Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-17 and AFC East Notes. We hope everyone has a great, happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day.
Favorite St. Patrick’s Day memory? Taking the train into North Station in a blizzard and my Dad taking me, my brother and two cousins to my first Bruins game. Against the Montreal Canadiens.
Adrian Clayborn – the veteran pass rusher will only complete one season as a Patriots and was released on Friday as per his wishes. His release gives the team an extra almost $3.5 million dollars in salary cap room.
Clayborn wrote on Twitter a thank-you note to the Patriots.
“Thank you Patriots for my time with the organization. gained so much respect for how you do things and win championships. It’s done the right way through hard work. Thank you for granting my release. I’m ready for this next chapter.”
He garnered 2.5 sacks, 13 QB hits, and a forced fumble after signing a two-year free-agent deal last spring. He added a sack and five QB hits during the Patriots Super Bowl run. With Trey Flowers a member of the Detroit Lions and Clayborn released, the Patriots depth chart on the edge consists of Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr., John Simon, Ufomba Kamalu, Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, and Trent “Toolbox” Harris.
Michael Bennett – Speaking of the latest addition, Bennett spoke with Patriots.com
“I used to hate the Patriots,” he said. “I hated it because they would win so much. I hated it because Tom Brady’s hair was long. I hated that Belichick would wear sweaters. But now that I’m here, I love it. I love Tom Brady’s hair. I love being a Patriot obviously because it is all about winning. I think everything about the organization is being team-first, and just about doing what we need to do to get to where we want to go as a group. I love that.”
KC’s Hill Under Investigation For Child Abuse – Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill is under scrutiny by law enforcement personnel for battery against a minor. This is the second brush with the law in 10 days. Police were called to his home for a child abuse/neglect call on March 5 but closed the case without any charges being filed.
Again on March 14 police officers received a call at the same address and Hill’s three-year-old son was reportedly the victim with a broken arm. Hill has not been charged with any crime at this point.
Law enforcement officials won’t comment on an on-going investigation. Hill back in 2015 pleaded guilty of domestic assault and battery by strangulation in August 2015. He received three years probation.
He reportedly punched and choked Espinal, who was then eight weeks pregnant with their son, on Dec. 11, 2014. She is now pregnant with twins. Hill has been in negotiations with the Chiefs on a new deal that would make him among the highest players at his position. But for now, those negotiations are probably on hold. Both the Chiefs and the NFL said that they are aware of the incident.
“The club is aware of the investigation involving Tyreek Hill,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “We’re in the process of gathering information and have been in contact with the league and local authorities. We’ll have no further comment at this time.”
This isn’t good news for Hill, the Chiefs or the NFL. The league just suspended former Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt for eight games in 2019 for violation of the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. After he was captured on video kicking and shoving a woman in the hallway of a Cleveland hotel.
Bolden and McCourty Return – After a year in Miami, Patriots special teams ace and backup running back Brandon Bolden is returning to Foxboro on a two-year deal. The popular locker room presence spent the first six years of his career in Foxboro. Tom Brady responded to Bolden’s Instagram post about his return with an “F**k Yeah!”
Jason McCourty is also returning on a 2-year deal. The 31-year old, came on board with the team last year and played very well, giving the cornerback position another veteran presence along with Stephon Gilmore.
Dorsett and Simon Back – The Patriots also brought back two more of their own free agents by re-signing WR Phillip Dorsett and DE John Simon. Dorsett seemed primed for a big role in the offense after a solid training camp but he never really had a big impact, catching 32 passes for 290 yards and three TDs. Once the team brought in Josh Gordon, Dorsett lost most of his reps. He has a one-year, prove-it type deal in 2019. The one strange thing in this, however, was whenever his number was called, he generally came thru, with a 76 percent catch rate. Will the third season be a charm?
Simon was signed in late September after being released by the Colts. He was a valuable role player both defensively and on STs, where his role increased down the stretch last season and into the playoffs. He was one of the players who found a nice role when the team used their “Amoeba Defense.” The deal was for two years and $7.2 million dollars.
Melifonwu Surprised by Grafton High School Honor – Patriots reserve safety Obi Melifonwu was asked by his old high school in Grafton, Mass. to come in and speak with the students. I was covering it for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and the Grafton News.
He did and spoke about the importance of schoolwork and how it helped a freshman struggling to fit in find his way into a college where he not only starred in football but graduated with two degrees in 2017. But the school surprised Melifonwu by presenting him with his high school jersey which will be permanently displayed at the school. He was a star both offensively and defensively in CMass football before moving on to UConn and then the NFL.
He admitted he was shocked by the gesture and very appreciative. Afterward, he spoke about preparing for this upcoming season, he’s working with a trainer in Foxboro, outside the facility to prepare himself. He also spoke about learning how to better prepare his body, something he learned the hard way, after being injured for the first time and the resultant therapy.
“Sometimes you train a certain way thru high school and into college that you believe is preparing your body correctly,” he said. “But you learn that certain body parts have been neglected which can lead to overcompensating in certain areas, which ultimately lead to injuries.”
Asked about his Super Bowl experiences, he said, although he didn’t play, his focus was on helping his teammates. “I knew early in the week that I wasn’t going to play, so your focus is completely different,” he said. “Then, your entire mindset is to help the offense, by trying to emulate the Rams defense the best that you can in practice.”
While CMass Division III football isn’t exactly a hotbed for NFL players, the Indians have had a few make their mark. Beside Melifonwu, another former Grafton alum, Steve Spagnuolo is now the Defensive Coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The draft and spring workouts will be an interesting one for Melifonwu. When the Patriots signed him it was for two years, with 2019 in mind. How they feel about the ridiculously athletic safety will be put to the test in April. They normally target a safety early in the draft. If they do or don’t take a strong safety early will probably tell you how they feel about his long-term viability in their system.
Patriots Add Five Free Agents But No Sexy Names…Surprised? Shouldn’t Be:
We knew this was coming…right? While teams were overpaying for the premium name free agents in a feeding frenzy before the actual free agency period even began, the Patriots stood pat. They did bid on a couple of free agent wide receivers, especially Adam Humphries and to a lesser extent Cole Beasley. But if you really expecting OBJ or Golden Tate, you were bound to be disappointed, just like nearly every other spring.
The team did add five free agents, but they weren’t any of the sexy names fans were clamoring for. The Patriots signed wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris, tight end Matt LaCosse, special teams safety Terrence Brooks and defensive tackle Mike Pennel.
Fans shouldn’t be worried at this point in just mid-March about the state of the wide receiver position. Team building is just in the infantile stages here. Trades are still available and with 12 draft picks, there will be some deals to be made. And with 12 picks in the upcoming draft, they have the capital to move around or make a deal
Of all the players the biggest impact player may just be Mike Pennel. If you listen to our Patriots 4th & 2 podcasts, you’d have heard me say, I believe the Patriots were going to add Pennel as a free agent. He’s a big, 6’4, 330-pound space eater who will be the nose tackle in 2019. With Malcom Brown a Saint and Danny Shelton a free agent, the team needed a big body to anchor the middle of the field, something they needed a year ago.
As Bill Belichick said a year ago before the Patriots played the Jets, guys who are 330 pounds don’t grow on trees. He’s big, very strong and will be a very good addition against the run. He’ll be a starter on Day 1.
Bruce Ellington is a small, 5’9 WR who has had trouble staying healthy and on the field. He has excellent speed and had 31 catches in just seven games a year ago. He has KR and PR ability and this may be why the team brought him in to replace Corrdarrelle Patterson this season. In 2017, he had a good game against the Patriots in Foxboro, catching four passes for 59 yards including a 29-yard touchdown from Deshaun Watson. Bill Belichick loves bringing in players who have done well against his team in the past.
Maurice Harris is a former Redskins WR who has never really put things together. He has very good size at 6’3, 200 pounds with some return ability as well. An UDFA in 2016, he seemed destined to break out last year after a big training camp. But he never did and gets a fresh start with New England. He had 28 catches for 304 yards a year ago, however, over half of those receptions (15) came in two back-to-back games.
Matt Lacosse from the Broncos has boom or bust written all over him. He signed a two-year deal worth $4.8 million dollars and has the frame (6’6, 255) to be a very good blocker in the running game.
He caught 24 passes for 250 yards and a TD last year after working his way from the #3 TE to being the starter after injuries hurt the position. He too will be getting a fresh start in New England. He’ll get the chance to be the #2 or #3 TE here in 2019.
Terrence Brooks is a safety but is more known for his special teams’ acumen. He was one of the standout players on one of the better STs units in the league last year. The Patriots struggled in the kicking game especially kickoff and punt coverage early last season. Once they brought in Albert McClellan and Ramon Humber, both free agents, things solidified. Bringing back Bolden and signing Brooks should be a boost overall for the ST units in 2019.
Patriots ST’s Kickers Remain Unsigned:
The Patriots are getting a lot of air time with the usual hot take hosts about their lack of depth at wide receiver. But right now, they have no players in the kicking game with the exception of long-snapper Joe Cardona.
Both kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter Ryan Allen remain unsigned. Gostkowski has been with the team for longer than Adam Vinatieri was and is one of the top kickers in the league. Allen, while in the middle of the road in terms of gross punting average is outstanding at directional punting and could have been a legitimate Super Bowl MVP candidate by pinning the Rams back deep in their zone all game long.
Bottom line here is there isn’t a better kicker on the market than Gostkowski. We still expect both to return at some point, but it remains an area to monitor.
Patriots Still “Tentatively Planning” on Having Gronk Back in 2019:
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski still hasn’t announced his decision on whether to return to the team in 2019 or retire. He’s openly talked retirement in the past but the opportunity to have one last shot at the team’s seventh Super Bowl championship may be a big draw for him.
Of course, Gronkowski can also point to the cash he’s due, he’ll count for $11,859,375 against the salary cap in 2019. If he retires, the team will have an additional $9,859,375 to spend this year.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported, “My understanding is when you talk to people close to him, they think there is a better chance that he comes back again than he doesn’t. And I do believe that the Patriots are at least tentatively planning as if they will have Gronk for the 2019 season.”
With the release of Dwayne Allen, the Patriots depth chart at tight end consists of the newly signed Matt Lacosse, Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, and Ryan Izzo.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Bring In Weapons for Josh Allen:
The Buffalo Bills signed some very needed receivers for their offense in free agency inking WRs John Brown and Cole Beasley, tight end Tyler Kroft as well as offensive line help in Mitch Morse and Ty Nsekhe. This should aid in helping QB Josh Allen in helping transform what was a moribund offense in 2018.
The team also inked the ageless Frank Gore at running back on a one-year deal, giving Buffalo the oldest RB group with Gore who will be 36 along with Chris Ivory (30) and LeSean McCoy (30). It should be noted, however, that Gore averaged 4.7 yards per carry last year with the Dolphins.
Brown gives the Bills the deep speed they lack and he had his best season last year in Baltimore catching 65 passes for 1003 yards. Beasley is a Julian Edelman clone, who the Bills hope will transform their short passing game, where Allen was 32nd in the league a year ago. Kroft had a breakout season with 42 catches in 2017 but broke his foot and played in only five games a year ago.
This will be an interesting year to see how much Allen can progress, the Bills spent a lot of cash to upgrade their weapons for him and added two WRs and a badly needed TE. With the draft upcoming, the Bills will probably still address WR and RB to get a bit younger there.
Dolphins Trade QB Tannehill to the Titans:
The Miami Dolphins have traded their seven-year starter at QB, Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans on Friday. The Dolphins packaged a 6th round draft pick in 2019 along with Tannehill for the Titans 7th round pick in 2019 and a 4th round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Tannehill had his moments but could never put it all together for Miami who paid him a few years ago as their franchise QB. He completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 1,979 yards with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 11 games last year. Now he’ll serve as the backup to Marcus Mariota. Tannehill is playing on a one-year deal with $7 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The one-year deal goes to $12 million+ with playtime and other incentives. The Dolphins are on the hook for $5 million of the $7 million guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus.
Miami, which tried to bring in QB Teddy Bridgewater, now has only Jake Rudock and Luke Falk at QB. They’ll either try to swing a trade for an established QB, or draft a young one in the NFL Draft, perhaps both.
Jets Go All in On Free Agency:
The New York Jets were expected to make a splash in free agency with a ton of cap space to spend it on and they didn’t disappoint. The laid out big money for RB Le’Veon Bell, ILB C.J. Mosely, slot receiver Jamison Crowder and then added slot corner Brian Poole who came over after spending three years with the Falcons.
Bell, is the most notable free agent having sat out 2018 in a contract dispute with the Steelers, and the money he signed for is actually less than the Steelers offer of five-years and $70 million. Bell signed for four years and $52 million with $25 million guaranteed. He has a ton of wear on his tires but after taking a year off, he may go into the season refreshed. But the Jets offensive line scarcely resembles the Steelers unit that helped Bell launch in his career. The Jets did make a move in that direction by trading for LG Kelechi Osemele from Oakland.
Mosely is one of the best interior linebackers in the league, a true leader for the defense and a smart, physical player who will be on the field for all three downs. He’s an instant upgrade for them at the position, but the Jets ponied up a ton of money, guaranteeing a whopping $51 million. They also had Anthony Barr agree to a deal but he ended up getting cold feet and ultimately left the Jets at the altar.
Crowder gives the Jets a big play option in the slot with the speed to make a ton of YAC. This should allow them to move Quincy Enunwa to the outside. But the question with Crowder is can he stay healthy? He missed seven games a year ago.
The Jets made a big splash, but will these moves pay off? We’ll see, but it never stops Manish Mehta from making one of his patented silly predictions. In Manish’s latest “look at me” moment, he made his prediction for the top QBs for the AFC East in 2019.
Current starting QBs in the AFC East… from projected best to worst in 2019:
1) Sam Darnold 2) Tom Brady 3) Josh Allen 4) Luke Falk
But before you get too hard on Manish, he got exactly what he was looking for as Boston sports radio couldn’t wait to get him on to defend his position…hmm
The Patriots are facing a ton of potential turnover in their roster in the upcoming 2019 season and to go along with a slew of coaching changes, it presents a difficult challenge in the days ahead.
Most Super Bowl winners suffer a turnover of more than 20 players from the Super Bowl to Week 1 of the following NFL season. This year’s Patriot team will no doubt be any different.
So, now that the post-Super Bowl celebrations are over and we’ve had a chance to let the dust settle, we are going to take a look at some of the Patriots free agents and try to get a feel on who may return and who may be moving on. And let’s start with the two biggest of them.
The Patriots defensive end was a fourth-round pick from Arkansas just four years ago and at 25 is just now entering the prime of his career. Flowers led the team in sacks the past three years but he’s much more than just a sack specialist.
In the varied scheme that the Patriots run on defense, they ask their edge players to do a lot of different things. And Flowers can do them all. He sets the edge, rushes the passer from the outside, can kick inside as an interior pass rusher and drop occasionally into the passing lanes in the flat.
Flowers has arguably been the Patriots’ best defensive player for the past several years and they know and appreciate his value. How will the rest of the league value Flowers? In an increasing fantasy football mindset, many fans and writers may not believe that he’s a top-tier defensive player. But the coaches see what he brings, especially two ex-New England coaches in Detroit and Miami.
The chances of Flowers returning are probably less than 50/50, and if they can’t get anything done by the time the signing frenzy begins, it will probably be less than that. Flowers would look awful in teal…
My, my, my, (Joe Kenda voice), what a difference a year makes. When the Patriots got Brown in a trade with the 49ers there were a lot of very unconvinced people (including right here) that wondered why the Niners would let him go if he was as good as Von Miller proclaimed him to be.
Miller, the Broncos pass rush specialist, called Brown the best right tackles in the NFL and considered him one of the best tackles …period. Brown is absolutely enormous at 6’8, 380-pounds but for a man so big, he moves incredibly well. He took over the starting left tackle position in the first days of training camp and never looked back.
He started all 16 regular season games and all three playoff games and was simply outstanding. So, yes… he can play left tackle in the NFL, and do so at an elite level. Having feet as quick as his for such a large man allows him to keep pass rushers at bay and he can be a road grader in the running game.
Will another team throw a boatload of money at his feet this spring? With the protection of QBs blindsides always at a premium, the answer is probably yes. Will the Patriots match? Probably not. They invested their top pick last year in Isaiah Wynn who ended up on IR with a torn Achilles last year. Marcus Cannon is under contract for the next three years. The Patriots believe Wynn is more than capable, however, they’ll want to take him along slowly with his injury.
If the Patriots do re-sign Brown, then swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle will probably go, if not he’ll return for another year. The chances of Brown returning are far less than 50 percent in 2019.
Stephen Gostkowski/Ryan Allen:
Both of the Patriots kicking tandem are free agents this season. Gostkowski has been with the Patriots since Adam Vinatieri left in 2006, (the Patriots have essentially had two kickers since 1995), and Gostkowski has been remarkably consistent for a very long time. Last season he was 27-32 on FG attempts, three of his misses were beyond 50 yards and 49-50 on extra points. His work on kickoffs is a subject that Bill Belichick has long complimented on as exemplary.
Allen has been outstanding at angling punts to the sidelines and dropping them inside the 20-yard line of opponents. During the Super Bowl, he pinned the Rams deep three times inside their 10-yard line. And don’t forget, it is Allen that does the holding on all of the extra points and field goals.
Both are extremely valuable and trusted. The odds of each returning is well over 50 percent for 2019.
J-Mac was a very valuable contributor in 2018, his solid play, experience, and leadership were all key factors in the team’s success in the secondary. And playing in the playoffs for the first time in his career, was an experience that McCourty relished, a valuable teaching point to the younger players to never take anything for granted. Especially for a player who went from 0-16 to a Super Bowl win.
The Patriots have a lot of depth at the cornerback position with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones (RFA), Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen and Eric Rowe (UFA). McCourty’s veteran presence would be very valuable in 2019, but much of his future may be tied into his brother’s retirement consideration. If Devin decides to return for one more year, Jason would be much more inclined to remain. He’s a 50/50 proposition to return.
Chris Hogan/Phillip Dorsett/Cordarrelle Patterson:
The Patriots three complementary wide receivers are all unrestricted free agents this spring. Hogan has spent the past three seasons here after signing a three-year deal bringing him over from Buffalo. Hogan was a key contributor on the two Super Bowl teams his first two seasons but this year, he seemed to be frozen out of the offense, where he was forgotten for very long stretches. A classy vet, on and off the field. He’s a great teammate who works hard every day and can be a valuable complementary piece in any offense.
Dorsett seemed primed to have a nice role in the offense after a really strong training camp. But when the team signed Josh Gordon, he saw his playing time slashed. However, when his number was called, he contributed some big plays, most notably the touchdown pass in KC during the conference championship game right before the half. He never lived up to his first-round draft pick expectations but can be a nice role player.
Patterson remains one of the premier kick returners in the game and the opening kickoff in the Super Bowl showed how dynamic he can be, nearly breaking it for a TD. The Patriots installed a package on offense to take advantage of his blazing speed and he chipped in with three receiving touchdowns. He also jumped into the mix at running back when injuries piled up at mid-season and acquitted himself pretty well there. That concept of doing whatever the team needs you to do wasn’t lost on the coaching staff.
The belief here is that Hogan is gone and Dorsett is slightly less than 50 percent to be returning, probably looking for a spot that will allow him more playing time. Patterson seemed to really like it here and if the Patriots offer him anything close to what he gets on the open market, then his chances of returning are better than 50 percent.
Malcom Brown/Danny Shelton:
The two big men in the middle both had the team decline fifth-year options for each in 2019 which says that they are prepared to move away from either or both unless the money is right. Brown had a good but unspectacular 2018 season and like his previous four years, had bouts of inconsistency. He was much better down the stretch and into the playoffs. But in truth, he never really lived up to his first-round draft expectations.
The Patriots picked up Shelton from the Browns last spring and he too was plagued by consistency problems. He was a healthy scratch for three late-season games including the AFC Championship Game but was active and very good in Super Bowl LIII.
The belief here is that the team could easily bring one of the two back on a team-friendly deal, but the chances that either return are under 50 percent.
John Simon/Albert McClellan/Ramon Humber:
The Patriots love their special teams’ guys and in a year when the normally stellar STs units were struggling with their consistency early in the year, they brought these three into to the fold to steady the boat.
Simon proved to be a valuable role player on the defense first and STs second. He did a very good job when called upon in setting the edge and getting after the passer as well as dropping into coverage. In the sub-packages the team runs, he provided a valuable role and fit in well.
McClellan was an outstanding addition to the STs and blocked a couple of kicks, forced a key fumble. But in the punt coverage teams? Before McClellan’s arrival, the team was allowing nearly 13 yards per punt return. After he came on board, it was cut in half. That isn’t a coincidence.
Humber is another STs maven and he’s terrific on kick coverage and recovered a blocked punt. The chances of these three returning are better than 50 percent, it would be nice to see the team re-sign all three this spring.
Winning a Super Bowl has a variety of special perks.
During Sunday nights 61st Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and safety Devin McCourty were selected as the presenters to announce the winner for the “Best Pop Duo or Group Performance” category.
Lady Gaga won the Grammy Award for her song “Shallow”, sung by Gaga in the film “A Star Is Born” with actor Bradley Cooper.
McCourty and Edelman’s appearance garnered a few boo’s from the Los Angeles crowd, but Devin made light of the situation joking, “LA, thank you for your cheers. Also, thank you for your boos. I appreciate you supporting your community.”
After the show, Edelman shared photographs of himself with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, actor Mark Wahlberg, musician Rob Thomas, and Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
The McCourty twins shared a backstage photo with former First Lady Michelle Obama and actress Jada Pinkett Smith.
For the fourth time in five years, the New England Patriots earned the opportunity to capture yet another Lombardi trophy.
Their opponent, fittingly enough, was the same Rams franchise that on the same date 17 years earlier, the Patriots defeated for their first championship.
Check out all the highlights from social media during Super Bowl LIII below.
For the eighth time in the last nine Patriots Super Bowls, the team was held scoreless in the first quarter. 0-0 after one.
A Stehpen Gostkowski field goal gave the Patriots a 3-lead at the half in a surprise defensive battle between both teams.
A Greg Zuerlein 53 Yd Field Goal knotted the game at 3-3 late in the third, but the Patriots defense continued its domination of the Rams.
With the game still tied at three with seven left in the 4th quarter, the Patriots offense at last put together the first (and only) touchdown drive of the game.
Leading by ten with under five to play, the Rams appeared to be in position to tie the game.
Stephon Gilmore had other plans.
The interception by Gilmore led to a Patriots Super Bowl clinching drive when Stephen Gostkowski redeemed his first quarter miss with a 41 yard Field Goal to push the lead to seal a 13-3 championship win.
For the sixth time since 2001, the Patriots were Super Bowl champions.
Good morning, it is Super Bowl Sunday once again here in New England and here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-03.
Some Quick Hitters this morning: *No AFC East notes this week* They’ll be back next week after the Super Bowl when we begin looking at the NFL Combine and Draft. But first some kudos this week.
Congratulations to Ty Law for being enshrined in the Hall of Fame, very deserved to be sure. He was an integral part of those first Patriots championships, especially his pick-six in Super Bowl XXXVI. Hopefully, the voters will get it right with Richard Seymour next season.
Kudos to Patriots fans: Sunday, over 35,000 fans showed up for the Patriots send-off rally at Gillette Stadium. It was the biggest one yet of any of the Super Bowl teams with Brady and Belichick. This flies in the face of the hit piece in the Boston Globe that tried to claim that Patriots fans are growing bored with the team’s success.
The turnout on Sunday, television ratings all season long and merchandise sales all point in the absolute other direction. However, it should be noted that the flimsy “evidence” by the writer is coming from the same guy who said that Brady having a MAGA hat in his locker was hurting the team’s standing with the fan base two years ago.
Way to go Pats fans, that was an incredible send off rally. For the first time, could the Patriots fans outnumber the haters at a Super Bowl? …What a concept.
Kudos to WEEI: On Friday after with the buildup to the big game in full swing, ‘EEI swung … low and missed. How? By putting that noted hot-take artist Rob Parker on the air on Radio Row. Actually, calling Parker that is an insult to hot take artists, he hasn’t had an actual new thing or a hot take to say in years. WEEI decided to go for the lowest common denominator in their coverage. Don’t we have enough of that already on the air? What’s next? Is Baghdad Bob going to be guesting on the air, to talk about the political climate of the Super Bowl?
Did you Know? With a win today, the Patriots will tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins (6) in league history. They are currently tied with San Francisco and Dallas with 5 wins.
Did you Know Pt. 2: With a win today, the Patriots will move past the Steelers in all-time playoff victories with 37, the two teams are currently tied with 36. The Patriots already own the best postseason winning percentage with teams with a minimum of 15 playoff appearances. Team Wins Losses Win Pct. New England 36 20 .643 Baltimore 15 9 .625 Green Bay 34 22 .607 San Francisco 30 20 .600 Pittsburgh 36 25 .590
Did you Know Pt. 3: The Running game is a big part of the matchups this week. Since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots are 51-1 when a running back cracks 100 yards rushing in a game. In 2018, Sony Michel had four 100-yard games and the Patriots were 4-0 in those contests.
“The Patriot Way” Is All About the Team and Belichick:
With the kickoff this evening, the Patriots will appear in their 11th Super Bowl and the ninth in the Belichick-Brady era and this dynasty is truly something to behold. The Patriots under Belichick have remained steadfast in his philosophy about building a team, which has been dubbed “the Patriot Way” and even today, two decades later, there are still misconceptions about that.
In the Patriot way, which should really be called, “the Belichick Way”, there is a right way and a wrong way about building a football team that is constructed for the long run. And since 2001, the Patriots have far and away blown away the rest of the league in terms of staying competitive for a Super Bowl. A down year for the Patriots has been 10 wins or in the case of 2018, 11 wins. And yes, this was written up all fall as a down year, despite the fact that they’re one win away from their 6th Super Bowl title in 18 years.
In watching some of the endless programs leading up to the big game, I’ve seen the same thing, much like we’ve seen every Sunday for the past 18 years. The analysts will point to the rosters and say “Team A has better personnel up and down the roster” and at that point, you just have to shrug and turn the channel. They don’t get it, have never gotten it and most unfortunately never will get it.
To quote Belichick, “It’s not about collecting talent, it’s about building a football team.”
And this one from Belichick is perhaps the most frequently overlooked but arguably most important. “On a team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.”
Many teams, including this season’s Rams team, were the latest of the “dream teams” where they made a concerted effort to push all of their chips into the middle of the table and go all in for a title. They collected talent at every turn and didn’t see a free agent or trade scenario that they didn’t like. The fact that this team is unsustainable as it is currently constructed once they have to pay their QB who is still on a rookie deal is overlooked right now, but that day is coming.
Belichick has always kept an eye on the long-term goal of not just building a winner but maintaining it for the long haul. Which is why they A. never overpay for veteran players who are looking for the huge payday and B. done their shopping with many players who aren’t considered top players but will fit a role in the Patriots (read Belichick) system.
Look at this year’s Patriots defense, Kyle Van Noy and undrafted rookie free agent J.C. Jackson have become two of the most valuable players and some of their biggest performers down the stretch. Van Noy was considered a bust and the team got him for a song (6th round pick). Jackson went undrafted and has now worked himself into the starting rotation at cornerback.
On the subject of Van Noy, Belichick, rather than focusing on what he can’t do or trying to force him to do what the team wants, he’s learned what he does do well and puts him in a position to succeed. And he’s had a career resurgence with the Patriots. Belichick once spoke about the mistakes some coaches do with trying to squeeze a player into a system where the fit may not be the exact right fit.
“You definitely go through a stage, most coaches do, where you see a good player and you get enamored, you really like what the player does, but then when you put him into your system, it’s not quite the same player that he was in another system. He has some strengths, but you cant utilize all those strengths. If you try to utilize all his strengths, you end up weakening a lot of other players who are already in your system.”
That’s why the subject of “dream teams” is always interesting. Collecting all the talent doesn’t necessarily mean that those pieces will gel together. The Eagles a few years ago tried to buy a Super Bowl and then fell flat in the regular season. Not only do they have to fit what you’re doing but they also have to fit within the confines of the locker room.
Back to the Rams, watching television this week, I saw more than one analyst say, as we mentioned above, that the Rams defense is “more talented” at nearly every position than the Patriots. Is it true? Maybe so. But as a unit? Hmm, the numbers don’t attest to that. Looking at yardage, which everyone always has a fit over here in New England, the Rams allowed a half-yard less (yes 0.5 yards) per game than the Patriots. In points allowed (which Belichick preaches) the Rams were 19th, the Patriots 7th. Hmm.
“A sense of humor is a huge thing with us. You’ve got to be able to laugh. You’ve got to be able to take a dig, give a dig — that sort of thing. And [you have to] feel comfortable in your own skin that you don’t have all the answers.”
Part of this philosophy is by design, Belichick knows how to build a football team and knows what will or won’t work. And part of it is by necessity. Because of their success, the Patriots are always picking in the #30-32 range in the NFL draft. You’re not going to find too many Khalil Macks or the next Randy Moss in that range very often, if at all. And the draft, as Belichick knows, beyond the first half of the first round is often times a crap shoot. Some players take longer to develop at the pro level and some peak in college and never work out. Which is why the Patriots would rather package picks and move down further to amass more selections which gives them a better chance at hitting on one of their prospects.
Belichick has a penchant for finding veteran players that fill a complementary role rather than being superstars and fit the team-first mentality. Which is why players like Van Noy and others that they’ve added in the years before have nearly always filled valuable roles for the team in their continued success.
One of the more prevalent myths that surround Belichick, and one we hear often is “GM Bill is hurting Coach Bill,” as if this is a no-brainer. And it is as wrong as rain on a wedding day. It isn’t “luck” as some talking heads would have you believe that the Patriots have been in 50 percent of the Super Bowls since 2001.
No doubt it has been fantastic coaching but it has also been having an outstanding eye for talent. Talent to fit your team, your system and your locker room. Have they hit on everyone? Of course, not. They’ve had plenty of swings and misses. However, Belichick and Nick Caserio have done a fantastic job of assembling a scouting staff that has been able to identify talent that is out there that nobody else has seen and identifying the players that want to win championships. And that is the final piece of the puzzle.
“For a team to accomplish their goal, everybody’s got to give up a little bit of their individuality.”
Lots of teams make the noise and spout the old clichés about “team-first” mentality and such but much of what you hear is just that …noise. Belichick has said this also in the past during the draft process.
“We’re looking for people … [who] have gotten over themselves, and you can tell that pretty quickly,” Belichick said.
“You can talk to somebody for four or five minutes, and you can tell if it’s about them, or if they understand that they’re just a piece of the puzzle. So we look for that.
Not many players are willing to give up their individuality, their stats, and their quest to get paid the most at their positions to win a championship. That’s another reason the Patriots success has lasted so long. They are like a chameleon, they can change their identity from week-to-week and adjust accordingly to create mismatches against their opponent.
A receiver could have 15 targets one week and be the team’s go-to guy and the next to be relegated to a mere decoy if the coaching staff feels, that they need to go run heavy and throw the ball elsewhere. If a player can’t handle that, he’ll either not sign here or soon find himself being released to take their talents elsewhere.
Brady is the final piece of Belichick’s “Patriot Way”. Having a QB who is the best to ever play his position and do it for so long has made Belichick’s job of sustaining excellence for so long much easier.
Brady was the outlier in the draft process. The guy no one including Belichick had the slightest idea would have ever thought would become the player he has. 198 players were selected before Brady in the 2000 draft, and the Patriots passed on him thru six rounds.
Brady outworked everyone and continues to inside the Patriots clubhouse. He’s totally bought into what Belichick preaches. And when the greatest QB to ever play the game buys in, if you’re a veteran and a role player, you think you’re going to buck the system?
And Brady has become the perfect foil for Belichick. We’ve all heard about the Monday film sessions where Belichick, as Tedy Bruschi as said, would “MF everyone”, even in big victories, pointing out mistakes in the endless quest for perfection. He frequently picks on plays made by Brady. The point being, if Brady’s going to get roasted, then you had better “Do Your Job” better than anyone else.
Brady has also totally bought into the team-first mentality by frequently taking team-friendly deals where he’s taking far below market value to allow the team to spend more on supporting cast members of the team. He’s not even in the Top 15 list of highest paid QBs in the league in 2018.
How will all of this play out later this evening? Nobody knows, it is after all one game where anything can and will happen. But I wouldn’t bet against the Patriots, who are battle tested and playing their best football at exactly the right time. That just isn’t the Patriot Way, that’s the Belichick Way.
Defending the Rams Receivers All About the Matchups:
The Rams have a pair of dangerous 1000-yard receivers in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. How the Patriots choose to match up with the Rams tonight will be fascinating to watch.
Stephon Gilmore practiced against Brandin Cooks all of last season, so he knows him well. But I believe (we wrote about this earlier last week) that Gilmore will cover Woods, who isn’t quite as fast as Cooks but is bigger. I think Jonathan Jones will cover Cooks with safety help over the top. Jones is speedier but… the Rams often put Woods in the slot, so that may fall to J.C. Jackson. So who will draw Josh Reynolds? Reynolds at 6’3 is too big and would present a mismatch against Jones. It is a interesting scenario.
Our feeling here is Gilmore – Woods, Jones – Cooks, and Jackson – Reynolds. But anything can happen and the defense may end up switching things up. Jason McCourty is also in the mix and he could replace Jones in the matchups.