Some thoughts on this Monday after another wild weekend:
1) The departure of Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler to the Raiders is a big blow that will definitely be tough for the Patriots to deal with, which creates some issues heading into 2022.
McDaniels’ loss is obviously the most notable, given the fact that it puts New England in a position now where second-year quarterback Mac Jones will lose the continuity and trust the two had as he heads into his sophomore season. The most obvious replacement would be to have former offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien rejoin the staff but while that notion has been tossed around in the media, we haven’t heard yet if that would even be something he’d entertain.
Adding O’Brien definitely makes sense and it would be a terrific move on several fronts. He’s a solid offensive coordinator and the Patriots definitely had success during his tenure. Given his knowledge of the system and terminology, it should also seemingly be a smooth transition. The other bonus is the fact he worked with Jones during their time together in Alabama, so barring any unforeseen circumstances we’re unaware of that would keep him from wanting to come back, it absolutely makes sense. If not, it could add another learning curve that could make things a little tougher on Jones as he tries to build on his rookie season.
The loss of Ziegler is probably the one that might quietly really sting, as his performance in the front office last offseason was probably the one that didn’t get enough recognition. The club really did a terrific job in the draft last April, with the Patriots landing three players in Jones, Christian Barmore and Rhamondre Stevenson, as players who played major roles in the team’s success in 2021. Ronnie Perkins, Cameron McGrone, and Joshuah Bledsoe are three others where the reports have indicated they’re on the rise and could be factors next season.
That’s a pretty good haul of players considering the team’s past issues in the draft and it seemed to point to potentially brighter days ahead in that area. Obviously, we weren’t the only ones who noticed and now the Raiders are poised to benefit for his services while the Patriots figure out his replacement.
As for McDaniels, this clearly shuts the door on him being the eventual replacement for Bill Belichick, which was what many thought would be the case. The problem is likely the same issue the two had last season in that, with Jones now here, McDaniels had already mentioned how much he was enjoying coaching Jones as the team turned the page from former QB, Tom Brady. The same is likely true for Belichick who, with a young promising QB back under center, now may be intending on sticking around for a while.
At 45-years old and with only so many opportunities available, rather than potentially waiting until he’s nearly 50 to become a head coach again here, McDaniels instead gets to take over a franchise that appears ready to give him full control, along with being able to work with someone he has a great relationship with and has already proven is up for the task.
A while ago, McDaniels said he wouldn’t consider coaching elsewhere again unless it was the perfect situation. It appears, he finally got what he was looking for.
2) With McDaniels moving on, it’s hard not to wonder about how things might change now that he’ll no longer be in the fold.
Matt Patricia’s departure comes to mind as after he left for Detroit, New England’s philosophy changed on defense and the results certainly seemed to be for the better. The Patriots became more aggressive and more disruptive, which definitely yielded better results.
Each coach has their own philosophy and their own way of doing things, and while McDaniels was clearly a big part of the foundation, it will be interesting to see how the team evolves with someone else calling the plays next season. There were certainly players who were underutilized last year, with Jonnu Smith being the name that comes to mind after what had been a fairly productive career in Tennessee.
With a full season now also under Jones’ belt, it’s also hard not to be curious to see how much more they allow him to do in year two, as well what changes unfold offensively once we find out who will be working with him when that time comes.
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3) The fiasco surrounding Tom Brady’s retirement news over the weekend could potentially stem from the fact the veteran quarterback allowed the news to get out there prior to at least informing the Buccaneers of his intentions, which judging by some of the statements and reports, may have been the case.
There had been speculation heading into the weekend, but the report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington more or less leads you to believe there was enough evidence of truth that the 44-year old was finally calling it quits, yet it sounds like he wasn’t quite ready for people to find out, especially since his current team sounded surprised by the news.
That likely created an awkward situation for Brady, who is reportedly on vacation and denied making any definitive decisions.
With that being said, Brady choosing now to walk away definitely makes sense. He didn’t get to leave the Patriots on ideal terms, with his final pass as New England’s signal-caller resulting in a pick-six, which is how it will be forever remembered in the record books. This time, he potentially closes his career completing a 27-3 comeback where he nearly forced overtime, until his defense allowed a 44-yard bomb from Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp in the closing seconds to allow the Rams to advance.
For Brady, his incredible comeback effort two weeks ago would be the ideal way for him to finish if it can’t be on the podium celebrating another Lombardi Trophy. Given the roster turnover the Buccaneers are likely to endure this offseason, coming up short after another 17 game season could be a risk he doesn’t want to take since he’s already hinted about the physical toll the game takes on his body.
But for those frustrated about the reports and how it all transpired over the weekend, it all just sounds like it’s postponing the inevitable. If this has indeed been Brady’s last season, it’s been an unbelievable ride and he’ll at least have one key positive to take away from his decision. He’ll forever have people wishing he had played another year or two, which is better than having people say he stuck around longer than he should have. Considering his age, that’s a pretty amazing thing.
4) The end of San Francisco’s loss to the Rams on Sunday was a sad finish for Jimmy Garoppolo, who likely played his last game with the club after their 20-17 loss in Los Angeles in the NFC Championship Game.
This one especially stings because Garoppolo had a chance to lead them on a game-winning drive, but instead threw an ill-advised interception that iced the game for Matthew Stafford and the Rams, which slammed the door on what had already been a frustrating season for the 49ers.
The play happened on a 3rd-and-13 where Garoppolo was under pressure and instead of throwing the ball away to at least have a shot at a 4th down, Garoppolo tried to keep the play alive and forced an awkward toss to JaMycal Hasty, which sailed high and off his fingertips into the hands of Travin Howard for the turnover.
That caps a difficult season for Garoppolo, who never fully took back his starting role and despite being in the championship game, he didn’t exactly elevate his play consistently. As a result, he now faces an incredibly uncertain future and the odds of him being guaranteed a starting role elsewhere certainly took a massive hit Sunday.
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5) As for Matthew Stafford, good for him for proving the doubters, myself included, wrong with Sunday’s victory.
I’ve never been a supporter of Stafford and always felt like he was a player who struggled in the spotlight. However, he thrived in his first season with the Rams and obviously has himself now in a position to win a championship against the Cincinnati Bengals next weekend.
The former Lions quarterback finished with 4886-yards passing while throwing for 41 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. His touchdown total matched his previous career-high of 41 back in 2011, with Stafford seemingly feeling revitalized following last offseason’s swap that saw the Rams send Jared Goff to the Lions in exchange for sending Stafford to the West Coast.
Head coach Sean McVay brought out the best in Stafford, who definitely looked like a different player in their offense. Meanwhile, Goff floundered out in Detroit, finishing the year appearing in 14 games while throwing for 3245-yards with 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, all the lowest totals since his rookie season.
As a result, the move worked out and Stafford has shown throughout he was up for the challenge, with his pass to Kupp against the Buccaneers being the defining moment that put him in a position to knock out San Francisco on Sunday.
His biggest battle is yet to come as the Bengals showed no fear out in Kansas City on Sunday and proved they’re more than capable of beating anyone. Needless to say, it should be a fun match-up heading into next weekend.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary