New York state of mind
Here we go, the final two against the Jets and Bills. These two teams have been so disappointing this season that beating the Patriots would certainly be their "Super Bowl."
I wrote a column this week on the AFC East being a dud division.
A few of you responded with stats to point out the division has won 32 games, more than any other division. My response to that is "So what?" Forget the stats, and the fact that the Patriots have won 12 of those 32, what do your eyes tell you? They should tell you that Miami, Buffalo, and the Jets have been underachievers and very disappointing. The Dolphins and Bills were considered divisional favorites by major publications. The Jets should have been over .500 and contenders. Dave Wannstedt and Gregg Williams might be fired at the end of the season.
The Patriots beat the Dolphins twice.
The Patriots ran away with a division that was built up to be the most competitive in the league.
In this case 32 wins says nothing. It tells me one team (Patriots) dominated and the others slipped and fell face-first into the mud.
It turned out to be a dud division.
Tom Brady called the Meadowlands "probably the toughest play to play. It is a division game. The teams are so familiar with one another. It is a regional rivalry. It is a national rivalry. There are a lot of guys that have been on the other side of the ball, on both sides. It is a battle every time we play them. We have very similar styles. We are powerful teams that want to be tough and smart and disciplined."
The Jets certainly don't have quit in them and that's because of their fine head coach Herm Edwards, who gained the respect of everyone around the league the way he's kept the Jets playing hard even though they've been out of it.
The Jets won't need too much to turn things around next season. What they need is a healthy Chad Pennington, just like the Patriots need a healthy Brady.
Pennington is class act, very much like Brady.
"Obviously I would like to be in a different situation than what we are in," he said this week. "But the biggest thing is that as a quarterback I have to use this as a learning situation and make sure that I can do everything in my power from here on out to not let this situation happen to us again because we definitely want to be competing for the playoffs year in and year out. Similar to the Patriots, we have to find ways to win games. That is what they have been able to do and that is why they are 12-2."
Pennington is well-schooled in New England. He helped knock them out of the playoffs last season. he didn't play in the first Pats-Jets meeting at Gillette when Vinny Testaverde was at the helm.
"I think the Patriots have a unique ability to find a way to win a football game. No matter what the situation is, somebody is always coming up big for them and it is not necessarily the same guy every week. Someone always finds a way to make a play and get the momentum in their favor and they turn up on the winning side. That is a tribute to their team and to their coaches, how they stay focused for 60 minutes. This is going to be a 60-minute battle. You cannot let up one second, because that one play could be the deciding factor in the game," he said.
If Brady wasn't the Pats QB, you'd want this guy running your offense.
Tom Coughlin looks to be the choice to replace Jim Fassel in New York (Giants), but it appears Charlie Weis is going to get a lot of support from the media. Weis' dream job would be to coach the Giants. He's learned a lot from Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. Steve Serby of the New York Post asked this week who I thought Weis reminded me of. I told him that you can definitely see the Parcells personality except nicer.
Rosevelt Colvin was on the Patriots sideline for the Miami game. The Patriots star free-agent signing is progressing from a hip fracture incurred in the Philadelphia game in Week 2, and it appears there are positive signs based on his level of healing, that Colvin should be a factor next season. "From what I'm hearing," said Colvin's agent, Kennard McGuire, "he's going to be ready to play next year. He seems to be coming along fine." What is not known is exactly when Colvin would be able to resume normal football duties. Training camp still appears to be an optimistic goal, but nobody is willing to project definitively Colvin will make it back by then. Colvin's salary and salary cap hit go up next season. He's due to earn $2.105 million in compensation which includes a $1.6 million base salary, the second payment of his original signing bonus ($500,000) and a $5,600 workout bonus. His cap will rise from $1.56 million this season to $3.1 million.
McGuire also represented Antowain Smith. In his discussions with the Patriots, McGuire believes the Patriots like Smith on the team and will want to work something out to keep him. Smith is due a $2 million bonus in March. "We're certainly mindful of what's ahead for him, and we understand it's something we would have to work through," McGuire said.
In Lawrence Taylor's new book written by Serby, Taylor refers to Bill Belichick as Bill "Bedcheck." Taylor said that Belichick was a stickler for bed checks while the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. He also considered him a "football genius." There were obviously a lot of off field problems with Taylor during those glory years in New York. Belichick did not want to dwell on those when asked recently about Taylor. "Well, I don't really want to get into those," Belichick said. "I think they were far and away overridden by a lot of good things that he did, which a lot of those, as usual, wouldn't get the notoriety. You could do 500 charity events and get a ticket for jaywalking and you are a criminal. We all know what Lawrence's situation was. I am not trying to change it. I am saying that the guy played a long time. He did a lot of good things for his team, for his teammates, and for the community that he was in. There were other things that were less than perfect. I am sure he would be the first one to admit that."
League sources indicate the Patriots will explore, and the key word is explore, the Keyshawn Johnson situation in the off season. Certainly, they would not take on a contract that pays Johnson counting salary and bonus $6 million next season, $7.5 in 2005, $9 million in '06 and $10.5 million in '07, but a trade with the Bucs (for a mid-round pick) and then a contract restructuring would be the only chance of making it happen. And that part is not far-fetched...
Here's the mailbag:
Hi, Nick. Great game last Sunday. I have one question. Who can beat the Patriots? Love your mailbag!
-- Mark Metivier, Williamsburg, Va.
A: We saw what Indy did to the Patriots. Could KC do the same? I think Philly would pose a big-time threat in the Super Bowl.
Mike Cloud has 27 carries, 5 touchdowns, 12 first downs and a 4.4 yac (yards after catch). He's been crucial in winning big games when he's had the chance. He looks like a powerful runner who can deliver in short yardage situations. Why isn't Cloud given more time? I know that he was mediocre with the Chiefs and I don't know what the coaches see in practice, but as long as he gets results I can't understand why he doesn't get more playing time.
-- Ross, Providence
A: It's one of the great mysteries of this season. Cloud has fresh legs, has something to prove and he runs well when he's in the game. For a team void of a strong lead runner I don't get it. From what I'm told it's the familiarity of Faulk and Smith that becomes the key issue.
The NFL has the Super Bowl scheduled in either domed stadiums or in warm weather climates so that this championship game can be played in ideal conditions. If the NFL is so concerned about the weather, why does its schedule maker consistently have the Patriots play in late summer or early fall in Miami where the heat and humidity is awful and the Dolphins playing in Foxboro in the cold of December, and, to make matters worse, have the game start after it gets dark? These two teams are usually neck and neck for the division title and they seem to be always playing in the extreme heat or cold and snow. Does this make any sense for this to happen year in and year out? The fans are also subjected to this intense weather but then again who can care about the fans since it is TV that foots the bill. Do you have any comments on this?
-- Louis Keimach, Boynton Beach, Fla.
A: I liked it better in the '80s when the Pats played in Miami in December. They're trying to create these "memorable" games, but what you're doing is just causing a lot of people hardship who have to stand out there in sub-freezing temperatures.
It is absolutely amazing. Here's to the playoffs. First, I am not this optimistic but I believe we need a little nostalgia around here. When the Patriots won the Super Bowl there was a satisfying full feeling you get like on Thanksgiving that took over Patriot fans. Some of us who had been waiting and wanting through the seasons of despair knew that '01 had to be the year. Once again we are feeling as if this may be the year for yet another Super Bowl win. For me, the Pats are No. 1 no matter if their 1-15 or 14-2 heading into the playoffs. Lets not forget about '02. That was a great year too. I accept that because no matter what how the season ends I am just happy to root for the team. Of course, fans want to see wins and of course the players want to win too. That is what makes football so fun. If it is not the year to do it again we need ante up and always be hopeful for the next year. As Patriot fans, if we are not cheering we are grumbling, which can be said for any teams fans. But, boy, do we like to grumble. So in order for it to be a successful season many will say they have to win a Super Bowl because a playoff loss will just sting too bad. Many will also say a Super Bowl win will help gain this respect around the league as one of the better teams with better players. Respect does not win games. (And who cares what these people think anyway. They all will be trying to sneak on the wagon.) Watch, these Patriots are the best kept secret in the NFL. Welcome to the playoffs, fans. Thanks, and good luck to the players. And next year, when another season is upon us, I'll be cheering -- and, of course, grumbling -- win or lose.
-- Laura Badgett, dorchester
A: Good attitude, Laura. What I would say is since the Patriots have come this far, they need to finish it off. I know the prevailing thought is the Patriots should be a playoff team for many years to come, but when you get the chance to win another ring, you've got to do it because you have no idea what will happen year-to-year.
Hi, Nick. Happy holidays to you and your family and congratulations on finally weeding the yahoos out of the mailbag. They need to get a life. My question is regarding Tom Brady's touchdown ration at home vs the road. If my stats are correct, he has only thrown for one touchdown at home. Is this just a fluke or is there a reason for it? Also, what's your opinion on the field conditions during Snow Bowl II. I think the field held up pretty well, no doubt aided by the underground heaters. Thanks!
-- Delinda Deline, Peabody
A: Right. He now has three TDs at home after the two vs. Jacksonville. Interesting. I hadn't noticed until you brought it up. Part of it is the dominance by the defense at home, overshadowing the need for offense. Otherwise, I'd consider it a fluke. The field has been fine for this time of the year. It's chewed up, but what can you do?
Bill Belichick is no longer the co-QB coach and now gets to spend a lot more of his time with the defense. I haven't seen this written or talked about once all year and I think it is a major reason why the defense is performing at this level. What do you think of this? I know last year Belichick was quoted as saying he spends very little time with the defense and much more with the offense because he was also the QB coach. If you agree with my point, I think it would make a great Wednesday "On football" column. Thanks
-- Jerry Cohen, N.Y., N.Y.
A: It would be a good column, but I don't think he's spending any more time with the defense. The players tell me that Romeo does the game plans and makes the calls during the games. I'll keep checking, but I'm not sure anything has changed.
Nick, Are we seeing the end of Troy Brown in New England? I think this year reminds me of his career, sort of reminds me of Ben Coates in '99, when his production dropped off a lot.
-- Sean McLaughlin, Hazleton, Penn.
A: Great question. A lot of people speculating that Troy won't be around next season, but as you can see by his play vs. Jacksonville, he's such a clutch player.
Nick, The Jets look to have an amazing you talent at QB in Pennington. Do you think his production will drop as the league gets to know him better? Also, Belichick took one on the chin from Pennington last year on a Sunday night game that decided the AFC East. Do you think Belichick will look to set the "beat Pennington blueprint" when next they meet? Wouldn't it be a big concern, going forward, if the young Jets passer has his way with a rebuilt Patriots defense? Even though the Jets are out of it, I view that game as a major statement game for Belichick/Crennel/Pennington. I hate to say it, but you can't watch Pennington play and not think he could be a great one. Thoughts?
-- Mark Flanagan, Worcester
A: I agree, Mark. He reminds me so much of Brady, really. Accurate, gets the job done without much flare. He doesn't have the arm strength Tom has, and this year, anyway, hasn't been able to win a lot of games. But I'm sure Crennel is up late nights trying to figure out someway to take away Santana Moss, which would be a huge take away.
I see a direct correlation between your question about what makes for a satisfying season and the issue of when we can call this Pats team a dynasty. We can call this team a dynasty when a satisfying season is a Super Bowl win and anything less is a disappointment. See Yankees.
-- Aaron, Boston
A: That's an interesting outlook. You're on target with that one, though one championship does not a dynasty make.
Nick, A suggestion if we ever have a snowstorm issue again. Why not instruct people to park at the Tweeter Center and bus them over to the game? It would have alleviated the parking issue and also the traffic on Rte 1. In regards to the Pats removal of snow, c'mon. Last year for the Dolphins game it snowed on Wednesdat and they still had snow in the aisles and seats on Sunday. Face it, they don't really put an emphasis on fan comfort.
A: Surprised they didn't think of that.
I've read quite a bit this season about dissatisfaction with the "sudden death" overtime rules. How about if overtime were viewed as an extension of the fourth quarter, and the team that had the ball at the end of regulation would resume at the same place at the start of overtime? It would potentially make for a less exciting end of the fourth quarter by decreasing the incentive for last minute heroics, but it is certainly "fair" in the context of the game. Just a thought.
-- Richelle, Needham
A: Can't we just leave it alone? I think it's just fine. I wish these whiners (not you Richelle) would stop.
Nick, Maybe I have missed the boat with announcements and research but can you tell me what the situation with Rosevelt Colvin looks like for injury/contract duration? Can he come back for the regular season or a playoff run or does his injury or status prevent that?
-- Chet Swiszcz, Taunton
A: Chet, Once you're on injured reserve, you're gone for the entire season. Playoffs included.
In response to Gary Roberts' suggestion for a "name" for our defense: How about the "Band of Teds?" It used to be the "Law Office," with Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy, but now we've got Bruschi, Johnson, and Washington, all Teds.
-- Jay Bennett, Somerville
A: Your entry has been submitted.
Nick, I really enjoy the mailbag and the intelligent dialogue that it inspires. Wouldn't it be beneficial for the development of Rohan Davey to have him play a series or two now that the season is winding down? This would give Brady a rest, and provide Davey with some much needed game experience. I realize that this is not a common practice in the NFL, but why not "dare to be different?"
-- Mark Nemeskal, Swampscott
A: It's a good point, Mark, and if the games are in hand early, I think we may see that scenario. I mean, I doubt he would appear in the first three quarters. And last week vs. Jacksonville he was the third quarterback.
Hi, Nick. I look forward to reading your column and comments from other Pats fans. I share some of the same concerns and questions asked weekly. This question might be a long shot. Would you know (or any of the fans) how would I find the Rams/Pats taping of the entire Super Bowl XXXVI in other words, the actual game. I already have the Pats Super Bowl video from NFL films but the entire game would be nice. Hopefully, someone could point me in the right direction.
-- Stan Nelson, Boston
A: Who can help Stan?
What up, Nick. First, I have a bone to pick. Everyone's calling the Patriots the next football dynasty, but that is absolutely ludicrous. The Patriots won 1 Super Bowl in recent years, and just because they're the No. 1 seed doesn't mean they automatically win the Super Bowl. If you remember a couple years ago, no one expected the Patriots to beat a good No. 1 Steelers team, but we beat them on the road with special teams. So please I just ask all you Pats fans to not bring our Red Sox mentality into football and jump the gun by calling the Pats a dynasty. Second of all I would like to talk about the Patriots drafting Steven Jackson from Oregon St. He is Belichick's type of back with the power and speed he has. He's mostly Belichick's player though because of the undying passion for the game, and the hard work and preparation he puts in. I know being on the East Coast most Pats personnel don't watch Oregon St. games, but with the first round picks do you think it's a possibility that they could get Steven Jackson? Thanks, Nick.
-- Jake, Cambridge
A: Yeah, I believe it's way premature for dynasty talk. On Jackson, I have heard good things about him, and I know the Patriots scouts are taking a long look at him. Who knows which of the backs they'll select in April, right? But he will be one of the guys who seems to fit Belichick's style of back. No doubt.
This long snapper/holder/punter situation has me more concerned than all of the team's other personnel issues combined. The Pats only glaring weaknesses (I choose to label their running game as "below average") has been their inability to play ball control and manage field position during tight games as effectively as in recent yeas. Now we have a revolving door at punter, a new holder who can't devote all of his practice time to holding because he's a backup QB, and a long snapper pulled off the scrap heap. Also, in case you haven't noticed, Adam has had a poor year. Not a subpar year, a poor year. He's missed roughly 30 percent of his field goal attempts, had an extra extra point blocked. He just sent one FG over the top of the left post last Sunday (which ultimately was counted) and double-doinked an extra point off both uprights. It's only a matter of time before these weaknesses cost us a close one. That 20-17 SB victory was made possible with effective clock management, field positioning, and clutch place kicking, for example. Your thoughts?
-- Chuck Johnston, Concord, N.H.
A: Chuck. I share your concerns, but so far? Not a problem. Who ever is in there has been very efficient. Don't worry about Adam. This is his time of the year, if you know what I mean. He's a money kicker.
Hi, Nick. Everyone seems to blame the lack of a running game on the runners. I feel that the offensive line is just as much if not more at blame. No runner can be successful if the holes are not there. Even Martin in his last year with the Pats was not making great yardage. Perhaps we should be looking for offensive linemen skilled in blocking for the running game in the draft and not just running backs.
-- Neil Bernstein, Wayland
A: I'm glad you cut to the chase, Neil. You're absolutely right. This is a good pass blocking line but with the exception of Woody, they're suspect run blocking. Question is can they get away with it? I think the answer may be yes.
It was great to see you write this week that the Patriots are the best team in the NFL. Have you (or any other Boston sportswriters) ever been able to say that before?
-- Steven Jong, Westford
A: I suppose after the Super Bowl win. I suppose we did after they went 3-0 last season. But not before last week.
Nick, I have heard talk locally here in the Tampa area that one possible destination for Keyshawn Johnson would be the Pats. If any of the coaches or front office people are reading this, could I make a suggestion? For the love of God, get a hold of yourself. He is the definitive 'me' athlete who has no concept of anything outside of himself. He's articulate enough to fool people who only have access to a magazine article or the occasional sound bite, but after 3 1/2 years of him in the local spotlight, I've seen more than enough. Besides that, who wants an aging player past his prime, carrying a huge cap hit who is too slow to play wide receiver and too small to play tight end? The lesson learned from the Keyshawn experiment here in Tampa: Talent will take you places where character will not allow you to stay..
-- Jim D., Sarasota, Fla.
A: But Bill Belichick likes him.
Hi, Nick. What a year, huh? It has been great. I loved watching the Snow Fin Bowl. I have watched too many Pats/Fins games over the years to not enjoy and appreciate that special Squishing of the Fish. There was a special last shot from CBS as their broadcast was ending of the game that said it all it was a close-up of a masked fin's fan in the stands wearing a hard hat with the Dolphins insignia all over it. CBS's parting shot was a slow motion shot of this fan's hard hat being hit with snowballs This Sunday I hope the Pat's will be able to keep the momentum up against the Jags and not have too much of a let down. My question is about being inactive for games. I understand that during the regular season only 45 players out of 53 can be active on game day. Does this change during the playoffs and the Super Bowl? Is it different for playoffs? Is it different for the Super Bowl? Thanks for this mailbag, and keep up the good work
-- Dave Stone, Gordonsville, Va.
A: The roster stays the same.
Hey, Nick, how bout 'dem Patriots? I want to get your take on the subject of the Pats losing another game before the playoffs. I've been reading and hearing all week about how it would be better for the team to lose one and get it over with. I guess the rational is their hot hand will run out. I know this point might be moot by the time this question makes the mailbag. But do you buy into this logic? I don't think they need to lose another game before the end of the season to keep from having a let down in the "tournament." What do you think?
-- Paul Maitino, Billerica
A: Any loss now would be damaging. You want them to be on a roll as they head into the post-season.
Hi, Nick. Enjoy reading the column very week. Would you explain the franchise player tag. My understanding is that a franchised player gets the average of the top 5 salaries at his position, but what about signing bonuses and other bonus clauses that I'm sure exist in the 5 basis contracts? How many franchise players can each team have and can it be used on the same player for several consecutive seasons? I'd hate to see the Pats lose Damien Woody, but I would expect he'll be looking for top dollar as a free agent. Do you think the Pats would use the franchise tag on him? And who are the other Pats players eligible for free agency the end of this year? Thanks.
-- Steve Alpert, Norwell
A: Steve, You're on the money on the franchise player. When a player signs a long-term deal there is an "average salary" calculation that is based on his base salary and bonuses. The average of top five of those becomes the franchise number. Damien would be under a general number for offensive linemen, which includes the higher-paid tackles. That's why I don't think they will slap the "franchise" tag on him because that number will be close to $6 million. I think Damien is prepared to leave unless the Patriots raise the anty. Kevin Faulk and Ted Washington are the two other major free-agents.
Nick, Long time reader, but never felt the urge to write in until now. I am a typical member of Patriots Nation, grew up in New England, went away to school, got a job, and moved away. I have a dish and never miss a Pats game (and rarely miss watching at least a few innings of every Sox games). I think that this year's team is far more exciting than the Super Bowl team. I enjoyed winning the Super Bowl but grew weary of hearing the Rams, Steelers, and Raiders fans saying it was a fluke. This year's team has already beaten Tennessee, Inianapolis, Denver, and Philadelphia. They are putting themselves in a position to avoid any controversy that they are the best team in football. I know that on any given Sunday anybody can beat anybody, but to finish the regular season 14-2 and win the Super Bowl, there would be no griping or "what ifs." While I am still excited and happy with this team's accomplishments, I think this is the year they can make a statement. Do you think the use of the two tight end set will continue now that the WRs are getting healthy? I like the balance that the two TE set brings to the offense. They can run better out of the set, protect the QB better, and Graham and Fauria have enough speed to get you big plays down the middle of the field. Keep up the good work!
-- Chris Champagne, South Riding, Va.
A: That's the way I would go. I would guess teams like New York and Buffalo would wise up to the fact they need to blitz Brady more. He might make plays off the blitz, but you have to pressure him and make him make mistakes. The best way to pick up the blitz is to keep two tight ends and your backs in to pick the blitzes. I agree with your logic.
Nick, I see the Pats as a wonderful mix of youthful and veteran talent and they have the best coach in football. However, the Colts exposed their weakness by beating them in the second half of that amazing game. The Pats can't control the clock with a running game. In my opinion, Belichick and Co. should go for the jugular in this years draft to create the dynasty fans are hoping for and use both first round picks (and whatever else is needed) to get a RB with the speed to get outside and an offensive line stud to lead the charge. What do you think?
-- Jeff Thrasher, Greenwich, Conn.
A: Two excellent areas to improve on. I still think they'll win or not win the Super Bowl based on their defense. Maybe you also want to think about young linebackers.
Nick, Thank you for addressing my question in your last mailbag. Here's another if you have the time. Why aren't all modern Super Bowl games automatically scheduled for domed stadiums? I have lived in San Diego for a few years and now reside in N.C. February weather on any given day in supposed "sunshine states" can be horrendous. This year's Super Bowl is scheduled for Reliant Stadium in Texas. It's a roll of the dice as to whether or not game day will be fair or foul weather. Why risk all the unpleasantries and simply establish a policy to make all Super Bowls an indoor affair. This only makes sense for a number of reasons: All paying customers are assured of their seat and considering the price, it should be comfortable warm and dry. The stadium can be fully decorated in a festive atmosphere without fear of inclement weather damage. The halftime festivities can be held under ideal conditions, and, lastly, the two best teams in football can play a game that is decided by the sheer talent, skill and ability of their players and coaches. Not one that can become the slipshod affair they so often turn into during driving rains and snow. Foul weather that creates breeding grounds for slips and fumbles, grounds a vaunted passing attack or neutralizes a fearsome running game detracts from what got both teams to the SB in the first place. The fact that they both got that far means they've played through the elements already. Now is the time to showcase each teams strengths and weakness under optimum conditions and the paying audience deserves a quality show, untainted by the elements. Thank you.
-- Mark Gehrung, Seven Lakes, N.C.
A: Reliant Stadium has a retractable roof. I think the league is mindful of that, though I believe the Meadowlands have received a Super Bowl in a few years.
Hey, Nick! I wanted to thank you for answering my question a few weeks ago, by telling me to hang out at Champions to watch a monday night game. We had a great time but I need your help again. I made it to the Miami game last Sunday (thank God because I had to take a loan out of the bank just to get tickets) and I must say that was the best football game I have ever seen. My friend was going to tape the game for me but his vcr didn't work, please post this so someone can help me get a copy of the game. Thanks, and go Pats.
-- Derek Taylor, Des Moines, Iowa
A: You got it, Derek.
Hey, Nick, when will the Boston sports media finally give Tom Brady the "superstar" recognition that he deserves? In only his first three years he has compiled a 34-12 won-loss record, directed 13 "come from behind" victories, compiled a 7-0 record in overtime games, led the NFL in TD's one year, and, by season's end, will have passed for over 10,000 yards, won one Super Bowl MVP and will be competing now for a second Super Bowl. Sounds like the start of a "Hall of Fame" career to me. But that's not the even the remarkable part. The remarkable part has been that he has done all this without the benefit of any "Superstar" skill players surrounding him. He has no Marvin Harrison, no Ben Coates, no Jerry Rice, no Torry Holt, no Randy Moss, no Priest Holmes, no Peerless Price, no Jamal Lewis, no youthful Curtis Martin, no Travis Henry, and only an injury-prone, "watch your blind side," Non-Pro-Bowl-calibre offensive line to work with (outside of Woody). Isn't it time for the Boston media to start realizing that Brady is no mere "game manager" here - but a one-of-a-kind Legendary figure, a "superstar" who has proven he can "win it all" with far lesser talent around him than the "Montana-Favre-Manning Hall-of-Famer's" have had at their peak? Imagine the kind of "numbers" that Brady could put up if only he had those Superstar skill players around him to help pad his "stats"? The only "stat" that wouldn't be greatly enhanced would be wins (because he's already making that happen). The Patriots have shown that they can win with or without various defensive players, and with or without injuries to their receivers. But could they seriously win without Tom Brady? Remember Celtic Bill Russell wasn't about "stats" - just winning? Why then, isn't the same metric similarly applied to Tom Brady - whose leadership and 4 come-from-behind victories this season with relatively weak talent around him ought to make the case for NFL MVP?
-- Derek Larsson, Ashland
A: I think Tom has received a great deal of notoriety for his accomplishments over a short career. Please, don't compare him to Russell. Please. Not even close.
Hi, Nick. I want to wish you and your family a very happy and safe holiday season. Can we really win 15 games in a row? If we are to go on and win the Super Bowl and go unbeaten that's what we are going to have to do. I understand and totally agree with Coach Belichick's one game at a time philosophy and I know its silly to think that way but I cannot help it...have you any words of comfort?
-- Neil Pountney, North Branch, Mich.
A: Neil, if this is indeed a special team, they'll win out.
The AFC East title has been wrapped up. Home field advantage runs through Foxboro if they beat three sub .500 teams. The national media is starting to take notice and we start to see a few more quotes from the team in the press. All told, Belichick had to have been concerned about complacency and losing focus on those same sub .500 teams, any of which represent a huge trap game. The deactivation of Bethel Johnson was done to get the many rookies in line before they start believing all the hype. And not starting Richard Seymour was to get the veterans attention. Parcells used to get all over Phil Simms, only because he knew he could take it. I think the same forces are in play here as we come down the stretch. Do you agree?
-- Scott Cooley, Centerport, N.Y.
A: I understand Bethel Johnson. But why would you need to get the attention of veterans who had won 11 and then 12 in a row?
Hi Nick. What's the skinny on Bethel Johnson being on the inactive list? Lack of hustle/professionalism was quoted in the Globe. Is this a big issue with Johnson or small?
-- Jim Kelleher, Northford , Conn.
A: He'd better have a good week of practice this week. With all the receivers healthy again, there's competition now for who's active and who's not on Sunday.
Hi, Nick. Everyone's been worried about running the football in the cold. We did OK and got some tough yards against Jacksonville. Enough to keep the D honest anyway. The thing I've noticed this year that has been impressive (and no-one mentions) is the pass-blocking. Brady has had time to throw against pretty much every team. Impressive considering they have a new RT and center this year. Brady has time and we have the suite of WR's, TE's and RBs to get the ball to. Are the Pat's happy with the o-line? How about Ashworth?
-- Jim Kelleher, Northford , Conn.
A: Good pass blockers, so-so run blockers. Ashworth has come a long way. Is he a bona fide starter? They could probably improve at that spot.
Nick, I just read recently that Tom Brady moved into fourth all-time on the Patriots list with touchdowns. I did some research and the only two that I have found that have thrown more are Bledsoe and Grogan (Eason had thrown 61). Do you know who number three is?
-- Daniel Sawall, Topsfield
A: Babe Parilli.
Nick: All this winning has put me in a good mood, so let me ask a silly question. Any chance we can make a one-time, temporary trade of scouting staffs with the Broncos? We'll pick them a nice durable quarterback and they'll pick us a nice powerful running back. After the draft all the scouts can go back to their original teams, and everyone ends up happy.
-- Mark V. Lonergan, Waltham
A: Excellent. Maybe they can pick an offensive lineman, too. Actually, Pats have a good staff. Very under rated.
Hey, Nick, What are your thoughts on David Givens? He's a prime example of how hard work in the offseason can payoff on Sundays.
-- Keith Mitchell, North Andover
A: He's becoming what they want him to be -- Hines Ward. He's tough. Fights for the ball. All he has to do is stay healthy and he'll be a force.
Just curious, what does a player like Roosevelt Colvin do when he's out for the year? Does he go back home (wherever that is), or does he hang around the team? I'm sure he's really wishing he could be a bigger part of this run the Pats are on! Thanks for the great work, Nick.
-- E.J. Carrier, Algonquin, Ill.
A: He's remained in Massachusetts to do his rehab. He sees his teammates about once a week, but now that he's moving around better he could be at the facility a littler more. He was on the sideline for the Miami game.
Hi Nick- How dare you have an opinion that is contrary to the vocal majority of the fandom, and then have the integrity to stand by it! You should know that New England fans, to quote Rich Gedman, "are fickle". Anyways, kidding aside, my question is a hypothetical one regarding the Miami game. Specifically, the safety. If Fiedler had thrown an incomplete pass on that play, rather than being sacked, New England would have gotten the ball on the Miami 1 yard line with less than 2 minutes on the clock. Would the offense do the "right" thing, and take a knee for 3 plays (Miami had 0 time outs, I think). Or would the coaching staff have rewarded the fans for their dedication, and run the ball straight ahead? We were debating this at the office, and could only agree that the safety was probably the best of all possible alternatives! The fans got one more chance to celebrate, and the Pats didn't risk the perception of running up the score. Thanks Nick!
-- Daniel Gondek, Springfield, MA
A: I think they would take a knee.
I realize you can't and won't comment on another writer's column but I don't understand the unusually lengthy and disturbing article on the Seymour thing. It's been a wonderful year and we should enjoy it and not go looking for trouble. The principals would get over it a lot sooner if the talk show hosts and the Sports Writers didn't blow it all out of proportion. It's over. On the good side, isn't this a wonderful year for Patriots fans? And, if anyone out there knows how to pick up Pats games on radio, I'd appreciate knowing about it. The games were always available on the internet via aol...but it has now become a pay per game things via the league -- mid season. The Pats fans are having a great time here in Dolphin Land for a change. I've stopped being invited to Dolphin parties! George Morris West Palm Beach
-- George Morris, West Palm Beach, Florida
A: Great year for sure. But we still have to write the unpleasant things if they crop up.
I'm disgusted... with your colleagues in the media. With the Pats playing terrific ball and on their way to the playoffs... why create an unnecessary distraction! Coaches decision... END!! Leave the Seymour sit in the locker room to dry out! Why create a controversy... to sell papers and increase ratings?! Just the opposite. We back our ENTIRE team, including Richard and coach BB. Go Pats!!!
-- Steve Alpert, Norwell, MA
A: As you know Steve, Richard created the controversy saying what he said. You sound like a great fan Steve, and you're entitled to feel the way you do. But fans should be fans and media should be media.
Nick, I have to ask 2 things. How hard can it possibly be to find a reliable punter? Surely the Pats can find someone with some consistency- ex-college guy, waived punter, CFL, World League? Secondly, what the heck happened to Ken Walter, how did he manage to lose it all of a sudden? As I recall he was a pretty good punter a few years ago. This guy could really hurt us in the post season. What gives on both of these questions?
-- Sean Smith, Halifax, NS
A: I'll tell you again. He's a streaky punter. Just like a hitter. Some guys are like that. He happens to be one of them. You have to ride out the bad times, which the Patriots did.
Isn't it true that due to the new 3-way tiebreaking rules, that the Pats cannot clinch a first round bye this week as suggested by Micheal Smith in his Monday column "Hanging 10"? Suppose the Pats beat the Jets but lose to Buffalo, the Chiefs lose one of their last two (it doesn't matter which) and Indy goes 2-0 - we end up with a 3-way tie at 13-3 with identical 10-2 conference records. There is no Head to Head tiebreaker. The tiebreaker is now common games (Hou, Buf, Cle, Den) where Indy would be 5-0, KC 4-1 and we would be 3-2. We get #3 seed. Or am I missing something?
-- Stephen Roughan, Mashpee, MA
A: Involving three or more teams, the tie breakers are: 1) head to head (best won-lost percentage in games among the clubs). 2) best won-lost percentage in games played within the division; 3)best won-lost percentage in common games; 4) best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference; 5) strength of victory; 6) strength of schedule.
Nick, Love the mailbag. My question is, how much more effective do you feel the Pats' defense would be with a healthy Roosevelt Colvin? To me the thought is downright scary and quite encouraging should he come back next year at full heath. I think this defense has a chance to be even more dominant than it already is, which is pretty amazing considering how it is currently playing
-- Ron Bell, Cranbury, NJ
A: It would have added a pass rushing dimension, but don't forget he would have taken time away from Willie Mcginnest. It's hard to imagine the defense being better next year than this year. Don't forget, some of the 30something players are a year older.
Am I the only one that can see that this Patriots team is overrated and not very good? They're slow, boring, can't tackle and make way too many penalties. Just because they happened to pull out a few lucky wins doesn't mean they're a good team. And I'd rather see Rohan Davey at QB than Smilin' Tom Brady. Of course I'm joking. I wanted to see if your mailbag readers would get to the second paragraph before dismissing me as a nut. I don't believe any of the above, except maybe the part about penalties (especially jumping offsides). I love this team and think we fans can expect a very happy January and early February.
-- Will Thimes, Chicago, IL
A: You had me going Will. Good job.
Nick, thanks for helping us New England transplants stay informed from afar. You may be getting these questions a lot this week, but what was really behind the Pats bringing Ken Walter back? I thought Brooks Barnard did relatively well in his only game, given the adverse weather conditions. Do you think Adam Vinatieri's fondness for Walter holding the football had something to do with it. Also, do you think Seymour was treated unfairly in not being allowed to start against Jacksonville? Thanks.
-- David Karr, Columbus/OH
A: Barnard, who signed with Chicago, kicked a few line drives. They hate line drives. They felt Walter could at least get better hang time, which he did very well against the Jags. As for Seymour, the important thing is that Seymour thought he was treated unfairly. It doesn't matter what you or I think.
There's some great football being had in these parts. Nick, why does it take a Super Bowl win before the team puts out a DVD. For a DVD consisting of NFL film footage and Gil and Gino's call, I would be first in line to purchase DVD's of this seasons games. They make great valentine gifts :) JL Boston
-- JL, lynnfield
A: I agree. The Red Sox put one out every year.
Hi Nick! I love your column, thank you from yet another displaced Pats fan. My question revolves around a rumor out here on the West Coast that involves the Pats and ol' Lawyer Milloy. Word is that Lawyer is unhappy in Buffalo and he sneaks back to the comforts of Beantown on every occasion he can. He reportedly is still very close to Ty Law and Tom Brady and he and Law still plan to finish out their stellar careers together. Word out here is that Law will rework his contract and stay with the Pats; that Milloy will be cut by the Bills and resign with the Pats for a whole lot less money. After watching this season unfold, Lawyer can see money isn't as important as teammates/friends/winning. What do you think? And would he now be able to fit back into the Pats plans. Thank you. Happy Holidays from sunny and warm California!
-- Ee Ching Cho, Los Altos, CA
A: The Bills are very happy with Milloy so I doubt they'll cut him. As Tom Donahoe said a few days ago Milloy is playing All-Pro caliber the past month. I don't see why the Patriots would want a 30-year-old safety when they have Wilson and Harrison. I don't buy it.
Nick; Why are some of your fellow writers on the Globe staff chasing the negatives in what's shaping up to be one of the the greatest Patriots season ever. Mr Lee and certain others seem intent on beating this Richard Seymour/Belichick issue of him(Seymour) not starting against the Jaguars into the ground. They need to get off of it!! The team is on a great run. Leave Belichick alone. He obviously knows what he's doing!! If second guessing him on the Lawyer Milloy fiasco wasn't a mistake based on how that turned out then I can't see where any of us should be "harping" on this one. As any intimate Patriot fan knows; there is lot we don't know because Bill wants it that way and int he end it all works. This is a small sampling of the type of negative message that drives great athletes and coaches out of Boston or at least serves as a tie breaker in their decision if all else is equal. What's your take on this??
-- john tronti, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
A: Again, Richard spoke volumes on the issue. He was the one who said he was "shocked." The media didn't create the scenario. The player and the coach did. It was Seymour who spoke about the incident again the day after the game. He kept it out there. I think it's over now.
Good day Nick, You should do a little research before you call the AFC East a "DUD". The AFC East has 32 wins, the most of any division in football. Division Wins AFC East 32 AFC South 30 NFC East 29 AFC West 28 NFC West 28 NFC North 26 NFC South 26 AFC North 25 Which makes the fact that they have the best record in football ,while playing in the toughest division in football, that much more significant an accomplishment.
-- Mark Caron, Swampscott, MA
A: Good research, but that wasn't my point. The point is that Miami, Buffalo and New York aren't as good as we thought when the season began. Buffalo was picked by many pre-season publications. The Jets won the AFC East last season and should have been over .500. The Dolphins were another team expected to go far into the playoffs and possibly a Super Bowl berth. Obviously, 12 of the 32 wins come from the Patriots. Which is precisely my point. The Patriots ran away with it.
Nick, Why is it for the last 4 days all I have heard is how Seymour got the raw end from B.B. for not starting on Sunday against the Jags. We have an organization in the Pats who keeps clubhouse issues closer to the vest than the CIA and because B.B. does not go through the media to address team issues he is slammed by every talk show and TV show. To believe that this decision was based on anything but a legitimate reason is ridiculous. How about all the arm chair quarterbacks and fantasy head coaches do their job which is to watch our team do something we will tell our children's children about and let B.B. do his job which is to win championships.
-- Mike Sebastino, Fincastle, VA
A: I think it's over, Ian. It was a fly in the ointment.
Nick, I enjoy your mailbag, and I appreciate the realistic view that you have of the Patriots and New England teams in general - a trait that is sorely lacking among much of the Boston sports media. Here's my question: there's no such thing as a steady job for any coach in any sport, and that's unlikely to change. But do you think that Belichick's post-Bledsoe success has raised the bar for other head coaches in the league? I am not trying to give Belichick sole credit for the Pats' success in 2000-2001 or this year; that would be unfair to the many great players who have stepped in and stepped up in the face of the team's injuries. But will owners of other teams look at the Patriots' 2003 season and conclude that injuries are not a valid excuse for a bad year? For example, it's very easy to point to Michael Vick's injury as the cause of the Falcons' poor performance this year. Atlanta responded by firing Dan Reeves, despite his impressive 23-year resume as an NFL coach. Is it possible that Atlanta's front office examined its situation and said, "Well, the Patriots lost their starting quarterback a few years ago and they won the Super Bowl; they've been hit really hard with the injury bug this year and they've got one of the best records in the league; why aren't we doing that?" Will owners ponder Belichick's success - or perhaps that of the coaching staff as a whole - and demand more from their own coaches?
-- Matt Maslin, Reading, MA
A: Great point Matt. When a respected guy like Tom Donahoe says the Patriots have set a high standard, you know teams are trying to duplicate what the Patriots have around the league. There's no question that among the many coaches and executives I've spoken to the past few weeks, they all want the Patriots have. I've had GMs ask my opinion on whether I think Charlie Weis or Romeo Crennel would make good head coaches. Other teams looking for a model, definitely have the Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles in mind.
Nick, Why isn't Tom Brady getting the MVP consideration that he deserves? Can you imagine the Pats offense without him? We'd certainly not be 12-2 and the #1 seed in the AFC. Why aren't the Boston sports media promoting MVP consideration for Brady? Are they too consumed with A-Rod talk?
-- Rob Hazelton, Salem, NH
A: I think you're right about the A-Rod talk. I think it's consumed the majority of the sports public in New England. As for Brady, I think he is the MVP of the Patriots. But when you compare him to Manning or McNair, in the eyes of the national audience which includes players, coaches and media, he comes up third, and sometimes fourth behind Trent Green.
Nick, I feel that the only way Drew Bledsoe can revive his career is getting out of Buffalo. here is why, I think each game he plays he is trying to prove Bill Belichick made a mistake and each week he presses more and more and makes more and more mistakes. A move for him say to an NFC team would do wonders for his career and it would take the pressure of him a great deal.
-- Patrick Flynn, Granby, MA
A: Good point Patrick. But it might just be that he's seen better days.
For some reason it just seems week in and week out that sports commentators and analysts are waiting for the Patriots to stumble and say, "See I told you they weren't that good. I told you they couldn't win without a dominant running back or big play wide-out." And each week, they seemingly climb up hill through all the non-hype (they must be the least talked about 12-2 team in the history of the NFL) and go out and win. Assuming they hold true and go deep into the playoffs and - NFL Gods willing - win it all. What do you think the team looks like next year with regard to Ty's contract situation, coaching changes, the age at LB and the number of draft picks we have. Also, are they any college punters worthy of a third of fourth round pick?
-- Joshua Dessalines, LA, CA
A: Well, you know the team will look a little different next season. They're trying to get younger gradually, so it's likely you'll see some of the 30something players disappear. Ty will restructure but he won't take a cut. Ty Poole also goes year to year because of his family situation. And if Charlie or Romeo get a head job, the offense/and or defense may look a little different. Nothing stays the same which is why dynasties are tough nowadays. As for punters, the Pats certainly have enough picks to draft one, but at this time I couldn't tell you who the guy would be and I doubt they know either.