Patriots Media Prediction Panel, Bye Week 2013

What with the bye week finally here, New England at 7-2, and myriad Patriots taking their leave of Foxboro (note to Kenbrell Thompkins: next time you’re in Miami, take me with you), we at Boston Sports Media Watch figured we’d ask some local pundits their thoughts on what to expect for the next several games. Thanks to all of them for contributing.

What improvements do the Patriots need to make to stay competitive in the second half? Do you think they can make those improvements?

Shalise Manza Young, The Boston Globe: I think they’ll be competitive in the second half even if they stay just as they are right now, but it isn’t the regular season they need to improve for, in my opinion. I think the offense needs to find more consistency, particularly in red zone and on third down, which we are starting to see now that Gronk is healthy, and the defense needs to find a way to fix its problem against the run (we know why that problem has cropped up, but it can’t continue). Sopoaga will help; stopping the run is his speciality, and it isn’t for Chris Jones.

Chris Price, They need to improve their offensive consistency – that third-quarter dip (with the exception of the game against the Dolphins) is an odd statistical quirk that I can never remember a New England team having. Weird thing is that for the most part, it’s on both sides of the ball – offense and defense have both stumbled in the third quarter. Most of the time they have been able to right the ship in the fourth and it doesn’t come back to haunt them, but it undoubtedly cost them that Jets game. They can get by if they’re playing a lesser team, but they can’t afford not to be able to play four quarters of football against teams like the Broncos and into the postseason if they want to go deep into January. Not sure how you go about fixing that – they have to make a point of bringing energy on a consistent basis for all 60 minutes maybe. But it needs to be remedied.

They also have to find some way to cobble together a more sustainable run defense. Not saying it’s going to ultimately be its Achilles’ heel, especially in a pass-first league, but good teams are still going to be able to run the ball down the stretch and into the playoffs, and the Patriots have to find a way to cobble together some sort of defensive package that can at least slow down some of that against some of the better offensive teams in the league that aren’t one dimensional. I believe they have quality parts, but it’s just a matter of finding the proper rotation, personnel and scheme. Whether or not Isaac Sopoaga is a big part of that, I’m not sure. (He certainly looked impressive in his first outing against the Steelers, but it remains to be seen if he can hold up at that spot over the rest of the season.) Maybe you find an expanded role for Brandon Spikes. And Chris Jones and Joe Vellano will continue to be key parts of the defensive front, along with Andre Carter, Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones.

Mike Reiss, ESPN Patriots blog: More consistency on offense, run defense and tightening up penalties (7 over the last 3 games) and coverage units on special teams are the three things that come to mind. I think they’ll be fine on offense, as the return of running back Shane Vereen will be a boost, and wouldn’t expect the struggles to continue on special teams. I’m a little less confident on the run defense, but perhaps the trade-deadline acquisition of Isaac Sopoaga is the difference for them.

Chad Finn, Losing Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo has affected the run defense just as tangibly as anyone who respected their abilities would have expected. The Patriots now have the fourth-worst run defense in the league in terms of yardage allowed (128.2 ypg). Only Pittsburgh (131.2) and Jacksonville (161.8) are worse, and the Jaguars are so brutal Roger Goodell is trying to relegate them to the Canadian Football League. (True story.) Isaac Sopoaga should help as he gets more acclimated, and we know what Brandon Spikes can do. It would help if Dont’a Hightower became more instinctive and consistent. Otherwise, there’s not much to worry about other than overall health and the continued progress of the young receivers.

Chris Warner, BSMW: The returns of Gronk and Danny Amendola accentuated the importance of a healthy roster. As more players come back (Vereen, Aqib Talib, now Steve Gregory) and new players get experience in lieu of those on IR (Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly, Vince Wilfork), this team might end up more balanced than they have yet this season. On defense, I’d look for more aggressive schemes and fewer one-on-one battles where the newbies might falter. On offense, keep in mind that, in Game One at Buffalo this year, Vereen caught seven passes for 58 yards. In eight games since, Stevan Ridley (9 for 50) and Brandon Bolden (17 for 107) have combined for 26 catches for 157 yards. Bringing Vereen into the picture will provide an option that the Patriots have lacked since his injury.

How do you see the next seven games panning out? 

Shalise Manza Young: As things are right now, December looks a lot easier for the Patriots than it did in the preseason. Baltimore is a mess, Houston is having problems – heading into the season, those looked like pivotal road games and would likely impact AFC playoff seeding. Now? Not so much. I predicted an 11-5 record for them in our season preview, but it could be 12-4. Again – and I know I’ve gotten grief for this in the past – as nice as 12-4 is, it doesn’t mean a thing if they’re one-and-done in the postseason. Of course you need to have a good enough regular season to get into the playoffs, but after that, it doesn’t really matter. That’s why I say they need to tighten up the run defense and get that offensive consistency for the postseason, because that’s when they’ll need it most.

Chris Price: I think they lose two or three more games, which would put them at 12-4 at best and 11-5 at worst, and likely have them in the conversation for either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. There are some potential potholes over the final seven games, including the Broncos (I think that has the potential to be a fantastic contest), as well as the Panthers (that’s a sneaky good team where Carolina could take advantage of New England if the Patriots pull that third-quarter check-out). The other two that could be a problem are the road games in Baltimore and Houston. These two teams are nowhere near where they last season, but potential for danger is still there.

(For what it’s worth, I think the return of Shane Vereen is not being discussed enough – he’s a dynamic offensive presence with an ability to put pressure on opposing defense in a way that no other skill position player on the roster can. I know that Sunday represented the first time that Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Stevan Ridley were all on the field as close to 100 percent healthwise as possible, but I’m really interested to see what they can do as a group when Vereen gets back on the field.)

Mike Reiss: It’s easy to appreciate the mental toughness and resiliency this team has shown. I think the thing I look forward to over the final seven games is seeing how the return of cornerback Aqib Talib impacts the defense, and how the coaches strategize specifically with him in mind. The first five-and-a-half games he played were as impressive as I’ve seen a Patriots cornerback play. Steve Smith … Wes Welker … Andre Johnson … the first three games coming off the bye feature some big-time receivers. Can Talib do the same thing he did against Jimmy Graham? They’ll be in most every game and I expect them to be in the championship hunt.

Chad Finn: I think most Patriots fans are of the same mind-set right now. They’re looking ahead to the Denver game – it’s impossible not to, for all of the story lines that need no rehash (pre-hash?) here, while also being aware that Carolina is playing too well to look past coming out of the bye. Overall, though, it looks like a pretty tolerable schedule. It would be nice if they had the Texans or Ravens at home – neither team is what it was last year, obviously. The Browns are improving, but they’re not beating a Patriots offense that even faintly resembles the one we saw against the Steelers. The Dolphins franchise may have folded by the time they meet again. The Bills will be the 12th win and the final warmup before the Patriots host a game in the Divisional Round.

Chris Warner: Denver scares me, though the way their defense is playing I feel like certain teams have a shot against them. I can see Carolina ending up as rude hosts, especially given the efficacy of their running game – plus, the Pats have had their issues with running QBs, and Cam Newton fits that bill all too well. The thing is, as long as the Patriots make the playoffs, I’m not all that concerned about their regular-season record. If they can get into the post-season with good health and enough experience amongst the youngsters to instill some confidence and consistency, then who cares if they’re 14-2 or 11-5? I said it before and I’ll repeat: I think they go 2-2 over their next four games, then finish the season strong.

Any wacky predictions for the second half?

Chris Price: I think that with the amount of injuries this team has suffered, we could be headed for one of those goofy switches before the end of the season, like when Julian Edelman or Troy Brown shows up as a defensive back. I also believe that LeGarrette Blount is going to break off a great kick return before the end of the season. Not saying he’s going to take it all the way back, but it’s going to be one of those “Holy crap” moments we recall a few years from now.

Mike Reiss: Maybe a deja vu of this? LOL.

Chad Finn: Besides the upcoming trade for Richie Incognito AND Jonathan Martin, you mean? The weirdest thing – or at least unexpected – has already happened: Belichick absolved Stevan Ridley of a fumble. I think he got a mulligan from the coach on that one because Belichick was surprised Troy Polamalu was within 20 yards of the ball, and assumed Ridley was equally stunned.

Chris Warner: After reading the list of 83 receivers he has thrown to in his career, Brady starts to hassle Coach Josh McDaniels to put in trick plays in an attempt to reach 90 by the end of the season. So look out, Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Isaac Sopoaga (as Mike alluded to above), and Nate Solder (a previous, unsuccessful target this season); keep your eyes and ears open, LaQuan Williams, Mark Harrison and Cierre Wood: your number might get called.

Predictions for November, December and beyond? Let us know in the comments section below.

Forethoughts On Four Games: Third Quarter 2013

Bruce is out today. Check for all the coverage of the Red Sox 3-1 win in game five of the World Series last night. The Sox  now have a chance to close out the Series tomorrow night at Fenway Park. 

Well, the past month sure has had its interesting moments.

After a punch-in-the-head experience at Cincinnati resulting in their first loss, the Pats rebounded with a full 60-minute effort vs. New Orleans, scoring the winning touchdown with only five seconds on the clock. A painful, car-crash-in-slow-motion overtime loss at New York brought the Jets within one game in the standings. After spotting Miami a 17-3 lead at home, the Patriots rode a second-half resurgence to go 2-2 this month and 6-2 on the year, good enough for a two-game lead within the division after the Jets’ loss to the Bengals.

Despite the .750 record, fans have cited many reasons for trepidation. One, injuries: New England currently has as many Hurts as a 1980s film festival. With Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo on season-ending IR, the Patriots’ front seven has looked more like a front 5.5. Two, offense: or lack of it. Quarterback Tom Brady has worked hard just to look mediocre in the first half of this season. [Read more…]

Looking Back To Fill The Patriots Roster

It’s hard to tell how well this particular New England team will perform this season. Is the defense good enough? Will the offense improve all that much?

Maybe. But we know for sure that the roster the Patriots had in September will change with the frequency of the cast of “Breaking Bad.” It’s a tough business; people get hurt.

(Yup. Just compared professional football to meth dealing. Hello, Pulitzer!)

New England’s championship teams have a few things in common, one of them being the ability of lesser-known players to step up when needed. Guys like Patrick Pass, Larry Centers and J. R. Redmond don’t enter fans’ minds every day, but each contributed to championships. With recent knee issues plaguing Stevan Ridley, long-term pains for Shane Vereen, and various injuries to Leon Washington, the Patriots might keep an eye out for some running back help.

We were thinking about these guys.

Maybe Not Great Scott, But Decent Scott: Third-year Maryland alum Da’Rel Scott was released by the Giants last week after a rough performance at Kansas City with a muffed handoff and a dropped pass. (New York just re-signed him in the wake of injuries to their RB corps, but the Pats should keep an eye on his status) In 2011, he had an impressive combine, running a 4.31-second 40-yard dash and benching 225 pounds 19 times. Thus far this season he is averaging 3.5 yards per carry (16 for 56) in a non-starting role. The 5-11, 210-pounder could add depth to a depleted ball-carrier corps (hey, he already is).

High School Fun Fact: Scott lettered in football, basketball and track at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High in Pennsylvania. As a junior, he won the state title in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.56 seconds.

A Ray Of Hope: During this spring’s pro day at Pittsburgh, the Patriots were reportedly one of the teams to send a scout to see Ray Graham in action. The mighty mite (5-9, 199) had a slow 40 (4.7 seconds) and only a decent 3-cone drill (7.03 seconds), but he seems to play faster than those times. Graham made First Team All-Big East his last two years at Pitt, rushing for 1,042 yards and 11 TDs as a senior. Currently on the Texans’ practice squad, Graham had seven rushes for 29 yards and one touchdown in the preseason.

High School Fun Fact: At Elizabeth High in New Jersey, Graham rushed for 1,592 yards, averaging nine per carry as a senior. Eight of his 24 touchdowns came on plays of 60 yards or more. Also named an All-County point guard.

A Winn In Oakland? Summertime Patriot George Winn – now on the Oakland practice squad – averaged 3.9 yards per carry vs. the Giants in New England’s final preseason game (14 carries for 54 yards) and scored one touchdown. He registers as a bigger back (5-11, 218) from a Cincinnati program that has some credibility given the success of undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins. Winn rushed for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Bearcats in 2012.

High School Fun Fact: Winn averaged almost eight yards per carry and rushed for over 3,000 yards in his career at University of Detroit Jesuit High.

Hey Mr. D. J.: If New England’s looking for a smaller, pass-catching back, Arkansas alum Dennis Jonnson has a Danny Woodhead-ish look to him at 5-7, 195 pounds. He did a little of everything for the Razorbacks, totaling 5,330 yards rushing (2,036), receiving (510), and returning kicks (2,784). This summer, he had 28 carries for 98 yards and four catches for 25 yards for the Texans. The Browns picked him up but waived him by early September.

High School Fun Fact: At Arkansas High in Texarkana, Johnson rushed for 1,529 yards and 20 TDs and scored four times on punt returns his senior year.

“Hard” Plus “Travesty” Equals “Hardesty”: Former Browns second-rounder (and now just former Brown) Montario Hardesty (6-0, 225) has constantly dealt with knee issues and was waived by Cleveland last month after getting placed on injured reserve in August following arthroscopic surgery. Hardesty played in only 23 games in three seasons and averaged just 3.5 yards per carry.

Hey, we’re not being picky, here. We’re just looking for someone who can take on a few carries and spell the horses in the stable.

High School Fun Fact: In his senior season at New Bern High in North Carolina, Hardesty rushed for 2,002 yards. Also ran a 10.36-second 100-meter dash for the track team.

Where There’s A Williams, There’s A Waive: For a speedier option, the Pats could check out rookie Kerwynn Williams, a seventh-round pick from Utah State who has been off and on the Colts practice squad since early September. Williams fits the prototypical third-down back profile, measuring 5-8, 195 and exhibiting a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine this past spring. At Utah State, he totaled 1,583 yards rushing (6.9 yards per carry) for 15 touchdowns and 697 yards receiving (48 catches, 15.2 yards per) for five scores.

High School Fun Fact: Williams played receiver and running back as a junior at Valley High in Las Vegas before switching to quarterback his senior year. At QB, he averaged 10.7 yards per run (182 per game), totaling 2,002 yards and 31 TDs on the year. He also threw for 707 yards and added 700 total return yards for good measure.

Seawolf. Seawolf Run. Run, Seawolf, Run: Rookie Miguel Maysonet (5-9, 209) did a little bit of everything for Stony Brook, rushing for 1,964 yards and 21 touchdowns and averaging almost 26 yards per kickoff return. Maysonet became a Seawolf after transferring from Hofstra, which disbanded its football program. He has spent time in Philly, Indy and Cleveland. The Eagles picked him up as an undrafted free agent in April; the Chargers just signed him to their practice squad.

High School Fun Fact: In his career at Riverhead High in New York, Maysonet totaled 5,963 rushing yards and 74 TDs. So, that’s pretty good.

All We Are Saying, Is Give Pease A Chance: Rookie Angelo Pease out of Kansas State (5-10, 211) possesses decent speed (4.50 40), quickness (7.08-second 3-cone drill) and strength (25 strength lifts). At KSU, Pease averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 4.6 yards per reception in a limited role, yet still had the third-most yards rushing with 333.

High School Fun Fact: As a senior at Cairo High in Georgia (Go Syrupmakers!), Pease was named the Atlanta Journal-Constitution All-State Offensive Player of the Year in 2008, running for 882 yards and passing for 19 TDs.

Surely, Temple: After getting dismissed from Boston College due to unspecified team issues, running back Montel Harris concluded his career at Temple, where the 5-8, 208-pound bulldog rushed for 1,054 yards and 12 touchdowns. Though not a speedster (4.56 40), Harris does seem to have the requisite quickness required of a smaller back (6.84 3-cone). He had brief stints with the Eagles, Buccaneers and even the Hamilton Tiger Cats in the CFL, but has yet to find a professional home.

Choo, choo! Redemption train, coming through!

High School Fun Fact: In Jacksonville, Florida, Harris led the Trinity Christian High Conquerors (let’s not mince words, there) in rushing, receiving and scoring for three straight years.

Any backs you think might add depth to New England’s roster, let us know below.

Chris Warner enjoys watching NFL games on DVR 30 minutes after they start so he can zip through the commercials and catch up by the fourth quarter. You can email him at [email protected] or tweet @cwarn89

Forethoughts On Four Games: Second Quarter 2013

Well, Patriots fans, while you were watching the “Breaking Bad” finale – and by “you” I mean “we” and by “we” I mean “I” – your New England neophytes made their way to 4-0 by securing a win at Atlanta that ended up only slightly less nerve-wracking than a visit to a myopic acupuncturist.

A comeback win at Buffalo, a monkfish-ugly standoff vs. the New York Jets and a heartening tilt over Tampa have made for an interesting journey. Despite myriad injuries and adjustments, there they sit atop the AFC East.

These upcoming four games may end up as the toughest haul for New England, with an away game at Cincinnati (Oct 6), a homer with the Saints (Oct. 13), travel to the Jets (Oct. 20) and hosting the Dolphins (Oct. 27). All Sunday games, by the way, all at 1 p.m. except the 4:25 p.m. Saints contest.

If you want predictions, consult your local meteorologist. (We might as well throw a dart and repeat our previous guess at 3-1.) [Read more…]

Receivers Who Could Fit In Foxboro

Over the past couple of weeks (in our shadow roster piece and quarterly report) we’ve discussed various wide receivers who might provide some depth to the position while Danny Amendola gets brought back slowly from his groin injury.

Or, as they would say on TV, “gets brought back slowly from his groin.” Still annoyed that the word “injury” has become superfluous.

To put it nicely, rookies Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce still need work. The Pats brought in Austin Collie last Thursday. More on that below.

Anyway, here’s a look at some potential Patriots pass-catchers. We’re also including our world-famous (not really) High School Fun Facts!

Borderline Collie: We liked Collie out of BYU in 2009. He’s got decent size (6-1, 200) and what he lacks in speed (4.56-second 40-yard dash) he makes up for in quickness (6.78-second 3-cone drill). Still, after sitting this past Sunday, the question remains: can he play? Not just for the Patriots: for anybody. He had at least three concussions from 2010 to 2011 and – after 172 receptions in three seasons – stepped away from football in 2012. Certainly something that will have to be monitored.

High School Fun Fact: The Sacramento Bee named Oak Ridge High’s Collie Northern California’s Most Valuable Player. Had 1,654 all-purpose yards and 24 TDs as a senior along with 53 tackles and two interceptions.

[Read more…]

Patriots Shadow Roster (We Think)

The term “shadow roster” sounds ominous, but it just refers to New England managing the back end of their active 53 players. Every team has a call list of available free agents, it just seems like Coach Bill Belichick and Co. get on the horn with more frequency than other teams do.

Due to injuries and some depth issues at certain positions, over the past week the Patriots have been active with tryouts and personnel moves between the active roster and practice squad. With some of those transactions and players in mind, we’ve compiled a list of potential Pats who may see the revolving door in Gillette this season (as well as a few who already have).

We decided to focus on younger athletes, only because most fans are familiar with the likes of veteran Leon Washington and a certain third-string QB. In other words: move along, folks, nothing to Tebow. [Read more…]

Three Up, Three Down on Patriots Coverage

It seems like a popular thing to do with various posts covering the Patriots is to list a few players who played well, and a few who were bad. They’re called “stock watch” or “three up, three down” or other equally creative names.

Seems like it could be done with media, too.

Three Up

Tom Curran, CSNNE (web)

This post on the Amendola-bashers was the best thing I’ve read since the game ended. Increasingly, Curran is going against the grain with these things, taking on the trolls and even his fellow media members. Someone needs to do it.

Jerry Thornton, CSNNE (TV)

Thornton made his debut on the Patriots postgame show, and also proved adept at taking on some of the runaway negativity from the Twitter world and from the media and just twisting them upside down.

Matt Chatham, Lots of Gigs

Chatham is a must-follow on Twitter anyway, but his in-game stuff is especially valuable and interesting. He also shows a sense of humor while doing it. His thoughts on the defensive fronts like this:

are not going to be found immediately from the beat reporters, or even on the TV broadcast. It’s the ability to recognize quickly when things change.

Three Down

Eric Wilbur,

The resident troll of was taking a Twitter victory lap when Amendola left the game, called Tom Brady a choker and wondered who the QB would blame for the missed passes. Because you know, Brady always blames someone else.

Hector Longo, Lawrence Eagle-Tribune

Longo writes:

2. Devin McCourty — When a rookie in his first start can look you off at safety when you are playing Cover 2 and in your fourth season, you bite on the fake, you clearly have the football instincts of a carp. That cost the Pats the Robert Woods’ TD catch and a “Brandon Meriweather-esque” angle to the football cost the Pats on Stevie Johnson’s TD catch. The good news is the Pats escaped healthy enough that McCourty didn’t need to move to corner.

When you’re writing bitingly sarcastic things about a player’s performance, perhaps you should be sure that the player was actually in the play. On the Woods TD, it was Gregory, not McCourty who bit on the fake and was out of position. McCourty was on the other side of the field for that play.

Dennis and Callahan, WEEI

Yes, by all means, the morning after the season opener, let’s spend an hour talking about Aaron Hernandez and the “red flags” the Patriots missed. Let’s also pine for Mike Wallace (1 catch, 15 yards and many complaints after his game) and conclude that the Patriots young receivers such as Thompkins will never get any better than what they showed yesterday.

Forethoughts On Four Games: First Quarter 2013

After a preseason that featured a contrast between early positive signs and a harrowing experience in Detroit (maybe not the first time that phrase has surfaced), New England starts the 2013 season with an intriguing mix of concern and potential.

No matter what happens this year, we don’t expect boredom.

The Patriots travel to Buffalo to take on the Jeff Tuell- and/or E. J. Manuel-led Bills on September 8 and host AFC East foes the Jets on Sunday, September 12. (We can talk about the useless, kill-the-golden-egg-laying-goose aspect of Thursday night games in some future column.)

Tampa Bay returns to Foxboro Sunday, September 22, followed by a trip to Hotlanta to take on the Falcons for the evening of September 29.

One loss during this stretch seems understandable. A special teams slip-up against an energized Bills squad; defensive backfield issues under the dome at the Falcons. Still, anything less than 3-1 looks like a disappointment.

[Read more…]

Plagiarist Ruins Perfectly Good Rolling Stone Feature

Why’d you do it, Rolling Stone?

After already angering much of Boston last month with the cover story on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the magazine this time ruins an otherwise sterling feature on Aaron Hernandez by allowing plagiarist Ron Borges to sully the work of writer Paul Solotaroff.

While Joe Sullivan was having his Boston Globe writers out talking to private investigators and handwriting experts, Solotaroff was putting together perhaps the most complete investigative profile of Hernandez yet.

Much of the feature is outstanding – it really puts together a lot of the pieces, and background that brought Hernandez to the point where he is now. Where we’ve heard so many disjointed accounts of incidents, the narrative of this story puts them all together in context, along with testimony about Hernandez’s upbringing and the events that put him on this path. It’s really compelling and fascinating material.

But then, out of nowhere, Ron Borges swoops in, takes a steaming dump on the Patriots, and then flies out again.

It really is amazing. You can tell precisely where Borges’ takes over the narrative (the stoop-to-conquer Patriots of Bill Belichick) and when he gives it up. It’s not a smooth transition at all.

Solotaroff brings the piece to the point where the Patriots come into the story – the 2010 NFL Draft. Then this;

Time was, the Pats were the Tiffany franchise, a team of such sterling moral repute that they cut a player right after they drafted him, having learned he had a history of assaulting women. But Beli-chick, the winner of three Super Bowl titles and grand wizard of the greatest show on turf, had decided long before he got to New England that such niceties were beneath him. Over a decade, he’d been aggregating power unto himself, becoming the Chief Decider on personnel matters. He signed so many players bearing red flags they could have marched in Moscow’s May Day parade (Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, et al.), and began drafting kids with hectic pasts, assuming the team’s vets would police them. Some of this was arrogance, some of it need: When you’re picking from the bottom of the deck each spring, you’re apt to shave some corners to land talent.

The writing style, the tone, everything is completely different from the rest of the piece. It’s all Borges catch-phrases, too.

He continues:

Belichick signed both to big extensions years before their rookie deals expired, giving Hernandez $40 million and Gronkowski $54 million, while stiffing Wes Welker, the slot receiver.

“Stiffing Wes Welker.” How that little tidbit – even if true – is at all relevant to the rest of the story is completely beyond me.

Borges then launches into how Belichick fired Frank Mendes, and “replaced the Pats’ security chief with a tech-smart Brit named Mark Briggs.” (In 2003, mind you, 10 years ago!)  That paragraph ends with a law-enforcement official who “dislikes Briggs” complaining that the Patriots aren’t receptive to tips and it isn’t a friendly environment to call over.


In his first remarks after Odin Lloyd’s murder, Robert Kraft described himself as “duped” by Hernandez, saying he’d had no knowledge of his troubles. That is arrant nonsense: Every team knew him as a badly damaged kid with a circle of dangerous friends and a substance problem. Once a Patriot, Hernandez practically ran up a banner that said STOP ME! I’M OUT OF CONTROL!

Funny, that’s not how Borges himself described Kraft’s initial statements on the case.

Speaking publicly for the first time against the advice of his attorneys, Kraft said he felt the need for the public to hear from the organization — and frankly he is the organization. One can talk all they want about Bill Belichick or anyone else but when push comes to shove one voice dominates all others in Foxboro and it is Kraft’s. The team is still here because he kept it here and it will be here long after Belichick and Tom Brady are gone and so on his first day back in his office he spoke from the heart.

I’m confused; was Kraft speaking from the heat, or was he dishing out arrant nonsense?

And then, POOF, as quickly as Borges swooped in, he’s gone, and Solotaroff wrestles back control of the narrative.

It didn’t have to be that way. By adding Borges to the story, someone with an axe to grind against the franchise, and who left the Boston Globe under a cloud (shouldn’t that have been a RED FLAG?) undermines the effectiveness of the feature.

Question: What does the Boston Herald think about this? How could they not even get an exclusive excerpt out of the fact that their writer was working on this? How can they not be pissed?

Some other points:

We know what the sports radio talking points will be:

The flophouse was Belichick’s idea, Mike!!!

They knew what a scumbag he was, and looked the other way!
If Belichick didn’t arrogantly fire the security director, no one would’ve been killed!

He was walking around the locker room high on angel dust, and they did nothing about it!

So all those locals (Media especially) who swore they would never again read a word that Rolling Stone published after the Tsarnaev cover are going to completely ignore this article right?

Lots of suggestion that Urban Meyer covered stuff up at Florida, but seemingly not a lot of sourcing.  Nor specific details.

Angel dust? One source, and a cop from Bristol who says it was a problem in the city.

The thing about this is, while there is a ton of detailed about Hernandez’s life, when it comes to his Patriots tenure, material prior to this spring is not in abundance. Points about the combine meeting, (how many sources on that one, I wonder?) the missed workouts, the threatened release, those are new. Otherwise, there besides unnamed friends saying Hernandez smoked several blunts while driving home after every game, there isn’t much that seems to indict the organization.

The Exaggerated Myth of Bill Parcells in New England

Let me begin this post by saying that I LOVED having Bill Parcells as coach of the New England Patriots, and wished he had stayed on. When he was hired by the Patriots, I was ecstatic, having found myself rooting for the Giants during several 1980’s postseasons – mostly because of Parcells and LT.

To that point, Chuck Fairbanks had been the best coach in franchise history, and to get another top coach into a franchise that was struggling with possible relocation at the time was a major coup.

There is no denying that Parcells, along with Robert Kraft and yes, Drew Bledsoe, led a major turnaround in the situation here in New England. When Parcells left, I was thoroughly dismayed.

The circumstances under which Parcells left New England has been documented ad nauseum, and really should’ve created much more acrimony towards the coach than it really did. He was negotiating with a division rival during Super Bowl week in which the Patriots were participating. It was betrayal of outrageous proportions, no matter what the personal situation between he and Bob Kraft was at the time.

Yet, the undeniable charisma of Parcells (along with the Patriots steady decline under Pete Carroll) led some to keep their loyalties to Parcells, and to pardon him for his actions. Particularly in the media was this case, with Parcells toadies breathlessly praising him at every opportunity.

After the Pete Carroll era flamed out, longtime Parcells assistant Bill Belichick was hired – under perhaps just as big a cloud of controversy as Parcells’ departure from New England – and after a season of adjustment, proceeded to win three Super Bowls in four seasons.

Belichick possesses none of  the innate charisma of Parcells. This has turned off many in the media, and some of the fan base as well, who wistfully pine for the entertaining press conferences of Parcells. To these, Parcells is the ultimate football guy, and no one can compare.

The people still exist, and attempt to give credit for the Super Bowl victories to Parcells, claiming that those titles were won with “his” players.

A caller to Felger and Mazz at the start of yesterday’s show was one of these people, claiming forcefully that “70% of the defense on those Super Bowl titles were Parcells’ draft picks and players.” The hosts, naturally did not disagree, though Felger tempered it somewhat by saying that by the ’04 team, “it was more 50/50 Parcells and Belichick guys.”

Complete Myth.

Let’s take a look. Now remember, the caller and host was only talking about defense here. First of all, five* Parcells draft picks on defense ever won a Super Bowl with the Patriots.

1994 Willie McGinest (3 titles)
1995 Ty Law (3 titles, though injured for 2004 postseason)
1995 Ted Johnson (3 titles)
1996 Lawyer Milloy (1 title, gone after 2002 season)
1996 Teddy Bruschi (3 titles)

*Marty Moore was a 1994 Parcells pick (Mr Irrelevant) played 3 games with 2001 Patriots, assisting on two tackles.

Granted, those are five outstanding players in Patriots history. You might eventually see all five in the Patriots’ Hall of Fame. You could call those guys the core of your defense.

What about the rest of the squad though? What guys on defense had played for Parcells previously?


Bryan Cox – played two seasons under Parcells with the Jets. Played 11 games for 2001 Patriots. (1 title)

Roman Phifer – played one season under Parcells with Jets. Played four seasons under Belichick with Patriots. (3 titles)

Otis Smith – played four seasons under Parcells, with NE and Jets. Three seasons with Belichick with Patriots. (1 title)

Bobby Hamilton – played three seasons under Parcells with Jets, four seasons with Belichick with Patriots. (2 titles)

Anthony Pleasant – played five seasons under Belichick in Cleveland, two with Parcells with Jets and three with Belichick with Patriots (2 titles)


Rick Lyle – played three seasons under Parcells with Jets, two with Belichick with Patriots. (8 games in 2003)



That’s it.

Am I seeing 70% of the defense? Am I even seeing 50/50?

Furthermore, those five core guys are the only players drafted by Bill Parcells to win a Super Bowl with the Patriots, period. He didn’t draft any of the other guys who played for both him and Belichick.

Furthermore, what did Parcells say in his farewell press conference with New England? A complaint about not being able to “shop for the groceries?” Indicating that he didn’t have control over the draft picks and personnel? So are the “Parcells guys” listed above, really “Parcells guys?”

Remember, the 1996 draft was the one that yielded Milloy and Bruschi, but that was also the one that triggered the whole exodus of Parcells from New England because he was overruled in the draft when the Patriots selected Terry Glenn in the first round.

Check this quote from Charley Armey in a Michael Madden column from 2000:

Parcells, said Armey, “didn’t make any selections at all” after the infamous Terry Glenn episode on draft day in 1996. And, by then, Armey had been relegated to being “like any other scout. I wasn’t running the draft.”

In that column, Armey also states that Parcells never had full authority over the draft to begin with:

See, people think Bill had the final authority to make the picks with the Patriots but that was never in his contract. Not when I was there, and I left after he did.

The whole argument of Parcells being the architect of those Super Bowl champions is just not true.

Like I said in the opener, I loved having Bill Parcells coach the New England Patriots, but lets ease up on the legend that he “built” the defenses that won three Super Bowls here in New England. If you want to attack Belichick for not being able to build a championship defense since 2004, that’s one thing, but to give all the credit to Parcells for the three wins, or even claiming that 70% or 50% were “Parcells guys” is preposterous.