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, Boston.com

The resident troll of Boston.com 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.

More:

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?

2001

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)

2003

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

2004

Phifer

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.

Forethoughts On Four Games

This season on BSMW, we’ll provide some thoughts going into each quarter of New England’s 2013 campaign. We begin with one of our favorite months of the year, August, due to the preseason.

No pressure. Low stress. Solid entertainment.

The Patriots play at Philadelphia August 9, host Tampa Bay August 16, travel to what’s left of Detroit August 22, and wrap up at home vs. the Giants August 29.

They might win. They’ll probably lose a few. That doesn’t really matter.

Here’s what we think does matter…

[Read more...]

Patriots Preseason Network Affiliates, Schedule, and Crew

The Patriots today officially announced the changes to their preseason telecasts. The longtime duo of Don Criqui and Randy Cross is no more, and the format is being changed to something new in the world of football broadcasts:

According to Matt Smith, the executive producer of Kraft Sports Productions, the Patriots 2013 preseason game telecasts will be less of a traditional football broadcast, opting instead for more discussion and analysis from two former Patriots players along with insight from two beat writers who are regularly assigned to cover practices year-round.

“We are looking at the preseason games as an opportunity to try something different and find innovative ways to engage our fans in the discussion,” said Smith. “We are not looking for just a down-and-distance approach to calling the game. We want voices and opinions on what happened during the week of practice and how it relates to what fans are seeing on the field. We want a conversational, talk-radio approach on the important issues and roster battles that are going on throughout practice as well as in the game. We want our viewers to hear the opinions of the people watching every detail of the practice sessions during the week and how it relates to what is happening in the game.”

WBZ-TV is still the flagship station for the preseason telecasts, which will be hosted by sports reporter/anchor Dan Roche. Joining Roche in the booth will be former Patriot Christian Fauria.

Former Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham will serve as a sideline analyst, and Steve Burton will do sideline reports and interviews. Patriots Football Weekly writers Paul Perillo and Andy Hart will be in a separate studio for further discussion on the game, and to engage in social media interaction.

Here are the affiliates for the preseason games:

Preseason Television Network
WBZ TV……………… Boston, MA (Flagship Station) (Channel 4)

WPRI………………….Providence, RI (Channel 12)
WWLP……………….. Springfield, MA (Channel 22)
WCTX/WTNH………..Hartford/New Haven, CT (Channel 8)
WVII………………….. Bangor, ME (Channel 22)
WMTW………………. Portland/Auburn, ME (Channel 8)
WMUR…………………Manchester, NH (Channel 9)
WCAX………………….Burlington, MA (Channel 3)
KFVE……………………Honolulu, HI (Channel 5)

Here is the Patriots preseason schedule:

Friday, August 9th 7:30pm @ Eagles

Friday, August 16th 8:00pm Buccaneers (Broadcast on FOX)

Thursday, August 22nd 7:30pm @ Lions

Thursday, August 29th 7:30pm Giants

Games are also rebroadcast on the NFL Network.

Searching For The Next Mosi Tatupu

It’s been a busy summer for the New England Patriots, for many of the wrong reasons. Now that training camp lies just around the corner (yes, please), we figured we’d get away from all that nasty business and start compiling a list of potential fan favorites for 2013.

Whether or not you were a card-carrying member of Mosi’s Mooses, you probably know something about the late, great Mosi Tatupu, a long-time running back/special teamer who carved out a spot with the team and with fans’ hearts from 1978 to 1990.

Was former Patriot Danny Woodhead a Tatupu? We think so – Woodhead gave us a chance to literally root for the little guy. Those two shared some of the requirements we’ll look for in each subject, including: [Read more...]