Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's decision to bench starting wide receiver Wes Welker for the opening drive on Sunday continues to be dissected in coffee shops, on the airways, and across the Interweb and Twitterville.
As you know by now, Welker was benched for the Patriots' opening possession after mocking New York Jets coach Rex Ryan during the week. Welker was on the field to receive a punt when the Jets' first offensive series stalled, but Julian Edelman came out for the first series, replacing the now-benched wideout. Welker was back in the game for the Patriots' second possession and finished with seven catches for 57 yards.
This morning, CBS analyst Phil Simms, making an appearance on WEEI's "Dale and Holley Show," was asked how the CBS broadcast team became aware of the news that Belichick would sit Welker for the first series of downs.
CBS said during the game broadcast that Welker was being punished for his remarks during Thursday's press conference in which he made 11 references to feet and toes, a not-so-subtle jab at the recent reports that Ryan's wife has appeared in foot-fetish videos.
"We found out probably about a minute or two minutes before we went on the air that he was gonna be [benched]," Simms said. "It was kind of by accident how we found out. Somebody, you know, heard somebody talking on the field, and we looked into it, and it was verified, so that's why we said it, that they were going to hold him out."
Simms, the former New York Giants quarterback who has known Belichick since 1979 when Belichick began his 12-year stint with the Giants, said he wasn't surprised by the benching. "No it didn't surprise me once I heard they were going to hold him out for the first series. I thought, when Wes Welker did his tongue-and-cheek thing about Rex Ryan this past week, I thought, 'Well, OK, he must have got the OK to go out and kind of attack the Jets a little bit, but apparently he did not have that OK, and he paid the price by missing the first series.' "
The folklore from footgate is growing, according to Simms: "I love the take I've been hearing today as I've done a few interviews, 'Well Rex Ryan ran down the tunnel with Antonio Cromartie, he supported his guy and Bill Belichick did the opposite. That's what really... ' and I went 'Oh, my God,' we are digging too much, searching too much. It's truly absurd. It had nothing to do with the outcome of the game and I promise you players on the Patriots were not sitting over there going, 'Oh my gosh, he did that to Wes, I can't believe it.' Hey man, players play. They go out there and they're worried about themselves. They're not worried about the other guy, and it had nothing to do with the performance of the Patriots."
When asked after the game why Welker didn't start, Belichick said, "I don't have any comment on that."
During his weekly appearance on WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan Show" on Monday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady discounted any benching factored into the outcome of the game.
"That has no bearing on the way that we played as a team," Brady said. "I think that's just, I don't know, I don't think it had any effect on the game. What has the most effect on the game is the way that we played."
Brady went on to say that Welker's sense of humor came into play during his press conference performance.
"That's Wes' personality. Wes is a very fun, positive, energetic person," Brady said. "With all the things that were coming out of New York, I think Wes just thought it would be funny to combat it in his own way."
"I don't think that's any reason why we lost the game," he said
During his weekly interview on WEEI later on Monday, Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said he didn't didn't even know Welker had been benched for the first offensive series until after the game was over.
Wilfork did not think the Welker benching had an effect on the loss, but he disagreed with Belichick on the decision to sit the wide receiver for the first series.
"I don't think it was a big deal, the comments Wes said or the benching. People have opinions and in my opinion, I wouldn't have done it because of what the game meant," Wilfork said. "To each his own. I'm not questioning the head man's judgment at all, it's just my opinion."
Jets cornerback Bart Scott, who took offense to the foot-and-toe remarks, said on Friday that Welker's "days in a uniform are numbered" and, when asked to clarify, said: "I meant that I was going to try and take my helmet and try to ram it through his chest."
An NFL official warned both teams about the trash-talking. But after the game, Scott was unapologetic.
"I can take comments however I choose to," said Scott, who also played for Ryan in Baltimore. "That's my privilege. I took offense to it. I handled it that way and I stand behind my words. ... And if I get another opportunity, let him come through the middle and I'm going try to put him through the ground."
Scott had more to say to NFL Network's Albert Breer about Welker's comments. "It was out of character," Scott said. "That's not what he [Welker] does. It takes a lot of balls to put that out there. What happens is you put a bull's eye on yourself, everyone wants to see you put your foot in your mouth.
"And now he gets the opportunity to step out of character, tries to be us. There's enough New York Jets in the world, we don't need anyone else trying to copy our blueprint."
Former NFL linebacker and local media personality Steve DeOssie, who played for Belichick, offered an interesting take on the Welker benching situation on Channel 4's "Sports Final" on Sunday night.
Host Steve Burton asked DeOssie if he thought the Welker benching was a little harsh.
"No, as a matter of fact I don't," DeOssie said. "I expected some repercussions. I'm hearing, and this is unconfirmed, that Belichick called Welker into his office, after initially denying it, [Welker] admitted that it was something that was done on purpose.
"From what I understand is he denied it initially, after talking to Bill [Belichick], came clean about it. There's no choice at that point. If you run a team a certain way, you have to be consistent. It doesn't matter if it's the 53d guy on your roster or if it's the star wide receiver, you're going to have to be consistent and he benched him to start that game. Neither of them commented on it, but we saw Wes Welker not in there for the first series.
"That was a direct repercussion for him going out of the box and doing something that the Patriots A.) don't usually do, or hardly ever do, and B.) is expressly forbidden by Bill Belichick. He runs the show. It doesn't matter who you are in that situation."
"There was probably a bet in the locker room that you couldn't make 10 foot references in one press conference and keep a straight face. He got his money. He didn't get to start the game, but he got his money. It's just talk in the locker room, guys are goofing on things, and this evolved to something that quite frankly, was not that great an idea."
After Sunday's loss to the Jets, Welker would neither confirm nor deny that he was benched.
"I [was] just waiting for the opportunity to go out there and play," he said after the Jets beat the Patriots 28-21 to advance to the AFC title game. "At the end of the day, I respect the Jets. I respect Rex Ryan. They played better than us, and they won."
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
The main contributors to The Buzz are:
- Matt Pepin, Boston.com sports editor
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Gary Dzen, Boston.com senior sports producer
- Zuri Berry, Boston.com sports producer