Patriots

Sunday Mail: Kenbrell Thompkins Had His Moments, But Frustration Over His Departure Is Odd

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Don’t know about you, but I was taken aback when it came to the backlash about the Patriots’ decision to cut Kenbrell Thompkins yesterday.

He had his moments early last season — the winning TD against the Saints won’t be forgotten anytime soon — but he regressed as the season progressed.

His hands were not dependable, he wasn’t a deep threat, he’s 26, he wasn’t even drafted, and he can’t get on the field here despite the issues at receiver.

He’s what Bill Parcells called a JAG — just a guy.

His departure should not have been a surprise, and it’s certainly not anything to cause you to question Bill Belichick as a general manager.

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There are other reasons to do that, sure. But Thompkins? He was a UDFA who contributed a little bit. That’s a find, not a mistake.

And stop comparing him with Aaron Dobson. Dobson is a much more talented player. He got better as the season went on — until he got hurt, which cost him the offseason and a good chunk of camp. The foot problem sent him off course, and his issues now are apparently related to his inability to push off that foot and get open. The frustration is understandable. But on’t call him a bust yet.

As for yesterday’s other Boston sports move that brought Twitter outrage? Yeah, I’m with you there.

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Johnny Boychuk trade? Stinks. They did get great value, but for a team allegedly intent on winning this year, it’s tough to see him go. They could use one or two more like him even without trading the original.

On to …

THE MAILBOX

Big Papi said we should have gotten Nelson Cruz publicly made Ben Cherington look inept. What say you?
— I Wanna Be GM

Like the rest of us, Papi has a spotless GM record with hindsight. Actually, I know he wanted this at the time, but it didn’t make a lot of sense unless you knew Shane Victorino was going to come in out of shape and get injured and you were willing to abandon what had been a very useful platoon in left field last season (not to mention that Jonny Gomes is a winnah, except for all the times he isn’t).There’s a reason Cruz was still available in late February to become the bargain of the offseason. He was coming off a suspension, he’s a butcher in the outfield, he’s 32, and his best position is the one Ortiz plays. No one saw this coming, including Dan Duquette. Really was a weird season for Cruz — his highest monthly batting average from June through August was .216. Scorching at the beginning of the season, got hot at the end, hit the occasional homer and not much else during the summer.

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How come Jerry Thornton still doesn’t have a regular/permanent spot in the Boston’s Sports airwaves?
— Radio Fan

Thinks there’s a good chance you’ll hear him more on WEEI in the future, probably as the third man in from 2-6 p.m. He has some great lines, but I’m not sure his approach would stand up over 20 hours a week as a regular co-host. Third-man-in suits him.

The one good thing in that mockery of a ceremony for Derek Jeter was PaulPierce, an active player for Washington, coming out wearing Celtic green. That was the highlight in my opinion.
— Mark

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The Peter Frates moment was nice; Jeter handled that very gracefully, going out to meet him near the mound and sharing a few words. The Pierce thing was pretty great, though. Can you imagine the howling on sports radio if a Boston athlete did that elsewhere? My only frustration with it is that it’s clear that Pierce wants to end his career here, but the Celtics aren’t going to be any good before he has to retire.

Chad – stupid questions about replacing Belichick aside, do you think the next Patriots head coach is currently on this staff? McDaniels has clearly struggled since regaining the OC position, Matt Patricia doesn’t strike me as head-coaching material, and the rest except for Daboll are all young coaches with no playing experience. What are the odds that Kraft looks outside this staff once Belichick retires?
— Patrick

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When McDaniels came back and joined the Patriots in the playoffs in January 2012, I was convinced that meant he was first in line as Belichick’s successor. I think the Patriots — maybe even Belichick — saw him as someone who was on the same career path as the one his mentor took: coach’s son, successful coordinator at a young age, had brief success in his first stint as a head coach followed by chaos.

The difference, I think, is that not a lot of Belichick’s problems in Cleveland were within his control. He was right about Bernie Kosar, which nonetheless infuriated the fan base … and once Art Modell fired up the moving trucks, he was doomed. McDaniels’s problems in Denver were due to some curious personnel moves, but he also alienated players by acting like he was Belichick, when to them he came across as a know-it-all bro-wannabe. (Former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson basically calls McDaniels a petulant child in his excellent memoir, “Slow Getting Up.”)

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I think it’s become obvious this season in particular that Tom Brady has made the careers of Charlie Weis and McDaniels (Bill O’Brien strikes me as competent on his own) and I think that has damaged McDaniels’s rep. I hope it has. There’s no way I want him succeeding Belichick here.

To answer the question, no, I don’t think his successor is on the staff. And I suspect when he retires a decade or two from now, Jonathan Kraft will want to make the hire. Did you just shiver? You shivered, didn’t you?

Ernie Johnson is a great studio guy. He’s a terrible play by play guy. Why hasn’t TBS figured out how to present a good baseball broadcast yet?
— DO

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Completely agree. We know he has a good personality and sense of humor, because it comes out constantly on Inside The NBA. But he’s beyond dry on play-by-play, and it became more and more noticeable as the tension heightened during the Royals/A’s playoff game. I understand why they use him — he’s their guy — and part of the problem is that he doesn’t get a lot of reps. But Don Orsillo is much better, and it’s a bummer he was a casualty of TBS losing the NLDS to Fox Sports 1 and the MLB Network in the new rights deal. Also: Cal Ripken Jr. is the worst ex-superstar analyst I’ve heard since Joe Montana went mute in the studio for NBC for a year back in the early ’90s. But at least they have the smarts to use Pedro and Eck.

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Until next week, the Mailbox is closed. Exit music, please:

Would this ruin Billy Squier’s career nowadays? I don’t think it would. But it sure as hell did then, which is a shame. To my sixth-grade self, he was legit. Someone should have taken him aside and said, “Great stuff. This is gonna be huge. But … maybe just a little less channeling of Richard Simmons, OK?”

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