Already 2009 For Patriots

The Calendar is still 2008, and we’re still technically in the 2008 NFL season, but it’s all about 2009 for the New England Patriots, who will not be playing football in January for the first time since the 2002 season.

Christopher L. Gasper has the team trying to find some consolation in the longer-than-usual offseason facing them. Mark Farinella has the Patriots cleaning out their lockers with a mixture of satisfaction and frustration.  Robert Lee has the Patriots proud of their 11 wins, but frustrated at not being in the playoffs.  Rich Garven has the Patriots doing a lot more right than wrong this season. Alex Speier has the Patriots among the best near miss teams of all time.

If you’re looking for a fall guy, Eric McHugh has a list of those you can blame for the Patriots not making the playoffs. Shalise Manza Young points to the failure to stop the Jets in OT as the reason the Patriots are home now. Ron Chimelis points to the coin flip prior to that period as the key to the Patriots season.

Mike Reiss provides a breakdown of the team’s personnel at each position, with their contract situations. Karen Guregian has a look at the top five questions facing the Patriots this offseason. Tim Weisberg has the Patriots already beginning a new chapter. Brian MacPherson looks ahead to an offseason of big decisions. Steve Krause has the Patriots reflecting and reevaluating as the offseason arrives.

In his report card, Ron Borges has all “B’s”, with the exception of one “A” and one “C.” In Michael Felger’s report card, he has Bill Belichick putting to rest this season all the questions about whether he could win without Tom Brady. Ian Clark has the football gods being cruel to the Patriots in his report card.

John Tomase examines what’s next for Matt Cassel. Chris Kennedy says that the Patriots will have a lot more free time this winter to think about what to do with Cassel.

Farinella has Bill Belichick talking about getting some rest this offseason for the players and coaches. Bill Burt says that Wes Welker was the Patriots 2008 MVP and is their new poster boy. Tomase looks at the case of James Sanders, who will be a free agent this spring.

Steve Buckley discusses the dueling stories about the status of Tom Brady’s knee. Bill Reynolds says that there should be no moaning or groaning over the fate of these Patriots, who overachieved to 11 wins. Jennifer Toland has the Patriots dealing with their fate. Glen Farley has more on the sudden end to the season for New England. Peter Schworm has Patriots fans left out in the cold following the season.

Scott Benson looks at the annual interest and speculation over Scott Pioli’s future. Guregian looks at the interest in Scott Pioli and Josh McDaniels by the Cleveland Browns. Glen Farley has the Browns getting permission to talk to Pioli. Garry Brown says that the Dolphins are living proof that if you hire Bill Parcells, the playoffs will follow.

Gasper’s notebook says that the demand for Pioli and McDaniels has already begun. Guregian’s notebook has the Patriots saying their goodbyes yesterday. Lee’s notebook has Cassel and the Patriots with a wealth of options this offseason.

Celtics

Marc J. Spears has Doc Rivers trying hard to limit Kevin Garnett’s playing time. Steve Bulpett says that tonight’s road trip finale in Portland will be a key test for the Celtics. Jim Fenton has the Celtics needing a win tonight to avoid a losing road trip. Paul Flannery looks at how teams like Portland circle games with the Celtics on their calendar far in advance. Jessica Camerato looks at how fatherhood impacted the Celtics in 2008.

Bruins

Fluto Shinzawa and Stephen Harris have coach Claude Julien dropping Milan Lucic to the third line. Steve Conroy looks at how young talent and inspired play have brought the Bruins back to the top. Joe Haggerty talks to the agent for Patrice Bergeron about how his client is doing. Conroy has some things to expect in the Bruins future.

Red Sox

On SI.com, Jon Heyman and Tom Verducci report that after the Sox lost out on Mark Teixeira, they tried to pry Hanley Ramirez away from the Marlins and bring him back to the Red Sox organization. Curt Schilling weighs in on the signing of Josh Bard and Brad Penny.

Top Stories 2008: Buyouts and Cuts

We’re going to have a mini-series this week looking back at some of the top sports media stories in the Boston area from this past year.

#5 on our list of sports media stories is the buyouts and cutbacks seen in sports departments in 2008.

The Boston Globe went through another round of buyouts this year, and columnist Jackie MacMullan, NBA writer Peter May and assistant sports editor Ken Fratus were among those who took buyouts from the paper.

The Providence Journal offered buyouts to its staff, though it doesn’t appear that the sports department was severely impacted.

The Hartford Courant essentially cut all of their day-to-day Boston sports coverage. Patriots beat writer David Heuschkel and Red Sox beat writer Jeff Goldberg were among the casualties of this decision.

The Gatehouse News – which publishes the MetroWest Daily News, Quincy Patriot-Ledger and Brockton Enterprise among their local holdings also had staff cutbacks this year. Daily News Patriots beat writer Douglas Flynn was probably the most high-profile writer who lost his job from the staff reductions.

On the TV side, longtime sports director Bob Lobel took a buyout from WBZ – a story that is bigger than this entry.

Entercom Boston – the parent company of WEEI and WRKO also had staff reductions this year.

11-5 Not Good Enough For Patriots

Sometimes it stinks being right.

I took a little heat from some readers last week for emphatically stating that there was no way that the Jets or Jaguars would win yesterday. I didn’t think I was being too bold in making that statement, considering the teams and coaches involved. It seemed pretty obvious, in fact.

Back in August when the Jets traded for Brett Favre, Patriots fans smirked, knowing that the Jets season would now end with Favre throwing some bonehead, killer interceptions in the biggest moment of the biggest game of the season. Little did Patriots fans know that their playoff fate would also be tied to those interceptions.

The Patriots made their own bed this season. The losses to the Colts and at home to the Jets are the reason they’re cleaning out their lockers today instead of preparing for the postseason. Since the league was so uneven this season with so many really poor teams (and conversely teams with good records from beating up on the poor teams) that the Patriots 11-5 record just wasn’t good enough.

Boston fans can take solace in the fact that we two first place teams playing this winter in the Celtics and Bruins to bridge the gap to the summer.

Yesterday was a busy day in Boston sports, with the Patriots, Bruins and Celtics all playing, and the Red Sox making a couple of moves as well.

Tom E. Curran on NBCSports.com reported yesterday that Tom Brady is behind in his rehab and that his 2009 season would be in doubt if a second procedure became necessary. Peter King disputed that account on the NBC Football Night in America pregame show, and Shira Springer (Shira Springer!?) also disputes the account in the Globe this morning. Because there are apparently two different camps of sources out there on this topic, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com of course immediately jumps in and asserts that this MUST mean there is a rift between Brady and the Patriots. The Curran report also conflicts with what Charlie Casserly had reported on the CBS Pregame show last Sunday.

Chris Warner on PatriotsDaily.com  reviews the frustrating end to the season for New England. Chris Price chimes in with the final 10 Things We Learned Yesterday column of the season for the Patriots.  Michael Felger says that you shouldn’t be at all surprised at what Brett Favre did yesterday. (We weren’t.)

Check the rest of the coverage at PatriotsLinks.com – again with a new streamlined look and article previews.

Thus begins what is sure to be a fascinating offseason for the Patriots. Eric McHugh has a look at a few of the issues needing to be dealt with. Hector Longo says that the Patriots have to keep Matt Cassell with Brady’s situation unclear.

Bruins

The Bruins won their eight straight game last night, 2-1 over the Atlanta Thrashers. Steve Conroy has Manny Fernandez turning in a “brilliant” performance in net for the B’s. Fluto Shinzawa has Cam Neely offering congratulations to Fernandez following the game.

Conroy’s notebook has Michael Ryder getting his groove back with the Bruins. Shinzawa’s notebook uses the same term to describe Chuck Kobasew.

Celtics

The Celtics got back to their winning ways with a 108-63 thumping of the Kings in Sacramento. The 45 point win by the Celtics was the largest defeat at home in franchise history for Sacramento. Marc J. Spears has the Celtics getting back to business in the win. Steve Bulpett says that four quarters of the Kings was just what the Celtics needed.

Tim Weisberg says that the Celtics two losses last week aren’t about to derail their season. Bill Doyle says that the Celtics might need some bench help. Jeff Goodman looks at what the Lakers loss means to the Celtics. Bulpett looks at the strides made by Ray Allen in his second season with the Celtics.

Spears’ notebook has Kendrick Perkins returning to action for the Celtics, and has an update on Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens from the D-League. Bulpett’s notebook has more on Perkins’ return to the lineup.

Red Sox

Sean McAdam has the Sox reaching an agreement with former Marlins and Dodgers ace Brad Penny and bringing back former backup catcher Josh Bard. Amalie Benjamin also reports on the developments. Rob Bradford has Penny confirming the deal.

Robert Preer says that 3-D sportscasts might be the wave of the future.