Time for Brady to lead ... and nine other pieces of advice for PatriotsBill Burt
FOXBORO — My football coaching resume is not an impressive one. Two years — defensive coordinator one year and special teams the next (yes, it was a demotion).
But something is not right with the Patriots. No, make that a lot of things aren't right with the Patriots. The offense, defense and special teams are equally confused.
That being said, the best of the Patriots in 2009 is ahead. Tom Brady needs at least another month and Jerod Mayo's absence on defense is almost akin to Brady being out with an injury.
But that doesn't mean we have to like what we see or don't want to point out some obvious flaws.
It is way too early to call the Patriots a "10-6 team," with Tom Brady's tentativeness and Jerod Mayo's injury,
Here are 10 pieces of "coaching" advice as the Patriots try to find their place going forward:
1. Brady, show some life.
Tom Brady looks bored. He saunters onto the field after timeouts. He walks solemnly back to the bench after a failed third-down conversion. A thrown helmet on the bench or a sprint onto the field would definitely be noticed.
Where's the spunkk? Where's the team meeting on the bench in the fourth quarter? Where's the leader?
The Patriots are in a funk and there are two reasons why the Patriots had better get out of it quickly: Atlanta and Baltimore.
Sure, it's going to take Brady some time to get comfortable in the pocket and avoid pressure. But there is no excuse for him not being more of a leader. With the likes of Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Mike Vrabel, gone for good, there is a leadership and energy void. Time for Brady to pick up the slack.
2. Pick a running back ... and run him.
The Patriots are obviously holding an audition for starting running back. Well, I've got news for them. It's not working. The old college try of having guys run one quarter and another run the next is not the professional way of doing business. Laurence Maroney refuses to hit holes hard. Fred Taylor looks OK, but is a step slower than we saw in his prime in Jacksonville. And Sammy Morris hasn't gotten the ball consistently.
Pick one guy and let him be the man, with 15 to 20 carries.
3. Find way to use Edelman.
The MVP of the Pats-Jets game, at least from the Pats perspective, was the sixth-round pick. If he had worn No. 83, instead of No. 11, we might not have noticed the difference. Julian Edelman (8 receptions, 98 yards) was the only Patriot who made plays. Yes "only." Edelman could add some value to the offensive package, maybe being out there with the guy he is imitating, Wes Welker. That would make for some interesting pass patterns with two slot guys.
4. Take more chances.
When was the last time the Patriots faked a punt, pass or a kick? I realize this has the appearance of desperation, and that definitely is not "The Patriots Way," but those plays, especially when they work, bring a lot of joy to a sidelines. How about a few all-out blitzes or two? Why would the Jets gamble so often with sending an extra safety or linebacker against Brady, leaving single coverages throughout, yet the Patriots, going against a quarterback with one NFL game on his resume, allow him the chance to easily step into his passes.
5. Focus on defense.
The Patriots defense isn't "the" problem, but it isn't anything special either. While Brady was the face of the franchise during the Super Bowl run from 2001 to 2004, the Patriots defense was its staple. It was not only tough — you don't win AFC Championships in Pittsburgh without being tough — but it was opportunistic. Where has that defense gone? The Patriots are in the bend-but-don't-break mode and it appears really good quarterbacks can break it. Belichick should use more of his know-how on this side of the ball.
6. Throw it to Moss.
I've been told that Randy Moss is one of the best receivers ever, that he has incredible jumping ability to go with his strong hands and that he can outrun any safety in the game. Well, why would you let the fact that a team like the Jets puts a safety 20 to 30 yards behind him, curb your enthusiasm for throwing him the ball? Throw the ball to Moss, period. Simply accepting the fact that another team "has taken him away" doesn't cut it.
7. Give Faulk more touches.
Where has Kevin Faulk gone during this offensive slump? Have we forgotten about his contribution during this historic decade here in New England? He had one catch for three yards yesterday. I will argue that he has made as many big plays over the last decade as any other player not named Brady. Faulk has a knack for finding the first-down marker. and his best work is usually in the third and fourth quarter. But in the Meadowlands on Sunday, he was an afterthought. He needs to touch the ball at least 10 times a game. Four (three rushes and one catch) are not enough.
8. Put "special" back in special teams.
Remember when the Patriots used to consistently win this part of the game, especially pertaining to field position. Was the loss of Brad Seely, who spent 10 years with the Patriots, bigger than advertised? Every aspect of special teams, including the punting and kicking, has been mediocre at best.
9. Belichick call the season-ticket holders.
OK, I realize it would never happen. But Patriots fans need a wakeup call. They really do. The opener at Gillette Stadium was more like a preseason game. The only cheering came after a big play or in the fourth quarter, when the Patriots defense had forced a third down. Jets fans, with a request from a coach Rex Ryan, brought their "A" game to Giant Stadium on Sunday. The Patriots were so concerned about the noise that they brought huge placards and wrist bands for communication. It didn't work as evidenced by the four delay of game penalties, three attributed to Brady. If not Belichick, maybe Brady should call out the fans.
10. Have some fun.
While it would be sacrilege around here to "copy" anything the hated N.Y. Jets are doing four hours away down Route 95, I would copy this aspect: Have fun. We forget in this billion dollar industry that this is a game. And smiling isn't against the law.