Some news and notes for this morning:
1) With the quarterback position obviously in the spotlight, I started thinking about the last time there was any type of QB controversy or competition and it brought back memories of Michael Bishop, who created a lot of noise at the time when Drew Bledsoe was the starter here.
Bishop was an athletic quarterback out of Kansas State who previous head coach Pete Carroll selected in the 7th round of the 1999 draft. Bishop made a lot of noise that preseason, having a lot of late game success and wowing the crowd by throwing bombs to fellow 7th round selection Sean Morey as the two went took advantage of third and fourth string players and made things look easy.
That caught the attention of fans who started becoming frustrated with then starter Drew Bledsoe, who started that year off 6-2 before finishing 2-6 down the stretch, which ultimately led to Carroll being fired.
Heading into the 2000 season, which was Bill Belichick’s first year, the new head coach came in with the plan of evaluating everything, including the quarterback position. At the time, he hadn’t hired a quarterback coach, which was what started an interesting conversation during one of Belichick’s early press conferences. However, what caught everyone’s attention was how often Bishop’s name came up. It had seemed at the time that seeing him at some point in the year could be a possibility, which was interesting since Carroll had implied the same thing the previous season but Bishop never saw the field.
Belichick hinted that sometimes throwing a “curveball” was necessary, and if it came down to it, he was open to the idea.
“I think it’s better for the football team to know who the quarterback is, commit to him, and for the quarterback to commit to the team and to move forward,” said Belichick at the time. “Having said that though, I do respect that every situation is a little bit different and you’ve got to do what’s best for the football team. What’s best for the football team is to throw a curveball instead of a fastball every time or to have a change of pace, and there are a lot of teams and situations where players can effectively compliment each other. Sometimes it’s a solution and sometimes it’s a problem. I think each one’s different.”
“First of all I don’t know Michael Bishop. I mean all I know is that I saw him play in college, I saw him in some preseason games this year because we opened with the Patriots. But I really don’t know the player so I think until I have an opportunity to work with him it’s hard for me to make a great prediction on what you will or won’t be able to do [with him], especially given the fact he’s only been in the league one year. He’s signed, it’s not like he’s in any kind of limbo contractually. He’s here, so we’ll work with him and see where that goes.”
Bishop did ultimately see action that year, coming in during short-yardage situations along with down in the red zone. One of his biggest moments happened in his second game action. After coming in on a 3rd-and-1 and handing the ball off to Kevin Faulk, who picked up 5-yards and moved the chains, Belichick brought him out at the end of the first half following a 39-yard kickoff return by Tony Simmons, which put New England at the Colts’ 44-yard line with :03 left to go in the half. Bishop then threw a terrific “Hail Mary” pass to Simmons (see it here at the 55:25 mark), who managed to blocked out defenders and come down with the football for the touchdown.
That play knotted the score at 10-10 and New England went on to win 24-16.
However, he saw limited action for the remainder of the season, appearing over the next few games against the Jets, a loss in a rematch against the Colts, followed by another loss to the Bills. From there, Belichick’s club was 2-7 and it seemed that the philosophy changed, with Bishop not appearing again until the final game of the season against Miami, which was a Hail Mary attempt on the final play of the contest that fell incomplete to Terry Glenn.
That experiment didn’t turn out all that well and with Tom Brady, who was drafted that year, taking over the following season, Bishop’s time came to an end and he ended up in the CFL from 2002 until 2008, which included a Grey Cup Championship.
Fast-forwarding to now, life after football has been challenging for Bishop, who actually suffered a mild stroke last year at the age of 43. He said he experienced “a real bad headache” that he said turned out to be a stroke.
“It’s been a blessing when it’s all said done. I had a real bad headache and it turned into a mild stroke,” said Bishop during an interview last January. “Little did I know…I thought I was in great shape, eating good, I was still moving around and doing what a competitor, what a athlete loves to do.”
“I ended up being down and out. I was facing a battle that I didn’t have a scouting report for. I was facing a battle that I didn’t have coaches breaking down film and it was something new to me. It was a challenge, but God saw me through it and I’m recovering well and feeling good.”
Bishop, who fortunately appears to be recovering well, was then asked if he thought it was related to his playing days and the former Kansas State standout believes that had something to do with it, but it hasn’t stopped him from trying to get back to doing the things he loves to do.
“I was trying to figure out what happened at the same time. I’m pretty sure it has a lot to do with football. I’m positive it had a lot to do with football but it’s a game that I love, it’s a game that every athlete that plays on the football field loves. Unfortunately for me, this happened and now I’m in a fight for my life. I’m trying to maintain what I need to do and listen to the doctors. Taking it easy is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do because I’ve always been a go-getter. I’ve always been a guy that wants to get out there and get into the action. So, it’s a minor setback for a major comeback.”
Best of luck to Bishop, who will definitely be remembered by those of us who were around for what was quite an interesting time during that era.
2) Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin appears to be under some pressure this year, with the 14-year Pittsburgh coach in need of some success after seeing his club fall apart down the stretch after chatter of a potential undefeated season quickly unraveled and his team got knocked out by the Browns in the postseason.
That dropped his playoff record to 8-8, with the club totaling a 3-6 postseason record since their Super Bowl loss to the Packers in 2011. To make matters worse, they haven’t won a playoff game since 2016, so the frustration is growing down in Pittsburgh.
The timing of these issues certainly isn’t helping them either. Barring a miracle, the club could seemingly be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the not-so-distant future, with the QB having suffered an elbow injury where the tendon was torn right off the bone the previous year. He managed to be productive for much of last season, but suffered a knee injury late in the year that clearly factored into their struggles and eventual postseason exit.
With Roethlisberger battered and bruised, how much more time he has left is in now in question. That could mean, like the Patriots, another reboot could be on deck in Pittsburgh but Tomlin’s resume isn’t quite as strong as Belichick’s, so it’s possible he may not survive there long enough to see it through.
As a result, that makes the 2021 season a critical one for Tomlin, who will need to try and remain on top of a division that now has three other teams who are slowly becoming competitive and could make that task even more difficult for him.
3) The NFL set a deadline for players to potentially opt out of the 2021 season, which is set for next week.
Players reportedly will have until next Friday, July 2nd, to inform their respective teams if they’re opting out of the 2021 season.
However, unlike last season, there won’t be the same guarantees. According to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, “Higher Risk” players for COVID are again entitled to a $350,000 stipend, while voluntary opt-outs won’t get anything this time around. Last year, they received $150,000.
The Patriots experienced an NFL high 8 opt outs last season, including notable names like Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon and Dont’a Hightower. Chung retired and Cannon was sent to Houston via a trade earlier this offseason, but Hightower appears to be fully-focused on getting back to business and even looked a little leaner and quicker during the team’s recent minicamps.
Things are slowly improving on the COVID front thanks to increased vaccinations, but it’s the higher risk groups that the league seems to be addressing this time around. With treatments having come a long way since last year, along with the fact so much more is known about the virus, the outlook is certainly better than it was a year ago. Hopefully, that will see everyone back on the field for the Patriots this season as the club tries to rebound from last year’s 7-9 finish.
4) Apparently down in Tennessee, the opinion seems to be split among fans when it comes to Ryan Tannehill, with many believing that the Titans should start looking at finding a replacement under center.
There are quite a few who even feel that the acquisition of Julio Jones won’t help them that much, largely because they question whether or not Tannehill will be able to get him the football.
USA TODAY’s Mike Moraitis is trying to talk those fans off the ledge, pointing out how much better things have been since Tannehill took over for former QB, Marcus Mariota.
Lest we forget that during the first six games of the 2019 season the Titans’ offense was among the worst in the NFL with Marcus Mariota under center, and Henry was nowhere near the dominant force he has been lately.
Tennessee averaged a putrid 16.3 points per contest over its first six, which was also inflated after the Titans dropped 43 in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. Henry was averaging a paltry 69.3 yards per game.
With the same cast of characters, Tannehill went on to lead Tennessee to new heights and an elite offense the rest of the season, with the Titans averaging 30.4 points per contest in their last 10 games — and he did so with the offensive line doing its best impression of a sieve in pass protection.
Since 2019, the Titans lead the NFL in these offensive categories:
• Touchdowns (110)
• Plays of 50+ yards (23)
• Red Zone TD Percentage (75.2%)
• Rushing Touchdowns (47)
Tennessee's offense has been BOOMING. pic.twitter.com/DhSBwFDCVC
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) June 2, 2021
While some of his points hold true, it doesn’t change the fact that the Titans are talented enough where another early playoff exit likely won’t be enough to stop the talk. Like any other quarterback, Tannehill likely knows that the only way to quiet the critics is to win football games and clearly how he handles the pressure should be interesting to watch.
5) Getting back to Tom Brady’s “MF’er” comment, it sounds like Brady may have been hoping that he could have stayed in the AFC last season.
According to Mike Lombardi, he believes it was the Dolphins who turned him down, opting to stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of Brady.
“I think the team is Miami,” said Lombardi via USA TODAY. “On the Eastern Seaboard, they had Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now, he would say you’re sticking with that m———- for Fitzpatrick. if you know Brady, he wanted to be (in) the East, he wanted to get back at New England, and what better way to get back at New England than go to Miami.
“You got Flores down there, they had plenty of cap room — remember they signed all those guys last year. They had a ton of cap room. And you’re sticking with that m———? Like, you’re sticking with Ryan? You don’t want me? Like Flo, you know me. You know me.”
The idea that it could be Miami makes sense, especially since Brady landed in Florida and has already admitted that he loves being in a warmer climate and has even purchased property down in Miami.
But obviously, things worked out just fine for the Buccaneers while the Dolphins came up short and could have possibly gone farther with Brady at the helm. Instead, Miami finished 10-6 and will be trying to take another step forward with current QB Tua Tagovailoa this season.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Brian Flores Dont'a Hightower Drew Bledsoe Julio Jones Marcus Cannon Miami Dolphins Michael Bishop New England Patriots Patrick Chung Ryan Fitzpatrick Ryan Tannehill Tennessee Titans Tom Brady Tua Tagovailoa