To each his own
Sapp's comments about Patriots are off base
I can understand some of this stuff coming from someone uninformed about the New England Patriots team. But if you win 14 consecutive games, you dominate every team you play, you're heading to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years, you'd think you'd have some clue about how good this team is.
I don't mind someone's differing opinion, that's what makes the world go 'round. When Warren Sapp was asked about his prediction for the Super Bowl on Pardon The Interruption, it's OK when he said, Carolina, for the reason "I think this defensive line of Carolina will dominate the front five of New England. I don't even think it's a fair matchup."
If you stop there, that's OK. That's fair.
But now Warren explains, "I don't see how they're getting it done because I think Russ Hochstein started for them in the AFC Championship game and I've seen Russ Hochstein block, and he couldn't block either one of you two fellas. Damien Woody was the best lineman they had, but Russ Hochstein, trust me my friend, he couldn't block either of you two."
Was that really necessary? If you watched Russ Hochstein against the Colts, the first thing you say to yourself is 'This guy didn't do a bad job.' Damien Woody's are huge shoes to fill, no doubt. Sapp is right when he says Woody is the best lineman they have, but do you have to blister Hochstein and an entire offensive line that protected Tom Brady about as well as anyone could ever have hoped not against Indy but throughout the year?
But there's more.
Asked what Sapp would do against the Patriots?
"I've already whupped up on them every time they've seen me, so I say the day they beat me is the day I retire, because I am no longer able to play this game like I should."
If my memory serves me correct, the last time Sapp saw the Patriots for real was in the 2000 season. That's pre-Super Bowl. That's Bill Belichick's first year here. The next time he saw them was pre-season, '01. The Bucs won 20-3. Again, pre-Super Bowl. That's his snapshot? That's what he's basing his comments on?
I'm going to venture a guess. If Sapp went up against the Patriots right now, Woody in or out, I get the feeling he wouldn't "whup" on them now. I have to give Jon Gruden a lot of credit for putting up with this guy.
The Carolina defense is worth praising. That defensive line dominated the Bucs in two games this season, so I'm sure Sapp has a respect for a team that he battles hard in his own division. While I think the "no respect" talk about the Patriots is silly and not very believable, this is a blatant example of no respect. It's one thing if it comes from a national media person, because quite frankly, who cares what a media person says, but when it comes from an All-Pro player, who is, by the way, one of the best, then it makes you scratch your head and sit up and wonder, "What on Earth has this guy been watching."
Great job again on the e-mails. Some of them were a little outdated by the time I got to them so I apologize if I didn't answer them. Heading to Houston over the weekend. I'm looking forward to this one. I think it's going to be a great game because the Panthers do have that great mix of defense and a running game. They can run and stop the run. Are they ready for an upset of the Patriots? I'd say they're a year away from that. But while I was rooting for an NE-Philly matchup because of the rabid fan bases of both cities, I think the Panthers will give the Patriots a better game.
In my interview with Bill Walsh this week on the subject of Tom Brady, the word he used that I thought was just perfect was "serenity." That's how Walsh described Brady on the field. Perfect. Wish I had thought of that.
After speaking with Charlie Weis' agent, Bob LaMonte the other day, I get the feeling the Raiders may wait and ask permission to speak to him now that Sean Payton appears to be out of the mix. I think Weis would do well with Rich Gannon and those receivers in Oakland. He's probably have a little different offense with more down the field, rather than short-to-medium.
There was a lot of concern in your questions about the Patriots red zone problems against the Colts. You have to understand, the opposition gets better as you get into the Final Four and now the Final Two. The Colts weren't that good against the Patriots, but they are a good team. They're going to have their moments when they make good plays. The Patriots won by 10, take it, and move on to the next round.
Here's the mailbag:
Regarding the "no respect" issue: I think New England is regarded across the country as more invested in brains than brawn -- the home of the "intellectual elite" -- certainly not the kind of place for top football teams. (Isn't that Texas or Oklahoma?) What do you think?
-- Margaret McFarland, Monson
A: That's true. So I wonder why the "no respect" issue would bother so many very smart people?
Hi, Nick. I was watching the Colts-Chiefs game and noticed that when Manning calls an audible the set offensive line is bobbing heads or shifting in or out. Why didn't the defensive line jump claiming a false start? A set O-line should not move. Can you explain?
-- Stephen Guinen, Fall River
A: I can't explain. I'm with you Stephen, I think that's a false start or illegal motion. It's something, isn't it? It can't be allowed.
Hi, Nick. Thanks again for the 'bag. One question and one comment. Why is everyone saying that Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel are here to stay? Isn't the Raiders vacancy still there? Why hasn't there been more interest in Weis by the Raiders? In typical Patriots fashion, I think you have to look closely at Weis and the system he's in to see just how good he is. Imagine if he had free reign and Rich Gannon? Wow. Then everyone will say: what a surprise. Yeah, right. As for Crennel, I think the Raiders already have interest. My comment concerns Daniel Graham. I recall David Givens dropping a lot of balls last year while he learned the offense. Remember in order to drop a ball, you have to be close enough to touch it. And in this system, that is huge progress. Graham does a lot of great things that go unnoticed (block, run routes, etc.), and next year he will be more relaxed, and like Givens, break out. It would be foolish to even consider giving up on him.
-- Timothy Cardozo, New York, N.Y.
A: Tim, I keep hearing Al Davis wants to interview both, but it all depends on whether he wants a coach in their prior to the end of the Super Bowl, Now, with Sean Payton supposedly backing out of the job, I would think he'd want to wait for Charlie. On Graham, he shows you flashes of being a good player, a complete tight end. You didn't draft him in the first round to be blocking tight end, so I hope you're right that the light goes on in the near future.
Hello, Nick. This may be a dumb question and maybe you already answered a similar question at one time. I was thinking that if the NFL made a rule for when teams fired coaches after the season, that they can`t interview or hire a new coach until after the Super Bowl. That way all coaches like Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel would have a fair shot at getting interviewed and possibly hired. Not just the coaches who aren't in the playoffs. Would this work or is this a crazy idea?
-- Danny Griffin, North Pole, Ark.
A: Danny, I think there has to be some reform there. These coaches who win really are penalized for winning. Those are the guys, I would think, you'd want to hire. Now if you wait until after the Super Bowl, the problem is you've already missed out on a great scouting opportunity at the Senior Bowl. You want your coach in place for that important event. The Senior Bowl was this past week in Mobile, Ala., and all of the coaches were there. I say, let these teams not only interview coaches during their bye weeks, but allow them to hire them too. Charlie Weis isn't going to tank the Super Bowl for the Patriots because he's going to take a head coaching job someplace else. You're hired because you have integrity.
Nick, In response to the question from Lori Atkinson, Boynton Beach FL, she can get the homeland defense shirts from www.todayschamps.com. The are not officially licensed by the NFL so you will not find them at the Pro Shop.
-- James B., N. Attleboro
A: Thanks, James.
Hi, Nick. I don't have a question, it's more of a call to all of the Boston sports fans out there. I am a life-long Boston sports fan and an image has been floating around in my head for quite some time that I feel compelled to share. That image is of the spectators at a game rising up and cheering in unison to celebrate a touchdown, home run, 3-pointer, goal, or the waning minutes of a win. Take your pick. There is just special something about thousands of people chanting the same tune all at once that gives me goose bumps. The Canadiens farewell chant, college games, and European soccer matches come to mind as examples as well as the Pats-Miami game and the snow fireworks. It looked great with everyone going crazy throwing the snow in the air but it looked special with everyone doing it in unison to the music blaring from the speakers. To get one of these chants going would be something great to experience and would elevate home field advantage for all of our teams. I would like to challenge the fan base and team marketers to come up with a chant and the media to help spread the word. It is time for New Englanders to take going to a game to a new level. We are the Hub of the universe, HOOO-ZAAAH!
-- Rob Stevens, Quincy
Hi, Nick. I enjoy reading your column. I have one question. Does the NFL Hall of Fame have any announcers inducted into the Hall? This would be similar to the late legend Johnny Most being enshrined in Springfield at the Basketball Hall of Fame. If they do, how can I/we get Gil Santos and Gino Cappletti inducted? They deserve it, for their longevity and expertise. Hell, Gino should be in as a player. Thanks for taking the time to read this.
-- Joe Boncek, Quincy
A: Yes, there is. We've certainly tried to get Gino in for years. Will McDonough tried for years. Now, Ron Borges has the Boston vote and he's trying as well.
Nick: Here are some thoughts as the fireworks go off and the stage is rolled onto the field. 1. Antowain Smith is one heckuva cold weather back. 2. Troy Brown has still got it. 3. David Givens is this team's next No. 1 wide receiver. 4. Jarvis Green will have no problem stepping up as the eventual replacement for Bobby Hamilton. 5. At this rate, Roman Phifer could still be a viable player at 40. 6. What Rodney Harrison is teaching, Eugene Wilson is learning. This guy can hit, and he does it cleanly and intelligently. 7. Those 3 INTs pretty much dictate that the Pats have to figure out a way to keep Ty Law this offseason. 8. Peyton Manning is a very, very good quarterback. But maybe it was the opposing defenses that made him look like a great one the previous two weeks. 9. Our New England Patriots are the best gosh darn team in the NFL, and it took making Indy look like a high school JV team for the entire nation to realize this. The score may have ended at 24-14, but the game was never that close.
-- Mark V. Lonergan, Waltham
A: Great points, Mark. I agree with every one.
I'd like an objective answer, but don't honestly expect one. Do you think the Pats defense got away with several blatant holds/illegal contacts on receivers against Indy? I certainly saw it that way. The Colts likely would have lost anyway, but I feel they were robbed of the opportunity to try by several no-calls.
-- David Shepherd
A: I can see if you're a Colts fan, David, how you see that. I saw a lot of grabbing down the field beyond the 5-yard area. The Patriots got away with some of it, but you know, that wasn't the reason the Colts lost. The Colts lost because they're not as good as the Patriots. That's as honest as I can be.
What is the key to beat Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII?
-- Mike Giordani, Quincy
A: Don't let their defense pressure Brady.
Nick, The fingernails are down to the nub again. They just won't let you watch without a defibrillator warmed up beside you. My question: Is Mr. Kraft overly superstitious, or is that outfit of his a uniform for game day? I never see him wearing anything but that '60s style (white collared and blue) shirt. If I send him a Pats sweatshirt, think he'd wear it in place of that well-worn shirt?
-- Paul Iannelli, Kennesaw, Ga.
A: No. He's an owner. He has an image to project.
Hello, Nick. I bet after the game, Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison were singing, "I fought the law and the law won, I fought the law and the law won." I hope the Patriots find a way to keep Ty Law. Congratulations Patriots!
-- Danny Griffin, North Pole, Ark.
A: I think they were singing the blues.
SOS. I am a lifelong Pats fan presently living in Connecticut. I went to work on Sunday fully expecting to watch the game while at work (I run a restaurant) and the snow disabled our satellite so i missed all of the AFC Championship game. I am desperately in need of a video of the game. Can anyone help? Oh, and by the way, Nick, you write a fantastic column; I guess Manning can't turn water to wine; and 16-2? What in the name of Hart Lee Dykes is going on here?
-- Pete Dunphy, Meriden, Conn.
A: Pete, I hope one of our readers can help you. We've been able to hook people up all year.
I want to thank you, Nick, for your mailbag. For a guy who grew up on the South Shore it has proven to scratch the football itch like no other forum. Without taking anything away from the greatest season in our team's history (provided we win at the "Big Dance") I would like to pose this question: Why can't the Pats seem to put the opposing team away convincingly? This past game we had the Colts on the ropes when Christian Fauria drops, what appeared to be, a sure touchdown in the end zone. This was followed by the Brady interception that breathed new life into the Lazarus-like Indy team. A touchdown, or even a field goal, would have made it an insurmountable three possession lead for the Pats -- instead it turns into another cardiac arrest game. What followed was a repeat script this season (except for the Buffalo game of 31-0). Pats get a lead, can't deliver knockout blow, let other team hang around, then close the door with thrilling defensive theatrics. That pattern could prove to be a nightmare against the opportunistic Panthers who just seem to win whenever they're allowed to stay in the close games. Can't Charlie Weis and Tom Brady figure out how to put a little more distance between themselves and their foes? Are the Pats last minute drama junkies who lack the "killer instinct" necessary to truly finish off their opponents resoundingly and early? Other than that little beef, I tip my cap to this awesome team and to this most enjoyable season. Thanks, Nick.
-- Jim Button, Charleston, S.C.
A: Great to hear from a South Shore guy. I'm one myself. I think, Jim, we're getting a little too carried away. I know the Patriots had to kick five field goals, but the team they played isn't chopped liver. They came away with a 10-point win over a team with the hottest QB in football. I say take it, enjoy it, and move on to the Super Bowl.
Hi, Nick. I thank you for this forum. One comment and one question. I think the best play of the game was the fourth down play at the NE 44. That play told the Colts that they had to beat a team that has pulled out all of the stops. I honestly feel that play was bigger than any interception or TD. It got in their heads. When the punter kicked the ball through the end zone for the safety, where would the ball have been placed if the penalty on the kicker had been refused? Inside the 5-yard line where the kicker last touched the ball, where it landed, from the goal line, or would Indy have kept the ball?
-- Wayne Beland, Northwood, N.H.
A: I believe the ball would have gone to where a normal kickoff would be.
This may be picky, but it seems that Tedy Bruschi doesn't stay in his lane on the run. He looks like he's trying to fly outside rather than stay at home and fill the lane and tackle the runner. Am I right or wrong?
-- Pitt Warner, Winter Park, Fla.
A: Pitt, I have no idea. If you ask anyone Bruschi is one of the most technically sound players on the team. I don't know what he's allowed to do within his lanes. He might be allowed to free-lance a bit, that's something they're not going to tell us because it involves strategy.
Hi, Nick. I enjoy your column, I wish it was posted earlier in the week. I just have one question: Why weren't the Colts called for delay of game during the first half when you could see the play clock tick down to zero and the ball was not snapped until two seconds later? Why doesn't the NFL have a buzzer tied into the play clock like they do in the NBA? That way the play automatically is stopped, no need to wait for a referee to throw a flag. Thanks, and keep up the good work.
-- Kevin Guarnotta, Somerville
A: Kevin, The refs don't miss too many of those. It might have happened that way, but it's rare the play clock goes down without the refs calling it.
Am I the only one that noticed that during kickoffs the Patriots' sound system plays a song from the Bush's "Razorblade Suitcase." Clever folks at the stadium who made that choice. Come to think of it, Razorblade Suitcase is a nice nickname for Gillette Stadium.
-- Richard Sullivan, Naples, FL
A: You got me Richard. I didn't know there was a band called Bush.
What's up with Tedy Bruschi? Injured or not?
-- Ray Beattie, Boston
A: He's injured, but we don't know how badly. We'll get to see him for the first time Thursday, so maybe we'll have a clearer picture.
Keep up the great work, Nick. It is great to keep informed down in Connecticut. Especially since I grew up in Framingham and remain a Boston sports fan. My question: it is now obvious that we have done very well without Lawyer Milloy. If we had kept Lawyer, and the money he had coming to him on his contract, it probably would have meant cutting some other players that we were able to keep. Could you speculate on what player(s) might have been on the bubble and kept or who might have gotten the ax due to our keeping Lawyer Milloy and his contract? Thanks for answering this purely speculative question and keep up the good work. While I would wish for your mailbag to be year round, I will hope to see some special editions around draft time.
-- Paul Cook, Norwalk, Conn.
A: The only thing I can speculate on is that the money saved probably got them Ted Washington. I don't think they would have had to cut anyone other than minimum-salaried type guys. Don't forget, his contract is a burden on the team this offseason. They are paying some $4.2 million of his acceleration on next year's cap, and I'd venture to guess that will hinder them in signing a good free-agent.
Smith or Cloud? In Houston, against the Panther defense, it would seem like Cloud's, agility and speed might be better suited than Smith's hard driving, head on style? To make contributions all year and then be denied a uniform in the Super Bowl seems heartless to one of them. Any comments?
-- John Calkins, Ann Arbor, Mich.
A: Nothing would shock me, but Smith is running very well. Smith will be the man.
It's kinda difficult not to sound over-confident about the Patriots chances against the Carolina Panthers. (During the Super Bowl they'll look more like the Carolina Punters.) I never liked the Cowboys being referred to as "America's Team," but I understood it considering the whole romantic notion of the American Cowboy. I think the Patriots are on the verge of taking over that title -- after they win this next Super Bowl title! I just have one question, Nick. It's great to have an extremely hard hitting and intimidating defense, but after watching Eugene Wilson "launch" his shoulder into the head of that Colts receiver, I couldn't help but think about what happened to the great Darryl Stingley. Is it OK if the "assassin" is on our side? Or should we, the Patriot Nation, after suffering the reality of what that kind of brutal (and seemingly un-empathetic) type of hit can result in, ask that a line be drawn with our defensive coordinator's teachings? Don't get me wrong, I love the physical nature of football as much as anyone, but that receiver was not hit to dislodge the ball from his grasp, he was hit in a vicious way just for effect. I make this distinction because, as you know, Eugene was fined for that same exact hit in a game at the beginning of the season, but that hit was to separate the ball from the receiver. Wilson appealed that ruling, and won his appeal. This hit seemed different. And eerily reminiscent of sadder times. Your thoughts, Nick?
-- Paul DeSalvo, Derry, N.H.
A: I was surprised it wasn't called a penalty when I saw it. It wouldn't shock me if Wilson is fined by the league for that one. I think what was preached to Wilson all week was that he had to be aggressive because teams were beginning to pick on him. He was aggressive. He got away with one there.
I just read on ESPN that an NFC GM said that the Pats have a great WR core, and I agree. What he then went on to say was that he would not be surprised if Troy Brown was gone next year. What is the possibility (if any) of this being true? By the way, you posted my brother's e-mail in your column so do me a favor, please post mine. Thanks.
-- Kyle Trulli, Lake George, N.Y.
A: OK, Kyle, I'm posting yours, too. There are changes on this team every year. It wouldn't surprise me if a few of these vets were released. Don't forget, the Patriots don't have the greatest cap situation next season, already some $400,000 over the cap without even including free-agents like Damien Woody, Kevin Faulk, Ted Washington, or Bobby Hamilton.
Dear Mr. Cafardo, I truly enjoy the way you write about our Patriots. Thank you for your objective reporting. I read an article in the Globe with the predictions of all the sports writers from the paper and was surprised that Mr. Borges chose Indy. Please answer this, is he paying dearly for going against the home team. I hope you and your colleagues are giving him the business. That is like rooting for the Iraqi's when our young American men and women are in battle.
-- Peter Robinson, Ramstein Air Base
A: Peter, I don't get too rapped up in people's opinions and predictions. I'm sure he had logical reasons for picking Indy, just as many of the national TV commentators did. It's just an opinion.
Nick, Please get Belichick to show Brady clips of how a QB should end a run. Re-run the Bledsoe clip a few extra times.
-- Paul Iannelli, Kennesaw, Ga.
Nick, What's your perspective on the fact that the Pats are now going into the Super Bowl as the heavily favored team for the first time in it's history? Historically -- 2001 and this season -- they have used the "underdog factor" to their advantage. There has always been someone or something overshadowing their accomplishments (Manning, Warner, ect.). Now, going into this game, the roles are reversed. It's the Panthers who are given no chance and all they will hear about is "Pats defense this" and "Tom Brady that" and that they have no chance to win. Sounds a little like what we experienced in 2001. Now I don't think the Panthers will win the game but curious as to how you feel this affects the Patriots. Do they get too cocky? Is there enough fuel to get the flames of intensity burning? Do they start believing all their own press about how they can't be scored on? How do you feel this all plays out now that the Pats are regarded as the lock for the Lombardi and how will this affect the Panthers on the opposite end? Are they the 2001 Pats?
-- Ron Bell, Cranbury, N.J.
A: It's a different perspective. It's a first in the four Super Bowls they've been to. They can't play the underdog or no respect card, but I'm sure something else will be driven home as a motivational tool. For instance, maybe they play up the fact they are the favorite and maybe there are some out there who don't think they can win as the favorite. Oh, yeah, we'll show you guys. I think the Panthers story is fascinating. It reminds me of the Patriots except the Panthers didn't get all the crazy breaks the Patriots did in '01.
I was interested in knowing if Rodney Harrison has an e-mail address or any type of contact information for his fans?
-- Candice Owens, Charlotte, N.C.
A: All you can do is send something via the Patriots.
Nick, Don't you think bringing up Ty Law's contract situation between now and Feb. 2 is the equivalent of peeing in the punch bowl? The Patriots are in the Super Bowl for the second time in three years, the fans should be allowed to enjoy themselves and not be concerned about next year until this season is over. I realize you can't control what other people write, but I'd appreciate your opinion.
-- Patrick, Andover-Norte, Portugal
A: Just answering questions, Patrick. I didn't bring it up. Talking about Ty's contract won't jinx him.
Hey, Nick, this is Nick. I am in the second Grade in Greensboro, N.C. We just moved to N.C. recently. I was born in Weymouth, Mass. My family loves the Patriots. We awoke on the MLK Holiday looking for news as to the health of Bruschi's knee. It's all we can think about. Will he be OK? Will he play in the Super Bowl? The injury looked bad. We are worried. We checked the Globe, we checked ESPN.com, we watched the news, no reports. Tell Tedy that he has New England fans in N.C. that are wishing him all the best. Dad says we really, really need him to play. In Week 3 of the NFL season I told my dad that N.E. would play Carolina in the Super Bowl. And I am only 7 years old. Call me at home for all my future picks!
-- Nick Anderson, Greensboro, N.C.
A: You picked NE and Carolina? You might be the only one in America to have done that, Nick. That's great. As you have heard the Patriots are very secretive about injuries, so we won't know until later this week or next week when word leaks out.
Hi, Nick. Miss you down here! I would like to know what I can do to get Gino Capelleti into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? It seems to me that his history should have warranted his entry into the hall.
-- John Cleary, Oak Hill, Va.
A: We're trying. Hopefully the veterans committee will vote him in.
Nick, Multiple choice: Carolina's greatest asset is (A) Defense, (B) O-Line, (C) S. Davis, (D) S. Smith, or (E) J. Delehome
-- Eric Dolan, New Bedford
Maybe not a question, but an observation about the great Pats win yesterday. I have not heard anyone talking about a sensational play by Troy Brown -- and it was not one of his seven receptions. In the second quarter with the Pats up, 7-0, and driving (and I believe on third down), Tom Brady threw to Brown toward the left sideline. It was poorly thrown and should have been picked off by the Colts DB, but Brown came from behind and swatted the ball from the DB's clutches. The Pats capped the drive with a field goal and were up 10-0. Think about what happens if that ball is picked and the Colts drive for 7 midway through the second quarter. A heads-up play every bit as important as a reception.
-- Mike Mullaney, Weymouth
A: I thought it was a great play. He makes them all the time. I really hope they keep Troy.
With David Givens being a restricted free agent, he has to be a hot commodity this offseason. He works hard, has the right attitude, is young, and showing more potential. He's not the biggest target, or a burner. But he is 6 feet, and does have OK speed. His hands have improved dramatically. Route running as well. If you watch this guy, he puts everything into every play. I've seen running plays go to the other side and he puts everything into blocking his man on the other side of the field where the play isn't going. When a passing play is designed for a throw to someone else and he's like the third or fourth read, he still puts everything into his route making sure he draws attention. What kind of money do you think he will be looking for? There have got to be teams offering him a contract this offseason, especially now that the team has so much attention. Teams only would have to give up a seventh round pick if they sign him and Patriots don't match, correct?
-- Eric Dolan, New Bedford
A: I know there have been preliminary talks with the Patriots. I think they'll re-sign him. I don't know the money, but it's not that much.
Hi, Nick. Do you think it's ironic that in a team oriented sport such as football there is so much attention paid to individuals and individual accomplishments? (Rhetorical question, but you can comment if you want.) For example, in the week leading up to the AFC Championship game all we heard about was Perfect Payton and his stellar QB rating. Before the Titans game it was McNair's toughness. Before Miami, it was Ricky Williams. Hours of network air time are dedicated to discussing individual accomplishments but time and time again the best complete team always ends up the winner. It's true, football is a tough game. If a player can survive and excel in this league they deserve to be recognized. The NFL has an MVP award to honor accomplishments of the individual. But seeing as though football is ultimately a team sport I would like to propose a new award to the league: the MCT Award, or, The Most Complete Team award. The winner of the MCT Award in its introductory year: the 2003 New England Patriots. The 2003 Patriots are quite simply the most complete, well-rounded and balanced team in the NFL. They are a unit comprised of several talented individuals, not just one superstar. In fact, I would dare say that the 2003 Patriots are one of the finest complete teams of any sport in recent history. In my opinion they typify what football should represent. They are totally enthralling to watch, and I am very proud that they represent my native region. There is one more call to arms on February 1. Best of luck to the MCT Award winning Patriots in the Big Dance!
-- Michael Bacharz, Brooklyn, N.Y.
A: I really like your concept, Michael. I guess the feeling is the best team wins the Lombardi Trophy.
Hello, Nick. Could you forward this to the right people, please. As a fan of the Pats, I look forward each game listening to Gil Santos and Gino Capelleti broadcasts. When the game comes on, the TV volume goes off and the stereo tuned to 104.1 goes on surround sound live. My family and friends found this a little different at first but now in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts it is becoming the norm.
-- Jeff Gross, Westport
A: I'm covering games, but I would do the same. There isn't anyone I've heard around the country who calls a game better than Gil Santos. Gino is great, too.
Like so many others, I was thrilled the day I discovered your column. Thank you for your efforts. Last week, Paul Casperson of San Antonio asked about a Patriots friendly sports bar in the LA area. He'll actually find that most of the sports bars out here are filled with displaced New Englanders. However, there is one place in particular, Sonny Mclean's in Santa Monica. It is a haven for Boston sports fans of all flavors and shows all the games from all the teams. If he wants to watch the Super Bowl, there, though, he had better call and make a reservation right this minute.
-- Luke Alonso, La Crescenta, CA
A: Hey, Luke, welcome aboard.
Hi, Nick. What a game! The Patriots are certainly proving that they are in a class by themselves, both as on the field and as an organization. Ty Law continues to be incredible and proves he is worth whatever the Patriots have to pay him next year. Do you think he'll be around given his high cap figure? As Pats fan living in Houston, these are obviously exciting times. My dad (who lives in Rhode Island) flew to Houston for the Pats-Texans game. He called tonight and he is flying in for the big game as well. (Note to all: Increase your length of stay and you can get a cheap flight. He paid $228.) It is going to be great to experience this with him, win or lose (but it looks good for the Pats). If there are any lucky fans out there who get tickets and can't make it to Houston and want to make sure their tickets are being used by real fans, please send them my e-mail. We are prepared to pay for them (face value or plus), just can't afford the going rate. Thanks for the column!
-- Robert Graham, Houston, Texas
A: Thanks for the travel tips, Robert.
Hey, Nick, is Peyton Manning the Dan Marino of this generation of football?
-- Karan Santa, Arlington
A: Getting that way, Karan. Manning still has a long way to go. Remember, Elway didn't win anything for a long time and then he won two in the twilight of his career.
Hello, Nick. Love the questions and love your column. I'm a rabid Patriots fan 20 years removed from Peabody, Mass., and now living in Dallas. I've seen or followed every game this season one way or another and as this weekend proved once again, it was not a relaxing game until the final gun was sounded. In fact, it was commonplace that you couldn't relax during any games the whole season with the possible except of the final Buffalo game. While this makes for high anxiety games, it's been well worth it in the end. This brings me to my point. I'm obviously ecstatic the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl but wish they had a more formidable and prominent opponent such as a Super Bowl rematch with either Green Bay or St Louis or a season rematch with Philadelphia. While losing this Super Bowl to Green Bay, St Louis, or Philadelphia would have been a disappointment, to lose to Carolina would be a disaster and a major embarrassment. I feel it ruining what they set out to accomplish this season. Being a Patriots fan for over 40 years (or Boston fan for that matter) you have to understand my concern for pessimism. What, if anything, is Bill Belichick doing to keep this team focused and that this is a game they really cannot and should not lose? They need to go into this game with the same attitude they did before the Colts game. Unfortunately, quarterback Jake Delhomme won't be in the national media constantly like Peyton Manning was last week to rile up the defense.
-- Edward Girard, Grand Prairie, Texas
A: Ed, If they take Carolina lightly the Panthers will beat them good. I think Carolina is a much better opponent than St. Louis or Philly. The Panthers have an excellent defense and they run the ball. They almost remind you of the '00 Ravens.
Hey, Nick. The Mailbag rocks! Kudos! Wasn't it fun to watch the Patriots use the "no respect" theme to totally destroy the Colts Sunday? Ty Law, Rodney Harrison, Jarvis Green, and Tom Brady were gamers. Russ Hochstein was a monster filling in for Woody. Everybody played great. It was too bad the offense left a few plays out on the field or this wouldn't have been close. My question: What will the Pats use to motivate them for the Super Bowl? I almost wish they were underdogs. So, what will they use this time? Can they still use the lack of respect they get from the national media to fuel their fire? By the way, I think you should inform your readers and the Patriots that there is a CBS Sportsline.com sports writer named Pete Prisco who has waged a personal war against the Patriots and their fans. His latest articles have been downright insulting and scathing. They are vicious personal attacks. I thought journalists were suppose to be objective. This guy is a piece of work. He vents his hatred of the Patriots in his columns. That's why I love the fact that the Patriots beat Manning and the Colts which was his Super Bowl pick. Please beware of him in Houston.
-- Chuck Allen, Tiverton, R.I.
A: Chuck, Pete Prisco is only kidding. I know Pete. I've talked to him about it. He's just having fun with it. He's a columnist, not a beat writer. His job is to elicit a response and I think it's worked, Chuck. They can turn the national media thing, but they're the overwhelming favorites. They can turn anything that really gets them going.
Nick, What do you think Belichick is going to do with Smith for the Super Bowl? I believe the last time the Pats played on the Houston surface Smith was inactive. Does Belichick stick with the game plan that got him to the big game (starting Smith on grass at home and Faulk on turf or does he "reward" Smith for a good postseason and make him the starter?
-- BC, Ayer
A: He sticks with Smith.
No question really, Nick, just a comment about "hot" Peyton and his "hot" Colts. I would have liked to hear the Gillette DJ play Toby Keith's "How do you like me now?"
-- Ann Marie Brown, Danvers
A: I like Toby Keith. I wouldn't mind hearing him anytime.
Nick: Sorry for the long e-mail, but I hope you answer it. Although I am extremely happy with the Patriots' victory over the Colts, I am concerned by some terrible play calls by Charlie Weis in the game. It is incomprehensible to me that the Patriots forced five turnovers and were inside the Colts 30 and/or 20-yard line seven times, but only won by 10 points. I realize that Fauria dropped two sure touchdown passes. Maybe fans should cut D. Graham, who did a great job blocking in the game, some slack for his drops in the Titans game. In particular, when the Patriots had second and goal from the Colts' 4-yard line, I did not agree with the decision to ignore A. Smith, who was having a very good game, and to have Brady throw two passes, the second of which was intercepted in the end zone. Charlie should have run Smith up the middle at least once, if not twice. Similarly, I am baffled as to why Charlie Weis insists on calling sweep plays for Smith rather than running him up the middle. Charlie's tendency/error was highlighted in the fourth quarter when coming out of a timeout he called a sweep for Faulk or Smith on third and one yard, which ended up losing yardage. Charlie must know that a run up the middle is the best call because it is a quick developing play and the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Am I missing something with the plays Charlie called in these and other situations because it seemed to me that the Patriots gained most, if not all, of their rushing yardage by running up the middle against the Colts? Thanks for the great forum.
-- Scott Stevens, Minneapolis, Minn.
A: Scott, He just tries to mix it up. If you thought the best play to call was up the middle, don't you think the Colts thought that too? He doesn't want to be predictable. Sometimes it doesn't work.
Nick, Where was Dan Klecko for the championship game? I know he was inactive for the game, but why? I truly believe that he would have made a difference in the Pats numerous 'goal to go' situations. Larry Centers is good but cannot be expected to pound away at the goal line.
-- H. Freiter, Langley, BC, Canada
A: When you figure out the actives and inactives you have to consider special teams first and see where you need the most help. They're never going to explain why a guy was inactive. I'm sure it had to do with need.
Nick, I've heard a lot of Patriots fans complaining about their inability to get tickets and/or the high cost of making the trip to Houston for the Super Bowl. These fans should do themselves a favor and take in a local college basketball game. The ticket prices are reasonable and parking is free. College basketball is the last bastion of pure athletic competition.
-- T.H. Ghoul, Chestnut Hill
A: Do I sense a plug for BC?
Nick, If Bob Kraft doles out Super Bowl tickets to Massachusetts politicians -- especially Mayor Menino -- the season ticket holders should form an uprising. These pols practically ran the Patriots out of state on a rail. Kraft should snub those hacks and reward the fans by allotting more tickets to the season ticket holder lottery.
-- William Weepy, Allston
A: William, you should know better. The politicians will get taken care of.
Can all 53 players on the roster dress and play in the Super Bowl? I know the Patriots have used all the players on the roster at one point or another during the season, so it would be pretty sad to see a player get to that point and not have the opportunity to play or at least dress for the biggest game of their career.
-- Matt Grzyb, Portsmouth, R.I.
A: Same rules. Forty-five active.
Do you think the Raiders are waiting to hire a coach partly because they're still interested in Crennel or Weis? Based on how Romeo's defense shut down Manning, do you think there are some owners who are regretting making hiring decisions so soon after the season?
-- Darren L. Marshall, Cornwall Bridge
A: Given the events of Sean Payton turning down the job, it might be that Al Davis waits for the Pats guys. He'd be smart to do so.
Thanks for including my question last week. This week, no Freudian slips, please. My name is Bedsole, not Bledsoe. Here's my question this week. Is there any type of salary cap implications or restrictions with regard to contracts for coaches and assistants? It looks like the head coaching opportunities for Romeo and Charlie this year are shrinking rapidly, but would anything stop the Patriots from paying them whatever it takes to keep them in New England and happy? And would more money even do that, or is the allure of the top job just too much to overcome? Thanks. Go Patriots!
Jim Bedsole, Greenville, S.C.
A: No cap implications. Crennel has already been extended for three years at less than the $1 million most of the top coordinators are receiving. Charlie has an option year left on his contract. Thanks for writing, Drew, I mean Jim.
Hi, Nick. I moved here from Methuen little under two years ago afterretiringg from teaching. My question is, what are your thoughts on the Dolphins decision to go with Dan Marino as head of operations? There are many here questioning this decision. The Dolphin fans deserve him. I've heard too many horror stories about Dan Marino. As for their fan base, against the Jets last game of the season and a playoff possibility still in their reach, half the stadium was empty, what losers. As I said, they deserve him!
Steve Graham, Hobe Sound, Fla.
A: Well, I don't know what Dan's qualifications are. He's a big name there, but can he evaluate talent and pick the right guys? I suppose he can't do any worse.
I love what is going on in New England and with Patriot Nation, who would not? I am a 13-year, season-ticket holder and I look back at the early '90s games and the empty seats and I try not to remind myself that Tommy Hodson, Jeff Carlson, and Marc Wilson were once our starting QBs and that our best player was Marv Cook. I can only shake my head in wonder that this is the same organization. Parcells brought respect, Bledsoe brought on-field wins, Kraft brought stability and savvy, andBelichickk brought the Super Bowl(s). Belichick is not here without the other three before him, so what pains me? I just cannot let go of this pit in my stomach of how badly the team messed up with Daniel Graham. Does he practice and develop? He short-arms every pass to him, I have never see him extend his arms to grab a pass, he waits for the pass to hit his alligator arms, and bobbles or meat-hands every pass. Does anyone coach him? Even the game-winning TD in Houston he meat-handed all that way to the ground. The game losing-drive pass to him in Washington hit him in both hands too. I am happy Fauria is back in the games, he makes the catches, you can see he extends and grabs the ball from the air. We gave up a first round (not only that, but moved up in the first round) to select Daniel Graham? Jermaine Wiggins had a better career in less than a year than Daniel Graham is having and Wiggins was not a first round draft pick, but a free agent. What do you believe is next for Graham and how do coaches talk about his development and future with the team? I hope these questions do not spoil the perception of how incredibly happy it is be a New England Patriots fan in 2004. What a quantum leap from '91 to '04.
Toby Elwin, Arlington, Va.
A: Excellent,thoughtfull e-mail, Toby. This is what makes this forum so great for me. As for Graham, all you can do is give him one more year to develop his catching. He does everything else well.
While everyone points out that Belichick and his staff have done a great job with draft, I'd like to make mention the relative invisibility of Ty Warren and the all-too-visible lapses of Daniel Graham. While Warren hasn't done anything to hurt the team (that I know of), he doesn't get mentioned a whole lot for his contributions. Graham's inconsistency, meanwhile, could cost the team in a big way. These guys are first rounders. Shouldn't they be showing more-especially Graham?
Christian Lybrook, Boise, Idaho
A: They should be. This would be more of an issue if the team weren't doing well. But on the verge of the Super Bowl, it's an issue for next year.
Nick: Thanks to DirecTV I have been able to watch all of the Patriots games throughout this season and have one simple question: It appears that Fauria is a lot more reliable and has better hands than Graham, so why do the Patriots insist on going to Graham? He did have a great game against Cleveland but in the playoffs isn't Fauria a better target for Brady?
Sal Gomez, Lima, Peru
A: Fauria is very sure-handed though he missed two against Indy.
Can you tell me why Steve Grogan's number has never been retired by the Pats? Nobody showed as much grit and determination as Steve. Surely he's deserving.
Rob Thompson, Quincy
A: I'm with you. One of my all-time favorites.
Nick, I just sent you an e-mail about the "extremism" seen in fans. I also alluded to the fueling of those feelings by tabloids and some journalists. It's Jan. 13 and all I'm hearing is how unstoppable Peyton Manning is offensively. Granted he has had a fine year and excellent playoffs, but doesn't anyone remember his behavior after the Patriots loss. Head down and shrugging of his shoulders like a first grader who just peed himself. Are we to now believe he is has magically ascended to offensive immortality in the span of a few months? My point is this. People think in extremes and typically think of others as either better or worse than they actually are. Peyton is unfortunately now the focus of that artificial elevation. The Patriots in my opinion will win this game, and when they do, watch what the people and press do to Peyton. The first person who put him on the pedestal will be the first to rip him off. It's just predictable human nature as I have observed. My question is this, are players who are placed on IR during the season entitled to Super Bowl rings? (Not getting ahead of myself here, just curious). Thanks, Nick.
John Aliapoulios M.D., Palm Desert, Calif.
A: Thank you for the comments, John. Yes, IR players do get rings.
Hi, Nick. Love your column. Quick question. Now that Baltimore is out of the running, what number pick will the Pats get with their selection in the draft.
Garry Brown, Pomfret Conn.
Nick, I have a few questions about some of our players. Center Dan Koppen has done a great job as a rookie this year. However, I can't tell just how effective he is from watching TV. Obviously, Brady hasn't been sacked too often and we've been running good lately, but how much of a force is Koppen? Is he like Woody (the kind of guy we can run behind and who can whip up on someone), or is he more like Dave Wohlabaugh (who is a sound center, but not much more)? One more question. Earlier this season, you compared the builds of Kevin Faulk (5-8, 202 pounds) and Priest Holmes (5-9, 213) and stated that many felt that Holmes had the build to be an every down NFL back, but that Faulk did not. Kevin Jones (RB, Va. tech) is 6-fee, 215 pounds. Is he considered to have the build to be an every down back? Thanks a lot for the mailbag. It makes it easier for those of us in the military to keep up with America's Team!
Ray Rogers, Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.
A: Koppen drew rave reviews from a lot of people around the league. He has given up a few sacks, but he has a chance to be a good one. If he's as good as Wohlabaugh, I'll take it. I don't think he's quite Woody. Jones can be an every down back, sure.
Hi, Nick. I'm not sure if you can comment on the television coverage of an NFL game, and you're probably getting a lot of this in your mailbag, but I thought CBS' coverage of Saturday night's game vs. the Titans was atrocious. The sound seemed to be muffled throughout the entire game; there was an entire 2-3 minutes during which there was no picture (this happened again in the Colts' game); and, my main complaint, they were experimenting with a new camera angle from behind thequarterbackk, from which you could barely tell what was going on! Add to the fact that you couldn't see how many yards a run gained, whether or not a pass was caught, whether a field goal try seemed to have the distance/direction, you know, crucial information, they decided to wait for the most crucial plays to subject us to this new camera angle! At the end of the game I couldn't tell until about five seconds after Bennet dropped the ball that he didn't catch the ball! I stood in my living room suspended in mid-reaction: what to do, clench my heart indisappearr or jump up and down with joy. Thank God there was no camera shot of me from behind! Now, according to today's Boston.com story, CBS has stated that (negative fan response be damned!) it's going to continue with this angle for the AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl. Great. I can't wait. Now I have no problem with these angles for the sake of replay. I'm sure such shots can give a unique perspective, but during a replay I already know what has happened. If such an angle doesn't allow a fan to know what's happening in the moment, then it is simply a poor angle from which to show live shots! This is not rocket science. Also, as someone in today's Boston.com story mentioned, if they're going to experiment with such drastically different camera angles during live coverage, why not do so during pre-season to get some fan reaction and to perfect the shot? You don't see Belichick sending out Rohan Davey during a playoff game so that he can get some live plays under his belt do you? That's what pre-season is for! Why does CBS wait until the playoffs to try a dramatically new camera angle? CBS blew it!
Kurt Gundersen, Berkeley, Calif.
A: I'm not a big fan of the angle, either. I like all of the traditional angles. That's what I'm used to. I suppose in time you'll get used to that one as well. But introducing it this late in the game is a little annoying.
Nick, One thing I could never understand: Why didn't the Patriots opt for a dome stadium when they were building a new facility? With the recent cold spell we've had to deal with, wouldn't it have been nice for fans to sit inside a nice warm place to watch football? Come to think of it most of the dome stadiums are located down south, where snow and cold isn't a problem. Does that make any sense to you?
Mark Giardina, Rochester, N.Y.
A: Mark, The roof is very expensive. It would have been great, but I think the Krafts feel the severe cold and snow gives them a home-field advantage. I think the retractable roof is made possible in Houston because it's much cheaper to build there.
What is the difference between Belichick's success in New England and lack of success in Cleveland?
A: You hear different things. I thought Jim Schwartz, the defensive coordinator with the Titans, who got his start with Belichick in Cleveland had a good explanation when he said, "He's finishing off now what he started in Cleveland." I guess the coaching was similar in terms of Xs and 0s, but the people skills with the players began to develop in time. He was developing his methods back in Cleveland, but couldn't win because quite frankly the personnel wasn't that good. He's become a much better personnel man as he's gained more experience in that area. He didn't have very good drafts back then.
Nick I'm extremely confident that the Pats will win the Super Bowl. Actually, I expect the Pats to win the Super Bowl. The only surprise that I had this season was the loss to Redskins, I thought the Pats would come back. Not surprised by the Houston, Indy nor Denver games. My question is: Is this how Yankees fans feel?
Henry, College Station
A: On the Yankees question reference. Certainly I don't think one championship so far is equal to 26 of them, but I think we're starting to feel like we did in the great Celtics years.
Hi, Nick. Great column. I think the Pats should go after a tight end in the draft. What do you think of Ben Troupe from Florida? Thanks.
Tom Deane, Belleview, Fla.
A: I'd draft a tight end. Ben Troupe gets high grades from personnel people. What I don't know at this stage is whether he's a player who would fit into the Patriots system. Haven't got that far with it, yet.
As the Pats' go deeper into the playoffs, I've been feeling bad for Rosevelt Colvin. I wonder: has he been around the team all season, rehabbing in Foxborough? Does he feel like he's part of the team and the excitement? Or did he leave town after going on IR, to rehab and train on his own?
Reid Smith, Andover
A: He's been around the team all year. At first it was once a week, and now it's several times a week. He's coming along slowly. He says he's very excited about what's happened.
Nick, I saw the question from Paul Casperson of San Antonio regarding a Patriots bar in LA. I highly recommend Sonny McLean's on Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica. Not the Hollywood area, but a terrific Pats bar that will be loaded (in more ways than one) on Sunday. Jimmy, the owner, is a Boston guy and a great guy as well. Thought this would be helpful. One warning - get there well in advance of the noon (PST) kickoff.
Ted Ames, New York, N.Y.
A: Thanks for the suggestion.
Nick, How much do you think Drew Bledsoe had in Charlie Weiss not getting the Buffalo job. Knowing that they left on not the greatest of terms.
Steve Moyer, New Bedford
A: Steve, they patched that up a long time ago. Bledsoe understood that Weis was carrying out Belichick's wishes. Donahoe was very impressed with Charlie. He just had a past with Mularkey.
Nick, Great column. Could you please tell me how many more years Tom Brady has on his contract? Thanks.
Renee Reid, New York
A: Tom is signed through the '06 season. Next season he'll make about $5.5 million and his cap number will be up to $8.37 million.
Hey, Nick. Quick question concerning coordinators Charlie Weis and RomeoCrennell. If one/both of them is taken for a head coaching job somewhere, do wereceivee any compensation or do we just lose them? It would be nice to grab a few more picks to work with for the upcoming draft to add to our already hefty amount. Great job covering the Pats this year.
Tim Smith, Hanson
A: No compensation. They're free to go for a better job.
Hey, Nick, No question, just a couple of good sports bars in the LA area for the gentleman who asked. I'm a transplant from Rhode Island who has ben out here two years, I think the two best are Aloha Sharkeez and Baja Sherkeez. One is in Hermosa Beach, the other Manhattan Beach. There are a ton of NewEnglandd transplants and fans out here to watch the game with, and there is something to be said for watching the big game from the beach in February. Thanks for the column.
Rod Edge, Manhattan Beach, Calif.
A: Thanks, Rod.