESPN, after being asked about his first impressions of working with Brady. “That’s real big, especially for a wide receiver that just hasn’t had that confidence coming from that position. That makes you go out there and play at your maximum level of ability knowing that this guy, regardless, believes in you. So you believe in yourself a little bit more. That goes around in the locker room, with the offense and everybody else. The things you do, even just small, they build you up on it and let you know ‘Hey, good job.’ That builds everyone’s confidence that we’re doing something right.”
You don’t have to look back very far to realize that even with rookie receivers or lesser veteran players, Brady has had success with every type of wide receiver group over the course of his career. Part of that likely stems from something we learned about Brady back during the 2001 season, where there were various reports citing individual players where unlike then quarterback Drew Bledsoe, Brady was more down to earth and a player who teammates could talk to and relate to. That’s been one of the consistent takes from players who have come and gone, and even from opposing writers who didn’t like him until they met him.
Heading into the postseason, with Julian Edelman missing during this run, the big key to New England’s success is going to be trying to get the most out of the group they have, which has had their ups and downs. This is a club who even with all of their injuries remains in the driver’s seat for the top seed, but it still feels like less than a sure thing compared to past years.
While Martellus Bennett’s contributions were short-lived after he returned, hopefully, Britt can be the guy to play a role for a team that will need all the help they can get as they look to try and make their way to Minnesota in February.
Keeping McDaniels may be the key to the Patriots future success at quarterback.
4) Josh McDaniels Could Be the Key to Patriots’ Future QB Success – One of the biggest things to watch in the coming months is going to be what happens with Josh McDaniels, who most analysts believe will, once again, be high on the list of teams who will be looking for new head coaches.
McDaniels has been highly sought after in previous years, yet we’ve been fortunate enough that he’s remained in New England. Some believe that he’s Belichick’s future successor, which makes sense since it would allow them to maintain continuity for a team that already has a solid foundation in place, and would boost his chance for success as a head coach.
But McDaniels’ value may even be a little higher now because one of the areas where he’s excelled has been in his development of some of the Patriots recent drafted quarterbacks in both Brissett and Garoppolo, as well as going all the way back to Matt Cassell. That may be an area that could be underrated, and if the team hopes to move on from Garoppolo, what happens with McDaniels may also be one of the key components of the team finding and being able to develop whoever they bring in next as Brady’s next successor.
Ryan Mallett is a former 3rd round pick who never reached the level of either of those two players, although Bill O’Brien was the coach who initially worked with him during his first season before O’Brien left to coach Penn State after that season. Mallett was a bust and lasted two seasons before being traded to the Texans in 2014 and never developed into a proper NFL starter.
McDaniels, who started with the team in 2001, became the team’s quarterback coach in 2004, which was right around the time Brady’s game really began to evolve even further and the veteran quarterback mentioned last month that McDaniels has even played a big role in his development, giving him a ringing endorsement.
“He’s been spectacular in every way for me,” Brady said. “I could never be the player that I am without him and he challenges me every week. I have so much confidence in him as a coach and his abilities and the way he leads our offense. He’s spectacular and it would be tough to lose him. We certainly aren’t going to lose him in the next two weeks. Like I said, I hope he doesn’t for my own personal sake, but I can understand all those reasons why these other teams would want him to lead their organization.”
With Brady hopefully in place for at least two more seasons before his contract expires, having McDaniels here could be key to New England’s future as the Patriots try to turn the page from Garoppolo with whoever they select in the draft this offseason. As a result, who they select may hold less importance compared with whether or not the guy who can get the best out of him sticks around.
Belichick gave us a nice bit of insight this week. (USA TODAY Images)
5) Belichick: Sometimes Players Surprise You When They’re Pretending to Be Someone Else – Sometimes Belichick offers up something insightful and unexpected, and that proved to be the case this week as he talked about how weekly preparations can sometimes bring out traits in players that they weren’t aware of.
The subject started as he was asked about whether or not having an individual mimic an opposing player could help potentially find skills they didn’t know they had. Belichick said that can certainly be the case, and sometimes it’s allowed them to help them develop players thanks to things they did in practice that they might not have normally done otherwise.
“Sure, and we talk to the players about that all the time,” explained Belichick. “That’s your opportunity in practice as being somebody else – being another receiver, another tight end or another corner or another linebacker or whatever the position is – to work on something else, to work on a speed-to-power move, to work on a double-move, to work on a jump cut, whatever it happens to be, and that opportunity is usually offensively to get the ball. So, those kind of highlighted guys are players that we know we have to stop from the other team.”
“They have plays designed to go to those players, so again, whether it’s double moves or some type of special route that they run or special running play that is designed for them, it gives those players a chance to run it. We might not have that play, or they might not be the one running it if we have a play like that or similar play like that. It might be somebody else, so it gives them a chance to work on that.”
“A lot of times we see those things. We see, oh gee, this guy did a good job with this particular thing this week when he was pretending to be somebody else. Maybe that’s a skill we hadn’t clearly identified or seen it and had a chance to identify earlier, and now that kind of sticks out. So, OK, maybe we can develop that a little bit more. So, it’s definitely a good opportunity for a player to highlight something, to have a chance to do something and then highlight the fact that he can do it.”
Definitely a rare bit of information that was certainly eye-opening, and it makes you wonder a little bit about which players on the practice squad have been able to move their way up the depth chart over the years thanks to the opportunities he mentioned, or which starting players might have honed their skills thanks to a similar scenario. Good stuff.
6) Loss of Broadcaster Dick Enberg Is a Big One – Hearing about the loss of Enberg was certainly saddening, especially for anyone who followed the team in the mid to late 90s during their initial rise after Robert Kraft purchased the team.
Enberg did a lot of those games and his signature “Oh My” was one of the things he’s most known for, but he brought with him a very honest and sincere way of doing the broadcasts, along with plenty of emotion and energy.
We watched a variety of sports when I was growing up, and Enberg was pretty versatile, with one of my other memories of him as an announcer being listening to him work countless tennis matches during an era that featured signature players like Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Pete Sampras, among many others. Hearing Enberg call those big moments still brings chills and it elevated each event he did into being championship-level, as that’s just the type of effect he had as a broadcaster.
It’s funny, because I had a conversation earlier this week with someone regarding some of Jim Nance’s nuances as an announcer where I felt he had some similarities with Enberg, with both of us agreeing that Nance did sound like him at times. That left me wondering what Enberg was doing these days and reminiscing back a little bit through old clips and broadcasts. I didn’t know two days later we’d learn of his passing.
Enberg had said just last year he was planning on slowing down and spending more time with his grandchildren and unfortunately, it’s a story we’ve heard too many times for guys who just aren’t given enough time after retirement to spend with their loved ones. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to his family and hopefully, they know that many of us truly enjoyed and appreciate his work. He’ll definitely be missed.
(The video below is of Enberg talking about how 2016 would be his final season as the announcer of the Padres, and how he planned to spend more time with his family. The thumbnail is grayed out, but the video will play)
Posted Under: 2017 Patriots Season