Senior Bowl Standouts From A Pats Perspective

The Reese’s Senior Bowl happened in Mobile, Alabama on Saturday. Yes, Reese’s: because nothing says “elite college football” like a couple of guilt-inducing peanut butter cups in a non-biodegradable wrapper.

The South team beat the North team, 20-10, on a day where offenses looked out of synch due to strong D and apparent lack of practice.

Below, some notable players in whom the Patriots might take an interest.

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Jerry Remy Returning To Red Sox Telecasts – Not A Good Idea

It’s not easy to write this.

I think it is a big mistake that Jerry Remy is returning to the Red Sox broadcast booth on NESN this season. I understand why he is going to do it, and why he feels he needs to do it. I don’t begrudge him that decision at all. The problem I have here is that this should not have been his choice to make.

Remy announced yesterday in an emotional, tearful session with the media that he had decided to return to his job at NESN this spring, following his son’s arrest last year for the brutal murder of the mother of Remy’s granddaughter.

I don’t have a single doubt that Remy is sincere and completely heartbroken over the situation. By all accounts, he is a sensitive, thoughtful man who has had to struggle mightily through the last few seasons even before this situation came up. Battles with cancer and depression have cut into his time on the network, and forced NESN to scramble for fill-ins.

Remy insisted yesterday that he would be able to go back to doing his job as he’s done in the past. “I’m going to be myself.  That’s what I’ve always been. I don’t see how else I can do it. If I didn’t think I could be myself, I wouldn’t do it. I hope that doesn’t come off as insensitive. It may to some, but it’s the only way I know how to do my job. He (Don Orsillo) asked me that same question 45 minutes ago and I gave him the same answer. I said, “We’ll take it as we always do. The game is most important, first of all. Anything that flows off the game, you go with it.” If people think that’s insensitive, I’m sure I’ll hear about.”

Both Remy and NESN are fooling themselves if they think things will be able to just go back to normal. This isn’t going away. It’s going to be a very high profile case. There will be updates, both through the media, and to Remy personally. If something more comes out during the day, will Remy be able to go to the park that night and banter with Orsillo like everything is OK?

When asked about the inevitable media blitz around the trial, Remy said “It’s not easy. It’s not easy at all. There is going to be more stuff to come out. There’s going to be a trial in October which will probably be pushed back. I think it’s pretty clear what’s going to happen.”

It would seem that the trial being held at the earliest in October would be a reason for Remy feeling that he could come back for this season, at least. If the trial were to be held in say, June, I doubt he would be coming back at this point in time.

It’s going to be impossible for many viewers to listen to Remy this season without thinking of his family situation. It’s not fair, but when he jokes around and engages in his banter with Orsillo, some are going to object to that. At least one member of the Martel family has already said it will be tough to hear Remy in the booth.

As mentioned earlier, Remy has had a difficult few years, health-wise. Despite the battle with lung cancer, he’s still smoking, and how is the strain of this added emotional burden going to impact his mental and physical health?

Remy seems to maintain that it would be worse for him to be stuck at home and not working. He said “I can’t sit there. I just can’t sit in my chair. I’ve been there long enough already. I’ve got to be busy. I’ve got to do something to preoccupy myself. I need to do something I enjoy.”

Perhaps getting back to work, getting into the old routine is something that can put Remy into a comfort zone for himself, but I don’t think it can last. Eventually, I think the questions, the criticisms are going to get to be too much.

I often hear from viewers who say that Remy’s performance in the booth isn’t what it once was. It’s hard to argue that. Couple that with the health and emotional issues, and now this, it just doesn’t seem like this is the right move, for Remy or for NESN. He wanted to quit before, when those issues were fresh. Can he plow through this unaffected? I have serious doubts.

Reading through the media stories and the interviews on Remy, it seems that most of the local media are circling the wagons around Remy, thoughts such as “Remy deserves a chance to rebuild his life.” or that “Jerry Remy is part of the fabric of the Red Sox.” The Voice Of Boston Sports, invokes the Kennedy assassination when writing about the laughter in the booth being gone. Steve Buckley seems to be the only one saying that perhaps this isn’t a good idea. I think if the others really cared about Remy as a person and friend, they would tell him that he’s making a mistake.

This just cannot end well. In my opinion, NESN should’ve taken the decision out of Remy’s hands. He needs to be saved from himself. I feel for the man, and do not wish for him to have to suffer publicly in this manner. While this is the path he has chosen as his career, Jerry is 61 now. These should be his golden years. He should have many more years ahead of him, but I fear that continuing in the public eye like this will deprive his family of his needed presence (Remy said they’re trying for custody of their granddaughter) more quickly than if he were to try and find something else to do.

I don’t want to see that happen.

Sports Media Musings: Internet Tough Guys

Today: A round-up of media matters, starting with INTERNET TOUGH GUYS.

1. The John Dennis vs. Fred Toucher Twitter fight was a thing that happened.

(If you care about such matters, below are a few scattered musings.)

Screen shots courtesy of Barstool Sports:

VS.

… The obvious reaction: This episode played out like an argument in the comments section of a YouTube video, and ended the only way these such things can end, with John Dennis deleting his tweets from his timeline. Classic Dino.

… “Toucher & Rich” are born to be shit-stirrers, they play the underground card – WE’RE THE COMMON MAN! – very well, but fact is, their show has been number one in the market for an elongated stretch. It’s just funny because poking fun at the likes of John Dennis, kicking someone who’s purportedly down and below your level, would normally be seen as catty – that is, if it was any other media figure than John Dennis, who comes across as a loathsome dude.

… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – “Dennis & Callahan” won’t win a battle of wits against “Toucher & Rich.” They just aren’t likeable; instead, the Men of Guest Street should focus on their true advantage: an ability to deliver compelling discourse about sports, which is something “Toucher & Rich” struggle with at times.

… “Dennis & Callahan” has been much better in recent months and the ratings back this statement up, but that doesn’t warrant Dennis challenging Toucher to a back alley brawl.

… Reading this over, it’s important to remind oneself that these guys talk about sports for four hours a day. Sports, everyone.

… John Dennis is totally one of those old guys who believe if you delete tweets from your Twitter timeline that it means it never happened. NOTHING TO SEE HERE. Meltdowns on the Internet, and especially on social media, live forever. Nobody forgets.

 2. Kirk Minihane’s screed about how NESN should deal with Will Middlebrooks and Jenny Dell’s relationship made plenty of noise across the Internet.

(If you care about such matters, below are a few scattered musings.)

… Minihane is absolutely correct in his premise. This is, cut and dry, a conflict of interest.

… Sports on Earth contributor, Colin McGowan, thinks Minihane was over-the-top for the sake of being over-the-top, and this was, perhaps, even self-indulgent.

There are numerous caveats and considerations in the article, but they’re ultimately buried beneath certainty. It’s a Hot Take that knows it’s a Hot Take, but self-awareness doesn’t save it.

Maybe the tone of Minihane’s column was a tad acerbic and provocative, but the piece prompted discussion and felt authentic. Moreover, both those adjectives – acerbic and provocative – is how I’d describe Minihane in general. I’ve always felt the greatest compliment you can give to a writer is an ability to develop a voice similar to how you talk. I’ll chalk that up McGowan’s unfamiliarity with Minihane. And that’s fine. But I think it’s important to note Minihane wasn’t flipping his tone just for this topic and the ensuing clicks and comments.

Where McGowan truly loses me, and, I suspect, most people is here:

There are times, sure, even in a field as frivolous as sports journalism, that seriousness is required and a discussion of The Way Things Should Be can be edifying rather than self-indulgent. A sideline reporter is dating a player. This is decidedly not one of those times.

Yes, Jenny Dell isn’t Jim Gray or Pam Oliver, but lines have to be drawn. That there is any support for continued employment is baffling.

… That’s because there is credibility at stake here – yes, even for a place like NESN – and if Dell stays with NESN, and rumors persist that she could be heading elsewhere, the Internet will increasingly develop a jaundiced eye towards female sports reporters.

… The outcome of that cynical thought-process: Jeff Pearlman’s tone-deaf piece about Erin Andrews. Mind-blowing. Perlman later posted an apology.

… Don’t believe those ramifications? The following is from Richard Deitsch’s media column over at SI.com:

Appearances of interest conflicts matter, or they should to any editorial entity that cares about disseminating information. Such a relationship — if NESN stays the course — also hurts the efforts of female sports journalists. On this note, here were some answers to my question from women sports journalists in the field:

Boston Globe sports reporter (and former Red Sox beat writer) Amalie Benjamin: “Never. Ever. And more, it hurts the credibility of every female reporter doing it the right way.”

USA Today’s Lindsay Jones: “Never, never, never. Did I mention never?”

SI’s Joan Niesen: “Under no circumstances. None whatsoever. No, no, no.”

3. Watching the Internet deliver op-ed after op-ed about Richard Sherman made me dry heave.

(If you care about such matters, below are a few scattered musings.)

… While covering the Celtics, I listened to guys regurgitate “athlete-speak” (“We just have to execute our game plan”) night after night. That, I suppose, is the reason I’d always stick around for Kevin Garnett’s post-game remarks, because he’d talk about real shit, often using crazy analogies that never quite made sense. It was the best. Can’t have it both ways.

… Reasonable people know this was a non-story. This was an athlete, fired-up after making the biggest play of his life, expressing that jubilation, and consequently letting the world watch emotion manifest itself in real-time. Nothing more, nothing less.

… Certain local sports radio hosts have proved themselves to not be “reasonable people.”

… Literally everyone had to have a take on this. A few that stood out: Will Leitch’s take, I felt, was spot on. Rembert Browne provided an interesting counterpoint to the logic behind the narrative: “There is more to Sherman than meets the eye; after all, HE WENT TO STANFORD!”

4. Former Boston Sports Media contributor and current ESPN PR guy, David Scott, teamed up with Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports to write a screenplay which turned into a feature-movie.

(If you care about such matters, below are a few scattered musings.)

… Wetzel continues to be one of my favorite columnists in the business. This column after the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the Giants is a clinic on great sports writing.

… On a personal level, Scott Shots was a regular read and definitely a precursor to my own work here at BSMW.

5. Lots of fallout from Grantland’s controversial feature, “Dr. V’s Magical Putter.

(If you care about such matters, below are a few scattered musings.)

… Please note: There were ethical breaches and a myriad of other issues about the piece. We won’t dive into the minutia here.

… Initially, the piece was widely accepted as a fantastic feature. It was not until the transgender community pointed out its insensitivity and shortcomings that the Internet gathered their sharpest pitchforks and stormed Grantland demanding blood.

… The reaction prompted Bill Simmons to write a “letter from the editor” response. The letter was candid and sufficient in our eyes; however, Simmons loses me here:

Caleb’s biggest mistake? Outing Dr. V to one of her investors while she was still alive. I don’t think he understood the moral consequences of that decision, and frankly, neither did anyone working for Grantland.

Whaaat? Neither the editors, writer, or any of the other 15 other people who read the piece, thought there was an issue there? Really????

… Writing for Deadspin, Tim Marchman has a great breakdown of the failings here; that is, until he can’t help but go all-in on Simmons and Grantland, conflating the story with a larger issue:

The breakdown that took place here could have happened at any shop staffed by reporters and editors who aren’t as sufficiently attuned to trans* issues as they could or should be, which is to say nearly any of them, including this one. This particular breakdown, though, was a fractal of the Grantland problem in general, which is to say the Bill Simmons problem.

… For the record, I love Deadspin. Like most everyone else, I effusively praised the Manti T’eo story in this very space last year. Let’s use that story as an example, though: what if T’eo had committed suicide after Deadspin broke the hoax? Is Deadspin at fault?

Not to mention, this is a freakin’ Gawker site, a publication that once paid for photos of Brett Favre’s little Viking. I think many prestigious publications make the same mistakes that Grantland made here, but the problem is many publications aren’t Grantland, meaning the backlash isn’t as severe.

As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to say hello in the Twittersphere: @Hadfield__.

What Is Mike Salk’s Future? More After The Break…

In his Globe media column today, Chad Finn looks at the poor fit that Mike Salk appears to be with WEEI:

Mike Salk’s style isn’t what WEEI needs

It’s a fair article, outlining many of the issues that have led to the station’s continued struggles against Felger and Massarotti in the afternoons.

One thing Finn mentions is Salk’s penchant for teasing upcoming topics – Is Hightower the biggest bust in Patriots history – we’ll answer that after the break. I don’t see the issue as being that he does the teases, all good radio hosts do this – it’s one thing John Dennis is really good at – but rather, how clumsy and ham-handed he is with the teases.

It’s a tough situation, Salk was brought in to replace a legend  by someone who was immensely disliked and is no longer there, and apparently turned some people off within the station right away. What can they do? Salk moved his family across the country, and has a three-year deal, so getting rid of him would be messy, expensive, and probably not great PR.

But as Finn notes, it’s clearly not a great fit, and for a station that has struggled and is trying to turn things around, they have to make hard decisions.

Finn also touches on the departure of Mary Paoletti from CSNNE, which is a pretty big loss for them. This isn’t exactly breaking news, but people are nice and likable as Paoletti are not all that common in the media business.

So we lose Paoletti, and people like Gary Tanguay – catch that rant last night? – remain as fixtures in the market. Doesn’t seem right.

Tim McKone appears omnipresent as he runs broadcast spectrum – Bill Doyle profiles a young man who “works full time for Charter TV-3 as a producer, videographer, sports reporter and fill-in anchor, and also part-time for both Cox Sports TV in Rhode Island as a sports reporter and for 98.5 the Sports Hub providing sports headlines on weekends.”

A few more links from today:

No excuse not to lock up Jon Lester – With the lefty expressing a willingness to take less to stay with the Red Sox, Gordon Edes says the club needs to make it happen.

Danny Ainge thinks only of C’s future – Steve Bulpett looks at how Ainge’s mindset and approach is different this season as opposed to previous years where he had to be wary of not taking a step back in-season. Ainge also said part of the reason they traded Jordan Crawford was because they wanted more time for Phil Pressey.

Ainge says Celtics made Rondo contract offer – Baxter Holmes examines Ainge’s comments regarding the club’s view of their point guard.

Aaron Dobson works for healthy return – Jeff Howe has the receiver already looking forward to next season.

New England Patriots offseason primer: Hard decisions await – Nick Underhill looks at the offseason to-do list.

West Coast kid here to stay – Joe McDonald looks at the emergence of rookie defenseman Kevan Miller.

Trending toward Chara-Miller playoff pairing – Joe Haggerty thinks that with Dennis Seidenberg done for the year, the rookie could end up paired with Zdeno Chara on the first defensive pairing in the playoffs.

Scar Retires, Sox Dig Up Sizemore

In the wake of a 2nd straight loss in the AFC Championship game, the Patriots coaching staff is going through something of a shakeup.

Following the departure of linebackers coach Pepper Johnson earlier this week, the team announced yesterday that long time offensive line and assistant head coach Dante Scarnecchia is retiring after spending 30 of the last 32 NFL seasons with the team. In addition, tight ends coach George Godsey is moving on to Houston to be Bill O’Brien’s QB coach.

On top of that, Karen Guregian looks at a report that Josh McDaniels and the Browns are still talking.

It might not be the worst thing to have some new voices in the coaching ranks, though losing Johnson and Scarnecchia is a really big loss for the franchise.

Coach Scar leaves lasting mark – Mike Reiss says that Scarnecchia leaves as one of the franchise’s greats.

Pats assistant Scarnecchia: ‘This is the time’ to quit – Tom E Curran talks to Scar about his decision.

The Red Sox made something of a surprise move yesterday, signing former Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore to a one-year, major league deal. Sizemore hasn’t played since 2011.

How Grady Sizemore finally landed with Red Sox – Rob Bradford was first with the news yesterday, and looks at how former Larry Bird trainer Dan Dyrek was a huge factor in Sizemore landing here.

Sox figure Sizemore is worth a shot – Gordon Edes says Sizemore might be a longshot to contribute, but he was worth taking a look at.

Grady Sizemore vs. Jackie Bradley Jr. could be a win either way for Boston Red Sox – Jason Mastrodonato compares the two players, and notes that competition is a good thing.

Shrine Game Notables – Because What The Heck Else Are You Doing Today?

To quote a great coach, “We’ll start working on 2014 tomorrow.” The tomorrow he’s talking about was yesterday. Let’s get going.

We present some players the Patriots may want to take a look at after solid performances in the East-West Shrine Game last Saturday, along with high school fun facts!

Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois QB (6-3, 222)

In the Shrine Game, Garoppolo completed nine of 14 passes for 100 yards and one TD. Looked smooth and comfortable on all of his passes, which comes as no surprise considering he passed for 5,050 yards and 53 scores this past season.

I don’t care if you play for Eastern Illinois or your local town rec flag football team, those are crazy numbers. Considering that – and the fact that Garoppolo has been added to the Senior Bowl roster – he’ll probably go too high in the draft for New England’s liking. Still, a guy to keep an eye on this spring.

High School Fun Fact: Garoppolo passed for 1,888 yards and 16 touchdowns his senior year at Rolling Meadows High in Illinois, earning Northwest Suburban All-Area honors. Also passed for 2,072 yards his junior year.

Chandler Jones, San Jose State WR (5-11, 175)

Jones – who would be the second Chandler Jones on the Patriots roster – had seven catches for 73 yards in the Shrine Game. This past season, he led the Spartans in receptions with 79, totaling 1,356 yards. He also set the SJSU school single-season record with 15 touchdowns. His 17.9 yards per reception this season was over four yards more than his junior year average (12.8).

High School Fun Fact: At Bishop Montgomery High in Torrance, California, Jones lettered in football and track & field, running the 100- and 200-yard dashes.

Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina WR (6-3, 190)

Hazel scored a TD on a one-yard quick slant from Garoppolo where he used his body well to shield the defender. This past season, he had 70 receptions for 990 yards for the Chanticleers (14.1 avg), totaling 183 catches and 2,553 yards for his career.

High School/College Fun Fact: Hazel represented South Carolina in the 2009 (High School) Shrine Bowl. Had 75 grabs for 1,193 yards and 18 TDs his senior year at North Augusta High in S.C. As a sophomore at CCU, Hazel completed the only pass of his college career, a 21-yard touchdown.

Ethan Westbrooks, West Texas A&M DL (6-4, 263)

Westbrooks harassed opposing QBs all day and won the Defensive MVP for the East team (West Texas; East team. Go figure). In college, Westbrooks led the Buffaloes with seven sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He also had five pass break-ups and a forced fumble.

High School Fun Fact: At Franklin High in Oakland, California, Westbrooks was named an all-conference football player. He also threw the shot put and discus for the track & field team.

Antwan Lowery, Rutgers OL (6-4, 305)

It’s hard for any offensive lineman to set himself apart in this game, so we looked at the New England roster and decided to go with the Rutgers guy. Lowery was named to the Outland Trophy watch list for best college offensive lineman. Arrived at the banks of the Raritan as a defensive tackle out of high school but switched to offense his redshirt freshman year, playing lineman and also taking on a fullback role in Wildcat packages. Played both left and right guard.

High School Fun Fact: Lowery played at Christopher Columbus High in Florida. Participated in the Under Armour High School All-America Game. Had 35 tackles and 2.5 sacks his senior year.

Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech DL (6-2, 350)

Ellis got noticed at the Shrine Game for his surprising size/quickness combination. At La. Tech, he had 48 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss.

High School Fun Fact: At Neville High, Ellis was named a first-team all-state player by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. He also lettered in track & field and finished third in the state in the shot put as a junior.

Ross Cockrell, Duke CB (6-0, 190) 

Cockrell had an interception and showed solid footwork in the Shrine Game. At Duke, he had three interceptions and 12 pass break-ups.

High School Fun Fact: Playing both receiver and cornerback at Charlotte Latin in North Carolina, Cockrell caught 29 passes for 459 yards and 11 TDs as a senior while notching 34 tackles and three interceptions. Had nine INTs and four defensive touchdowns his junior year. Also lettered in hoops and track & field.

Alden Darby, Arizona State S (5-11, 195)

Darby nabbed an interception in the Shrine Game. At ASU, Darby had 72 tackles, four interceptions, nine pass break-ups, and two forced fumbles. His play earned him first team all-league in the Pac-12.

High School Fun Fact: At Millikan Senior High in Long Beach, California, Darby had 38 tackles, 15 pass break-ups and four INTs his senior year. Also led the team in passing (593 yards, seven TDs) and rushing (702 yards, 11 TDs) while somehow ranking third in receiving (14 receptions for 149 yards).

Any players you noticed at the Shrine Game, please let us know in the comments section below.

Keep an eye out for the Senior Bowl, airing on the NFL Network on Saturday, January 25, at 4 p.m. ET. We will, because what the heck else would we be doing?

Chris Warner can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @cwarn89

Failure Is A Relative Term

After the dust settles and you can step back and reflect on the past six months, it becomes slightly – ever so slightly – easier to accept what we witnessed Sunday afternoon.

How did they even get this far?

While there will be plenty of “failure” talk and the usual suspects will be grousing about the lack of “weapons” on offense, the team that took the field went as far as it could possibly go. That automatically makes it better than some of the previous editions. You can nitpick about personnel decisions, but hindsight is always 20/20.

The Broncos and specifically Peyton Manning, stepped up big time and took what was theirs. If you watched any of Seattle’s win over San Francisco, there has to be a piece of you hoping that Manning can shut up the yappers of Pete Carroll’s crew. After hearing for weeks locally about how we could expect Manning to make the crucial mistake or how he wouldn’t be able get his team past Tom Brady and the Patriots, there was even the tiniest bit of satisfaction in knowing that even in a Patriots loss, the local talkers were again dead wrong.

It was a fun ride, with some of the unlikeliest and most entertaining victories we’ve seen, as well as some very satisfying late season wins. While there is no doubt that we’re approaching the end of the Brady/Belichick run, it is not over yet, and there was plenty of young talent on this team that took steps forward this season, and should take on even more next year. There may be questions about Brady’s ability to get it done by himself, and that likely will be a focus during the offseason.

My hope is that we can appreciate this team for how they continued to play each week despite what the injury list looked like or what the scoreboard looked like.

While I see numerous columns about there about how it is time to make massive changes because the “magic” isn’t there anymore, or that this “formula” doesn’t work, or whatever, I’m choosing today to just look at a few columns which reflect what I think is the right way to look at things here:

Manning, Broncos deserve endless respect — and even in defeat, so do the Patriots – Chad Finn.

It leads with a photo of Peyton Manning, and I can’t help but smile looking at it. I feel good for the guy. Yes, he gets over-the-top adulation from the national press, and his previous playoff failures seem like they’re brushed under the rug by most, but this guy has been through a lot the last few years, his career was almost over, and from some reports, it might be closer to ending than we thought – but he put together a record season, and the look of pride, accomplishment and yes – relief – on his face is perfect. You gotta feel good for the Goober.

Patriots magic act went up in smoke in Denver – Tom E Curran says that this team had us fooled.

For once, fulfillment in finish to Patriots season – Erik Frenz says that this time, the Patriots lost to a team that they should’ve lost to, and that is strangely fulfilling.

Get all the coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

We’ll jump right into the offseason this afternoon and Chris Warner take a look at the Shrine Game.

The Celtics will make what will likely be their only national TV appearance tonight, as they take on the Heat in Miami. NBA TV picked up the game (which will still be seen locally on CSNNE) as part of their NBA Fan Night.

Media Silliness Abounds As AFC Title Tilt Approaches

Must. Pound. Storylines.

For the on-air side of sports media this week is less about football than it is about their precious storylines. Legacies. Past failings. Worries. Concerns.

Then you have clowns like WHDH’s Dan Hausle, who only appears in Foxborough when there is something “big” happening. He showed up when Tebow was signed. He showed up when Bill Belichick addressed the Aaron Hernandez case. He showed up this week to ask the tough questions to Tom Brady about a poll which said he was the least liked QB in the NFL. He asked Belichick and Brady today about playing a game in Denver for the first time in which marijuana is legal for recreational use.

Belichick brushes him off, but you have to admire Tom Brady’s ability to take any question and answer it good-naturedly and with a smile.

Other storylines:

Hey….Peyton as Wilt Chamberlain and Brady and Bill Russell? That’s why you’re the bravest columnist going, Dan Shaughessy! By the way, nice way to cover yourself. You’ve already said the Patriots will lose on Sunday. With this column today, if the Patriots manage to win, you can blame it on Manning! Genius!

And that you stole that premise from Felger and Mazz’s first hour yesterday? Brave! Original!

Heard the 98.5 morning zookeepers touting the storyline that whomever wins on Sunday is just going to be blasted by the NFC winner in the Super Bowl. Wasn’t that the line of thinking last season too?

As my friend Scott put it:

Its like there’s a centralized entity that writes the shallowest possible narratives on Sunday night and then sells them to all the radio stations, newspapers and internet sites on Monday before 6 am. Then the on-air geniuses keep repeating them over and over again until a fresh batch arrives the next week.

A few articles from today:

Aqib Talib has resurrected his career with the Patriots – Shalise Manza Young has a look a how the cornerback has fit in and become a mainstay of the Patriots secondary.

Julian Edelman is the Patriots’ Mr. Persistence – Kevin Paul Dupont has a nice feature on the Patriots breakout star.

A chemistry forged by triumph, failure – Jackie MacMullan has her second good column of the week, this time looking at the partnership of Brady and Belichick and their determination to reach the top once more.

Dante Scarnecchia, the Patriots’ Forgotten Man – Robert Mays on Grantland has a look at the offensive line for life coach.

Broncos huge test for Pats pass coverage – Matt Chatham says it isn’t about who take who, but how everyone is accounted for after the snap.

Patriots radio voice Bob Socci ready for biggest call of his career – Bill Doyle talks to Socci about his first season, the AFC title game, and working with Scott Zolak.

CBS foresees giant Patriots-Broncos matchup – Chad Finn has the CBS voices talking about the matchup.

Among the features on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown this weekend:

  • Brady-Manning, The Beginning: Vignettes with memories from parents and close family members of young Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, as well as insights on how they each fell in love with football.
  • Best of SNL: Best moments from Brady and Manning’s appearances as Saturday Night Live hosts.
  • Brady-Manning’s Center: Dan Koppen (currently on injured reserve) was Brady’s center for nine seasons and Manning’s last year. He discusses the quarterbacks’ similarities and differences.
  • Pick 6s: Ty Law, the only player in NFL history to get a ‘pick 6’ against both Brady and Manning, relives each of his interceptions against the quarterbacks and tells the story of how they both cornered him afterwards and inquired how he was able to read their plays.
  • Omaha! Omaha!: Manning’s pre-snap audible calls – “Omaha! Omaha!” – last Sunday made Nebraska’s largest city a trending topic on Twitter during the game. The city’s tourism board entered the fray with a tweet thanking the Denver quarterback. Countdown essayist Rick Reilly visits Omaha to explore how Manning and the Broncos are helping to boost the city’s profile.
  • Blue-Collar Rob Ninkovich: ESPN.com’s Greg Garber reports on where Patriots defensive captain Rob Ninkovich acquired the blue-collar style that reminds many of past Patriot linebackers.
  • “We’re Going to the Super Bowl”: One of the most exciting moments in a football player’s career is when he finally realizes he is going to the Super Bowl. From the Cowboys in the 1990s, through Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s Patriots, to Ray Lewis and the Ravens last year, DJ Porter spins the emotional audio and celebrations from the last 20 championship game winners.

One Celtics article – Kobe Bryant longs for rivalry – Steve Bulpett has the injured Lakers star wistfully recalling the battles with the KG/Piece Celtics and wishing they had gotten one more chance to play for a title.

AFC Title Week Rolls On

As we move through the week up to Sunday’s AFC Title showdown in Denver, the storylines are everywhere, while as usual, the actual analysis is harder to find.

Everywhere you turn you hear talk about legacy. Brady’s legacy. Manning’s legacy. Belichick’s legacy.

I don’t know about you, but I find this sort of discussion, especially in the middle of a game week to be extremely tedious, especially when there’s a fairly good chance we’re going to have this very same discussion all over again a year from now.

A few quality links to check out:

Why Belichick Really Is a Mad Scientist – Jonathan Clegg and Kevin Clark in the Wall Street Journal look at some of the practice squad players the Patriots have brought it who have startling physical similarities to players like T.Y. Hilton, Demaryius Thomas, Jamaal Charles and Andre Johnson.

Question – no one local could figure this out?

AFC Championship Preview: A Whole New Ballgame – Bill Barnwell says that this Brady/Manning matchup will be like none we’ve ever seen before.

Robert Kraft steady at the helm – Jackie MacMullan has a long interview and feature on the Patriots owner.

Patriots rookie LB Jamie Collins, who has quietly been a star in practices, is on the brink of breaking out – Nick Underhill says that teammates have been watching the rookie make plays all year long. Erik Frenz looks at the toughest challenge that Collins will have faced yet, Denver TE Julius Thomas.

Pats’ roster philosophy in full bloom – While some insist that the Patriots current style of play is more luck and being forced into it, Mike Reiss notes that this season is a great example of the roster flexibility and construction that the Patriots strive for. Michael Whitmer says that the team tries to always have a contingency plan.

Denver faces D-lemma – Karen Guregian says that the Patriots running game could force the Broncos to try and let Tom Brady beat them.

Pressure’s on Peyton Manning – Jeff Howe looks at how New England will attempt to defend Manning.

Rajon Rondo will make his return to the Celtics tomorrow night against the Lakers. The Celtics traded away Jordan Crawford yesterday, picking up yet more picks for the future.

Latest deal a no-win proposition for Celtics – Steve Bulpett says that the trade is yet another move for the future.

Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad

In the next week leading up to the AFC Championship game – aka The Brady-Manning Bowl – you’ll hear a lot of numbers. But, in lieu of all that hype, we have one particular number – a fraction, actually – you should think about this week: two-thirds.

Tom Brady has started at quarterback for 12 out of his 14 years in New England (rookie in 2000, injured in 2008). In those 12 years, the Patriots have made the AFC Championship game eight times. Eight out of 12. Two out of three. Two-thirds.

Since the 2000-2001 season, the Ravens have four AFC title appearances. The Steelers have four. The Colts have three.

With eight showings, this vying-for-the-AFC-Championship thing has become normal in New England. Brady and Coach Bill Belichick in the postseason, again. The AFC East crown, again. This past week we even heard talk of something Foxboro-related called “playoff fatigue.” (Reading the piece, it seemed more like “playoff ticket price fatigue” but that’s another story.)

For those who have forgotten, or who lack the years on Earth to remember the Patsies, here’s another number: 91. That’s the point differential of the 132-41 combined score of big Pats games in the 20th Century. The Boston Patriots lost the 1963 AFL Championship to the San Diego Chargers, 51-10. They made an improbable run to Super Bowl 20, beating the Jets, Raiders and Dolphins, only to get crushed by the Bears, 46-10. They made a nice playoff run after the 1996 season, but then their coach leaked to the media THE WEEK BEFORE THE SUPER BOWL that he would leave for a division rival. They lost to Brett Favre (but mostly Desmond Howard) and the Packers, 35-21.

Other numbers? How about 1-15, aka the 1990 Rod Rust Record? Or 2-14 (we’ve got a couple of those: 1981, 1992). How about 1999 (Pete Carroll’s final, not-so-pumped season), starting out the year at 6-2, only to finish 8-8? When it comes to the pre-Belichick Pats, those types of numbers pop up a lot.

But now? Double-digit wins, again. During a season with 11 players on injured reserve, including six starters.

Two-thirds. Something to think about among all the other stats you’ll be reading this week.

Some other stuff we’re thinking of heading into the AFC Championship… [Read more...]