I see a winnable game for the Patriots at Denver Monday night. I know it's in Denver and the problems the Patriots have had there, but with Denver's QB situation and their interior linebackers being out, all things favor New England once again. I will say that this is one of Bill Belichick's biggest challenges. Every week, it seems, he looks across the other sideline and it's as if he's coaching against tremendously inferior coaches. Not the case with Mike Shanahan. This is a great NFL coach. Aren't too many of them, but he's surely one of them.
"Yeah, I see us being very similar," Shanahan said this week in his conference call with the New England media. "We've been knocking heads for a lot of years. It's close to 20 years. It is 20 years. We've had a chance to really study each other. We know how each coach really has a game plan for each opponent. It's really been some great battles through the years. It's a strong respect level from my standpoint because I know how hard it is to beat a Bill Belichick team and how hard they play and the type of schemes you have to get ready for. You really don't know what you are going to get until game day and you have to make adjustments on game day. So it's a great challenge. I can't say it's fun, because so much work is involved, but there is much respect."
Great story, Danny Kanell, the Broncos QB. Last year, he was out of football playing baseball in the Atlantic League.
"Baseball was great," said Kanell. "I had a good time doing it. I was basically just trying to keep my competitive juices flowing. I wanted to do something where I was actively competing everyday. Football teams weren't calling. It was tough finding a job. So, I decided to go out there to stay busy. I was lifting a lot of weights, but you can only work out so much in a weight room all day. I wanted to try something a little bit different. I really had a good time playing up along the eastern seaboard."
Kanell played first and third for the Newark Bears. He took Jose Canseco's spot on the roster, hit about .250.
I get a kick out of how public sentiment turns, or should I say, how those laying in the weeds for several weeks are now popping up. For the first few weeks we were besieged with letters about how awful it was that the Patriots let Lawyer Milloy go right before the start of the season and then the double-whammy of him signing with rival Buffalo and the triple-whammy of the Bills crushing the Patriots, 31-0 on Opening Day. We heard the phrase "Buffalo Patriots." Now, the other side is having their day. Now they're bashing the Bills. And of course the Drew-Bashers are back! Didn't hear from too many of them the first couple of weeks of the season, but now Drew is the worst quarterback on the face of the Earth. He sure did look like it Sunday night against Kansas City, which is really an unbelievable team. Good to have the Drew-Bashers back. I missed you guys.
So the Bills are 4-4. Most of the Bashers feel with Drew at the helm the Bills are destined for 4-12. Randall Liu of the NFL put out some interesting stats on teams that have started 4-4 the past couple of years. In '01 of course, your New England Patriots were 4-4, and went on to 11-5, won the AFC East and we know what else they did. The same year, the Bucs started 4-4, finished 9-7, but made the playoffs as a wild card and lost.
Last season, five teams, 4-4 at the midway point, made the playoffs including the Browns, Colts, Giants, Raiders and Titans. The Raiders made it to the Super Bowl and lost to Tampa Bay, while the Titans went to the AFC championship game and lost to Oakland.
And one team - the Jets - were 3-5 at the midway point - and went on to win the AFC East, won a wildcard game before losing to the Raiders in the divisional playoffs.
A few questions this week about whether the Pats would trade for Corey Dillon. I doubt it. That would hurt the salary cap and the Patriots would rather draft a kid. Anyway, they must decide late this season whether they will commit to Kevin Faulk on a long-term deal.
The Patriots public relations staff put together some Halloween stories from the players this week. Here are a few:
Defensive lineman Dan Klecko used to dress up as his father, Joe. "I would go out as a football player, more specifically as my dad. They used to make his jerseys back in the '80s, so I would put one of those on and be him every Halloween. That was pretty much my only costume as a kid."
Tight end Christian Fauria went out as a truck driver. "I wasn't really into dressing up. I would just put on a hat and pretend to be a truck driver and I'd come back with pillowcases full of candy. I was more about the act of getting candy, so the costume didn't really matter. It was more important to be able to sprint from house to house than how impressed people were with my costume. I would ask, 'What's the most important thing about this situation?' The candy."
Fullback Fred McCrary went dressed up as Jason from "Friday the 13th." "My most memorable costume was the Jason mask. I would wear ripped up clothes with a fake knife and squirt fake blood all over the place."
Most fittingly, Rodney Harrison was Superman. "When I was a kid, I used to go around on Halloween and tap on people's windows. They would come to see what it was and I would have a mask on and they'd be scared half to death. One time I did that, a guy went and grabbed a knife and chased me outside the house. I was about 13 years old and I was screaming."
Running back Antowain Smith was "The Incredible Hulk." "My favorite Halloween costume from back in the day was the Incredible Hulk. I wore that when I was about seven or eight years old. I had the whole get-up with the green mask. My kids are more into Sponge Bob, Bob the Builder and characters like that. It's a new generation."
Guard Damien Woody was "Batman." "I enjoyed going out with my friends and doing the traditional trick-or-treat thing. Candy was a big thing back then and even though I still love sweets now, I was an even bigger fan back then. That was definitely a fun holiday to look forward to. Nowadays, Halloween is a great time to spend with my kids, and they like all the Disney characters. I have all girls, so they like all the princesses like Cinderella and Snow White. My family and I always get a big kick out of it."
Celebrity restaurant review: This week we plug "Time Out For Sportstalk" on Belmont Cable. Todd Bloniarz started the show almost 10 years ago, and along with his long-time co-host Howie McClallen, this is one of those hidden TV sportstalk show gems.
Todd enjoys the clam chowder at Jimbo's in Boston and also the buffalo chicken/blue cheese pizza at Connelly's Pub and Grille in Watertown. Howie is pretty big on the veal chop at Fiore's in the North End.
I am very excited about the Patriots this season. They have beaten some very tough teams. Tom has been playing awesome (how many emails have you gotten about his under-20 yard passing range?). I was just wondering if you thought Mike Cloud would get worked into the offense more. I read that his stamina was still pretty low when he had that fantastic game against Tennessee. Also, Kevin Faulk has put the ball on the ground more than I'd like him to, including costing us the Redskins game. I'm not thrilled with Antowain Smith either. Not to sound corny, but I'd like to see some mostly Cloudy days in Foxboro.
-- Phil Falardeau, Chelmsford, MA
A: I don't know what the rotation is. Faulk and Smith were active against Cleveland. Against Denver? Obviously Faulk will be out there, but maybe this week they go with Cloud instead of Smith. It all depends what they need for special teams. The one thing we can bank on is Faulk, who is emerging as the main guy.
I have been reading your column since last year, and I think you're very objective and informative. I have a question, what are the chances of the Pats getting either Corey Dillon or Chad Johnson with all the first and second rounders they got? I would also like to ask if you know of any book that has all the little rules the refs always come up with, I only recently became a football maniac.
-- Ehab, Boston
A: I think they'd rather draft players than trade for them. The Ted Washington case was unique, but for the most part they don't make trades that would really impact their salary cap. One book I can certainly recommend is the NFL Record and Fact Book which I believe you can purchase at books stores. It has a section explaining some of the rules and calls.
Nick, i love your column, and i read it every week. But i feel that there is a problem that no fans have noticed, or seem to have mentioned. I'm talking about Charlie Weis. He's so incredibly far out with his play calling. Sometimes he calls the right play. But a lot of the times he runs a draw up the middle while trying to make a comeback in a game. I dont understand this!! A good example of this is last weeks game at Miami. Pats get the ball back with less than a minute left with a timeout. Now, most coaches run their two minute offense with sideline tosses or the occasional deep bomb. But no, Charlie Weis calls a pass over the middle, its completed. Then, with the clock running, he calls TWO DRAW PLAYS that go absolutely no where. They only needed about 20 more yards to get into field goal range. I called my friend to ask his thoughts on Charlie Weis, and he agreed with me that he has to be one of the worst play callers in the league, especially in crunch time. Does anyone else notice this? Or am I all alone?
-- James S., Scarborough, ME
A: I have trouble with "worst in the league at crunch time." Do you guys remember the Oakland game in '01? How about the Super Bowl? He's a proven commodity at crunch time. The draws in that case were designed to catch the defense off guard. As you mentioned they needed 25 yards or so for as field goal. If you can run a play that keeps the defense off guard, you can get that yardage and not risk throwing the interception. I was surprised at the time, but then I thought about it, and I completely understand what Charlie was trying to do. It just didn't work. I think sometimes we think so highly of these Patriots coaches that we believe everything they try has to work perfectly. It doesn't. That Miami defense is excellent. I've heard the sentiment you've expressed often, so you're not alone. But I think Weis is a very creative guy, who has brought a great deal of balance to the Patriots offense. They aren't scoring a lot of points yet, but they've also played some very good defenses.
Prior to week one I wrote to "Ask Nick" and said that the whole Lawyer Milloy thing was blown out od proportion and that Milloy has slowed down and is no longer an impact player he once was, people said I was crazy I finished by saying by week 7 people around here won't be saying if we had Milloy we would have a better record and it looks like I was right. Milloy for all his leadership skills he has his play of the field has gotten worse every year. Bottom line after almost half the season it looks like Belichick made the correct move. Now Buffalo is stuck with Milloy and his crazy contract.
-- Patrick Flynn, South Hadley, MA
A: It's great to see a fan who's level-headed, who doesn't sway too far toward the belief that everything the team does is great, or everything the team does is bad. I think what you do, is what I do, I take each situation and I decide if it's a good situation or a bad situation and I adjust my opinions based on that. I wish more fans were like you. I said the same thing at the time. What I wrote in this column at the time is let's see how it plays out. I wrote about giving Belichick the benefit of the doubt. And sure enough, he made the right decision. We all know the timing was horrific and it cost them a win. That much I believe and you'd be crazy not to believe that if you saw the reaction of the players after that decision. I'd never seen a lower point in my years covering the Patriots than that one. But they rose above it. But don't get caught up in this knee-jerk reaction from some of the fans we're hearing from today, that Milloy stinks and he's not going to help the Bills. The Bills are 4-4. That's not the end of the world, and they're defense, despite the horrible showing against the Chiefs, has a lot of talent. I wouldn't write Milloy, Bledsoe or the Bills off yet.
DO YOU THINK THE PATS WILL TRY TO TRADE FOR C. DILLON?? JUST THINK WHAT HE WOULD ADD TO THE TEAM!!!!!!! THANKS AL. PATS FANNNNN FROM THE BERKSHIRES......
-- ALLAN PRICE, PITTSFIELD, MA
A: It's not their management style to trade for big-name, higher priced players. Ted Washington was a different story where he was making $1.65 million. I think they like Kevin Faulk. And I think they'll draft a running back in the draft.
Have a pizza bet on this one. Did Tom Brady win or place very high in some ESPN trash sport QB challenge and did he win the long throw accuracy contest? After that pass to Brown against the fish, I almost believe this rumor.
-- Steve Alpert, Norwell
A: Not a rumor. I wrote the story, in fact. Brady won the long-tossing. He threw a ball 55 yards and won the event. This was a few short weeks after recovering from his separated shoulder.
Last year I wrote you that once a team wins the Super Bowl that team should be able to have a grace period of 5 years. I still feel that way, however, with the devastating loss to the Yankee's the Sox I feel that the Pat's are our only real hope to get over the feeling of dread that most of us are feeling. I just hope the Pat's don't break our hearts in that way, i.e. getting to the Bowl then losing in as much dramatic fashion as they won. Now my question, why is it that the Pat's are being penalized so much this year? This is so unlike this team. Are the schemes more advanced this year or something? Or is it because they have so many new faces and rookies playing?
-- Dennis Salfity, Brockton/MA
A: I think you answered your own question. The new faces, younger players playing more. I think they've done remarkably well considering the backups and youngsters they've brought into the lineup.
As a Patriot Fan in the middle of Bear and Colt country, I really enjoy the info you provide. Though we're only halfway thru this season, I was curious as to what you think the PAts will do in the draft with their 2 #1's? I think they should look at getting the "best player" available and not draft for need in Round 1. Address the needs beginning in round 2. In round 1 get a playmaker.
-- Scott Mundell, Valparaiso, IN
A: I don't know in what order but: running back, corner, safety and a young linebacker.
I need to correct you on one of your answers about meeting the players after the game. I went to the Redskins game earlier this year and afterwards I was able to meet virtually the entire team. All you have to do is find out where the team bus departs from. Security was present but most of the players were more than willing to pose for pictures, talk to the fans, and sign autographs. I met and got autographs from Klecko, Trow Brown, Kevin Faulk, Richard Seymour, Romeo Crennel, and even Brady. Speaking of which, how much would a Tom Brady autographed copy of the Special Super Bowl Edition of Sports Illustrated go for?
-- Brian Bernardo, Chesapeake, VA
A: Thanks Brian, but I've also seen it the other way many times. I'm not sure what the circumstances were, but you're very fortunate.
Nick, why does Deion Branch celebrate after every first down?? Also..does anyone else find the Local Channel 4's post-game show graphic very annoying?? It pops up randomly and squeezes my screen and I can't see the scores....AAARRRGGHHH!!!!
-- Michael Sherman, Dedham, MA
A: I'm at the game so I haven't seen that.
As we all know BB likes to keep hush hush about players.. From everything I've heard Colvin's injury
definitely ended his season. Is there any possibility at all if the Pats made the playoffs he could come back by then? And he is on a different injury list.. Injured reserve..
can someone be activated from that during the season..??
-- Eric Dolan, New Bedford, MA
A: Once you're on IR, you're gone for the season and the post-season.
Great column! I read it faithfully for my weekly fill of Pats news.
First, congratulations to the Pats for an incredible win in Miami. I've been a fan since I was 12, and it was so fun to watch the team 'squish the fish'.
I'm glad to see Brady connecting on the long ball..and it doesn't seem you could ask for more from this year's rookies. Could you give some insight to the injury situation.. it seems like there are many guys on the 'questionable' bubble each week. Will the team look significantly better after the bye?
When is Ted Washington really back? It looks like the team can only keep improving with more help!! Keep up the great work! Go Pats!!!
-- Loretta S., San Francisco, CA
A: Most of the guys are who will be back are back with the exception of Washington and Johnson. They'll be back after the bye and then they'll have to be stirred into the pot.
Was Dennis Brolin immediately hired by another franchise to be in charge of their field? Is he currently working for another organization? The field has looked fine to me all season. Your comment about him being the "Michael Vick of groundskeepers" appears to be a major cheap shot at Belichick. Last year I continuously thought your comments about Belichick "not doing a good job of picking the groceries" was not factual based on the results (every pick from 2002 making the roster that season, Seymour in 2001 instead of Terrell, Bray, Light, etc.) and with this years draft already producing that can't be said anymore. I give you credit for always saying Belichick is a very good coach but this groundskeeper stuff makes me think you must find something to criticize him about? Your thoughts.
-- Jerry Cohen, Ny, NY
A: I figured you'd think that way Jerry. First of all, Dennis Brolin quit, he wasn't fired. He's still a consultant, but Dennis had enough of being told how to treat the field, and so he decided to start his own field construction business. Dennis would be hired in a heartbeat by a number of professional sports teams if he wanted to get back into that. I know a few groundskeepers around the country and they tell me Brolin has one of the best reputations. He's been chosen for the last several years as one of the groundskeepers to work on the Super Bowl field. One of the problems with Gillette is that there are too many events. The Revolution play there as well and the field looks chewed up. Last week it looked awful and even the players commented how bad it looked and felt. And the "groundskeeper stuff" you referred to is called reporting. Brolin informed me over the summer he was quitting because he had had enough. I'm not in this business to sweep those unpleasant stories under the rug. That's a legitimate news story. And that's what it was. It wasn't opinion. It was fact: Brolin resigned over a dispute with Belichick. The condition of the field, and the groundskeeper in football and baseball in particular, is a very important person. There's a whole handbook that each sport puts out on rules and regulations governing the look of the field.
With the reliance on so many rookies, are you worried about them hitting the wall as the season wears on, especially the linemen?
-- Elliott Slom, Easton, MA
A: Wrote on that topic last Saturday. It's a major concern. Belichick talked about it and said every rookie hits the wall. He hopes they don't hit it at the same time.
I'm Theo. I call Carlton Fisk into the office and say, "Pudge, your team and your country need you. You've got the smarts and the aura. We want you to put on No. 27 again and manage the Red Sox to the promised land." Okay, Nick, you're now Pudge. What do you say?
-- Dan Riley, Vista, CA
A: "I have no desire to manage, Theo."
I read your column on Boston.com this week...noting the turf problems that the Patriots are having...(I did hear about the Bubble they've been using...) ...do you think it would be possible for the Red Sox turf guy to help out on a consulting basis? Don't laugh!! There has been so much discussion of the Sox this week ...but they are out of the playoffs and perhaps the Red Sox grounds keeper could add some value in Foxborough. What do you think? (...I would have sent this email along to the Patriots directly, but I don't know their email address.)
-- Austine Robinson, Westborough, MA
A: Not a bad idea. The Red Sox have two superb groundskeepers, the legendary Joe Mooney, who is more of a consultant now, and superintendent Dave Mellor.
It is remarkable how many Boston sports fan there are in Sydney. I saw it when I snuck out to a local pub for a four hour lunch to watch Yankees Red Sox game 7. I figured I was going to be alone but we filled the place at 10 am on a Friday. One of the main pet peeves here is seeing a Yankees logo on every fourth or fifth baseball cap that goes by. Any idea on who in Red Sox marketing could help?
For the Patriots fans, it seems like its fairly easy to see the games if they are being shown on the Australian version of Fox Sports. If they don't have cable, the Star City casino is always open and will probably have it. Otherwise, they can always convince a bar to open for the games especially for the game - being sports mad Australians generally understand - but you would have to guarantee a crowd since the games generally get play anywhere for 2 am - 6 am. If anyone is interested, feel free to pass on my email.
Otherwise, I just want to thank you for the columns. I love Oz but its good feeling connected to home. Keep it coming.
-- Al Brust, Sydney, AUS
A: Great information, Al.
Will ted washington be back before the end of the season? if so will the defence stay in 3-4 or go to 4-3 with the d-line playing so well. also will klecko get some playing time at inside linebacker with all the injuries to the linebackers?
-- bill perry, dudley, mass
A: Washington is supposedly on schedule. He's had his cast removed and should be back between now and I'd say, Week 12. That's just my estimate based on things I've heard. The defense has been in the 4-3 for several weeks. They ocassionally change it up to a 3-4. My guess is they'll stay in a 4-3 unless they get into a slump where the defense isn't playing as well as it has.
Do sports reporters access fan Bulletin Boards and if so why?
-- Chris Baker, Harpswell ME
A: I have no idea. It's not something any of us ever talk about. I don't access them. I wouldn't know how. Just don't have the time for it. I think we always have our radar up for libel. I think it's great that more and more we're finding that people who write malicious and libelous things about people on the internet are subject to criminal and civil action. There are still too many irresponsible websites and bulletin boards. Everybody needs to be accountable for what they write and what they say. I think the major websites like this one, or Sportspages.com, or ESPN.com, SI.com, CBSSPORTSLINE.com or Patriots or Red Sox.com are run by true professionals. They understand journalism and media and have a background in it.
Wanted to let you know that the link to your article on the Boston.com Patriots page hasn't updated properly. It still has last week's "Paying Tribute" article showing. I had to go to the Ask Nick "Archives" link to find this week's ".500 Bill" article. (BTW - I was glad to see support from pats fans to eliminate the Brady-Meter). Keep up the good work.
-- Chad Gomes, Philadelphia, PA
A: Thanks Chad. Hopefully we can work out the bugs.
Love the mailbag. Any chance you can publish the Q&A on Thursday or at least early Friday morning?
I like to check it out at work, so Friday afternoon doesn't always work.
-- Sean Kinney, Sudbury MA
A: Sean, most of the time it's up by Thursday afternoon unless the Boston.com staff has other, more pressing news items they need to process.
Since you are now covering both the Pats and the Red Sox, why can't you have an Ask Nick for the Red Sox? I appreciate the occasional question you answer on the Red Sox but don't you think they deserve their own Ask Nick?? I also think you should have it during the off season at least bi-weekly until Spring Training.
While I'm on the Red Sox, what do you think of the Sox getting a manager who wouldn't be afraid of either a) having all of Pedro's starts begin in the 3rd or 4th inning(remember ALDS 1999 game 5) using the bullpen to start the game so that we can have Pedro finish out games or 2) put Pedro into a position of succeeding as baseball's all time best closer. I think he would be ideal in either of those 2 scenarios, but who has the guts to tell him that is his role? Of course, by the time you post my message there's probably already a new manager in place. What do you think Nick?
-- Richard Wadness, camarillo/ca
A: Richard, I believe our baseball columnist, has an "ASK EDES" on the Red Sox. But I do answer Sox questions because I do go back and forth. Lately. my weeks has been split, half Pats, half Sox. On Pedro, what your saying is make Pedro a reliever. Not for $17.5 million, Richard.
As usual, let me start out by saying that the mailbag ROCKS!!!...What do you think about the Patriots trading for Corey Dillon. I think he would be a perfect fit here. They can package a few draft picks and have a stud runner in the backfield. It would be a great move for the Patriots for the next 4-5 years at RB. He really wants out of Cincinnati and would be welcome with open arms here. Your thoughts?
-- Jamie Volpicelli, Trumbull, CT
A: Like I answered earlier, that's not the Patriots style, and I don't think they would want the potential headaches associated with Dillon.
I would offer to resolve the game and/or overtime coin toss problems as follows: When the schedules for the next season are made up you contract to have the coins made up with the competing teams logos on each half of the coin. No one calls heads or tails the ref simply tosses the coin in the air and which ever teams logo lands face side up wins. The NFL could market these coins for each game as a collectors item or make up 10,000 of the coins with one having a special mark that would earn some money or tickets to the next game or the super bowl - if turned in. If you use my idea season tickets to the Patriots would be nice! I am sending this suggestion to your colleagues as well in hopes of reaching the NFL.
-- Michael M. Heller, Chepachet, RI
A: Michael, what an awesome idea. I'd market this to the NFL if I were you. That would certainly solve the problem.
Sunday night when Bill vs. Bill ( Pats against Cowboys) what face of the game will be the most interesting and the most indicative of these two great coaches similarities and differences. I think what makes Parcells a shade better than Belichick is his ability to not only get the most out of his players, as Belichick can, but his ability to maximize the play of his QB.
-- Dario V. Garcia, Randolph, MA
A: Obviously, Belichick learned from Parcells. Belichick is the best schemer and xs and os guy, and while Parcells is good that way, too, he is the master motivater and can turn a negative situation into a positive as well as anyone I've ever seen. Belichick has some of those same qualities.
Can you explain to me why it is that most sports commentators give little or no respect to the New England Patriots? Doesn't winning a Super Bowl and Being first in their division, especially when ten starters are out, prove the kind of respect they deserve? Maybe being a sports writer yourself, you can give me some insight into why we don't get the credit we deserve from the Sports Writers and the Sports Commentators?
-- John Valente, Melrose,MA
A: Well, it seems at any given point in a season there are other teams doing extraordinary things. Kansas City is now the popular story because they're undefeated. Miami is always popular because they have so much talent. It takes people a while to warm up to the Patriots, because while they win a lot of games, they're not always exciting. In this case, I think the networks were waiting for the Pats to fail based on their injuries. They don't have big names, which are sexy in the national limelight. There's no Terrell Owens or Randy Moss, or Jamel Lewis or Ricky Williams or Ray Lewis. They're just a heck of a team. That's my best guess.
I must admit, like many fans, the seeds of doubt began to grow when Belichick waived Milloy so close to the start of the season. Buy once again Bill is having the last laugh. I guess we all need to learn to trust him over the long haul.
I have been very surprised with the fast development of Samuel and Wilson. I also now believe that Bill realized Harrison had the personality and character to take over the leadership roll with the defense (and the entire team).
I agree with you that these injuries are a blessing in disguise. Once we're back and healthy the vets will be fresh and the rookies can be rested.
Keep up the great writing!
-- Lon Mapes, Yucaipa, CA
A: Right Lon. I think the one thing I've learned as a sportswriter in Boston the past 25 years is that you can't react like a typical fan. You have sit back and be a little more objective, good or bad. That's what we're trained to do.
Not really a suggestion,but a request......Change the tunes @ foxboro to include="the enemy" by sevendust.....fire them boys up!
-- junior samples, westfield,other state west
A: I have no idea what that music is. But the Patriots read this, so I'm sure they'll get some ideas.
Don' t you think the Red Sox should keep Todd Walker?
-- Adam Wolf, Portland, ME
Remember all that negative stuff I wrote about Daniel Graham last week? Nevermind.
-- Mark V. Lonergan, Waltham, MA
A: Know what you mean. Let's see if he can take the next step: consistency.
How do they put the yellow first-down marker on the TV screen, while avoiding putting yellow lines on the players, etc?
-- Sung Choe, Brookline MA
A: I wish I knew that end of the business.
Now I know you don't do it but your colleague Ron Borges loves to emphasize that the genius of the H. C. isn't what wins the football games, but you have to admit Nick, the coaching job being done by all of the New England coaches has been tremendous this year. I know the players are doing the job but the coaches are putting them in tremendous position to get the job done. The Browns had no clue what to be looking for from the Pats defense. Vrabel was left alone three times and had three sacks for his efforts. It was like the Super Bowl game all over again for Vrabel 3 times! He came from the left side untouched every time. It was a beautiful thing! It was my first game to ever go to and even though it was a defensive struggle, I was highly impressed with the team especially the defensive line. Seymour is an absolute animal! They triple teamed him a few times and he was disruptive the whole time. Ty Warren did a very good job at nose tackle but what a dream it would be to have Ted Washington in there. Is Washington going to be able to come back this year or is that a pipe dream? Also Cloud didn't even get a touch in the game against the Browns, is he hurt or is it because Faulk is doing such a good job? Antwoin Smith only got a few touches in this game also,is he going to be used only in 3rd down short yardage situations now? I'm excited for the rest of the season and hope that the injured players come back and make this team even more stronger.
-- E. MacLeod, Weymouth MA
A: We know how good Belichick is, but what surprises me just about every week, is how much better he is than the coach he's opposing. That's why the Denver game is interesting because Mike Shanahan is such a great coach, that you have two great minds going against one another. In that case, I think it comes down to the players.
Why do the Pats insist on having Troy Brown return punts? It's putting him at greater risk for injury, and seeing as how he's a primary offensive weapon, this just doesn't make sense.
-- Jim, Providence, RI
A: Troy insists upon it. He's not ready to hang it up, and apparently nobody has stepped up to beat him out.
Well Nick, here we are at the midway point of the season and the patriots are one of the best teams in the NFL sitting at 6-2 and the team everyone thought would walk away with the AFC east title, The Bills are 4-4. I want everyone who bashed Bill Belichick after week 1 get off the Patriots bandwagon. Too many people questions the man who brought us a Super Bowl championship for dumping Milloy, well Mr. Milloy has shown us why Belichick is a superior coach by his below average play.
-- Adam Tyson, Leeds, MA
A: Adam, it's OK. You can be critical of Bill Belichick at times. He's not going to be hurt by it. He expects it. Bill is a very smart guy. He knows the game. He knows more than anyone that fans (see Cleveland) and media (see everywhere he's been) will question him on things. He's not perfect. At the end of the day, he's a great coach. But to say we shouldn't question things he does or says, that's ridiculous. He admitted, the timing of the Milloy release was terrible. He made a mistake. We all make mistakes. It's how you rebound from those mistakes that sets you apart, and Belichick has great recovery skills.
Once again Bledsoe showed his true colors when the national spotlight is on him, 3 Int, 2 fumbles 1 lost fumble. I have said it many times, Bledsoe will win you games but when the spotlight is on him and you need him to win you a big game he wilts, whatever Larry Bird had in him to rise to the occasion Bledsoe has just the opposite.
-- Chris Tucker, Fargo, ND
A: I respect your opinion. I agree with part of what you say, but go back to his performance, for instance in 1996. I thought he was terrific in the playoffs to get them to the Super Bowl. Didn't have a great game against Green Bay, I'll admit. I thought coming off the bench in the AFC Championship game in 2001 was also a superb performance coming back for the first time from his devastating injury. I thought playing as well as he did with a pin in his finger was also gutsy and inspiring. I really respect the guy. I know he has his shortcomings and he looked terrible last week against KC, but to say he's never come up big is not only inaccurate, but very unfair.
How did the patriots go from the laughing stock of the NFL after week 1 to being ranked as the 2nd best team in the NFL at the midway point of the season. For all the bashing I did of Belichick after week 1. I am humbled to say I was wrong, the man can coach and the man can draft. What a draft this has turned out to be. From what you hear from people around the NFL what has happened to Lawyer Milloy? From the games I have seen he has definitely a different, slower, less aggressive player this year than he was in years past. Maybe Billy B was right and Milloy is past his prime and move that looked disastrous in September suddenly looks like a genius move.
-- Remy Sheehan, Boston, MA
A: You don't have to hear it from anyone in the league, Belichick had been telling his confidants since last season that Milloy had lost something. I just don't see those crunching hits anymore. Maybe he's hurt. I don't know.
After watching Lawyer Milloy get beaten time and again on Sunday against KC, watching highlights of and reading regularly about Tebucky Jones getting beaten in coverage constantly, and watching Drew Bledsoe intercept his way to another .500 season (all while Rodney Harrison continues to perform at an all pro level), isn't it time to give Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli the proper respect they deserve? Pioli and Belichick have looked at the cold hard reality of this team and its players instead of getting caught up in sentimentality like fans and especially the media, who use terms like "lockerroom leadership" to overlook declining performance of players on the field that they feel attached to. Nick, when will you admit that Bill Belichick knows more than you, despite his .500 career coaching record?
-- Mark Horsfall, Berkley, MA
A: Mark, maybe you don't read this space regularly or what I write in the Globe. Most of the hundreds of people who write on a weekly basis are a little more current on my stance on Belichick's great coaching. Time and time again I've written, and all of my colleagues in the media have written, what a wonderful job Bill has done. I just wrote a story about a week ago saying he and Parcells should be the coach of year. At the time of the Milloy release, again, please check it out in this column in the archives, I wrote we should give Belichick the benefit of the doubt on the Milloy decision. I don't understand where this sensitivity about media coverage on Belichick comes from. Do you feel his pain from Cleveland or something? Every time I write his record, some of you think I'm taking a shot at him. I think all of the media gives him his just due. We know he's a great coach. How many times can I or all of us say it, write it? Bill Belichick knows a zillion times more than me or anyone in the media about football. I would admit that every day. Of course he does. It doesn't mean I will never be critical of him, because if the situation calls for it, I would. That's my job. Bill already has a publicist. I'll tell you this about Bill, he's not only a great coach but a great guy. He's a very caring man. He called me when I was in a bad car accident last year to make sure I was OK. He phoned me when my mother died. He's called me or taken me aside to thank me for things I've written about him.
Do you think that the Pats will install some "H-back" plays now that both Graham and Fauria look so good. If Graham were of the line of scrimmage, he could lead block on sweeps and release better on pass plays.
Someday, if the Globe wants to do a story on the Pats road following, someone should go to Murphy's in Alexandria, a Pats bar since Tuna took over.
-- Jon, Washington, DC
A: I can't say for sure, but I'd be looking for Graham a lot more. I'm guessing most teams won't be covering him with a linebacker from here on out.
Why does the offense continue to sputter? It seems like we have good enough personnel for QB, WR, RB, and OL. Why don't we score more points? Is this just a case of Charlie Weis playing a conservative game?
-- Glenn, newburyport, MA
A: Part of it is they've played against very good defenses. But I see a lot of good signs: they're running the ball, the line has a running mind set, they're protecting Brady well and Brady himself has been a gutsy performer.
"The Michael Vick of groundskeeping". Since you can no longer take Belichick to task over his drafting (and I don't believe that was fair even before this year's stellar crop of picks), you are now ripping him on firing the groundskeeper. I just hope that if you write about the field in this week's mailbag and/or newspaper you will print the fact that the field was used for a Revolution soccer game the day before the Cleveland game. Otherwise, it would be obvious that you are twisting the facts to put your own spin out there.
-- Matt Anders, Brookline, MA
A: I give up.
It amazes me that some Patriot fans still do not give Bill Belichick the benefit of the doubt when it comes to player personnel decisions. He's a black & white type of individual who is willing to make tough decisions regardless of fan or player reaction. Bledsoe & Milloy are two prime examples. They were great players no question about it. But the price for them was too high and they did not fit into the direction Belichick was taking this team. Everybody panicked after the opening day loss to the Bills in which both Bledsoe and Milloy had good games. But what have they done since ? Bledsoe is back to throwing to his favorite target, the other Team, and Milloy is making his 4 tackles a game and getting beat constantly by quicker receivers. Leave Belichick alone ! He's won us one Super Bowl and has us in the chase again this year. Complain about the Red Sox if you want but I'm happy with Patriot Nation.
-- Kevin Coyne, New Jersey
A: Happiness is good.
Can you give us some more details on the Larry Centers injury settlement?
-- Jim Gilhooly, Nashua, NH
A: Two weeks pay - about $90,000. He's eligible to return Week 15 and it looks as though he will be back.
We often think of the Pats as a 'hard working, blue collar, over achieving team' that succeeds because of effort and attitude. Maybe true, but is it possible that the Pats have more good players than NFL fans think? Perhaps few if any game breakers, but a lot of better-than-average, talented athletes? Whattayuhthink?
-- nelson ryan, salem
A: I think they have very good depth and talent that fits their schemes.
I read in one of your recent columns that the excessive parking fees at Gillette are a pet peeve of yours. Last Sunday at the Browns game, the powers that be decided that no longer could fans who arrived early to the stadium could park where they liked. I have a group that I have tailgated with for years and we were spread all over the lot. While I understand parking lot revenues are important to the Krafts, this seems like another slight to the "average" fan that detracts from the Patriots experience. I am interested to hear if you have heard from any other disgruntled fans on this matter.
-- Gregg Brown, West Newbury, MA
A: I haven't received too much on this topic, but there's always something.
After the week 1 debacle, and prior to the Eagles game, you expressed some concern about the Pats chances for the season. Your quote was, "I feel so distant from that 10-6 right now." Now that they have won 6 out of 7, despite all their injuries, how do you feel about their chances? 10-6 would now look like a disaster, wouldn't it?
Secondly what are you hearing from colleagues in the Buffalo area? Are they disgusted with Drew and his recent pathetic performances (153 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INT against KC, even with a top notch RB in Henry?) Do they feel like the Pats duped them into taking Lawyer, and saddling them with salary cap woes for next year? I'll bet Belichick has the second Bills game circled on his calendar.
Thanks for your time!
-- Chris Moran, Cumberland, RI
A: Right. I did feel distance from that 10-6 pick. What sane person wouldn't have? I thought, what a dope! I think 10-6 looks great, maybe 11-5. It would be amazing if they could maintain this level, but even if there's a little drop off that would be OK. Miami isn't going away, so I guess it will be neck and neck with them all year. Drew is getting ripped, sure. But to give up after a 4-4 start? That's ridiculous. That defense has talent despite their poor performance against KC. I know some Patriots fans think the Bills won't be factor after watching them against the Chiefs, but I wouldn't be so sure. The Bills have a coaching problem. They need a better guy as the head man. As for circling the second Bills game, I bet he will. That could mean the division or a wild card spot and the Bills totally embarrassed him in that game.
What did you think of Buffalo's plan to stop Dante Hall? It seemed to work pretty well by not putting any scores on the board. Brady hasn't been exciting lately, but it beats the excitement Bledsoe has been giving to the Bills' fans.
-- Paul Iannelli, Kennesaw, GA
A: Hall is so exciting. So fast. I think Bethel Johnson could become that. You're right, Brady has thrown no interceptions in six of his games - all wins. It's a big factor.
I don't understand the salary cap. I doubt I ever will. What does the future look like for the Pats regarding the cap? Obviously any fan with a pulse is aware that something has to be done with Ty Law but beyond that, what? With all the high draft picks the Patriots have next year is money to pay them all going to be an issue? Editorially, I would say I dislike the cap. It renders contracts meaningless and drives good players away from their teams. The NFL does not want a system like baseball but why not just raise the cap and give teams some room to at least decide whether they want to pay a player or not?
-- Chris Watson, S Portland
A: As they begin to weed out the high-priced guys they'll have more room. Unfortunately about $4.4 million goes against the cap next season on Milloy, but they're saving big bucks because their younger guys are coming through. The only big decisions they'll have are on Woody and Faulk. They'll have to pay both of them a good deal of money to keep them.
I would like to know why the pats are not using Mike Cloud .He was playing pretty good.
-- Robert A Richer, Worcester Ma
A: I think Faulk has won the main job. Antowain Smith gives them more of a change of pace. But it might be different week-to-week. It usually is.
Can you please let the folks at Boston.com know that the Brady Meter has to go. It is obviously written by people who don't know a thing about football and I only have to point to this weeks Alice rating for proof. How can they further say that without Vinatieri there is no way the Pats would have won that game? I mean if you exclude the jokers out in AZ and SF I think any other kicker in the NFL makes the kicks that Adam made on Sunday. Brady had a fine game despite no TD's because more importantly he held onto the ball. With the team playing D they way they are all we need is the Brady of 2yrs ago which is the Brady that doesn't turn the ball over and hits a few key passes during the course of the game.
Do those folks that write the column know who led the NFL in TD passes last yr? How did that work out for us? I'm begging you to put some pressure on them to drop what has to be the stupidest segment in recent journalistic history which is making a mockery out of one of the leaders on a very good Patriots team.
If you can't do it could you let me know who I can write to, to voice my extreme displeasure with this.
Thanks and keep up the good work.
-- Jamie Leupold, Waltham
A: I'd ask Chris Begley of Boston.com.
Watching the Browns and Pats on TV, I was surprised to see how torn up the middle of the field was. It may even have contributed to Adam Vinatieri missing a field goal due to bad footing.
I know there was a grounds keeper flap in the pre-season. But what's the deal with the turf? Is it as bad as it looks and what has caused it to deteriorate so quickly? This can't be good for the running game as the season progresses and the weather worsens.
-- Vince Chase Glen, NH
A: I'm not a field expert. Part of it is the Revolution also play there, but I know it does effect Vinatieri and it effects the footing of players.
Love the mailbag. You've mentioned over the past few weeks that the Bills love the leadership of Milloy. Funny, the only leadership on display last Sunday night was Lawyer leading a trail of would-be Bills defenders about five to ten yards behind Dante Hall, Priest Holmes, etc...
Seriously, you have seem to come to your senses lately about the amazing coaching skills of Bill Belichick so I also think it's time you admit that although the timing of the Milloy release was regrettable, the decision as of today was 100% correct. Harrison is making plays in bunches each game while Milloy is the invisible man up in Buffalo. Also, don't get me started about Drew...that performance last Sunday was vintage "Self-Destructing" Bledsoe.
-- Bob, Amherst, NH
A: Right, Bob. As I've written a zillion times, the timing was awful, the decision wasn't.
Great job on the mailbag. I was wondering, if you had heard an injury update, or doctor's report, on the status of Rosevelt Colvin -- the big signing of the off season. It seems strange that Bill Belichick, or Scott Pioli, haven't given an update.
-- Hector Lang, Lawrence, MA
A: It's not strange that they haven't given an update. They never will. Colvin is still resting and healing; still not doing any physical exercise. That's about all I know.
I look forward to your mailbag every week. Although it didnÕt seem to bother the PatriotÕs ground game this week, I canÕt help but be concerned over the deteriorating condition of the Gillette Stadium field. If the grass is in such poor shape in October, I donÕt even want to think about how bad it will be in December (especially with the big Buffalo rematch looming on 12/29). I fear the departure of Dennis Brolin will come back to haunt them.
-- Patrick, North Andover
A: It's a tough job. And I'm not throwing barbs at the new guy. It's a field that has a lot of activity on it and I'm sure they do the best they can.
Just wanted to say thanks for the great job you do with this column. I am serving with the U.S. Navy in the Arabian Gulf, and your column helps me keep up to date with the Pats. I have a question and a request. My question is, The Patriots defense has obviously stepped up this season. In your opinion, is this more related to the 3-4 Defense or a more talented line? Also, I read the question last week from the Pats fan from Down Under, I to have tried to listen to the Pats on the internet, it appears that the Patriots is the only team in the NFL that does not allow the local broadcast over the internet. It has been disappointing. There are a lot of Patriots Fans here, believe it or not, for the first game of the season, I found a room full of Patriots fans with Jerseys on. It was a National Guard Unit from Rhode Island. If the game is not on Armed Forces TV, about the only way to keep tabs on the game is on ESPN Gamecast. If you have any pull with the front office, could you bring it to their attention. Thanks!
-- Patrick Selurg, FPO, AE
A: My nephew lives in Bahrain, a former Navy man. I receive so many of these letters and I wish the Patriots could provide this service. I know they don't have the national and international following of the Red Sox, but they're becoming more and more popular. I hope it's not about money.
Now that Drew has a really good defense, a great running game and a stud wideout in Moulds can you explain to me how he's sitting there at 4-4 ? Also Nick can you explain to me how Tom Brady has his team at 6-2 with half the team in the hospital ? One other thing Nick can you explain to me how Bledsoe has only been able to throw 5TD's and yet have 8 picks ? Finally, has anyone seen or heard from the following people recently, they are as follows: Mr. Ron Borges, Mr Lawyer Milloy, Mr. Tom Donahoe and where are you Sam Gash ? Talk about losing credibility.
-- Ron, Wellesley
A: Ron, I don't think I need to answer the question. You've made up your mind that it's that bad quarterback in Buffalo, and that Milloy, Donahoe and Sam Gash are awful. I guess 4-4 is the end of the world. I'm glad the Patriots didn't think that when they were 4-4 in '01.
In your last column you had given Bill Belichick's record as a head coach. I was wondering if you could post in your next column what Drew Bledsoes record was as starting QB for the Patriots, including playoffs. I Know Tom Brady's record as a starting QB for the patriots is 29-12 including playoffs. I know that Bledsoe was probably under .500 as a starter, but he had stiffs around him like Curtis Martin, Ben Coates, Terry Glenn, and Bruce Armstrong. Not to mention a terrible coach in Parcells. I doubt you will respond to this question based upon your love affair with Bledsoe and your strong dislike of Brady and Belichick. Hope to hear from you soon.
-- Robert Kontoulis, Meriden/CT.
A: Robert so glad to hear from you again! Missed 'ya. Good question. I'm not quite sure what a players record has to do with a coaches record, but it's fun to figure out facts. Very interesting. My quick math on Drew as a starter is 74-72. Bill is 71-70 as a coach. Pretty close. Write anytime Robert. Even when the Bills are winning.
Love your column, and thanks for taking the time to do it. I always learn new and "inside" stuff.
My question: it seems like the date your column gets put on the web moves around. Last year it was on Friday. Early this season it was the Monday or Tuesday after a game, then moved to Thursday (which I prefer). At this point I am confused as your column was on updated last Thursday but yesterday. Do you know what day of the week your column going to be published on the web in the future?
Again, thanks for all your hard work, and thanks to the Globe for publishing it!
-- Dave Stone, Gordonsville, VA
A: They tell me it's Thursday.
Thanks for a great mailbag. 2 questions: 1) Last week you answered my question about the "third down trickery" vs Miami by saying that Charlie Weis likes to create surprise in the defense. I agree that sometimes this is a great way to go, but again, vs. the Browns, we tried some "trickery" with a 3rd and short with a (basically) naked pitch WAY out to Faulk, who was stuffed for a loss. The direct snap play to Troy Brown worked - thanks be to the football gods. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's these kinds of plays that BAD offenses usually resort to when they can't run a successful 5 yard play on a consistent basis. Are we that bad? Wouldn't it be better to go right after 3rd and 5 with a quick slant, quick in, a draw to Faulk, aren't these high percentage plays?
My other question is, why do you continue to answer Red Sox questions in the Patriot mailbag!??!?!!! This is FOOTBALL! The Red Sox have their own mailbag somewhere, which would be a more appropriate venue to discuss them. At this time of the year I'm doing my best to FORGET the painful Red Sox season and get on with New England's best offering: the PATRIOTS!!!
-- Daniel Arturi, Los Angeles, CA
A: I wouldn't say Charlie does it because it's a bad offense. I think he coaches by the same philosophy as do the defensive coaches - try something different as often as possible. I think he's trying to make something happen. He's trying to spring a big gain.
The players have placed a lot of attention on the condition of the field. Is it time for Coach to eat goat and ask for the gentleman who was "let go" if he would like to have his job back? How much of an impact can the field conditions make in the outcome of a game?
-- Peter Robinson, Ramstein Air Base
A: If they win, no impact. If they lose because Vinatieri couldn't plant his foot, or a back slipped on his way to a TD, I'm sure it's critical.
Do you feel that all the accolades Gillete Stadium has received are warranted? To me, it's your average football stadium with nothing that necessarily separates it from the pack (no, a non functioning lighthouse which doesn't even look like a lighthouse, watching parts of the game in the concourse behind a red line heavily guarded by burly security guards impeding your line of vision, and a McDonald's on the premises doesn't count). And I also don't buy the "you can see the game from any seat" as a legitimate selling point - of course you should be able to see the game from any seat in the stadium, especially at those prices. Obviously, Gillette is a godsend when compared to the old Foxborough stadium with its metal benches, gross shortage of restrooms, and other forms of cruel and unusual punishment. But how great is it when you set the bar above that of a medieval dungeon Keep up the good work!
-- johnny mongoose, Boston
A: The facility itself is great. They've had some problems. There's that 1 percent or so that's disruptive. If you have your family in the wrong seat at the wrong time, it's not a pleasant place. I think the Krafts have tried to get rid of as much of that 1 percent or so as they can. That's why they're so tough with fans who misbehave. The facility itself is very nice.
I have a couple of questions: First, could you comment on the new ownership of the Red Sox and how they compare with the Patriot's ownership. The reason I ask is that I see a lot of similarities between each group. When the Kraft's took over, they immediately improved Foxboro Stadium and started building an organization that was dedicated to winning. They certainly made mistakes along the way (Pete Carroll) and had setbacks (Parcelles leaving) but they are at least willing to make tough decisions and take chances. I've seen the same out of the Red Sox (Fenway is run much better over the past couple of years -- though we still need a new ballpark). Anyway, do you see the Sox taking steps to build an infrastructure to support a series of competitive teams in the same manner the Patriots have? A strictly football question: If Colvin can't come back (such as Robert Edwards) would the Patriots get cap relief? or would they have to eat that contract?
-- Larry Pohner, Foxboro, MA
A: Yes, John Henry, Tom Werner, New York Times Co. and Larry Lucchino try very hard to make their Red Sox a fan-friendly experience. They've done a great job in that regard.
I think we are playing Denver at the perfect time with all their injuries (ironically). I think with the injuries to John Mobley and Ian Gold we can really attack the middle of the field for this game. Brady is a little upset the D is getting most of the publicity. I think we are going to have an offensive breakout (i.e. touchdowns) for this game. Do you agree?
-- Rich Premerlani, Boston/MA
A: Completely agree. Very winnable game.
As a loyal Pats fan, I love Adam Vinatieri. However, in all his time here I think I've seen him reach the endzone during a kickoff maybe five times. Is he physically able to reach it for the touchback, or does he try and leave the kickoff around the other team's two yard line? Otherwise I figured the Pats should hire some bum for league minimum that can reach the end zone
-- Steve, Westwood, MA
A: Steve, he can't kick it in the end zone consistently. I think they would keep a kicker who could do it, but name one? Some of the guys who kick in domes do it, but otherwise, other than a Janikowski, there aren't many others who boot it in the end zone consistently any more.
You do great work. I was reading the paper the other day and noticed that both the Pats defense and offense are ranked in the 20's. How can that be with a 6-2 team that has beat the likes of Miami, Tenn., NY Giants etc.?
-- Dennis Irwin, Ocala, FL
A: They don't make mistakes; they force turnovers; they have a bend-but-don't break defense so the yardage piles up against them but the points don't.
Great mailbag. You mentioned last week that ÒLaw will likely be gone.Ó Do you really think this is possible with the way heÕs playing this year, sprained ankle and all? IÕd have a real problem with this because he continues to give everything he has for this team despite comments a week before the season that the Pats donÕt reward those efforts. HeÕs clearly putting the team before his health! As I remember the situation with Milloy was that the Pats could have restructured his contract so that he had a reduced cap hit and got the rest as a signing bonus, but the Pats chose not to go this route. DonÕt you think that Law should at least be offered this option before they send him packing? As you mentioned that first week of the season, there shouldnÕt be any reason why he wouldnÕt accepts it. FYI, there are no Pats bars in Shanghai, even Champions doesnÕt open early for games!
-- Gregory Heslin, Shanghai, China
A: He's gone if he doesn't restructure the way the Patriots want him to. I think Ty has made a great case for why he should hold his ground and perhaps get an even bigger contract. I don't a reduction is anywhere in his sightlines.
What does Belichick see in Mat Light? It seems that he get beat easily by fast DE.
-- Dean Chase, Needham/MA
A: Not sure I agree with that one. Light has had an outstanding year. Did you watch him against Jason Taylor? He handled him pretty well.
Hello Nick, nice work feeding us your knowledge on the Pats every week. This team is just so much fun to watch as you never know which of the 53 players will step up each week as Belichick seems to use all 53 making it a true TEAM.
What I'm amazed with is that in 3 1/2 years he and Pioli have completely overhauled and rebuilt the team with new players via free agency and drafting well with the common theme being guys who love to play football FIRST and get paid SECOND. That enthusiasm for the game shows every week. I guess my question is did you ever envision 4 years ago when we traded a precious first round pick for Belichick that they would already have a ring and have a great shot at getting another one this year all while in effect, rebuilding? I mean most new coaches taking over a team on the downside with little talent always say "our goal is to win a championship in year 4 or year 5", yet this team is STILL rebuilding and winning at the same time! By the way, everyone's saying we never and can't win in Denver, Belichick led us to a win there 3 years ago! And he'll do it again on Monday night.
-- Derron, Boxborough
A: No, I never thought they'd have a Super Bowl. I think Bill is surprised he won in '01 as well.
I think one reason the NFL is successful is their willingness to continuously modify the rules, even to the point of doing so primarily for the benefit of the fans. Do you think the game would be more enjoyable to watch if the hash marks were widened back to the college width? Do you know if this subject ever comes up in the Rules Committee? Thanks for your great insights Nick.
-- Sean Cassidy, Winthrop, MA
A: To my knowledge that topic hasn't come up for a very long time. I think they're pleased with the field aspect of the sport. I think they're pleased with just about everything. The sport is thriving.