NFL Preview Day, Globe Goes MAD

The NFL season starts tonight, with the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks hosting the Green Bay Packers on NBC.

The Globe and the Herald have their NFL/Patriots season previews today so there is plenty of material to go through.

As a tribute to 93-year-old MAD Magazine cartoonist Al Jaffee, the Globe did a “fold-in” cover to its section. The image shows the Patriots losing to the Jets 17-3 at Gillette and walking off the field dejectedly while the Jets dance on the stadium turf. BUT fold in the image and you see the Lombardi Trophy.

There’s a whole lot I could say here about the image representing everything the Globe feels about the Patriots and their fans, but I’ll let you guys handle that. And yes, I know the old MAD fold-ins were made so you think it means one thing, and it shows something completely different, but still. Yeesh.

Some highlights from the sections:

Persistent Bill Belichick grows into champion – Jeff Howe has a feature on the coach’s rise from a $25 a week film assistant to a coaching legend. Not much new material in here, but it is always nice to look at the accomplishments rather than the failures.

Tom Brady fueled by doubts about his ability – Chris Gasper does a similar bit on the Patriots QB, and his continued drive to be at the top.

Revamping defense was a priority for Patriots – Shalise Manza Young has a look at the moves made to bulk up the D.

Tom Brady to have many options in score zone – Karen Guregian looks at the improved Red Zone options that Brady has this season. (Wait…I thought Brady didn’t have any WEAPONZ!!!)

Bill Belichick belongs among NFL’s coaching greats – Yes, this is Ron Borges writing this. But don’t be fooled. This is his cover piece, so when he rips him up the rest of the season he can say “Hey, what do you want? I said he was among the greatest of all time!”

To that end – Bill Belichick, Tom Brady on same page – Ron wants you to know that the two are NOT friends. They are just to professionals who happen to work well together. (No, it really isn’t that bad.)

Darrelle Revis brings Patriots back to title roots – Ben Volin looks at the Patriots best CB since the prime of Ty Law and what it means to the team’s hopes.

New England Patriots TE Tim Wright has been adapting on the fly since college – New Patriots writer Kevin Duffy has a piece on the new Patriots tight end.

Levine’s 2014 NFL season preview – Rich Levine looks at the entire league.

Patriots, Broncos are prime-time TV players – Chad Finn says that the national audience will be seeing plenty of these two teams this season.

Full Media Portion of Channel Media and Market Research Poll

Last week I mentioned the media portion of the Channel Media and Market Research poll. Thanks to two readers who each sent me a full copy of the poll, here is the complete media section of the survey.

Download the PDF file .


Meet The New New England Patriots

As we head into the week after Labor Day and hunker down for fall and football, why not pick up some chat fodder to avoid awkward water-cooler moments by learning about some of the newest Patriots?

Also on tap – after dozens and dozens of requests (read: none whatsoever), the return of high school fun facts!

[Read more...]

Patriots Wrap Preseason Slate, Cuts Tomorrow

The Patriots wrapped up their preseason schedule with a 16-13 loss to the New York Giants. Jimmy Garoppolo went wire-to-wire in this one and had his moments, both good and bad.

While some are ready to just hand him the backup QB job and get rid of Ryan Mallett, we likely won’t know for at least a few days what the team plans to do. Final cuts are tomorrow, but we can expect the roster to be in flux through at least Tuesday.

I thought the broadcasts on WBZ improved throughout the preseason, and while last night was still silly at times, it was much better than the first effort of the season. Fauria has moments where he can actually give pretty good analysis, he got into detail at one point last night about footwork on a catch, making the right plant when turning which was information, but then he also has moments like “everyone loves bubbles!” which just makes you roll your eyes.

Matt Chatham as usual, is the best part of the broadcast. While some may object and say that he is too deep and technical in his analysis, there is a segment of the viewership that really wants that next level dissection of plays.

Last night’s game will only get one replay on NFL Network, that being tomorrow, Saturday August 30th at 1:00pm ET. The Giants broadcast crew of Bob Papa and Carl Banks with Howard Cross & Bruce Beck on the sidelines will call the game.

What we learned: Patriots put wraps on preseason with 16-13 loss to Giants – Chris Price breaks down the takeaways from last night.

On the media side:

CBS’s all-female studio show is intriguing – Chad Finn looks at the CBS Sports Network’s new studio show, featuring Lesley Visser,  Amy Trask, and Tracy Wolfson, as well as contributions from Andrea Kremer, Laila Ali, Dara Torres, and Swin Cash.

Finn sort of buried the lede though later in the column by noting that Gerry Callahan has already re-signed with WEEI while John Dennis has not. It seems unlikely that Dennis will not eventually re-sign with the station, but it could be an interesting few days. (Update 1:10PM – Finn Tweets that Dennis has agreed to a new deal as well.)

The New England sports survey conducted by Channel Media & Market Research and mentioned in the Inside Track this week had some curious picks in the media section.

According to the Track, “The survey was conducted from Aug. 12-24 and 40 percent of the respondents were from Massachusetts with the other New England states making up the rest. Seventy-five percent of those polled were male, and the majority were between 25 and 44 years old.

Also, the polls were completely “write in” meaning choices were not given to the respondents. They picked these.

Felger and Mazz read off this list on Wednesday at the end of the show. I don’t remember all exactly, except for the winners. These are what I remember:

Top Team Play by Play or Analyst – Don Orsillo was the winner. Others in the top five included Dave O’Brien, Bob Beers, Tommy Heinsohn and Jack Edwards. No Mike Gorman which is an absolute travesty.

Favorite Sportswriter – Mike Reiss won this one. Other favorites in the top five were Gerry Callahan, Dan Shaughnessy, Tony Massarotti and Gordon Edes. Tony Mazz has written about five times in the last year.

Favorite Sports Radio Host – Tony Massarotti. I’ve lost all faith in humanity with this pick. I’m truly aghast. Other favorites were Dale Arnold, Scott Zolak, and tied for fifth were Mike Felger and Marc Bertrand.

Favorite TV Sports Host – Tom Caron. Others on the list included Jerry Remy, Bob Neumeier and Felger.

Pats Bollix It Up Again

It continually amazes me how much Bill Belichick and the Patriots get mocked and criticized by the media and fans, yet continue to win around 80% of their games. Criticized for the Mankins pick, and now criticized for the Mankins trade. How could you draft this guy there? becomes How could you trade this franchise cornerstone?

Time after time, the local media is critical of a pick, trade, cut or other decision, to the point of being insulting, and time and again they are proven wrong. Does the media ever look back and say, “Wow, I really bollixed up that analysis?” Rarely, if ever. Granted, this is mostly being done by sports radio hosts, the national media and know-nothing local “columnists” relegated to posting videos in their bathrobes, but this influence is out there. On the beat, you’ll hear a lot of talk about the “heartless, unsentimental” coach.

On Twitter yesterday it sure seemed to me that more people were pissed off that the Patriots had acquired another Rutgers player than they were that the team had traded away Mankins. Because that Rutgers “obsession” has really cost the Patriots dearly.

The fact is, this is Belichick and the Patriots getting out a year early rather than a year too late. They’ve done it numerous times. Milloy, Seymour, Warren, Moss, Welker, now Mankins. Each time there has been uproar, and each time the team has largely been proven correct. Has anyone locally pointed out that Danny Amendola will likely be playing meaningful football this season while Wes Welker ponders his future after yet another concussion? Does anyone bother pointing out that with the Seymour trade, the Patriots selected Nate Solder who plays the most important part of the offensive line and does it well? If Tim Wright comes in and duplicates or exceeds what he did last season will anyone acknowledge it?

It’s laughable when I hear columnists or radio hosts cry that the entire local media is in the bag for Belichick and the Patriots. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

I heard and read so many laments about losing Mankins when it is so important to keep Tom Brady upright. Was anyone paying attention when Mankins gave up double-digit sacks last year? Or what about perhaps the most important play of the season last year?

Logan Mankins is a beast, and I loved having him on the team. He definitely set the tone, he took no crap from trash-talking opponents, and always came to the defense of his teammates. Will they miss him?


Will they be OK without him? I think so.

Compare and contrast:

Belichick Sells High – Greg Bedard talks sense.

Patriots just aren’t sentimental – Ben Volin, Bedard’s replacement at the Globe, talks no sense.

But winning and turning a profit are 1 and 1A for the front office, and Mankins’s value to the team just didn’t quite match his bloated salary for this year ($6.25 million). Most teams let their aging stars ride off into the sunset, but that doesn’t fly around here, not with Tom Brady’s clock ticking and the need for another championship growing more desperate each season.

Man, where do we even begin to rip this apart?

So Belichick cares about saving the franchise money? He cares about having the team in the best financial shape under the salary cap, which is entirely different from “turning a profit.” Most teams let their aging stars ride off into the sunset? Could we have some specific examples here?

Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Joe Montana, James Harrison, Ronnie Lott, Marcus Allen, Jerry Rice, Bruce Smith, Jason Taylor, Fred Taylor, Ryan Clark, Steve McNair, Maurice Jones-Drew, Justin Tuck, DeMarcus Ware, Champ Bailey.

All of those aging stars surely appreciated their longtime teams allowing them to ride off into the sunset.

Red Sox Continue Dismal Season, Third Preseason Game For Patriots

Is the Red Sox season over yet?

It’s really hard to believe what has happened at Fenway Park this season, perhaps even more difficult to believe what happened last season at Fenway Park.

What went wrong with Xander Bogaerts & Jackie Bradley? – Peter Abraham has an excellent look at one of the biggest issues this season – the struggles of two rookies who were expected to play big roles this season.

Their current hope at keeping interest up is the pursuit of Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, which could be resolved today.

The Patriots play the third preseason game tonight against the Carolina Panthers. It will again be on the Patriots Preseason Network.

Replay times on NFL Network are as follows:

Saturday August 23rd – 1:00 AM and 1:00 PM

Monday August 25th – 4:00 PM

Intangibles have helped Patriots’ Malcolm Butler write his rags-to-riches story – Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal has a nice mini-feature on the undrafted rookie who is making a strong bid to make this team.

After losing Nick Underhill to the Saints beat earlier this summer, has hired Kevin Duffy (@KevinRDuffy)  to take over the Patriots beat.

Is Little League World Series coverage too much? – Chad Finn looks at the coverage from ESPN this week, which got big ratings, thanks in large part to Mo’ne Davis.

Boston media has great taste in main courses – John Molori talks to several Boston sports media personalities about their favorite golf courses.

Random Monday In August

August isn’t a whole lot of fun in the sports landscape, especially when the Red Sox are already out of contention. Hockey and Basketball are still weeks away. The seemingly endless grind of training camp and preseason football drones on.

It’s also the time when most sports radio hosts take some time off before the NFL season gets fully underway. Thus we’ve had an overload of Steve Buckley, Greg Dickerson, Jerry Thornton, Adam Jones (filling on on the AM) Jon Meterparel and the other B-list fill in hosts.

Some of whom are quite OK in small doses, but when you’re sitting there thinking “I can’t wait for John Dennis to come back,” you know there’s an issue.

Rich Shertenlieb has been out for another reason – he’s been by his wife’s side as she continues her battle against cancer. Certainly no one can take issue with that.

When the morning topics are the Little League World Series and talking about a 12 year-old girl and making statements like she’s really a 15-year-boy or that she’ll be a drug addict in a couple years, you know things are bit slow.

But if you thought I was overreacting to Felger and Mazz and Minihane accusing Pedro Martinez of steroid use, or just couldn’t handle their sarcasm and snark, at least I’m not alone in the view.

Sunday Mail: Speculating on Whether Pedro’s Performances Were Enhanced is a New Low – Chad Finn’s Sunday Column is, if anything, tougher on them than I was.

I’m still trying to figure out the angle on Dan Shaughnessy’s column yesterday. We should go easier on celebrities because their lives are hard? And there’s a picture of Roger Clemens with the column? What is the message? And why would Shaughnessy advocate going easy on anyone? Has he ever? Besides John Henry Williams, that is?

From the “Ben Volin is Awesome” department:

Volin had the fingerwag going at Mike Mayock for his comments about Ryan Mallett, basically saying that Mayock is not around Mallett everyday and is thus unqualified to make such a statement.

Then Volin wrote this in his Sunday notes yesterday:

Manziel showed enough in his first game (63 yards passing, 27 rushing) that he looks like he can handle himself at the NFL level.

So Volin can watch half of the first preseason game and declare that a QB is ready to play in the NFL. That’s not a “snap judgment?” Who is more qualified to make a snap judgment on a player anyway? A guy who played in the league and evaluates talent for the draft and works games on a weekly basis, or a reporter who pretty much covers one club, and once lead the charge to give Richie Incognito a “good guy” award?

Breaking News – Over the weekend, I actually heard some pretty good sports talk radio. First Chris Villani and then Danny Picard on WEEI were both reasoned, informative and intelligent in running their afternoon shows on Saturday. I’ve heard both before, many times, but it really struck me how different their shows, at least that day were compared to what I’ve been hearing elsewhere for a while now.

I’m convinced though, that Picard’s accent is a put-on.

If you get a chance, check out the Improper Bostonian and their Patriots coverage. They’ve got a cool Q&A/Feature on Devin McCourty, a team season preview and a Patriots’ 2004 Coaching Staff flow chart looking at the travels of that group since that last Super Bowl title.

Boston Radio Hosts Accuse Pedro Martinez of Steroid Use

It is hardly surprising in this day and age of sports shock talk that hosts attempting to bring attention to themselves would attack the most revered Red Sox player of the last 30 years.

Yesterday and this morning, both 98.5 FM (Felger and Mazz) and WEEI (Kirk Minihane) made, at the very least, strong suggestions that former Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez used steroids during his playing career.

The reason for the discussion is because Martinez (along with Roger Clemens, Nomar Garciaparra and Joe Castiglione) were inducted into the Red Sox team Hall of Fame. It’s supposed to be a fun event, one for the fans, and celebrating the achievements of those who brought so many great moments for sports fans. Instead, it becomes a bash-fest.

“Everyone else” did it is the main point of “evidence” that they cite, that and Pedro’s incredible numbers and success against a league that was steroid-riddled at the time. Mike Felger is tired of everyone giving Pedro Martinez a free pass and saying that he did it clean during the steroid era.

Felger additionally cites as his incontrovertible piece of evidence, the 2002 season. The previous year Pedro had injured his rotator cuff, that offseason he worked in a gym where an accused steroid supplier/trainer also work. In the spring of 2002, Martinez reported to spring training more muscular around the shoulders as a result of having worked to strengthen the muscles around the cuff. This is Felger’s evidence.

Their reasons for these accusations are not based in any sort of crusade to find out the truth about matters. It is simply to outrage fans and and encourage cynics to call in and get emotional and bring attention and ratings.

Like I said, it is hardly surprising.


The Patriots play their second preseason game tonight, (7:30 ET) this time at Gillette Stadium. Check here for the outlets that will carry the game throughout New England and Hawaii: Patriots Preseason TV Broadcast Information

The game will also be carried live on NFL Network, meaning Patriots fans across the country will be able to see what will likely be Tom Brady’s first appearance of the summer. The NFL Network broadcast will be the WBZ-TV version so Dan Roche, Christian Fauria and Matt Chatham get a national audience this week.

The game will be rebroadcast on the NFL Network at the following times:

(All times Eastern)

Saturday August 16th – 9:00am

Tuesday August 19th – 8:00pm

Thursday August 21st – 4:00pm


Former Patriots tight end Jermaine Wiggins had become a fixture on 98.5, especially on the Felger and Mazz program. Wiggins said good-bye to the station on Wednesday, as he has a new opportunity in the works.

An industry source suggested we check out HOT 96.9  FM next Tuesday morning for Wiggins’ latest gig.


Molly McGrath enjoying transition to Fox – Chad Finn has a look at the former Celtics in-arena and host, whose star in on the rise at FOX Sports 1.

Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon worth the effort – Bill Doyle looks ahead to the annual NESN/WEEI event next week, and at the debut of the SEC Network.

Congratulations to former WLNE (Providence) sports reporter Courtney Fallon, who has been at NBC6 South Florida for the last two years. She will join CBS Sports Network on Sept 1st as a college football sideline reporter, primarily working Army games, but with other assignments as well.

Five Years Of 98.5 The SportsHub – How The Landscape Has Changed.

Five years ago, WEEI was still riding high. They had stomped attempts to challenge them in the forms of 1510 the Zone and ESPN590.

In February of that year, Chad Finn wrote a column for the Boston Globe OT that was eerily prescient in what it had to say about WEEI and its future.

Maybe the average Boston sports fan is less sophisticated than I want to believe. But I’m convinced that provided with an equal signal, some savvy program director could build what WEEI claims to be: the premier sports radio station in the country.

Then in July of 2009, it was announced that the new 98.5 The SportsHub would be starting up. WEEI had no reason to be concerned, and even issued statements saying they were prepared to beat this challenge as well.

Five years ago today, on August 13th, 2009, WBZ-FM, 98.5 The Sportshub came on the air. Everything changed that day. Unlike previous competitors, 98.5 had a strong, FM signal. They also had the Patriots and Bruins radio rights. This wasn’t static-filled AM radio with limited signal reach and lesser known talent.

The new station was competitive right away, and while WEEI tried to keep up their air of superiority (Who can forget Gerry Callahan telling Jessica Heslam when asked about Toucher and Rich that he had never heard of them and that ““I am speaking to you from under my desk right now because I am so scared”) but within two years 98.5 overtook them in the ratings, particularly on morning and afternoon drive, time slots which WEEI had dominated for 15 years.

WEEI then made a series of panic moves, none of which really panned out, including ditching the one show that was still winning its time slot – Dale and Holley – and replacing it with Mut and Merloni, which quickly fell behind Gresh and Zo in the ratings.

The station fired or reduced the roles of  the likes of  Pete Sheppard, Glenn Ordway, Jason Wolfe and Dale Arnold, while going through the disastrous Jeff Brown era. They changed management again, and have somewhat stabilized things finally, with Dennis and Callahan topping Toucher and Rich in this past month of July. (which doesn’t mean they’ll win the ratings period, but it is a start.)

Meanwhile 98.5 rolls on. Interestingly, they’ve enjoyed success, not on smart sports talk (for the most part) but on taking what WEEI did and bringing it to another level. The Felger and Mazz show and nightly Adam Jones show thrive on being incessantly critical of every single local team and player, and coming up with “sky is falling” scenarios on a daily basis. Listeners love it, as the ratings bear out.

What do the next five years bring in terms of sports talk radio in Boston? Does 98.5 fall into the same trap that WEEI did? Does another station give it a try? Does Glenn Ordway’s Big Show Unfiltered get picked up by terrestrial radio?

Painful Night In Landover for Patriots, Viewers

The Patriots looked bad last night against the Redskins, and none worse than Ryan Mallett who struggled his way to a 5-12, 55 yard performance.

I think that only in New England does the media use the backup quarterback as a way to make snide remarks about the coach. The last few days have been filled with snark about Mallett, ever since Belichick pal Mike Mayock made the remark that he was impressed with Mallett and sees an NFL starting QB right now in him, a comment that has provoked endless chuckles around the Patriots beat.

The remark also led to plenty of snark around the Patriots beat where writers started making comments that Mayock was essentially paid off to make the comment, doing so only in exchange for access to Belichick. Utter nonsense. Belichick coached Mayock with the Giants, and likes and respects him. Perhaps Mayock did make the comments as a favor to Belichick, though I find that fairly unlikely as well.

Chris Gasper this morning writes

There are lobbyists in Washington who wish they could spin as favorably as the Patriots and their national media supplicants are on Mallett’s ability.


But if Mallett were so good, don’t you think that Bill Belichick would be fighting to keep him as Brady’s successor, and not pumping Mallett’s trade value the way it was getting pumped up around May’s NFL Draft?

How about naming some names, Gasper? Beyond Mayock, who are the supplicants of whom your refer to? How exactly is Belichick “pumping Mallett’s trade value.”

Specifics, please.

I don’t doubt that the Patriots are putting Mallett out there for people to see, including themselves. Does he have a giant FOR SALE sign around his neck?

Maybe that’s why he struggled so much last night. Tough to throw and elude pressure with a giant sign around your neck.


Meanwhile, after telling us over and over how bad rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo has looked in practice, the first year signal caller came out and impressed in the second half last night, showing poise, accuracy – even on the deep ball – and ability to move around.

The swing towards Jimmy G should be fun to watch this weeek.


The game broadcast last night on WBZ-TV was, well, uneven. Chad Finn enjoyed it:

Patriots TV broadcast had familiar feel

The broadcast location in the stadium was less than ideal for Dan Roche and Christian Fauria, and it definitely showed at times. Roche had difficulty identifying players, determining whether a field goal was good, and what call the officials were making.

During one particularly painful call, a Patriots backup made a tackle, Roche clearly wasn’t sure who it was, and said “making the tackle for the Patriots….(pause) by the Patriots…” then nothing. They went to commercial break and came back, at which point Roche finally identified the player who had made that tackle.

This isn’t as much a criticism of Roche as it is to highlight the poor location they had, and the difficulties in broadcasting from there. Fauria, as he is prone to do, ran off at the mouth on a number of occasions, including a comment on Roy Finch which referenced his struggles to hang onto the ball, but added “you can also see the explosithness in that guys feets…


Down on the field, Matt Chatham had a better view, and provided better analysis. His explanation of how linebackers read the route combinations at the goal line was informative and interesting.



Why you should stop watching football

At least the Globe is being honest about their bias now.