For the past month, former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien has been working nonstop to rebuild the Penn State football program, which hired him to succeed legendary coach Joe Paterno. But O'Brien has had a hard time putting the Patriots' 21-17 loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI behind him.
What obviously continues to bother O'Brien is the blame that has been placed on receiver Wes Welker for the infamous incompletion between him and quarterback Tom Brady on second-and-11 with 4:06 to play.
Did Welker get more grief than he deserved?
"Definitely," O'Brien said sternly after an event this morning in Newport, R.I.
"I would tell (Patriots fans) they should be very grateful, Iím sure they are, to have a player like Wes Welker as a Patriot. He is what Boston is all about, in my opinion. Heís a hard-working guy, heís a tough guy, heís an honest guy, nothing was ever given to himÖheís what Boston is all about.
"That wasnít a drop. That would have been a tremendous catch, and he should never think twice about that. And it had nothing to do with us losing the game. There were many, many plays before that where we could have made better coaching decisions, and better plays. Thatís just one play of many."
O'Brien, an Andover native, didn't offer a comment on the throw from Brady, and he wasn't asked a pointed question about it.
We'll have more in Sunday's paper from O'Brien, but as for a couple of other lingering questions from the Super Bowl, he said that the ankle injury to tight end Rob Gronkowski affected the offense because "obviously he was hampered." O'Brien said the team "had an idea" that would be the case going into the game.
O'Brien also bristled at some of the criticism for not using more of the no-huddle offense, including the three-and-out drive with 6:37 left in the third quarter when the Patriots held a 17-12 lead. It appeared the team slowed the pace down a bit there.
"Not intentionally," he said. "We always tried to play fast, maybe it looked like it was slowed down. I felt like we no-huddled as much as we hadÖ I didnít think it was a matter of no no-huddle in that game."
O'Brien's one big regret from the Super Bowl?
"Probably the first play of the game, call a different play," he said of the safety Brady took that put the defense right back on the field. "But it was a play that we worked on that we felt like was going to be a good play, so hindsight is definitely 20-20. But if I could change one, I would change that one. But thereís a lot of plays that we always look back on in any game, especially games you lose, that you always think you could have done a better job on.
"It just wasnít a good start. Itís not why we lost the game, I want to make sure Iím clear on that, but all year we had started pretty well for the most part. That wasnít a good start."