NASHVILLE—I really thought the Patriots-Tennessee matchup would be for the AFC championship at the beginning of the tournament, but it's happening a week ahead of time. The Patriots have every advantage imaginable heading into this one, so if things go to form, they should win this game by at least the six-point spread.
The Patriots are home. They have had a week to rest. They are as healthy as they've been all season. They have won 12 straight games. It will be cold.
The Titans are banged up with Steve McNair and Eddie George both hurting. We certainly know that McNair is a terrific quarterback who plays hurt, and we wonder what the league's co-MVP would be like if he were ever completely healthy. They have come off an emotional, physical win over the Ravens. They're looking down the barrel of three consecutive road games in the playoffs.
To their credit, however, they are perhaps the most balanced team in the AFC with a super defense and an offense that can strike at any time. McNair can throw the ball deep and he can buy himself time to make a play. You know their No. 1-ranked rushing defense won't be allowing the Patriots to run wild as they did back on Oct. 5.
Of the four head coaches I've talked to this week, they had no idea which way this one would go. They consider these two teams the toughest in the AFC. There would be no shock among them if the Titans won the game.
The Patriots' 14-2 season would mean very little if they lose this game. That's the feeling Tom Coughlin said he had after the 1999 season when his Jaguars went 14-2 and lost to the Titans in the AFC Championship game.
"It's all about what you do in the post-season," Coughlin told me last week. "Getting there is an accomplishment, but as soon as you lose, what have you accomplished? You're watching games on TV like every body else."
I'm sure Bill Belichick shares this view. I'm sure the Patriots do as well.
The opportunities have certa inly been closing on Patriots coordinators Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis, though there are still some possibilities left. As of last night, some of the top jobs were already taken by established former coaches. The shocker was Joe Gibbs returning to Washington. What an All-Star coaches division in the NFC East with Tom Coughlin in New York, Bill Parcells in Dallas, Andy Reid in Philadelphia, and Gibbs. Unbelievable. With Dennis Green signing on in Arizona, that still leaves Jim Fassel out there. He could wind up in Buffalo. If he doesn't, Weis has a great shot there because he had an unbelievable interview with Tom Donahoe. Speaking of Donahoe, he promised a very thorough and thoughtful process and it sure has been. After he interviews Mike Mularkey on Thursday, he'll have interviewed seven candidates.
Crennel could be looking at Chicago if LSU coach Nick Saban is out of reach, or Atlanta, but you wonder whether Lovie Smith or Jim Mora Jr. might have the inside on that job. There's always Oakland. If both coordinators return it will be interesting what type of money will be given to Crennel to stay as the defensive coordinator. Parcells just negotiated a three-year deal for defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer at about $1 million per year.
Chris Palmer, Drew Bledsoe's former quarterback coach and currently offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, told me there's no way he believes Bledsoe is done. Palmer feels if Bledsoe works on the things he's always got himself in trouble with -- footwork and carrying the ball too low -- he'll be fine. "When you watch him on tape, he can still throw the football," Palmer said. "He'll work at it and come back just fine next year."
I love the Coughlin signing in New York. He'll bring the much-needed discipline that team needs.
Great move by former Bills coach Gregg Williams going to Washington to be the defensive coordinator. That will put him in position to take over for Gibbs if and when he leaves prior to his five-years being up. Gibbs would be 68 years old by the end of the contract.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher hates questions about how cold it's going to be in Foxborough. "The cold is not an issue for our team," Fisher said sternly. Of course, it's been brutally cold here in Nashville all week and the Titans have only practiced indoors twice this season. Fisher had the Titans practicing under the lights Wednesday at the Coliseum to get used to not only the lights, but the weather.
Thanks for all of the great questions and comments this week. It's what makes this the best and most-read forum in the region.
Here's the mailbag:
Hi, Nick. Thanks for another great year of Ask Nick. I can't wait for the playoff editions and hopefully beyond. You have said in the past that the Patriots brass reads this column, so I wanted to pass along one knucklehead's suggestions/comments on Gillette Stadium as we get ready for the playoffs. It is kind of long, but I would be very appreciative if it is posted. 1) The music has improved over the years since the Foxboro Stadium days. The music and footage that comes on when the team is introduced really gets the crowd going. I have one problem though. What is the deal with "The Devil Went Down To Georgia?" Are we in the Deep South and nobody told me? Is New England a country music mecca? Is Mr. Kraft a Charlie Daniels fan? I just don't get it. I can appreciate most of the music played (rap, rock, etc), but play things that get the crowd into the game, not outdated country songs. (P.S. No more "Cotton Eyed Joe" either.) 2) Security is a huge improvement over Foxboro Stadium, but it seems to be very very lax lately. There used to be fear of retribution if anyone got out of line, but I have seen several incidents recently -- the Miami snowball incident being the most notorious -- that has shown me that either that fear is gone, or the security needs work. At the Buffalo game, I witnessed an incident where a fan, who wasn't even in the right section, started throwing things. A security girl came down to talk to him, and he verbally abused her. She had two Foxborough police officers come down, they talked with him, and they let him go! The security needs to be tightened up again, especially with the playoffs coming. 3) I haven't seen such lame third down graphics since the backwards hand clap in Foxboro (you remember them up on the scoreboard). We have this super video screen and big sound system, and all it does is display "D-Fense" and they boom some bass for about a second, then turn it off. We need some improvement here, something that keeps the crowd making noise throughout the opponents play. I say bring back the movie footage of Arnold screaming in "Predator." (I think that is the movie.) That always got the crowd in Foxboro Stadium fired up. 4) I understand that there were some plans for the lighthouse that are on the back burner or whatever, but this is the playoffs! You have two weeks to prepare. Throw some lights on it! Put up a foghorn! Do something with it, even if it is only temporary! I will even donate my Christmas lights! 5) Fans, stay in your seats! Do people come to actually watch the game anymore? I am not sure if it just my section, but people either wander around during the game back and forth, or they leave in the third quarter and some bonehead who wants to move up to better seats moves in. The Pats will need the fans to be there, in their seats (yes, bathroom trips are excluded), screaming their lungs out for the playoffs. If you want to come to the game to socialize, or if it gets too chilly for you and you have to leave early, then stay home. We need fans who actually want to watch the game and cheer on the Pats! Phew! Thanks, Nick. I am interested to hear your comments as well as your readers.
Andrew Brown, Stratham, N.H.
A: Andrew, any one who puts that much effort into an Ask Nick E-mail deserves to have his posted. You're a fan. You're in the stands, so if these things bother you they are legitimate. I'm up in that cozy press box, so I really don't see some of this stuff, though I certainly hear through people who go to the games and through e-mails some of the problems over there. As for your problem with country music, I'm a big fan of it. I'm here in Nashville right now and it's Country Music Heaven. I say more country music, Mr. Kraft. Your point No. 5 is a valid one. People don't stay in their seats. Why? Is it too cold? Do they want to drink more? What is it? I often wonder how much of the game people actually watch. But again, I'm in an environment more conducive to watching.
With so many coaching being fired, it seems likely that Crennel or Weis (or both) will be gone by next season. Who are the most likely people to fill their positions? Also, how badly do you think their departures will hurt the Patriots?
Paul Bouton, Milford, Conn.
A: Paul, as I sit here writing to you on Jan. 7, I haven't heard Weis or Crennel's name mentioned as much lately. Weis had a tremendous interview in Buffalo, but it appears they prefer a Jim Fassel or a more experienced guy. Obviously, Tom Coughlin has taken the Giants job. We know Joe Gibbs is back in Washington. Dennis Green is in Arizona. Lovie Smith might be the front runner in Atlanta. Chicago is courting Nick Saban. Suddenly, some of the jobs you thought one or both might get are drying up. There's always the possibility Saban will just decide not to pursue something. But, if one or both are taken away, candidates to fill the defensive coordinator job would be Eric Mangini, Rob Ryan, Chuck Bresnahan (former Oakland defensive coordinator). Those are the ones that come to mind. It might be that Belichick does it himself. Offensively, it gets tougher. Our beat reporter, Michael Smith, thinks Jeff Davidson, the tight end's coach, has a shot.
Nick, For some reason you avoided my question last week. I'll ask a different question this week, hopefully I'll get a response and an honest one at that. As you stated many times in the past, do you still think the Patriots and Bill Belichick made a mistake in trading Drew Bledsoe within the division?
Ron Williams, Cambridge
A: No. Obviously they made the right choice. In the last 22 years of covering major league baseball and NFL football, I've believed in the conventional wisdom aspired to by many GMs in both sports, some who have won championships and some who haven't, that you don't trade a star player within your division. I still believe that. There are always exceptions and the Patriots, two years after they made that move, are one of them. Last season, I felt that Drew Bledsoe was the primary reason the team went from three wins to 8. This season he's the primary reason they went from eight wins to six. We'll see what happens next year. I hope you feel that's an honest response.
Nick, I don't know why I am thinking about next year when we could be on the verge of another Super Bowl, but that is what a bye week will do to you. What are your thoughts on Ty Law being in New England in the future? I thought this year was one of his best but he does eat up a lot of the salary cap dollars. Do you think the Pats will try to squeeze him like they did with Milloy or is it a different scenario when you are talking about a cornerback as opposed to a safety?
KC, New Jersey
A: I don't think "squeeze" is the word with Ty. There's all sorts of fancy reconfiguring they could do on his contract. Andy Wasynczuk and Jack Mula are masters at this stuff. Where I and many others thought earlier in the season they might lose him, I'm thinking more and more now that he'll be around. So what if he has a big cap number? He's worth it.
Nick, I have three burning questions. 1) With Damon Huard likely gone after the season, do you see Doug Flutie coming in to backup Tom Brady to finish his career in New England? 2) Who will the Patriots miss more, Crennel or Weis? 3) Do you think if he could do it all over again, Lawyer Milloy would have taken the pay cut to be on a 14-2 Super Bowl bound team now?
Chris Tucker, Boston
A: The Flutie possibility is intriguing. As I've said before, I know Doug and Bill have a good relationship, so it's not far-fetched. I'm also not convinced that Huard won't be back. Huard and Charlie Weis have a strong player-coach bond. As for who the Patriots would miss more? Probably Weis. The reason I say that is the defensive philosophy is Belichick's so that's not going anywhere. The offensive philosophy is Weis'. So if he leaves does the philosophy go with him? Obviously if an assistant under him becomes the offensive coordinator, perhaps the same system would remain. We remember all of the different philosophies Bledsoe had to learn and re-learn over the years. Brady has had one and he's been able to refine that over the past three years. As for Milloy taking the pay cut, I don't think so. When you're a three-time Pro Bowler who has already won one Super Bowl, made it to another, and know that you might have three years left to play tops, you try to maximize your earning potential.
Nick, Assuming Charlie and Romeo leave for greener pastures, which of fired head coaches do you think may end up in New England? Gregg Williams? Dick Jauron? Dave McGinest? What about fired assistant coaches? Thank you and Keep of the great work.
Paul Goodwin, Las Cruces, N.M.
A: I don't feel any of them will be here. I'm thinking Jauron goes with Coughlin to New York. Williams has already gone to Washington. Not sure about McGinnis.
This was quickly mentioned in last week's mailbag, but why do all the programs -- specifically "Inside the NFL" -- repeatedly give the Pats such little mention? Their game against the Bills was termed a blowout and they showed a couple of receptions, but then little else was discussed of their rankings, abilities, etc. Why do these "experts" give the Pats a quick once over and then stop talking about them? Do they have to make it to the Super Bowl in order to get any recognition? Is there anything we fans can do to elevate the visibility level?
Alan, New York, N.Y.
A: A second Super Bowl in three years would get their attention. But they're getting quite a bit. I just noticed a cover story on them in USA Today.
I don't understand where this concept of the AFC East being a "bust" this year is coming from. The division won more games (36) than any other division in football, no other division was really close (NFC West won 33 games). True, we sent only one team to the playoffs, but let's face it, there were no easy wins coming out of the AFC East this season. The AFC East is arguably the toughest division in football -- there are really no "freebie" wins. I wonder what week the Patriots would have clinched the division title had they been in the AFC North?
Daniel Arturi, Los Angeles, Calif.
A: Compared to what it should have been, with four teams being very close, I think it was a bust. Three teams didn't make the playoffs, two of them won only six games.
In response to the question about what we the fans would consider a success for the Pats season, I offer the following. In truth I suppose that only a Super Bowl victory would make me happy. Then again, I just enjoy watching poetry being written week after week without knowing the final outcome. You have to love every player from top to bottom. No money talk, no I'm not happy, no cell phones, no trash talk, just kick ass in your face football with joy and honor. This team is why you have to be proud to be in the "Patriot Partnership." That's what we are, partners. Fans and a team" together 'til the end.
David L. Baker, Jupiter, Fla.
A: Hard to argue there. I think losing now after a 14-2 season would really take the air out of the balloon. I remember when Jacksonville went 14-2 in '99 and then lost to Tennessee in the AFC championship. It was so deflating for that team.
Thanks for the great column every week. (By the way, Nick, while my legal address is in New Hampshire, I have spent the last 10 years living in Sofia, Bulgaria.) Your column really answers practically all my questions and fills my desires as I cannot talk football with my local friends. I do have a few comments on some of the fans views. As I have seen the Pats fortunes really rise and continue to do exceedingly well since the insertion of Tom Brady at QB, I am surprised that more fans do not elude to the intangible qualities he brings to the team. His leadership appears to be the glue that really keeps this team effort intact. The coaching staffs accolades are in direct relationship to Brady's QB production. I think if his numbers are compared to Joe Montana's at a similar stage in Montana's career there will be more similarities than right handed QB's from California. If Belichick compared his success to Bill Walsh's, I would guess they both crossed the win/loss barrier on the back of a Super Bowl-winning QB. Brady's leadership and coolness at QB can easily be compared to Montana in my mind. As great as Peyton Manning is, was, and will continue to be, he looked like a dear in the headlights as the Colts failed to score on the goal line stand. The defense was simply protecting their leader and that is Tom Brady. I do not believe Brady's teammates have ever seen that confusion in his eyes and I think all NE fans believe Brady believer fail to convert in a similar situation. The team never had that kind of faith in Drew and unfortunately the Buffalo team folds up if and when Drew does. As long as Brady stays healthy, and he will, he will continue to be the winningest QB in the NFL. He is the ultimate team player that quietly makes everyone around him much better. The entire team loves to go to war with Brady as its leader. He may not be Montana yet but he brings the same professionalism as Montana and his role as a team leader reminds us of Larry Bird. The Pats will go on and win this Super Bowl if Tom is there to lead them. On the touchdown showboating issue, I used to hate it, but we could not tell the difference in characters if every touchdown was followed by simply handing the ball to the ref. I think "Prime Time" (and he is a great commentator) elevated showboating to an art form that simply ads to the NFL entertainment factor. I am sure that everyone that is critical of this activity, and the TV coverage, continues to watch as it unfolds, thats all the producers care about, and rightly so. Thanks, Nick.
Thomas Nelson, Portsmouth, N.H.
A: Nice hearing from you, Tom. I speak to a lot of people around the league each week, especially this week about Brady, and the coaches from other teams just drool over this guy. The decisions he makes blows them away. These coaches love smart quarterbacks like Brady and McNair and Manning who can come up to the line of scrimmage, see what the defense is showing and then adjust the play to combat it. Brady may do it better than anyone.
Nick, I have a few questions about your mailbag as opposed to the Patriots. How long does it take you each week to write? Do you sit down and answer all of the questions at once? Are you sick of the obligatory Mike Cloud question? I admire your willingness to put yourself out there with your opinions knowing you'll be bashed by all the Monday morning quarterbacks out there. While I disagreed with you about Bledsoe, your opinion was certainly well-founded. (I admit, I was a little concerned knowing Drew can be deadly at times.) But hindsight is 20-20. If everyone published their opinions all the time, there would be a handful of "I told you so's" to go around for everybody. You should be commended for putting yourself out there, and in particular for being gracious to the nasty ones who write in. Keep up the good work and thanks for the season!
Bill Milliken, Portland, Maine
A: Bill, Being bashed for something I wrote in a mailbag a year before or two years before is what you leave yourself open to with a forum like this. I try to answer as many questions as possible based on what my opinion of the situation is at the time. Back in April, 2002, I didn't think trading Bledsoe to a divisional rival was a good idea. Two years later, I feel it was. Most reasonable people like yourself understand situations change and they can change rapidly. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. As for my mailbag, the questions are sent to me in bulk by the Boston.com staff and there are a lot of them. This site gets 4 million page views a day and it's one of the top 20 sites in the country. So the volume is large. Every week there's a new hot issue so I try to answer as many of those questions as I can, and try to chose the ones that are a little different from the next one. Sometimes I don't answer the entire question, but pick out some new territory. I try to answer a good cross-section, making sure I answer some from overseas, some around the country and most from the New England area. Usually, I work on it Wednesday nights and into the morning after my responsibilities at the Globe are complete. I spend anywhere from 4-6 hours on it. It's something I really enjoy because it's my only link to the broad range of fans. I think we've done a good job with it. We've kept it pretty classy. I don't run questions or comments that are nasty to other writers, talk show hosts or websites. It's about football and the Patriots. Occasionally I will answer a baseball question because it's a sport that I also cover and have for many years.
Happy New Year, Nick. Another good mailbag but some comments. To Jim from Quincy: I could not have said that any better. The Patriots are our best "secret." These games are fun every week. Why, do some fans and yourself have to comment/complain about the running game. They are 14-2. The Patriots haven't had a running game in years and there 14-2. How many teams with good running games or runners are home now? If you are good with a 4.0 YPC than 3.isn'tnt that bad. Thank you, Patriot players, for a great season and no Gatorade bath on the coach for a divisional title and for respecting a TD for what it is, six points for your team. Best of luck to Romeo and Charlie, I hope you get serious offers for head coaching jobs. Both of you deserve it.
Mark Drews, Framingham
A: OK, Mark.
Nick, Thanks for providing so much Patriots info to us. "Strength of victory" tiebreaker refers to the won-lost percentage of opponents in the team's victories, not teams with .500 or better records as you stated.
Matt, St. Peters
A: I must have been sleeping when I answered that one.
Nick, In regards to your comments on coach of the year honors. You said you "can't give it to Belichick outright" and Parcells is your best argument to that point. Is this really how you feel or are you simply making a statement to rustle up more responses to the mailbag? You stated that the Pats were picked to make the playoffs, therefore Belichick's accomplishment is less in your eyes, omore soso on par with Parcells' season. Were the Pats projected to finish the season as the number one seed? Was Belichick also projected to have to use over 50 starters and every living soul on the roster to achieve that? Were the Pats projected to win the last 12 games of the season? Are you aware of the magnitude of this accomplishment? Even mentioning Parcells along with Belichick as Coach of the Year is ludicrous, especially coming from you. Are you pining for a job in Dallas? Dallas was in disarray for at least 3 years. They were badly coached and meddled/distracted (Jerry Jones). This is an obvious fact since the new coach came in and won 10 games. Is it really to Parcells' coaching credit that Jones butted out and let him work? The Cowboys won five more games than they did last year. So did the Pats. Seems to me it'd be more difficult to improve on last year's record by five games when you have to best 9 wins vs 5. Most coaches would have improved on the Cowboys pathetic slide. Pete Carroll could have done that! The Cowboys had quite a few stinkers this year. Do you recall their visit to Foxboro? The head-to-head matchup of these two coaches only further exposes your comments as highly questionable. Did you watch football on Thanksgiving? Parcells had a good year and I'm happy for his success. I appreciate what he did for NE football and I think he makes the league better. He also conducts the most entertaining press conferences around. But how did the Cowboys fare against teams with winning records? Who did they beat? You should take that in to account when forming your opinion. Belichick is Coach Of The Year, period.
J.J. Dawg, Lynnfield
A: I selected Belichick for coach of the year because of his accomplishments in winning 14 games with injuries. I co-selected Parcells for 10 wins and turning the program around. That's the way I feel about it, J.J.
Nick, The disrespect for the Pats is so deep that the Pats D doesn't even get compared with the '85 Bears. Now I know what your thinking, isn't this taking exuberance for the beloved scruffy, scrappy home town boys a little too far? Not when you take a closer look: the Bears had four shutouts, the Pats have three this year. The Pats didn't allow a home field TD for four straight games (and it would have been five except for that garbage-time TD by the Jags). The '85 Bears have no such record. Also, the '85 Bears didn't have to worry about "leading with the helmet" and the other restrictive penalties which forcextraordinaryry discipline on the Pats D. When they did get penalized (of which they are legend), the '85 Bears had Walter Peyton score points, to eat up the clock and rest the D. The Pats have no such luck. When you compare head-to-head, the Pats D is almost a mirror image of the '85 Bears. Seymour (Pro Bowl) vs. Dent (who didn't make the 1986 Pro Bowl), Washington vs. the Fridge, Bruschi (jobbed) vs. Singletary (Pro Bowl), McGinest (ex Pro Bowl) v. McMichael (Pro Bowl), Vrable (jobbed) v. Marshall(Pro Bowl) and (here's the killer) only one Bears DB can be uttered in the same breath and that's Dureson (Pro Bowl), who can't hold a match on Law (Pro Bowl). The rest of the Bears secondary was marginal at best. There's no way I would take Fencik over Harrison. And I'd take Poole, Eugene Wilson, and Asante over anyone remaining in the Bears secondary. Sorry about the length of the e-mail, but when you're dealing with the brick wall of disrespect, you better bring all your tools to the job. There's no doubt in my mind that position for position and scheme versus scheme, the 2003 Pats are a much better D than the 1985 Bears.
Vince Chase, Glen, N.H.
A: Hey, Vince, what an outstanding job of making your argument! I agree with everything, and I'll agree with you if the Patriots win the Super Bowl again. If they don't, you have to give the nod to the Bears.
Thank you for your forum. I would like to know how Belichick has managed to continued to keep a team of 52 (and staff) believing in the team concept. This has been an ideal that we all espouse to, but, in reality, has not happened too often. Individually, we all believe we believe in sacrifice for the whole; in reality, human nature being what we are, does not happen. So how does Belichick do it? (Ty Law, for example, could disrupt everything, if he wanted to. As Drew could have done, as well.) As a teacher, I know from classroom dynamics, that it takes only one person to disrupt the personality of a class. This works for a semester but how it can work for a football season (pre-, season, playoffs)? And we all know, leadership starts at the top, so, again, how does Belichick do it (as he really is not the top, Kraft is)? As a teacher, everyone wants to shine. So how do you acknowledge that greatness in every individual person and still instill that notion, that idea, that team is where it is at? I imagine that Belichick's background is very military; and as I am not militaristic. I do admire how someone (one) can inspire the whole as buy (and succeed) the team concept. As for the playoffs, I do feel confident the Patriots will go all the way, but even if they don't, I don't care! Will I morn? Yes, because I know that they will continue to be excellent as long as Belichick is here. If only the bane of my existence, the Red Sox, would pay heed, then I could enjoy summer/fall as I do fall/winter. At any rate, go Patriots!
Margaret M. McKenna, Danielson, Conn.
A: It is an outstanding feat. One thing Belichick has done is gotten his veteran players to keep the peace in the locker room. If one guy ever got out of line, there's a tremendous veteran presence that would squash that guy in a second. That starts with him, but you have to credit the guys in that locker room as well.
Nick, In last week's mailbag you stated, in response to a question, you said the following: "This is also a team where the coaching staff is considered the stars and the players tend to get slighted." To me this sounds somewhat negative, as if the coaches' egos are preventing the individual players from being recognized. Do you really think the players feel slighted? Thanks.
David Karr, Columbus, Ohio
A: Not meant that way. Where ever I go around the country. I'm here in Nashville right now, the national media when they think of the Patriots, think of Belichick. When you ask players from opposing teams, they mention Belichick. The feeling is he's the real superstar of the team. I haven't detected any of the players feeling slighted. Maybe they will around contract time.
Ciao, Nick. First of all I wish you 'Felice 2004' and compliments for your mailbag. Really good job! Again: for us, Pats fans not living in the USA, you are really giving us a strong help and I hope that you will continue it, perhaps once a month, also when the season will end. This season was in my opinion the best ever with a convincing extraordinary and totally unexpected 14-2 performance. I really hope we will be able to arrive to Houston for the Super Bowl and, for the next draft, spend the two highest picks on a running back and offensive lineman. One question: do you know the reason why this season we have never played with the wonderful throwback uniforms? I liked a lot the red uniform and the old Pat Patriot helmet logo. How do you consider the future for the veterans Willie McGinest (he played extremely well this year) and Ted Johnson? Personally, I would like that both will retire in Patriot uniform. Thanks in advance for your kind reply and go Pats.
Enrico Sesini, Como, Italy
A: I would like to do a mailbag periodically in the off-season, but that decision is up to the folks at Boston.com. I think the throwbacks are designed to be worn on special occasions - Thanksgiving or whatever and one of those situations never came up, I guess. It's disappointing because like you, that's the uniform I grew up with. As for McGinest and Johnson, I would expect them back, but you never know around the Patriots.
Nick, If the Pats lost both Weiss and Crennel to head coaching positions, would they get any of those compensations draft picks issued at the end of a round by the league? I know some teams get them because they lost a lot of players to free agency. But what about coaches? Also, what if they went to a division rival does that change any thing?
Eric Dolan, New Bedford
A: In this case, there would be no compensation issue.
Hi, Nick. As a New Englander living in Spain you can add me to your list of grateful readers from around the globe. Great forum. However, I do have to respectfully disagree with your position that Belichick should share Coach of the Year honors with Bill Parcells. The reasons why Belichick should be recognized are many and obvious to you and your readers so I wont get into that. My problem is with Parcells (and I say this as a big Parcells fan). Although he did an outstanding job in Dallas this year, the bottom line is his team won 10 games and only two of those against teams with winning records. In short, he took a bad team and made it mediocre, playoffs notwithstanding. Belichick shrugged off disaster and led his team past the cream of the league. The fact that he was expected to do well this year is irrelevant. In a season with some top notch head-coaching performances in Cincinnati, Indy, KC, and Dallas, Belichick still stands out as exceptional. He was the head Coach of the Year. Thanks for the obvious effort you put into the forum each week, Nick, and keep up the good work.
Pete Murphy, Madrid, Spain
A: Well, Pete, he won the award outright. In fact, Marvin Lewis was ahead of Parcells. I was just talking to Peter King about this the other day. I think we shared the same opinion that both Bills should have received the honor. Ten wins and making the playoffs is significant for a team that had won five games three years running.
I grew up in Concord, loving the Patriots and then moved overseas, returning for the Super Bowl year. Although this season has been fantastic I think I almost enjoy the off season more as I try to map out the moves the organization is going to take. Last off season Colvin was the word on everybody's lips. He was supposed to be the savior of the defense. Obviously, all the other solid decisions made by the Pats created the defense, but -- maybe because I don't live in New England anymore -- I haven't heard how Colvin is doing. I heard that he had a Bo Jackson-type injury. Is he gone for good? Is there some hope for his return next season? Whatever happens this year in the playoffs, Colvin's status will play a big part in decision making about next year.
Dean Jacoby, Hopewell, N.J.
A: I recently wrote a column on him. He says he's coming along fine. Small steps. Got off crutches about a month ago. He's learning to walk longer distances. It's going to be quite an ordeal for him to make it back by next season, but he feels he can do it.
I remember at the beginning of the season there was talk that the Redskins had tried to negotiate with Lawyer Milloy before we released him and that we were therefore entitled to a draft pick from Washington for the tampering. However, I haven't heard anything about for a while. Any word on that?
Jared Goldstein, Brookline
A: Dead issue. The league still says it's investigating. But they're not going to penalize the Redskins after so much time has passed.
Nick, I saw a recent article you wrote on the Baltimore Ravens and you made a reference to "Raven's Nation." Now for the record, there may be a "Red Sox Nation" and a "Packers Nation" but come on, a "Raven's Nation?" More like a "Raven's City." Your thoughts on what constitutes a teams "nation?"
Rick D., Boston
A: I guess it was a stretch. They did win a Super Bowl a few years back.
I know money is tight and Mr. Kraft shelled-out all that money to build a great stadium but when are they going to finish building that thing that looks like a Lighthouse at Gillette Stadium? Maybe they could sell a sponsorship to Legal Seafood or Gordon's Fish Sticks and offer "Fish-on-a-Stick" in the stands. What's the inside scoop on that aborted tower?
Rick D., Boston
A: My understanding was they were working on a way to display light from the lighthouse that didn't interfere with air traffic control. I'm a little surprised it hasn't happened yet.
Nick, I have been wondering for a while now as to what ever happened to David Patten of the Patriots?
Tom Quinn, Sr., Lynn
A: He went on injured reserve and had knee surgery. I haven't seen him around, but I was in Charlotte and Nashville this week so I wasn't in the Patriots locker room.
Nick, Happy New year and thanks for a great column. You have no idea how important it is for those of us on the geographical edge of the Patriots Nation to have such a good resource. I have a comment: I'm a latter day convert to the Bledsoe-Bradey trade. I sort of knew it was a good trade early on but held off acceptance because I thought Bledsoe was mistreated. (1) There is an unwritten rule in pro sports that you don't lose your position due to injury. (2) Bledsoe took a terrible pounding during the last couple of years it took to build an adequate offensive line. (3) Bledsoe was heroic the year he broke his finger in the last couple of games of the year and yet still hung in there through the remainder of the season. I know in pro sports it's always a business first and "what have you done fore me lately?" attitude but my personal sense of fairness prevented me from embracing the trade. I am now a Bradey fan. Thanks for the hearing.
Joe Franson, Venice Fla.
A: You can be both. I like both players very much, professionally and personally.
Hey, Nick, Happy New Year! Do you think that the Coach Belichick will activate Mike Cloud for the Titans game? I remember that he had a big day against them back in October.
Todd Zaino, New Britain, Conn.
A: Todd, what a great question. I don't think it was asked all week, either. Cloud had a good game the last time, but I think it would be tough to sit Antowain Smith in a playoff game and I doubt they would activate three halfbacks. But that's just a guess.
Nick, Maybe I am being naive but this weeks game against Tennessee doesn't scare me. I see an easy Patriots win, say 31-13. Tennessee had a tough physical game against the Ravens had to travel to and from Baltimore and now have to travel to Foxborough and play a well-rested and healthy Patriots team. McNair and George are banged up and I can't see the Patriots losing this game.
Patrick Flynn, Granby
A: That scenario wouldn't surprise me. To be honest, I have no idea what to expect. I wish I could be as sure as you are, Patrick. It's strange sometimes when you're around a team you tend to get a feeling one way or the other. I've been with the Titans all week and you hear all the talk, all the confidence that comes out of these guys' mouths and you think maybe they can beat the Patriots. I do know that neither team thought they'd be playing this game so soon. The feeling was this should have been the AFC Championship game.
Hi, Nick, Happy New Year. What's the real deal? I saw Jeff Fisher said his team is in "good shape." Not to discount their toughness at all, but what have you heard? Thanks.
Loretta S., San Francisco, Calif.
A: They are in good shape except for Eddie George, Steve McNair, and Samari Rolle. They all expect to play. One thing we've learned about McNair, it doesn't matter how injured he is. He plays with injuries.
Tough game coming up. What do you make of this comment by Titans Linebacker Keith Bullock? "We got 30 and we did not hold up our end of the bargain. No pointing fingers. I play on defense and we've got to get our (expletive) together. Bottom line: We let a mediocre team run up our butts." Mediocre teams don't win 12 in a row. I'm also not sure when this was said, it was sent to me by my brother-in-law. I couldn't believe it when I read it, and thought it had to be said after the earlier game. But you never know. I'm also afraid of this team. The Titans are tough, and McNair is simply incredible. I'd take him over Manning any day. But I like our guy, too, and I think he's as good as anyone, if not better. Also, I wrote to you before about Bledsoe and Parcells, and what they meant to the community, and also about the possibility of the Pats making a go for Corey Dillon. If there was ever a coach who could turn this kid around, don't you think it's ours? And if not, who do we go after?
Phil Williams, New York
A: I'm going to assume Bullock made those comments after the loss to the Patriots. I haven't seen them this week. The Titans are well-balanced, but if all things are equal, and I mean if the Patriots play their best and the Titans play their best, I think the Patriots have to win the game. As for Dillon, I've always expressed that I didn't think he was a fit because of his past problems. I've been fooled before. You're going to have Dillon and Keyshawn Johnson out there. Which one do you think comes here? I'm thinking Johnson over Dillon. Now I have heard Parcells might be interested in Dillon. I can see Parcells turning this guy around just like he did Terry Glenn.
Nick, Tully Banta-Cain was projected as a third round pick in last year's draft. Any reason why he fell so far down? I've been really impressed with his play on special teams. He seems to be around the ball in kick coverage all the time.
Richard Thistlewaite, Lewiston, Maine
A: He had knee problems that led to surgery. I think this guy is going to be quite a player.
Nick, As a Patriot fan in the deep south, your column is one of the things that help keep me informed. Keep up the good work. Here's my question. Two years ago in their Super Bowl run, the Patriots took to not having individual players introduced before the game, but coming out as a team. Have they continued that practice this year? If not, do you think they'll consider reinstating it for the playoffs and Super Bowl (assuming they make it that far)?
Jim Bledsoe, Greenville, S.C.
A: I responded to a question last week and I'm not sure it was posted because we had some technical difficulties, but I don't think they want to recreate the past. They're trying to distance themselves from that team and create their own identity.