The Texan trap
First of all, let me again apologize to those of you who did not receive a response to your e-mail. Believe me, I read several hundred of them this week, and I appreciate you taking the time to send your thoughts. As the season flows into crunch time, Patriots fans are sensing another post-season is around the corner. What's noticeable is the popularity around this team from not only New England, but transplanted Patriots fans around the country and abroad. It is staggering.
We had a wide range of questions this week from the aftermath of the Bill Bowl to great concern about Ken Walter's punting, to those of you reveling in the failures of Drew Bledsoe, Lawyer Milloy and Tom Donahoe, and the many great responses to a story I wrote last week about Tyrone Poole's spirituality.
We also had a few E-mailers who wanted to correct a letter from a fellow in Maryland who claimed Colts offensive lineman Ryan Diem had a neo-Nazi tattoo on his right shoulder, when indeed, as the E-mailers correctly pointed out, it was a tattoo of Diem's alma mater, Northern Illinois. Having spent a couple of days with the Colts this week here in Indianapolis, I have seen the tattoo and confirm the Northern Illinois insignia.
The Texans are up. When you think of this team you immediately think trap game for the Patriots. Now a team in its second year shouldn't put up much of a fuss against New England, but the Texans did beat Miami in Miami, beat Carolina, and they beat Buffalo at Orchard Park. This is a rising team with nothing to lose.
"This team right here (the Texans) is the type of team that scares you because they play big in big games. They beat Carolina. They beat Buffalo, which is something we didn't do. They beat Miami. They seem like they know the AFC East pretty well," said Patriots cornerback Ty Law.
Added Coach Bill Belichick about the fact that the Patriots lost to the Bills in Orchard Park, 31-0 and the Texans beat the Bills there, 12-10: "We've gone into Buffalo and we didn't get much done there offensively. Houston went in there and did a lot more than we did. We respect their performance against Buffalo and beating a team like Carolina who was 6-1. Cincinnati and the Jets, the Texans are one or two plays away from winning those games. It's a good football team with an experienced staff and an experienced defense and a lot of young explosive players on the offensive side of the ball and the kicking game."
They play a similar 3-4 defense to the Patriots, and this week they'll have veteran Tony Banks quarterbacking. Banks is mobile and can throw deep. Rookie wide receiver Andre Johnson is an exciting receiver. Greg Randall is the Texans' starting right tackle and is playing very well. The Patriots traded him to the Texans in the offseason for a fifth-round pick which wound up being BC center Dan Koppen. So, a fair swap for both teams.
"It's just another game," Randall said from Houston. "I'm just ready to play and move on. It worked out best for both parties and I'm just happy to be here. Im very excited and I just want to play good. Any time you get back playing, it feels good to get back out there and just say 'I moved on.' I just want to go out there and play and give it our best."
Bobby Grier is an executive with the team, but he has informed the Texans media relations staff that he's not interested in doing any interviews with the Boston media. Grier has never talked about his demise in New England. He left as quietly as he came in.
The Texans have a very good coach in Dom Capers, who, if you'll remember, was going to be the Patriots coach had Bill Belichick not been let out of his Jets contract. It would have been a Capers-Donahoe management team in New England.
Note of the week from our NFL guy, Randall Liu: The best TD-to-INT ratio in the red zone among QB's since the start of the 2002 season: Chad Pennington, Jets: 22 TDs, 0 INTs; Tom Brady, NE 24-1; Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle, 21-1; Jake Plummer, Arizona/Denver 21-1....
Just checking out my AFC East predictions back in September before the season started: Miami (11-5), New England (10-6), Buffalo (9-7), New York (8-8). Had Pats and Titans as wildcards. I think I'm in trouble.
1) I always hated Deion Sanders when he played. Then when he started doing TV, I thought, well, he's getting (just a little) wiser and less arrogant with age. Now I see that he's just as dumb as ever. He says he doesn't want to undermine Dan Reeves position, but he wants to be considered for his job. AND, he wouldn't consider an assistant position, because he wouldn't have enough 'legitimate input'. Wow. It shows you how much some of these guys (like Warren Sapp) live in a bubble, are insulated from the real world, and end up believing their own hype. They have no idea how the rest of the world lives, even their own coaches. He really made himself look bad, because de didn't just give an off-the-cuff remark. He obviously thought about this before he said it, and has said it several times.
2) Does that "Drewfardo" guy still write in?
-- Christopher Brown, Chicago, IL
A: Deion is flamboyant, no question. I got to know him years ago when he played for the Braves when I was writing my book with Tom Glavine, and the Braves players loved him. He was a good teammate in baseball and I know the football guys liked him as well. Even if he means it, bad thing to say on TV and throw Dan Reeves under the bus like that. As for Drewfardo, haven't heard from him. Hope he's not getting sacked somewhere.
Love your column. I know you have spent a lot of time responding to criticism on Drew Bledsoe. So sorry in advance....Perhaps the Bills will make a late run, but it doesn't look that way after the debacle in Dallas. If they continue to falter it is likely that the Bills will hire a new head coach next year and possibly a new offensive coordinator. If that happens I would like to know how many different offensive coordinators and systems Drew has had to learn in his tenure. It is incredible how many times he has had to change coordinators and systems. I am starting to think that it may be a result of some of Drew's weaknesses and his inability to win the "big game" since 1996. What do you think?
-- Mark Woelfel, San Diego, CA
A: No need to soften your question to me Mark. Drew isn't my brother or anything. He's a player that I covered for many years that I grew to respect as a person. People love to trash him. They love to rub it in his face, which is something I just don't understand and never will. I don't think the guy ever did anything to deserve that. That's all. I had the same respect for Roger Clemens in the 12 years I covered him. Drew is definitely on the decline. Anyone can see that. The teams that have good blitzes can get to him. He needs maximum protection and if he doesn't get it, you'd might as well have Alex Van Pelt in the game. Since 1996, I think he did win some big games. He was the QB, spelling Brady, in the AFC championship game against Pittsburgh. But I don't think that enters into it. His type of QB just doesn't fit with the NFL today unless he can drop back and he has a Kansas City Chiefs-like offensive line that can protect him. I thought he did a good job making the Bills respectable last season, but he hasn't been able to take them to the next level.
Your journalism continues to exceed the highest standards! (Yes that is gratuitous brown nosing to get this posted!) Here is a comment and a question.
First, let me say that I am glad for Terry Glenn, for as immature as he was here in New England it seems like he's got his act together for Bill P. I can't say I was a huge fan of his but I'm glad he's doing well at least on the field. Hopefully he's taking the route Irving Friar ran, that is out of here to bigger and better things personally if not professionally.
Second, do you know why CBS specifically WBZ does not have an HD channel on Comcast? It is the only local channel that is not carrying an HD signal. The game this week will be fantastic not only because it's Bill Bowl , but also because it will be on ESPN. I never miss a game but I really wish the games were broadcast in HD the sox and bruins have got it going on, how about the pats? Is this a Viacom/Comcast thing? I figured if anyone would know you would
Any way thanks for the great column keep up the good work!
-- Bernie, Boston, MA
A: Glenn, so far has made the effort to turn his life around. He can't play for Parcells forever, so he's got to learn to adapt to other coaches as well. The HD stuff is nowhere close to anything I know anything about.
Can the Pats win another Super Bowl?
-- PJ Jones, Newton
A: Yes. If they get by KC or Tenn. I think they can beat the NFC team.
With all the talk of Bill Belichick being a football genius it made me think of another football mind once referred to as an offensive genius...Norv Turner. Not looking so hot now. Does this term get over-used?
-- Brian Z., Arlington, MA
A: Oh yeah. It's too bad some of the credit given to Belichick can't be shifted a little toward Romeo Crennel. It's his defense.
I noticed that when you wrote about finding out if certain teams were legitimate; Patriots Mass For Stretch Run, 11/10/03; you did not mention the Cowboys, the Patriots next opponent. This lends me to believe that you are an obvious Patriot Homer and have no objectivity when writing about the NFL. I will be looking forward to reading what you have to say on Monday, 11/17/03.
-- John Packer, Fort Worth, TX
A: Must have been an oversight John.
Just got a look at the "alternative" jersey. Please send a note to management that they look lousy. (I don't like ANY of the jerseys that have the stripe along the torso) If they want something different go towards the old red, white and blue of yesteryear.
-- Paul Iannelli, Kennesaw, Ga
A: I second that Paul.
I think the key to the Patriots' success has been stability in the front office and the coaching staff. One of the potential problems, though, is that Scott Pioli does not have the title of GM. With Pats' success in the 2003 draft, I think it's only a matter of time before he's offered a GM position. Is he able to leave at any time to take a promotion elsewhere, like assistant coaches?
-- Phil Audet, Austin TX
A: I think he would be able to move on, yes. It's not so much a question of whether he was given the title, it's a question of whether he was given the money. Look, even if the Patriots gave him the GM title, he wouldn't be in charge. Belichick is the head of the organization. Pioli was signed to a new deal last year. At some point, if you want to spread your wings, you have to leave. Why are we assuming he wants to leave?
In hindsight do you think most teams looking for a quarterback at the time were correct in their unwillingness to give up a high draft pick at the time for Bledsoe? Also it is interesting to see the status of the 3 QB's who signed the "10year/ $100 mill." deals a few years ago in Bledsoe, Favre, and Brunell.
-- Brendan Maguire, Bridgewater
A: In hindsight yes, they were correct. At the time, no.
Do you think Belichick and Pioli deserve mid-season recognition for the jobs they did with the draft and free agents? This year's draft surely exceeded everyone's expectations, rivaling 1985's Law, Johnson, et. al.). Plus their free agents have been an overall plus (Harrison). What's your opinion?
-- Joe Curtis, Weston, CT
A: They did a tremendous job and they've received a ton of recognition for it. It's written and talked about almost every day, every week. It's written and talked about locally and nationally.
I'm a big fan of your mailbag. You seem to give us an insider's view of the Patriots that is much appreciated. My question is about Rodney Harrison. Do you think his reputation as a 'dirty' player has obscured how good a player he is. I know he's been to a couple of pro-bowls, but could he have gone to more?
-- Jason Harris, Bennington, VT
A: No. I think it's part of how good a player he is. Part of his game is intimidation and that means at times he has to take a shot at someone to make sure they know he's lurking out there. He may be the most fined player in NFL history. As long as he keeps that intensity he's going to continue to be an be an effective player. I think that intensity is something that Lawyer Milloy might have lost along the way.
I see the 2 Aggies are doing well so far. But on to more interesting matters. I heard Bill Parcells discussing the lack of trades happening in the NFL at this time. As is usually the case, its the cap hit from the huge signing bonuses that cause most teams to not be in the cap space to take that hit. Why don't more teams skip the signing bonuses and just guaranty that money over the length of the contract? Then whichever team gets the player in a trade is liable for that money against their cap.
-- Henry Chosta, Northbridge, MA
A: Henry, this is a pet peeve of mine as well. I wish there could be some adjustment made so we can eliminate some of these bogus contracts. Instead of signing a guy to a 10-year, $100 million deal he'll never see, why not go to a 3-year deal for $30 million guaranteed?
Do you envision the Patriots and Bills making another deal this offseason?
New England has a lot of draft picks and Buffalo has Travis Henry, what do think?
-- Daniel Mateus, East Providence
A: I doubt it.
I recently read that Belichick's title with the Jets was Assistant Head Coach/Secondary Coach. Why was he not the coordinator? Was Groh the coordinator? Was this a sign of disrespect by Big Bill?
-- Scott Burgess, Chicago, IL
A: Right. Al Groh was the coordinator.
This is a comment to the man who asked about where to watch the Pats in Montreal. Try Peel's Pub on the corner of Peel and St. Catherine's streets. I watched the Pats beat the Steelers there in 1998.
-- Dan Carter, Boston MA
A: Good choice.
What happened to the Brady meter??? I thought it was pretty funny, and there are endless episodes to reference.
-- Carlos Gomez, Amherst
A: I know. I guess the Boston.com folks got a lot of requests to get rid of it.
I'm taking a trip to Miami the weekend the Pats play the Colts. Do you know any sports bars there where Pats fans gather to watch the game? I'm a season ticket holder and don't want to miss a minute of another great season.
-- Ken Macek, Narragansett, RI
A: Ken, let's see if the power of this forum can help you find a place. I'm sure our readers will come through for you prior to the Colts game.
In regards to the Rush Limbaugh comment about Donovan McNabb. I know what Rush said was wrong. But, I honestly don't think he meant it in a hurtful or racially degrading way. On the other hand, why can Warren Sapp call the NFL commissioner and those "higher up" who run the league "Slave Masters"? I don't think that Warren Sapp and his multi million dollar contract knows the first thing about slave masters or being a slave. I find his comments much more slandering than those of Limbaugh. Why is it okay for Sapp to say these things?
-- Joe Sawhill, Des Moines, Iowa
A: Joe, it's a great point. I don't think either comments are appropriate.
I know, I know, everyone says it but Nick, I really mean this. I thoroughly enjoy your column and the insider feel it has. Keep up the good work!
I have a question and a comment. In last weeks column, both in the opening section and in an answer to at least one question, you seem to place the blame for the rift between Parcells and Belichick squarely on Belichick's shoulders. You mention how he left the Jets even though he had been groomed for the head coach position and given a $1 million bonus. I see it this way, Belichick was tired of working in Parcells shadow for so many years and wanted to do things on his own in his own way. Was he wrong to not want to be Parcells puppet? After all isn't that what he would have been with Parcells still in the Jets front office? I firmly believe he would have been head coach in title only and his only way out from under Parcells thumb was to move on. Granted it was handled poorly but I certainly don't blame Belichick. The shabby way Parcells left the Patriots was, in my opinion, far worse. Spending half his time in New Orleans, Super Bowl weekend, on the telephone to the Jets main office (I read he placed more than 50 calls to Hempstead NY that weekend). My comment is a minor one but because I look forward to your insights I have to ask. You publish a writers list of questions and often times you will only answer one or two of them in your column. It would be better if you either answered all of an individuals questions or only printed the ones you answered. Thanks again Nick!
-- Brian Simmons, Carver Massachusetts
A: I really don't understand how the blame for what happened in New York would rest on Parcells and not Belichick. Bill knew for years that Parcells was grooming him to be HC of the NYJ. This didn't come as a surprise. And knowing Parcells as we all do, how long would he have stayed in the Jets' front office? How long did he stay in the front office? Certainly, I understand that after so many years under Parcells you want to break loose and be your own man; just as, I would assume, Romeo Crennel would like to break loose and be a head coach. Fact is, Belichick had a contract and the league upheld the contract. It took negotiations between Parcells and Kraft in a trade to free him. And the situation got him to NE where he's become an icon. As Parcells often says, it worked out great for Belichick. I'm a little unsure what you mean on the last part of your question. If you could clarify and get back to me, I'd be happy to answer it.
I am desperately looking for a tape of Monday night's football game between the Patriots and Broncos. Chris Bonifant, Alexandria, Va.
Nick, I have it, if nobody else steps up. You can give her my email address.
-- Jayme Martin, Pembroke Pines, FL
A: Way to go Jayme.
Seeing as the Pats are having pretty good success this year, I am fairly sure that other NFL franchises will look to the New England for potential hires. I was curious who you think would have the biggest/least impact loss to the Patriots if they were in fact offered better jobs with another team: Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel or Charlie Weis.
-- Mike Murphy, Providence, RI
A: Great question. Given that Weis' offense is probably the weak link on a very good team, I would say Charlie. But I suppose you can make an argument for all three guys. Understand, that while Crennel makes the defensive game plans and the calls, Belichick can coach defense. And while Scott Pioli does a nice job along with his excellent scouting staff of finding players, Belichick makes the final call on those players.
I don't understand why you won't answer a very fair question: At what point (if any) would you admit that you were wrong about the Patriots trading Bledsoe to the Bills?
-- David Berg, New York, NY
A: I know there's a long drum roll, David, and you're anxious to hear an answer that suits you. But I don't think I can give you one until the season ends.
When you write in Ask Nick that Belichick "betrayed" Parcells what exactly do you mean? I don't think that is a fair characterization. Betrayal to me means more like what Parcells did to the Patriots during the week before he was to coach in the Super Bowl.
-- David Berg, New York, NY
A: Well, let's see. Parcells just hands him the job that he's promised him for years, and the next day he quits.
Would you vote for Jim Rice in the Hall of Fame?
Does it bother you that Manny Ramirez wears Dwight Evans' number 24? If the Sox stick to their policy of retiring numbers (play ten years and make the Hall of Fame) that means it is likely Wade Boggs will have his number 26 retired. I think it is stupid to retire his number and not Evans or Rice. What do you think?
-- Chris Watson, S. Portland, Maine
A: I have voted for Jim Rice for the Hall of Fame (I have a vote) since he was eligible. Yes, it bothers me when the numbers of former great Red Sox are given out. I believe the criteria for deciding which numbers the Sox will retire is in the process of being changed. I think the new ownership and administration has received numerous complaints and suggestions to change the current criteria.
From ESPN.com/nfl - Continuity Drives Unit to Excel, By Mickey Spagnola, Pro Football Weekly 11/12/03
"Although Parcells is generally hailed for turning around the fortunes of this struggling franchise, he barely touched the defense."
From sports.yahoo.com/nfl - New England plans for NFL's top defense, By Howard Ulman, AP Sports Writer 11/13/03
"Parcells is a big reason for that, having installed a more aggressive defense after taking over for Dave Campo following Dallas' third straight 5-11 season."
So is this Parcells' defense or not?
Which one of these guys didn't do their homework?
Spagnola is PFW beat writer for the Cowboys and Ulman is an AP writer for Boston sports in general.
Obviously Spagnola then is the more credible source.
I know this only sports, but where does it begin and end?
Should I, as a news consumer, question the reliability of every source?
I don't want you throw anyone under the bus, but as a sports fan should this be condoned as good journalism?
-- Hugh Kirkpatrick, San Francisco
A: Mike Zimmer was retained as defensive coordinator. The defense is his. Parcells has let him run it, just as Belichick has let Romeo Crennel run his defense.
Teams such as KC and Dallas are having great seasons because their solid starters (as opposed to easily replaced marginal ones) have not suffered any significant injuries. Assume that no one else on the Pats gets seriously injured from now until December 1st and that everyone who is expected to come back over that time returns on schedule. How healthy would you then say the Pats would then be relative to an average NFL playoff-bound team on December 1st? Is having one Pro Bowler (Colvin) and two productive veterans (Patten and our starting center) out for the season still considered pretty bad luck relative to teams such as Indy, Tennessee, St. Louis, Baltimore, Carolina and Philadelphia? Will those teams have suffered similar losses, on average, by December 1st?
-- Dolly Champsi, San Francisco, CA
A: The Patriots, despite their health, have suffered major losses. You mentioned Colvin, who by the way has never made the All-Pro team, Patten and Compton. Normally they would be serious injuries that playoff teams could not overcome. This Patriots team will likely overcome them.
Thanks for taking the question and thanks for doing a great job, as you always do.
Just wanted to let you know that I thought the article on Ty Poole was very well done!
-- John Ghirardi
A: Thanks John. The response was overwhelming from readers and spiritual and religious leaders around the world.
Why did you write, "Quite a difference there. Rush Limbaugh made a racist comment." Limbaugh said three things. One, McNabb was overrated. (He is!) Two, the reason the media overrated McNabb was because they wanted to see a black quarterback succeed. And three, by implication, the media should not consider race when rating athletes. This seems to be just the opposite of "racism".
-- Barry Goddard, Manchester, NH
A: You're entitled to your opinion, Barry.
Your recent article on Poole was FANTASTIC. The best article I have ever read in the Boston Globe! You should be proud of yourself. I don't have a question, I just wanted to compliment that and couldn't find your email.
Never thought I'd see the day when a legitimate, fair, article was done about a Christian football player. The networks don't even like showing the players praying before a game.
Transplanted Pats Fan,
-- Jason Jarvis, Mansfield, OH
A: Thank again. I think if you're writing a profile on a player and a big part of who he is tied into spirituality and religion, you need to bring that out.
I have to say that your article on Tyrone Poole was great! I typically tune out player interviews when they start to "thank god my savior" because too often it appears to be more of a mask than heart felt. (I wonder how many of these players spout this stuff to put off reporters!) I'm not a religious person, but I can certainly respect Tyrone's faith and his devotion to his family. Keep up the good work!
-- Michael Mudge, Wilmington, MA
A: Thank you Michael. Hopefully, it's all real and heartfelt by the players.
First let me say thanks to you and the globe for providing this forum for us, it's really great to have.
Now to the question, why can't everyone build their team like the Patriots do? I know this needs some extrapolation so give me a second. In reading your Tyrone Poole piece this week I realized that the Patriots want guys like him. Not for religion or faith but because of their values and work ethic. When I first heard Poole was one of the only ones not attending off season workouts I said oh great, here we go with one of those players. Then when it came out why, that he wanted to spend more time with his family, I couldnt blame him. Then I started thinking about the rest of this team, they are all sort of like that. There are superstars in the making, Colvin, Brady, Law, but they don't do the me first thing that you see on so many other teams. I mean why do teams put up with guys like Shockey, Sapp, Owens, Moss, etc. that are obviously distractions to the team and lightning rods for criticism? It occurs to me that the Patriots would never pick a guy like this up and if they had one they'd let him go (Terry Glenn). It seems like the Pats put a lot of time and effort into finding out what kind of person they are getting and don't even draft these kind of guys. Now I don't know whom this comes from weather it be the Krafts or Belichick but I appreciate it. Now seeing the Patriots do it and be successful at it I keep wondering why other teams don't do it. It just makes sense to do it this way to me.
-- Art, Saco, ME
A: In general, I think all teams want to do it the way the Patriots do. Other teams do spend a lot of time on finding good guys, people committed to football to play on their teams. It's not really unique to the Patriots. What happens is, scouts and GMs just fall in love with a players' talent. He may be fast, and strong and a great athlete. That seems to supercede the character issue. Parcells always thought that maybe he could take a great talent and make him become a good citizen. I think he and Belichick tried to do that with Lawrence Taylor. The edict of good citizens comes from Kraft, but Belichick has executed Krafts wishes very nicely. He's been able to find talented players, who he can make better with good coaching, who he knows work hard and will keep out of trouble.
Just a comment -- We really didn't need to read what a religious guy Ty Poole is -- he plays football for the Pats -- that all we need to know. I'm sick of hearing how good players are because they BELIEVE. Lets stick to the sports part of sports and keep religion private.
-- Jim, Arlington
A: Jim, I'm sure others share your sentiments. I think what you've outlined has been the prevailing opinion on this topic.
In the Globe's notebook articles, it's always mentioned which injured players practiced and who didn't practice. How do you know who does and does not practice since Belichick's practices are closed to the media?
-- Jerry Cohen, NY, NY
A: The media relations department is allowed to give out that information at the end of the day.
Not excited about it but can't help thinking, which current Pats do you think will be wearing Cowboy's jerseys next year? (Submitted prior to New England/Dallas game)
-- ES, NJ
A: We always think that way, but I doubt you'll see any of that.
In response to Tom Ryan's request for a Montreal Sports Bar, my suggestion would be "La Cage aux Sports". It is in the center of town, right off of St. Catherine, almost directly across from the Bell Centre (where the Canadiens Play). Big Sports game that shows all the games every week. Great wings and a variety of brews on draft. Believe it or not, there are a lot of Pats fans up there as well, it may be the proximity to Vermont. The address is:
La Cage aux Sports Restaurant
1212 de la Gaucheti're West,
-- Dave Ridley, Peabody, MA
A: Thanks, Dave.
Just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your work, covering my 2 favorite teams, the Sox & Pats. You really promote the personalities of the players. I thought it was great of you and the Globe to publish your recent piece on Tyrone Poole's faith. And your patience, gentleness, and perseverance in your responses to mailbag questions is inspiring. My question is a longer horizon one: how do you see the coaching turnover progressing over the next 5-10 years. What type of record does Bill Belichick need to maintain to stick around? How long before Romeo, Charlie, and Dante get new jobs? Finally, does Belichick make the impact of how the game is played, to the level of a Holmgren (Sherman, Mornhinweg, Gruden, Mariucci, Reid), a Halas (who begat George Allen, who begat Vermeil), a Steve Owen (who begat Howell, who begat Lombardi and Landry, who begat Reeves, who begat Shanahan), a Sid Gillman (who begat Al Davis and Chuck Noll, who begat Dungy), or a Paul Brown (who begat Ewbank and Collier and Bill Walsh and Dick LeBeau), with whom many coaches came from under Ewbank (Jeff Fisher, Seifert, Denny Green, Billick), and more from Bill Walsh (see Holmgren, above). Do you see a breakout of coaches from Belichick in the future?
-- Timothy Tien, New York, NY
A: Belichick is probably around as long as he wants to be. I think the Krafts have a lot of faith in him. In time there will likely be offshoots from his coaching staff. Absolutely. Weiss and Crennel will likely be considered and there are also other guys behind them like Eric Mangini, who has done a great job with the DBs and Brian Daboll, who does a great job with receivers. Both of those guys have a chance to be coordinators in the not-to-distant future.
I don't have a question. I just wanted to say that was a nice article about Tyrone Poole you wrote. I really enjoyed it. I love reading something that shows the personal side of players.
-- Shawn Duggan
A: Thanks, Shawn.
Thanks for the column, Nick. You (or a letter writer) recently referred to NE fans as being unusually nasty to players who have moved on to other teams -- Bledsoe and Milloy being the two mentioned in that column. I offer a different perspective: I didn't start to like Drew until he went to Buffalo. I was never more depressed as a Pats fan than when he was signed for a second 7-year stint. I think Drew is at the very top of the mediocre pile. I don't deny he's picked up a load of yards during his career, but many were great catches rather than great tosses -- few that I remember anyway (and I'm almost 50, and take great pride in remembering anything) were taken by a receiver in stride, they usually had to adjust for a ball a few yards short of target. Commentators didn't refer to Drew as great until he showed tremendous class by keeping his disappointment over being replaced by Brady to himself. Then they all were describing him as a top QB. When Buffalo signed him I went to their website and chuckled at their enthusiasm. Just wait, I thought, until they get tired of his holding the call too long or throwing an interception at a game's key moment. Still, I hope the guy does well against everyone except NE. I watch their games and root for him -- but I also smile when he does badly, not because I'm glad to see it, but because I'm glad he's not in a Patriots uniform. I don't hate Milloy and like most others have conceded the point that Belichick saw the depth in his defense before the rest of us. That's why he's the coach. I was sorry to see him go and hope he excels in the years ahead. Finally, I frequently stuff the shells with meat as well as ricotta; and I also usually put mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses into the shells as well. At least as good as Lasagna and easier to snack. Thanks for the forum.
-- Kerry Alan, Rockland, ME
A: Kerry, I thought your comments were well thought out. I have no problem with the way you describe this. It's not mean-spirited, and I guess that's my problem with some fans, and I want to emphasize "some" because it's more the vocal minority which is mean-spirited. Meat in shells, huh?
First thing I like to say is that a couple of weeks ago I wrote to you and challenged you on an article you wrote. I appreciated that you responded to me, which shows a level of accountability. With that being said It seems to me you really don't care for Belichick very much. I get this impression by reading between the lines of your articles. You did this with Brady for a while when comparing him to Bledsoe. Nick, if your job is to stir up the pot, then your doing your job at least with me. I laugh when people write in and make it sound like your the victim, and guys like me are the attackers. They might as well name you Saint Nick. Anyway here is a good stat, Parcells record with Belichick is 128-78, without Belichick it is 28-30. Great Column and keep stirring the pot.
-- Robert Kontoulis, Meriden CT
A: St. Nick. Not bad. Way back at the beginning of this Bledsoe-Brady thing, people took sides. If you liked Bledsoe, it meant you didn't like Brady. Maybe I got caught up in that, but since what he did in the Super Bowl, I've always felt he's the right guy for the job. Good guy, too. As for Belichick, I've always written he's a great coach. Some times when I print his record, people think I'm taking a shot. So be it.
A big shout from Montreal. Born and raised in Cambridge, its hard to keep up with the pats as much as I would like, your mailbag makes it a bit easier. One of your writers asked about where to watch the game in Montreal. Living in Montreal with no cable I need to answer that question for myself every week. The place to go is Champs bar on St. Laurent street, reasonable food, good drinks and all the games on all the screens, the usually have the pats game on the big screen with sound, and often we have a big pats representation. Hope this helps all visitors to Montreal.
-- Justin, Montreal/Quebec
A: You're giving us some options, Justin.
We all know that the 2 Bills don't exchange Christmas cards, but how is the relationship between Parcells and Scott Pioli?
-- Joe Holland, Arlington, TX
A: Saw them speaking before the game, but otherwise I have no idea.
Why is Ken Walter still our punter? and..What do u think about Rodney Harrison?
-- Scott David Hunter, Groton, Connecticut
A: They still haven't found anyone they like. That could change. Rodney is a great guy off the field. He's very thoughtful in his comments. Very smart.
Is Deion Branch related to Cliff Branch, the one-time Oakland Raiders receiver?
-- Jake, Guilford
Simple Question. If the coordinators set up the game plan and call the plays for the game, just what does Coach Belichick do during the week and during the game?
-- John Reid, Toronto Ontario
A: Coordinates it all. He looks over each game plan. Goes over it with the coordinators to make sure no small detail has been overlooked. He makes suggestions and I'm sure he tweaks it so everyone is on the same page.
I loved the article you wrote about Tyron Poole and his faith. It was inspirational. I would like to hear more about the faith of the Patriots players. It's good for all of us.
-- Bob McGrath, Rowley, MA
A: There are other devout Christians on the team like Anthony Pleasant and Rick Lyle.
I sent this to you last week and don't know if you try to get all in or what, but please post this question when possible: Tully Banta-Cain, I can't figure what the story is on him. Before the draft, all the 'experts' had him going high in the 1st round or 2nd rounds. He slipped somewhere to the 7th or 8th (?) where the Pats took him. I know he must have had an injury. Did the injury account fro the difference between where he was predicted to be taken in the draft and where he was taken? What did the experts seeing that others didn't? What did the Pats see? Thanks Nick. Love the Mail Bag!!
-- Carl Faulstick, Orono, Maine
A: Not only the injury (he had knee surgery), but he was a DE in college and the feeling was he was too small to play DE in the pros. So you'd have to project him as an outside LB. I think the guy is a pretty good player. He's very aggressive on special teams and that will lead to some playing time on defense, probably more next season than this one.
I've been looking all around the web for an official NFL rulebook. The closest I can find is at http://www.nfl.com/fans/rules/. But it's a dumbed-down version meant to tell you what the rules mean instead of telling you what the rules actually say. Amazon has a hard copy of the rules for sale, but I'd rather save the money for nachos and beer. Do you know anywhere online that I can get an official NFL rulebook? And while you're at it, how does a person become a referee? Is there a farm league, do you have to ref college games first? Thanks for the great mailbag.
-- Chance Farago, Norwalk, CT
A: I'm an internet dummy. Those books they put out, you know, An Idiot's Guide to This and That" they're directed at me. There is an officials school. Florida. I'm sure the NFL office would have the information.
In response to Tom Ryan from Woburn who was looking for a good Montreal sports bar: Sharx. Its in downtown Montreal, pretty popular bar, ask anyone and they'll probably know where it is. Its like a Canadian version of Hooters.
-- Ellis, Amherst
A: Maybe Tom can take all of these in.
I am watching the Dallas/Patriot game on TV and have to wonder if the announcers think that Dallas is the only team on the field. Then I check the player ratings on the CBS website and find the most of the Patriots are not rated in the top 50 of each position. What does this team have to do to gain respect from the so-called knowledgeable.
-- Dick Rockwell, Westminster, Ma.
A: Dick, don't worry about things like that. Remember '01? Nobody gave them any credit for anything. They slid under the radar screen. This is how the Patriots want it. Play along with it. The last thing Belichick wants is a lot of publicity around he and the team.
If football had the mid-season trade methodology of baseball, the Patriots right now would be looking to a losing team out of playoff contention for a dependable punter. Perhaps they would trade a #3 pick for a decent player. Are in-season trades forbidden in the NFL or is it just a custom?
-- Brian Alves, Mundelein, IL
A: Not forbidden at all. There's a trade deadline - usually around mid October, and most of the time there are few or no trades made. To trade an established player, you have to take on the acceleration of his pro-rated signing bonus. And no NFL team is going to give up a good player anyway. There are too many injuries. Teams need depth. Even if you have three of something, you know the first two could get hurt.
I'm happy to see that the Pats are on a roll. I watched the end of today's game against the Cowboys. One thing I didn't understand was the very last play. After Law intercepted the pass, why did he try to run? Is it meant as a victor's statement to the Cowboys? And why did he spike the ball to another player on his team while running? Is that an attempted side pass to continue the play (because forward pass by defense is illegal)?
Thanks for your help!
Pats watcher in New Haven
-- Hao Wang, Boston
A: Ty shouldn't have run it out and he knows it. The coaching staff spoke to him about that play.
This is a serious question, though not important in the overall scheme of life. The Bills fans were booing pretty vigorously after last week's loss to the Texans? Have you ever asked him whether he can tell the difference? I'm curious if he is better able to protect his psyche as an athlete since over the years he has often associates the "booing" sound as a positive one.
-- Steve McDevitt, Medford
A: Hey, good point. But I get the feeling he knows the difference now.
Nick, here are some early season quotes from your column:
"One thing I didn't see too much of in this week's mailbag were Drew Bledsoe bashers. They tend to hide when he plays well. It's OK. You can write. Stick to your convictions if that's what you believe. I do.
I don't think I've ever seen a team do so much to help a competing team within the division get so good so fast. The Bills were in ashes just two years ago. The trade to Buffalo of Bledsoe, sparked their offense. Their offseason moves to revamp their defense has worked well, and taking Milloy away from the Patriots has made them a worthy contender. We don't even know what Willis McGahee can do yet. It didn't take long thanks to a little help from the Patriots."
"A lot of writers nationally are calling a close game. Until I see the Patriots have come back from their funk in the Milloy situation, I'm still picking the Eagles in a romp. Not the 31-0 type romp, but maybe a 28-14 or 24-14 type game. This is a game I had the Eagles winning anyway when I made my 10-6 prediction for the Pats. I feel so distant from that 10-6 right now. Imagine the guys who were picking 12-4 and 13-3?"
Care to discuss how wrong you are, and continue to be, about the Patriots and Bills' management teams? Bledsoe and the Bills are finished, and Lawyer Milloy is an expensive non-factor for them. The Patriots, meanwhile, may be the best team in the NFL and have 4 picks in the first two rounds next year. Your hatred of Belichick and Co. has turned your column into a laughingstock.
-- Patrick Murray, Chelmsford, MA
A: Patrick, I can feel the pain right between my shoulder blades. You got me good. And with good reason. I mean, what can I say? I just don't have the foresight to predict things as well as someone like you. You're a role model for all of us. I mean way back when I made that absolutely stupid prediction that the Eagles might romp over the Patriots, how could I not see after a 31-0 Patriots loss to the Bills, that the Patriots would rebound and just kick that lousy Eagles team all over the field? But you saw it. How could I not see that Tom Donahoe had no clue how to build a team and that Drew would become an absolute horror show? But I didn't. You did. You're the man Patrick. I'm sure you've predicted all 10 games, perfectly. I'll bet you get all 16 right. I'm glad you get a good laugh out of my column, which by the way, this isn't. It's called a mailbag, but I'm sure you knew that, too. And I'm sure it was a mere oversight on your part, but I'm sure you saw my column of a few weeks ago when I thought Belichick and Parcells should be the top candidates for coach of the year. And I'm 100 percent positive it was an oversight on your part that when the Lawyer Milloy situation occurred, I wrote in this mailbag, or, I'm sorry, in this "column" that we should give Belichick the benefit of the doubt on his decision to release Milloy. But don't let the facts stand in the way of a good rip job Patrick.
Love the column. Great follow-through on the things that the fans want to know... not what some reporter wants to write.
So here's my questions... Why didn't Parcells use his remaining 2 time outs at the end of the game to try to score and then try an on-side kick or at least try for a field goal to avert the shut-out? Why the DEEP handoff with 4th and 2 in the last 2-minutes when the QB sneak or quick hitter was working... or maybe even a naked bootleg with Carter running so well ... Parcells make a bad call? Not to take anything away from the Patriots D, but I'm thinking Parcells purposely let his team go down to defeat to:
1. satisfy his ego by being able to say... we probably could have scored, but we played so badly that we didn't deserve to win; and/or
2. to be able to use the shut-out as a motivating tool for the rest of the season... play better, mistake free ball or the good teams will beat you.
I just don't see it in his character to give BB and the Patriots the credit they deserve. Like to hear your comments.
My second question is really my weekly plea for more touches by my two hidden treasures ... David Givens and Patrick Pass. Givens again showed he has the right stuff with a good catch and great move to set-up the TD. Pass again showed his strength, desire and hands when he made the catch and then broke a tackle in a tense situation. I'd like to see him used as the power back (while he is smaller than Smith, he is quicker to the hole, yet for some reason is used as a blocking FB) with Faulk coming in as a 3rd down or situational back. And why not use Klecko as the FB whenever the Pats are in a 3rd and short ... not just on the goal line? The running game is still the Achilles heal in an otherwise very good team.
-- Steve Alpert, Norwell, MA
A: Steve, you're right. It wasn't one of the Tuna's best showings. That 4th and 1 call was absolutely ridiculous. I was told they did have the QB sneak called, but when the Patriots lined up on defense, Rodney Harrison pointed to the center, meaning that Carter was going to sneak over the center. The Cowboys called a timeout and came back with that ridiculous running play. All Carter had to do was lean over a little to get the first down. The clock management was also horrible. What I'm wondering here is whether Parcells is letting his offensive coaches, Mo Carthon and Sean Payton, call the shots offensively during the game? I don't know the answer to that. I don't buy wanting to get the shutout to prove a point. Not Tuna. The running game is definitely a concern and will remain that way. I agree with the use of Klecko on 3rd and short in all situations. The Patriots don't have that Sam Gash-type fullback that can smash a hole through the defense.
As we head for a playoff run this year, I think we can both agree that special teams will play a vital role in how far we go....Is Ken Walters injured, or is he that terrible?....He is going to cost us big time soon with those punts...I know there has to be a better punter out there..He does have some value I feel though....As some teams carry two kickers (Kick-off and place kickers) the patriots should consider carrying two punters one that can actually punt when we are deep in our end and Ken Walters when we need to pooch punt...What is your take?
-- Daniel W. Sawall, Topsfield
A: He was limping in that game. Trying to get someone to say he has an injury, is another story. Vinatieri can punt. He was a punter in NFL Europe and did a pretty good job.
Do I remember correctly that Bill Parcells once said that Tedy Bruschi would never be an everyday player in the NFL? I wonder how he felt about that statement when Bruschi hammered them on 4th and inches?
-- Steven Smith, Schenectady, NY
A: I don't remember that one, Steven. I do remember him saying that when guys get what their roles are, they can stay in the league a long time. To his credit, he did say that about Bruschi and Troy Brown. He wasn't around long enough to follow through on Bruschi, but he gave Brown the chance to become a regular receiver.
The field at Gillette stadium between the hash marks look to be very chewed up (from the Giants game played in the rain) as well as the result of the fallout between Belichick and the groundskeeper. Does the team have plans to resod for the final stretch of the season and hopefully a home playoff game or two?
-- David T, Melrose, Mass
A: Usually there is a re-sodding of the field late in the season. But I really think they feel the chewed up field is an asset because it slows down fast teams. I think that can into effect against the Cowboys.
You've done the best job of anyone around to help fill the void in Boston's Football reporting since Will McDonough (God rest his soul) left us behind. Far better than any other local reporter. There's absolutely no one on the scene with your refreshingly positive and balanced outlook. Just a tip though, leave the baseball/Red Sox questions out of the football forum. They dishonor the Patriots and detract from the attention they so richly deserve.
(Monty Python segue coming) "And now for something really different!! "... I HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT TERRY GLENN! Tough childhood, blah, blah, blah. Just a whiney, little, crybaby. Abe Lincoln had a tough childhood, too and he turned out alright.
Sorry, just had to get that off my chest.
-- Bob Girard, Bourne, Ma
A: No problem, Bob. Thank you for the kind comments.
At the risk of sounding like Al Davis I have to ask this; is there a conspiracy in the NFL to make bad calls against the Pats? All kidding aside the calls are terrible against the Pats this year. Bethel Johnson getting tripped and pushed from behind... Let's get call on that!!
-- Glenn, Newburyport
A: I don't know about a conspiracy, but this is the first time I remember Bill Belichick being in such disagreement with so many calls during a game. I usually take my lead on those things from him because he's really in the know when it comes to the rules and what his player can and cannot do. Of course we know he hates when one of his players commits a penalty. But there are times when he says he can't blame the player. And that tells me they're getting some bad calls.
Are individual team merchandise sales distributed to all NFL teams evenly or are they kept by the specific team??
-- P. Michelini, Charlestown
A: They're distributed, but that deal is up I believe next spring and there's a movement by some owners in the league to make it so teams can sell their own stuff. Bob Kraft appears to be against it.
It seemed that Antoine Smith fared well when he ran straight ahead, and Faulk did not seem to do as well when he ran.
I wonder why they did not use Smith more. Is he hurt?
Also, any chance of getting a new kicker, such as Lee Johnson? Walter is pathetic.
-- Gary Olszewski, Westfield, Ma
A: Gary, you're not the first person to suggest Smith should run straight ahead and I doubt you'll be the last. I don't know why they continue to sweep Smith. As far as I know, Smith is not hurt. I'd love to see Lee Johnson return. Cool guy. I remember last year during the NFC playoffs in Philly, he'd drop into the press room and do a few stock trades. We spent a lot of time chatting about things. I don't think Belichick cared much for him, though.
Nick are you ready to admit you are wrong about Belichick? The guy can flat out coach. Maybe you got too attached to Drew "Fumbles" Bledsoe. Just realize he knows when players are washed up. I guess Buffalo is finally realizing the after effects of Belichick's genius. Try and back up your argument with Belichick, because you will look like Drew under pressure.
-- Jeremy Garden, Franklin MA
A: You don't think he's coach of the year? That's what I think and that's what I've been writing for three years now. In my book on the Super Bowl season, "The Impossible Team" I make all kinds of references to Bill Belichick's superb coaching. You should check it out because I think you're a little bit misinformed about Belichick not being a good coach. Jeremy, I think you're the first person that's written this space with an anti-Belichick sentiment. I'm surprised. I thought everyone in this area thought Belichick was a great coach. And Bledsoe? He's been terrible, hasn't he?
Of the 3 other teams in the AFC with similar or better records then The Pats, which one do you think is most likely to have New England's number in the playoffs?? How do you think the seeding might go?
-- Craig Lamb, Portsmouth, UK
A: Right now, I'm thinking none of them. I think they can beat KC because they'll be able to solve that offense. I think they can beat Indy, because even though their defense is much improved, it's still not that great and I do believe Peyton Manning can be forced into mistakes. The only team that might be a little scary is Tennessee, but there again, the Patriots beat them in the regular season. This team has a great chance to make it to the Super Bowl.
I notice that Drew Bledsoe and the Buffalo Bills are always hot topics in your mailbag. Most Patriot fans wished Drew well on his way out of town and were happy with the trade, but the constant questioning of the move and hyping of the Bills has fueled an anti-Drew backlash. Do you feel responsible for stirring up the Drew Bashers?
-- Patrick, Andover Du Nord, Quebec Canada
A: Yeah, maybe that was me.
I know the Patriots tried out punters on their bye week. I just find it hard to believe that they can not find a better free agent punter available better than Ken Walter. If that is the case, parents should start grooming their kids as the next Ray Guy instead of the next Tiger Woods.
-- Eric Dube, Smyrna/GA
A: No question. Punters do face a lot of pressure and it's a tougher job than people think, but I will say this, you know things are going well when we're complaining about the punter.
With the All Pro caliber play that Ty Law continues to produce, will the Patriots seriously consider releasing or trading Law in the offseason. Law is the definition of a professional and is a team player. I know you say that higher ups in the Patriots organization read this column, well Mr. Kraft and Belichick, here is the voice of one of your biggest fans, "continue to pay Ty Law what he is worth, and that is every penny of his current contract". This team just would not be the same without him, and is in not a comparable situation to the decreasing production of Milloy.
-- Joe Sawhill, Altoona, Iowa
A: Good points Joe. I think the Patriots are a business-first organization. There's no sentiment involved in their decisions any more. If Ty doesn't budge, he's gone. It does seem as though it's the type of contract that can be re-worked to the satisfaction of both sides. But where Carl Poston is involved, who knows?
Some questions about the 8-2 Pats going forward:
1. Isn't there anyone in the football world that is available and can punt better than Ken Walter? He is going to seriously hurt the team in the stretch drive.
2. When are the veterans going to tell David Givens to quit celebrating like the rookie he is? His taunting penalty could have hurt the team last night.
3. When is Dan Klecko going to the Pro Bowl? I love that guy - the next Teddy Bruschi!
4. Will the NFL review the specious Andres unnecessary roughness penalty? What a terrible call!
4. Do you think Wilson's hit on Bryant was a "launched spearing'? Sure looked like a shoulder hit to me.
5. Do you think field (turf) conditions contributed to Vinatieri's blocked PAT?
Thanks for a GREAT column, Nick!
-- Paul M. Wood, Hampton, NH
A: 1.Walter is very streaky. If he survives this, I'll be you he goes on a good streak at some point.
2. I think that was Deion Branch who celebrates too much. he should take a page out of Troy Brown and act more like him.
3. I thought the Andruzzi call was terrible too. They may look into it, but nothing will come of it.
4. The Wilson call is more questionable. I've had people say it definitely was launching his body and I've heard no way. I watched it a few times and I understand why the ref made the call he did.
Excellent coaching and well executed defense just couldn't be matched by a solid but inferior Dallas team. There was a play in the 2nd half, which resulted in two Dallas penalties that were initially declined by the Pats until they "changed their mind" as the official announced it. I've never seen such a thing before; under what circumstances is a team allowed to change their initial decision to accept or decline a penalty? I'd also like to invite any readers in Southern California to visit and join our Orange County Patriots fan club at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ocpf/
-- Barry Inciong, Irvine, California
A: I always thought once you made the call on the field, that was it. If you wanted to reverse it, tough. I think the ref gave the Patriots a break there, probably because it was a prime time game.
I'm sure you're getting tons of emails wondering if we can now finally get a new punter, please, but I'll be content to read your replies to those guys and ask a couple of other questions. After Vinatieri's blocked extra point, his ensuing kick-off went only to the 20, much shorter than his usual short kick-offs. He looked good on his field goals, but I wonder if there's something going on with him, or it just the Revolutionized dirt that affected him. Also, I thought the play-calling was atrocious. Against the #1 defense, I thought the plan was supposed to be to wear them down with smash mouth runs. Smith was actually getting a lot of 4- and 5-yard runs on first down. So why open the second half with three straight passes? They should have been playing game-control. A couple of Brady's passes could've/should've been picked off. It didn't seem a smart way to go. Also, Graham was awful again. If he can't be consistent from week to week, I don't think they should call his number.
-- Jason Rubin, Melrose, MA
A: The punting E-mails are off the charts this week. The thing with Charlie Weis is he likes to mix it up. He likes to do on offense what the Patriots do on defense. He likes different looks and he doesn't want the Cowboys to be able to key in on anything. I agree with you on Graham. He's dropping balls. That's why after he had that breakout 7-catch game against Cleveland, I wrote, let's see if he can be consistent now. He hasn't.
I think that our offense doesn't get enough credit. I think that when things are close, the offense is reigned in, so that they don't lose it. When We are down such as in the Bronco and Tennessee game, and even the Washington game, the offense is let loose and is more aggressive. I'm tired of hearing our offense isn't great high scoring. In the end, our offense didn't lose the game either. I think they compliment our defense nicely. I know that's not really a question, I just wanted to know what your thought on the subject is?
-- Daniel Campbell, Chesapeake/VA
A: They do enough to score points to win games. I think we forget, and I think I mentioned this last week, that the Patriots have played against some of the best defenses in the league so far this season.
I write this from Cowboy land, and I am grateful that the Pats won! But I still want to know what is the situation regarding Mike Cloud? Again, I am frustrated by the play calling of Weis, I just do not know what he is thinking out there. Case in point, trying to run outside with Smith and Faulk. Granted, the blocking was poor, but Dallas has too quick of a defense. This brings me to my point about Cloud. Let him run because he is quicker than Smith/Faulk. I know Brady was fair, and he had some drops out there. But am I missing something???
-- Doug Bisson, Dallas TX
A: There's certainly a sentiment out there to re-activate Cloud. I don't see why not, either. You're right, he is quicker. He has fresh legs and this guy wants to make an impression so he can get a job next year.
This is more a comment than a question. As I listened to the radio broadcast of the Sunday night game against the Cowboys, I couldn't help but think, "This is the receiving corps of the future." If Bethel Johnson spends the offseason with the Jugs machine the same way Givens did, it wouldn't be unexpected to see Belichick and Pioli focus on the RB and LB situations to get those positions younger and deeper.
As always, thanks for taking the time to answer so many questions about the Pats.
-- Mark V. Lonergan, Waltham, MA
A: I agree 100 percent. This is a great opportunity for this team to draft a star running back and take care of that position once and for all. They need the next Curtis Martin. The receivers should continue to make progress. Keep Troy Brown, please. And then add another big receiver; hopefully JJ Stokes turns out OK. They have to get younger at linebacker, but they probably also have to draft another corner if they intend to keep Wilson at free safety.
Do you know if the Pats have any long-term plans for Chas Gessner? Having once caught 24 passes in a game, he must have good hands and the ability to get open. Not that the Pats could use a 6' 4" wide receiver, of course. Thanks.
-- G.W. Aubin, Stratham, NH
A: I think they do. He was briefly on the 53-man roster for the Dallas game, though inactive for the game, but they re-signed him to the practice squad, which is a good sign. He's big, smart, and understands the system.
Is Bill address the short comings on the coin toss picking? By my count that make 10 coin tosses in a row we lost, 11 counting the overtime messed up toss).
-- Mark Dowdy, MA
A: I didn't realize that Mark. Maybe that's why they've been successful. Start out on defense and set the tone.
Why is there an issue with letting Wilson play safety next year? I know the Pats used a second round pick to let him play cornerback but we've got a corner sitting on the bench who can start with Asante Samuel. Wilson looks like a fantastic safety, Samuel is a capable starter at corner. So why not leave things well enough alone and use the picks we have this year to fill holes we've had for years like, I don't know, running back and 0-line?
-- Chuck Lewis, San Angelo, TX
A: Sounds logical, Chuck. It's a hard question to ask them right now, whether they feel Wilson is best suited at free safety or corner.
All your readers know you are a big fan of Tom Donahue (in a mailbag earlier this year you said he was as good a GM as Belichick was a coach). This isn't a bashing Tom Donahue email because I think Donahue is definitely a good, not great GM. My question is who do you think is a better GM, Belichick or Donahue? Just comparing their GM results since both have been with their current teams I would say that Belichick is not only the best head coach in football, but also the best GM .His earlier drafts were good and this year's so far looks great. A point not talked about enough is that the Pat's are 8-2 and next year have two #1's, two #2's, and two #4's. One of those #1's looks like it could be in the 8 -16 range. That's unheard of for a playoff team. Also, it was all the maneuvering last year on draft day the led to this year's stellar crop. I don't pretend to know Buffalo's last 3 drafts well enough to say whether they were good or bad but I do know Donahue drafted McGahee this year because he said there were no other pressing needs and now he has a 4-6 team and a #1 pick that's not ready to play. Also, Donahue is the one that hired Greg Williams and let him be a lame duck coach this year. What do you think?
-- Jason Fried, Swampscott, MA
A: You can't argue with Belichick's success, obviously and since the Super Bowl season he is the better GM. Over a long period of time, Donahoe has an excellent track record. Don't forget, Donahoe doesn't coach. Belichick has the advantage of taking players he knows he can coach. Donahoe takes players that he thinks Williams can coach. Back in Cleveland, Belichick's GMing wasn't too hot either. If we're looking at things since 2001, a period of two-plus seasons, Belichick has been terrific in the way he's run the organization. Donahoe has gone from three wins to eight, and now he's stuck on four through 10 games. Some teams do fall back and then go forward. Look at Parcells with the Patriots. Made the playoffs in '94, stunk in '95 and then went to the Super Bowl in 1996. Belichick went from 5-11, to a Super Bowl champion, then didn't make the playoffs last year and now has the organization heading back to the playoffs. I think if you go around the league and look at the better organizations, that pattern exists. There's nothing wrong with that Bills defense. Unfortunately for the Bills their offense appreciably worse as a result of not being able to keep Peerless Price and the offensive line woes. I take the long view. I can't do the knee-jerk thing that fans like to do on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis.
I'm a periodic reader of your column, not sure if this topic has already been discussed ad nauseum, but...
Not so much a question as an observation. Earlier in the year I wrote you an e-mail about the "Curse of the Esquire" right after the Pats dumped Lawyer and were shellacked by the Bills 31-0.
Well, week 12 is almost here, we're 8 - 2 and I have to say, I am now convinced that the New England Patriots administration and their coaching staff have best adapted to the "New Business Model" of the NFL and free agency better than just about every other franchise in the league.
Everyone's forgotten about Lawyer (including me) and Drew and the Bills altogether for that matter. As upset as we all were when we dumped Lawyer, this team and this coach seem to know when a player's peak has passed - Do the names Ben Coates and Chris Slade mean anything? There were uproars (at a minimum concerns) about losing these players too. But did anyone hear boo about Chris Slade or Ben Coates after they were released from the Pats? I think Coates lasted as a back up to Sharpe in Baltimore for a season and Slade disappeared in San Diego.
Hindsight has told us time and time again, these guys know what their doing (dumping Lawyer, Playing Brady in the Super Bowl, giving Bledsoe away, etc...) Moreover, the Pats D clearly hasn't suffered too much without Lawyer. How can you argue with the best start in the franchise's history? Just an observation....
-- Darren Miles, Miami, FL
A: Nothing to argue with about at all. This is their moment. Everything they do turns to gold.
I'm sure you'll get a lot of questions on this, but here it is anyway: Keyshawn Johnson has been released by the Bucs.
1. I'm aware the trading deadline passed in October, but could the Patriots find some way to pick up his contract for the remainder of the season?
2. Could he quit the Bucs and leave the money on the table if there was another offer somewhere, or would that still technically be a trade?
3. If the Patriots could, would they be interested? Seeing as how they are hurting at wide receiver (no offense to Branch, Johnson or Elliot.) But he is a proven player.
4. If he could come here, do you think he would, even if it was next year?
-- Aurelio D'Amico, Lynn, MA
A: The Bucs don't intend to do anything with him because they'd take a big cap hit. I'm sure they'll try to trade him in the off season. He can't just quit and re-sign with another team. He would have to be traded or released. Would the Pats be interested? Maybe. The concern would be his age -31 and the amount of money he'd demand. There's no question they like him personally. He would assuredly come here because he likes Charlie Weis and Bill Belichick. I think he'd rather go to Dallas with Parcells.
What do you think of the play of Matt Light this year? He seems to have been able to go 1 on 1 for most of the game against guys like Jason Taylor, John Abraham, Jevon Kearse, to name a few. The Pats have played a quality front 4 nearly ever single week, yet Light has been beaten only on a few occasions. Any chance of a Pro Bowl?
-- Mike Askenase, North Reading, MA
A: Very solid year for Matt. I think he's about as year away from getting that Pro Bowl recognition, but he's getting there.
Hi Nick, is it me or did we drop a lot of very catchable passes against Dallas? While I haven't noticed this year before this Sunday's game, last season I felt like this was a big problem for our offense. What's your take? Hopefully this won't start a trend and send the team spiraling downwards in the second half.
-- Jason Bibeau, Auburn, MA
A: There were about five drops. Too many. When you're having problems scoring, you can't drop the ball. Daniel Graham is having problems in that area. They really need Brown back in there to solidify things.
Great job on the mailbag. I get most of my NFL information from it! In fact, some of my friends now say I remind them of you since I have so much Pats knowledge! What do you think are the chances of the Pats playing a home game in the playoffs are? I'm a little worried about how the Pats passing attack will handle the cold weather, and wonder if they would be better off in a warm weather city. Of course, if they really like cold, they could come up here where we should get snow any day now!
-- Pat S. Siccisavan, Caribou, Maine
A: I think their chances are excellent of hosting a home game. Their goal is to get a bye in the first round, but even if they play in the first round, they'll likely play at home providing they stay in the position they're in.
Do the ratings making the Dallas-Patriots game number 5 all-time amongst cable shows include the market share that channel 5 had? Can you elaborate on the viewing numbers for channel 5 and ESPN?
-- John Luther, Franklin, MA
A: No. Just cable - ESPN.
When we visited the Pats camp this summer, Daniel Graham didn't seem to have a clue where he was supposed to be on a play and was hit on the back as well as not turning to the QB on other occasions. He also could not catch any balls thrown his way when he was looking. After a game where I thought he had finally caught on, he seems to have regressed.
Is their any hope for Graham or do you think he is going to be a bust?
-- Steve Alpert, Norwell, MA
A: You may have seen him on a bad day or something, but I thought he performed well in the pre season and felt he was going to have a breakthrough season. I don't think he's a bust. I really don't. He just has to hold onto the ball, which was never a problem for him in college.
Will JJ Stokes make an impact? Will the acquisition of Stokes preclude any Patriots interest in Keyshawn Johnson?
-- Ara Heghinian, Salem, NH
A: Stokes is being viewed as veteran protection right now. I'm sure they'll try to get him involved against the Texans if he's active. The rap on him was that he had lost some speed and didn't have good separation. Maybe this new setting will get him going again. I don't think one has to do with the other.
Great article on Troy Brown. It's amazing to me that during the Pats/Cowboys game, little to nothing was said about the absence of Troy Brown. Had that been Terrell Owens or Randy Moss on the bench, the camera would have been on them during every offensive series! When will the national media give this guy the credit he deserves? All right, now to business, JJ Stokes, what's the skinny, any chance this guy will turn it around here or is he done?
-- Josh Stoltzfus, Washington, DC
A: Right Josh. Troy remains anonymous. He's a terrific football player.
Love your columns and mailbag. I've read that Coach Belichick doesn't get much out of watching the network broadcasts of football games as far as prep/scouting the opposition. When the Pats do their film work, do they use game film taped from the network broadcasts that the public sees or something else? If its not from the networks, what's it about the film that makes it better to game-plan from? Thanks.
-- Adam, San Francisco, CA
A: It's game tape from the NFL. It shows different views and different angles of specific groupings on offense and defense that allows the coach to see each position very closely.