December 3, 2016

ProJo Reports DC Pees Fired/Resigns

The Providence Journal is reporting at this hour that the Patriots have fired defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

Personally, this move wasn’t all that much of a shock. The timing of it is, a little bit. It was reported that the Patriots coaches would be taking a couple of weeks off before launching into 2010. The fact that they made this move now (if true, of course) seems to indicate that this was something they had to get done right now. Romeo Crennel was just hired as the Kansas City defensive coordinator, so does this mean someone like Pepper Johnson will be moving into the DC chair? Johnson had been a candidate for the Giants DC job earlier this week, and perhaps he has been deemed more important to keep than Pees.

Could they hire someone outside the team? Al Grohl has interviewed with the Dolphins this week, so he is available, but Pepper Johnson seems the logical move. Linebackers coach Matt Patricia is considered a rising coach as well. The National Football Post thinks that Patricia is the leading candidate.

Several new reports state that Pees contract was up at the end of this month and that Pees made the decision not to come back.

The offseason just got a whole lot more interesting.

He Said It: Dean Pees

by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff
September 23, 2009

I was checking the blogs last night and I came across this post on Extra Points, the Globe’s successor to Reiss’s Pieces.

I thought these words were worth re-recording, from Dean Pees:

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Jets or whatever, you can’t let somebody run the ball. We started out pretty well there and then we got into a couple different things where they hurt us in the run. I think we got those settled down a little bit, and then the other thing is you’ve always got to take away big plays.

“I look back on the year, and I bring it up every year to the defense, the two things that always hurt you in drives are penalties and big plays. Usually if you can avoid those things and take those two things away … Now we didn’t get penalized any on defense Sunday but we gave up a big play, which was a direct correlation to leading to their one touchdown.

“When we look back at the season this year, we gave up three touchdowns and basically in all three of them there was either a penalty or a big play.”

This struck me as unwelcome news to those fans who are waiting for the Patriots to develop a pass rush spine this season.  By underlining the Pats defensive philosophy – stop the run, avoid penalties, and don’t give up the big play – Pees seems to strike down any hope for a balls-out blitz on NFL quarterbacks over the next few months. It’s just not a priority. Aggression doesn’t even make the top three.

E-mail Scott Benson at [email protected]

NY Times Blog – The Belichick Way: Still the Best

There is a very interesting blog post on The Fifth Down, the New York Times Football blog, by KC Joyner. The entry is titled The Belichick Way: Still the Best.

Joyner starts out by telling us, “After reviewing the game notes from the 2008 season, I am convinced that Bill Belichick is the NFL’s version of The Beatles.”

After listing the accomplishments of The Beatles, for so many years, he draws it back to Belichick by stating: Even after all of these years, no one comes close to having the same kind of grasp that he has on operating a football team.

He then lists out what he thinks are the core principles of Belichick teams:

  • Make the game plan specific to the opponent.
  • Build your team so that it can go after any of these weaknesses.
  • Combine athletic ability with intelligence as often as possible.
  • A team doesn’t need a great running back to win.
  • If you can’t go after a specific weakness in your opponent, use every tool in the playbook to put your players into the highest percentage position possible.
  • Don’t ask players to do things they aren’t capable of.
  • The team’s psychological state cannot be ignored.
  • Teach players how to do the high percentage things.
  • Teach players that if the defense is giving you anything, take as much of it as you can.
  • Know how to work the clock in very creative ways.
  • Don’t let superstition get in the way of things.
  • Don’t let a macho attitude get in the way of things.

Each of these points are expanded on in detail in the post. Well worth a read.


Leary, Clarke Ruin Belichick Interview

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick appeared on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike in the Morning show, which could’ve been a good chance to hear Belichick outside of the local media. Many times in these occasions, Belichick opens up a little more than he does in his press conferences at Gillette Stadium.

However, on this occasion, Mike Golic was out and Denis Leary and Lenny Clarke were on the show with Mike Greenberg. The “comedians” were horrible. Just horrible. This clip below doesn’t even include Clarke screaming about Julian Edelman being Jewish. (If you really want to hear to it, the entire clip can be heard here.)

Belichick does touch on Tom Brady’s return, has some nice things to say about Edelman, and weighs in on how a player coming as late into camp as Brett Favre is can impact the player and team.

For Someone Who Isn’t Intimidated by Bill Belichick…

…Rex Ryan sure seems fixated on and spends a lot of time talking about the Patriots coach.

Yup, the rookie New York Jets head coach is at it again. Apparently he just can’t help himself. Back in June we posted his comments made to Mike Francesa of WFAN radio in New York, among which were his statement that he wasn’t going to be kissing Belichick’s Super Bowl Rings when the two clubs met on the field in the second week of the season.

He expanded on those comments today by saying:

“When I said that about Belichick (“I’m not here to kiss his rings.”), I’m just letting him know I’m not intimidated by him,” said Ryan at his noon press conference. “He has the same position as I have. We’re both head coaches in this league. He just happens to have a helluva lot of Super Bowl rings and I don’t have a win. I understand that.

OK, we get it, Belichick doesn’t intimidate you, Rex. By this point though, you almost sound like you’re trying to convince yourself of that fact.

He later added:

“But again, we’re not going to tiptoe our way through this thing. You don’t line up and beat a Bill Belichick-coached team by tiptoeing in there. We’re just going to be ourselves. I’m going to be myself. That’s just the way it is.

“How much motivation are they going to get by putting a quote from me on the wall saying that I believe in my football team. That I’m not going to be intimidated by a coach or anyone else. If that’s where you’re going to draw motivation from, hell, we’ll probably kick your (butt). I mean if that’s the case.”

I don’t think the comments themselves today are all that inflammatory, but the fact that Ryan just has to keep telling us this has amateur psychiatrists everywhere (well, here, anyway) convinced that he feels that Belichick is in fact an intimidating figure, and that he needs to try and mask his own feelings of inadequacy with these bombastic statements.

Nick Caserio Press Conference From Today (8/6)

Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio spoke with the media today. Here are some of the highlights:

On progress towards a Vince Wilfork extension:

I think we are still working through some things. Whenever we get to a resolution, I am sure, hopefully we will get to that point but we are working every day. There are constantly discussions. It’s on-going and — as far as pin-pointing this is going to be the final resolution — it is hard for us to sit here and say that. Vince [Wilfork] has been a good player for us in our system. He has been productive, he has had some success here, and we want to have him around here. Both parties are working on both sides to try to get something resolved. Whenever that happens, then it happens.

On whether the labor uncertainty plays a role in Wilfork’s case:

I think there’s a lot of hypothetical. You sort of have to have a contingency plan in place. Will there be a new CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement]? When will that get resolved? There is a lot of uncertainty so it’s hard but you try to plan for: “OK, if the CBA is resolved, this is what he would like to do. If it’s not resolved, here’s what we can do.” There is a lot of uncertainty as it relates to that and we try to prepare as best we can for either outcome. But that plays a role into it, certainly.

On being out on the field coaching during camp:

I think my situation has kind of been unique, even if you go back a few years ago when Coach [Ivan] Fears was out for a two to three week period of time. I was out of the field working with the running backs. I have had some degree of experience in this system. So I think, at this point of the year, I certainly enjoy it, and I think what we are trying to do right now is wherever I can help and whatever capacity that might be, then I’m certainly more than willing to do. I have worked with a lot of the coaches offensively on this staff. I’ve worked with Coach [Bill] O’Brien, Coach [Dante] Scarnecchia. I’ve worked with Ivan [Fears]. So it’s enjoyable, but in the end the whole goal — especially this time of year — is to try to get the players prepared to practice, make sure they know what to do and if I am involved with that, great. However I can help and fit in, I am willing to do that.

On whether he has been on the field because of having so many new coaches on the staff:

We have a lot of good coaches. Bill [O’Brien] has a lot of experience in the system. Chad [O’Shea], who we brought in to coach the receivers, has been with some other clubs and has some experience. Fortunately, I have a little bit of a background with our system and everybody knows that each year you have change amongst your staff whether it’s in coaching or personnel. So I’ve been here for a few years and have some what of a grasp to what we are doing and I think the communication is good between the group downstairs.

On how his role has changed since Scott Pioli left:

You know Chris [Gaspar], some of the things that I am doing, I was doing even when Scott was here. I think what we have been able to do is that we have allocated some of the responsibilities; in the end, we all work together. Floyd [Reese has] a wealth of experience in the league. Jason [Light] has been with us previously so we have different people. Everybody sort of understands their role and we work well together. So I wouldn’t say that it has changed all that much. In the end, maybe there’s a few more things that end up crossing my desk, but in the end I wouldn’t say there is a drastic change in terms of responsibilities.

On whether the uncertainly of the CBA has agents looking for guaranteed pay for clients:

Yeah, you know Ron [Borges], I haven’t really heard much of that from the agents. I would say during the summer here, Floyd [Reese] has dealt with a lot of the agents as is relates to some of the contracts and those kinds of things. But as far as what they are actually looking for, I don’t think anyone has been specific about it because they don’t even know. So it is hard for them to say — well, whether it is guaranteed or whatever it might be — there is uncertainty on the club level and I think there is uncertainty on the agent level as well. Hopefully, in the end, there is kind of a happy medium and a space that we can come to some agreement. But I wouldn’t say there has been anything specific that relates to that, to my knowledge.

On whether that makes it more difficult to make deals:

It can be because I think the agents may be looking for one thing and the club may be looking for another thing. But until we say, “OK, here is what the agreement is and here is what the CBA says,” you just have to be careful about how you put things together.

On what has prepared him for this job:

It’d be hard for me to pin-point. I think I have worked with a lot of very good people when I came in, in 2001. I was working for Scott [Pioli], but then I actually started working for the offensive staff that year so I was working with Charlie [Weis]. I have been fortunate to work with a number of great people since I’ve been here and have been given some opportunities. I just try to make the most of those opportunities. My philosophy is each day to take it as its own entity, try work hard and just try to be a good listener. Look, I don’t have all the answers and I am never going to claim that I have all the answers. I have two ears and one mouth for a reason. I’ve been able to take a lot of different people and being around Coach Belichick, he has been valuable to me. I think Bill and I have developed a good working relationship and I am pretty fortunate to be where I am today and — god willing — it will continue moving forward. Nothing is guaranteed. I know I have a job to do and I need to perform my job to the best of my ability and hopefully that will be good enough.

Special Teams Coach Scott O’Brien Meets With the Media

We knew that new special teams coach Scott O’Brien came here via Denver, where he coached the special teams there. We also were aware that he coached with Bill Belichick back in Cleveland, serving in the same role there.

Beyond that, I think we can safely say we didn’t know a whole lot about the guy. Yesterday he met with the media, and we learned a little more about him. Here are some highlights from that session:

On the connection between he and Bill Belichick:

…it started in Cleveland. I was at the University f Pittsburgh at the time and they had just finished the Super Bowl and he called one day and the relationship really started there.

On how Belichick has changed since those days in Cleveland:

Not a lot. There were a lot of things I loved about Bill, as a young coach learning the National Football League, from an assistant coach’s standpoint, especially situational football. I mean, situations that win and lose football games. And that’s really our responsibility, as coaches, to be able to give our players the opportunity to have the best chance to win. I think being with him the first time [in Cleveland], really getting a head start on that, really helped me as far as situational games that come right down to the wire that maybe give you a little bit of edge.

On how things are shaping up at returner:

We’ve got punt returners working – everybody knows Wes Welker, everybody knows Kevin Faulk – but we’ve got Julian Edelman, who is trying to develop into one.

On what Edelman has to learn to develop into a good returner:

…he’s learning, not only catching the ball, there’s a lot more to it. There’s field awareness; where did you catch it at? Where did you start? What do we have on the field? Are we singling outside? There’re a lot of things going through his mind, but he has to understand and we have to teach him situations based on trying to stay a step ahead. There’s nothing more important than catching the football and protecting it, don’t get me wrong, but there’s more to it than that. So we’re kind of bringing him along.

Other possibilities at the postion:

Obviously, we have Joey Galloway who has done it in this league too. The more [punt returners] you can have, the better it is. Don’t forget about Patrick Chung. We keep working with Darius Butler, who was a kickoff returner in college, but he has great skills. We’re just going to keep developing everybody we have until it starts to get closer.

On whether Laurence Maroney is a possibility:

When you first saw him, you knew he was an explosive runner. He has size and I know he had a good year his first year. So far so good with him. I like him. He’s getting into it.

On how the new wedge rule has changed things:

There’re different looks that you have to be able to deal with anyway, and we’re all in for protecting the players and taking care of them. If we feel that’s going to help or they changed the rule for that reason, then we’re going to work with it. But overall, schematically, it will change, but there’s really not a lot of change based on what we do.

On whether he feels the new rule is clear and how it will be officiated:

I think in the preseason you’re going to find out [how it is officiated]. We try to do as much as we can to teach the players the rule itself and the techniques within the rules that we’re trying to accomplish. There is gray area there because for coaches, we see it a little bit differently. We can see it in our mind when the rule comes out or when an official talks to us about a rule, when they give that to us, we can almost determine, ‘ok, what if this happens?’ Because we don’t want our players in that situation. We don’t want to be forced into that situation, so I think  [during] preseason, we’ll get a better feel for it.

Belichick Remembers Jim Johnson

I thought one of the nicer moments from this morning’s activities down at Gillette Stadium involved Bill Belichick speaking about Philadelphia Eagles Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who lost his battle with cancer earlier this week.

When Belichick was asked for his thoughts on Johnson, he said:

Jim’s  probably as good a defensive coordinator as I’ve seen in the league, in the time that I’ve been in it. I spoke with him frequently and we exchanged a lot of ideas.

I have a lot of respect for his philosophy, his schemes, the way he attacks offenses and his ability to utilize personnel. He’s got a real good football mind.. I tried to work with him several times and it never quite worked out. I first knew him when he was at Notre Dame, and I’ve always had great respect for him

He was a good friend, a good football coach, and a tough guy to compete against.  Certainly, on behalf of  our team and the organization, our condolences go out to the Eagles and Jim’s family.

With everything else that is going on today, I’m glad the reporter asked him about this, and I didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle.

Tom Brady’s OTA Media Session

Here is the full transcript of Tom Brady’s session with the media at yesterday’s Organized Team Activities (OTA).

New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady

OTA – Media Availability

May 28, 2009

Q: How are you feeling? Do you want to give us an update on the progress of your knee from the last two months or so?

TB: Yeah. I’ve been feeling really positive. You know, getting back into the football stuff – it’s a little different than the training you do – working out normally in the offseason, so it’s good to come out on the field. There is obviously a lot of rust by all of us being off for four months. We’re working hard to make the improvements we need to make. Thank God the season is a few months away, but we need the work and I need the work. I think everybody realizes when you come out after four months off there is a lot of work for us to do.

Q: Have you talked to any other quarterbacks who have gone through this about what their experiences were?

TB: Not really. No, I haven’t.

Q: Anyone else at all? Any players that you’ve talked to that have been through it?

TB: There have been a couple of guys on our team that have had knee injuries. It’s about staying positive and putting in the work. You’ve got to do the rehab. Nobody likes to do rehab. I’m glad we are back into the football stuff and we are back into throwing the ball on the field. That’s the stuff that I enjoy the most.

Q: Do you have to learn how to throw again with the knee the way it is?

TB: The throwing is not the problem at all. At this point it’s just about getting back to the football activity. I am doing the football activities not for my leg, but for the rest of me – my everything. My body feels really good. My arm feels good. I’m not completing as many passes as I want, but we haven’t been out here very long. I think it’s just about getting better every day. If you can do that, and you can make continuous improvements over the course of weeks and months, you’ll be a better player.

Q: There’s no adjustment with having to wear a brace on your leg and getting used to that?

TB: No. You don’t even really notice it. I would rather not wear, but [Head Athletic Trainer] Jim [Whalen] is forcing me to wear it, so I have to listen to him.

Q: With your lifestyle being glamorous, are you still as hungry and competitive as you’ve always been?

TB: I’m a believer that talk is real cheap. I’m someone that likes to put the work in. I know it looks glamorous at times. I think what I enjoy the most is playing football and being with my family, and those are the kind of things that I do. I’m excited to go out there and compete and anytime I have a chance to compete, I love that. Whether it’s on the practice field or the game field, which unfortunately is a few months away for us, you just have to come out – and I always enjoy that.

Q: You said last year was the halftime of your career. What did you mean by that?

TB: Well, I think we all have goals that we set for ourselves and how long you want to play. Fortunately for a quarterback, you can play for a long time because you don’t get hit very often. I hope I have the opportunity to play for a long time. I think when you sit on the sidelines for an entire year you realize how much you love it. Not that you need that to happen to be grateful to play, but you experience things in a much different way and a way that I never experienced as an athlete. I love being out here. I love participating and being around these guys. We’re working for some big goals we set, so we just have to, like Coach Belichick says, come out here and work hard every day and do our job.

Q: Does this year off make you think about your athletic mortality?

TB: Like the end of my career?

Q: Well, did it make you think that it’s getting closer than…

TB: The reality is in this sport, you really never know with… Any day could be your last day in football. You come out and it’s a very physical game and I think you’re just grateful for having a chance to compete in practice and be on a team and having a great job. I think all of that stuff we are very happy about and happy to participate in. I don’t think about the end too often. Hopefully this is still, relatively, in the early part of my career. I guess you will have to talk to me in a few years.

Q: You used the word rust. Getting back out here does it feel like a long time? What are your emotions?

TB: I’ve been playing football for a long time so you don’t have to relearn how to do anything, you just have to go out and try to be sharp. I don’t think I’ve been very sharp the last three days in practice. It takes a lot of reps and a lot of throwing. You see the defense and you make the throws and there are adjustments you have to make on the field. The football part and understanding our offense – I mean, obviously, I have a good understanding of that – it’s just a matter of putting it together at a different speed than you can go out and practice in the bubble in March and April. It’s nice when team activities are on the field and there’s blitzes and you can signal guys and something happens and a guy slips on a route and now you have to throw to a different player. Those are the things that you’ve got to sharpen up. There’s a lot of training camp practices. There’s probably 50 training camp practices that we’ll have and I think each one of those will be valuable for all of us. I’m looking forward to those because I haven’t had the opportunity to do that in quite awhile.

Q: I would imagine your rehab is probably 75 percent done and I would think you probably still have some limitations. You don’t feel like you are 100 percent yet, do you?

TB: I feel as good as I could possibly feel. I don’t think about it. It doesn’t bother me doing anything. It’s feeling really good and it’s about as good as I can say. I’m real happy with where I’m at and I come out to these workouts happy to participate in them. That was something that was a big goal for me to be able to do.

Q: If the opening game would be two months away do you think you’d be ready or do you think you need four months?

TB: I will take every day that I have. Believe me, I’ll take every day. We have a lot of work [to do] and there are a lot of new faces and new coaches. There’s been a lot of change for us this year and we have to use it to our advantage.

Q: Did you learn anything while you were out from watching the game that you can put into practice now?

TB: Yeah, you’re not in the day-to-day of the football, which as a football player – like everybody – your job, when you’re in it every day, it’s a grind. You get up and you go to work and there is quite a routine. I didn’t have that routine this year, so there are other things that you see. I said earlier, some of those things when you are in that marathon of a season it’s just getting through the next day and getting through the game. You start complaining about the little things. When I was sitting out last year you hear all the guys start [in] November, December – that later part in the year when the guys are starting to get worn down – I’m going, ‘Come on guys, push through it, just win the game.’ That’s how Coach Belichick coaches us, and I saw it from a different perspective in that sense. So hopefully there’s no complaining from me this year.

Q: Naturally a lot of people are comparing this offense to 2007 – you have some new tools in Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis. What are your expectations and do you think it will be better?

TB: Well, we have guys that are experienced players. Obviously, Randy [Moss] and Wes [Welker] at receiver and we’ve added some tight ends and Joey and Greg are here as well. There’s a lot of work that we need to do to get on the same page. I know the kind of effort we put in in 2007 and we need to match that, and in 2008 as well – we worked hard that offseason. It didn’t work out for us in the end, but I think this year is another bit of excitement, it’s a new challenge and that’s why we are out here practicing. I don’t think you overlook anything out here. Every rep we are trying to complete is for a reason. There are signals [to learn]. We’re walking through the two-minute drill today. We’re trying to all get on the same page and that’s going to carry over into training camp and training camp carries over to the season. We have a lot of tough opponents this year. We have a challenging schedule and we are going to need the work that we have. I think the new guys – they are a bit overwhelmed with the offense and the terminology and the speed of how I’m spitting things out in the huddle and how I’m changing things at the line. We are all trying to get used to that.

Q: What’s been the biggest surprise for you over the last two days?

TB: This is a hard game and it’s one of those things that if you’re not doing it every day and you’re competing at this level, you always think it’s going to get easier as you get older and you are going to complete more balls. That’s not the way it works. You’ve got to come out every day and put the work in. You can’t take anything for granted and you can’t think that because you completed it last year a certain way that that’s the way it’s going to be this year. We’ve got a group of hard working guys and I’m very appreciative of that as a member of the team because I don’t have to motivate those guys. They are really self-motivating and they’re willing to work and we are willing to put the time in together. I think we’re going to need all that hard work and commitment from everybody to make it a successful season.

Q: A lot of good things happened for you off the field this year – you were able to spend more time with your son and you got married. Can you address that and how it was?

TB: Sure. I’m a very optimistic person. I cherish those moments. There’s been great things happening in my life for a long time and certainly this year was no different and different areas of success with marriage and with children. It’s a great part of my life and so is work. I’m excited for all those things coming together. I think I’m a happier person when I’m working.

Q: You’re going to have to juggle a little more.

TB: Yeah, certainly. I think there are a lot of constraints on your time and it’s about prioritizing and doing the best you can do.

Q: You said “children” in a previous answer. Is there another one on the way?

TB: No. It’s… No. One is enough. I have dogs and that’s all I need.

Q: Aside from the knee, how rusty do you feel?

TB: I feel like it’s springtime – 50 degrees and rainy in Boston. It’s the start of a new year. I wish we’d come out and throw 90 percent completions out here every day and [have] everyone on the same page and [have] no mental errors, but because we are so new to this there are a lot of mistakes we are making. We have to try to make those improvements every day. We go in, watch our film and listen to Coach and hopefully we can build on each day. So like I said, we can look back two months from now and know that we’re prepared for training camp.

Q: When you think back about the day you were injured, is it something you put in the back of your mind?

TB: I really don’t think about it. I’ve never really thought about it. I’ve never really focused on it. I think I felt bad for myself that night and then I think I moved on after that. Since then it’s about trying to get better. There’s nothing you can do and you have to find ways to move on. Like I said, I’m grateful to be out here. To have the chance to come out here and play is something I’ve wanted to do my entire life and I’ve had the opportunity to do it for nine years and I’m at it again for my 10th. Randy [Moss] jokes that he wishes this was training camp. I think in a lot of ways we feel the same way that we are going to put the work in and we want to come out and get back to doing what we love to do.

Q: Have you talked to other players with this injury?

TB: I haven’t – just the guys on my team that are supportive and encourage me, but no one in particular that I’ve sought out.

Q: With your glamorous lifestyle, does the football field feel like a sanctuary for you?

TB: Yeah, the football field… You are one of the guys here and I enjoy that. In other parts of my life it’s just that once I had a little bit more privacy back in the past, but that’s okay and I learn to manage it and I still find ways to enjoy myself, certainly here – I always have fun here. Personally, I really enjoy the things I’m doing. This is a great place for me.

Q: At this point what could stop you from being ready for the season opener?

TB: I said anything that could stop anybody. There’re a lot of things that could happen in two months. I have to drive home this afternoon in Boston traffic, you never know what could happen. Knock on wood please. We’re out here preparing and I don’t anticipate anything. I hope there’s not. We’ll deal with something if something does… lighting striking, I don’t know.

Q: How do you feel about playing in London?

TB: I’m looking forward to that. Mr. Kraft told me last year the day that it was announced. I was excited. Especially that it’s an away game for us and a home game for them. I’d much rather play in London than at Tampa’s stadium. It’s the middle part of the year and it will be fun to play at a different place. I know the NFL works hard to expand into different countries all around world and get more fans. I think the players understand that and we’re willing to do that. We love the game and we want other people to love the game too.

Q: Randy Moss and Wes Welker talked about how their experience in the offense is really going to help what you guys had in 2007. What do you think about that showing up now and going into the year?

TB: Those two work extremely hard. They were pretty good two years ago when they got here and they were great last year. I expect them to be great this year and there isn’t any reason why they shouldn’t be. They work hard. They know the offense. They’re accountable and they’re great leaders. They need to play well. If they don’t play well then obviously we’re not going to have a very good football team. When your best players are guys that are the hardest workers – I know Coach Belichick loves that. I think all the players look up to those guys and their leadership ability.

Q: What’s the adjustment without Josh McDaniels out here?

TB: You know Josh and I had a great relationship. As a part of the NFL, things change every year. There’re 13 new head coaches and he’s one of them. I really hope that we find ways to move on without him, and we’ve already started that process. It doesn’t stop for anybody around here. You leave and someone else fills your spot and they’re anxious for the opportunity. We have to work hard to get up to speed on everything and the coaches that are in that role are doing that.

Q: Is it kind of quiet without [Mike] Vrabel?

TB:  You noticed that too don’t you? Vrabel, Rodney [Harrison] – there is definitely not as much noise. We miss those guys and we love those guys. They are our great friends and we wish them well.

Q: Were you surprised about the Vrabel move?

TB: I’m not surprised by anything anymore. It’s part of this game and it’s part of the league. I know Mike’s happy to have a job. We are all happy to have a job. Like I said, Mike’s a great friend of all of ours. We miss him and I know he misses us, but if we ever play Kansas City than we are going to want to beat the crap out of him.

Q: Was there ever a point in your recovery that you thought you might not be ready?

TB: No, I think part of surgery and rehab is that you have setbacks and you just deal with them. It doesn’t always go as you plan it. Life doesn’t go how you plan it. It’s a matter of dealing with it [and] understanding, what do I have to do to get back on the right track. It didn’t really set me back for very long, probably just long enough from keeping me from really hurting myself.

Q: Did you pay attention to the speculation about your knee and were you amused by any of it?

TB: I’m amused by a lot.

Q: Some Pats fans might be concerned today to look at the paper and see you riding your bicycle without your helmet on. Tell me about that?

TB: Do I need a helmet?

Q: Yea.

TB: I do? I’m not even going very fast.

Q: You have to wear a helmet.

TB: I’ll get a helmet. I’ll see if Mr. Kraft can provide me with a helmet.

Q: Have you lost weight? Are you at your playing weight?

TB: I think I’m a little more than my playing weight. I try to work on my strength a lot. There’re different things you try to find [to make] improvements on. I’ll be right back to where I need to be in a few months. I need some warm weather.

Q: Are there things you would like to do but you are holding back a little bit?

TB: I always try to do as much as I can do. I’m never a person that does not enough because I’d regret not doing enough and think I probably could have done more. I probably go too far and have to reel myself back in, which works in some things and other things it doesn’t work. I think as far as I’m concerned now, coming out here, I’m trying to do everything I can do and I’m trying to do everything in the offseason program since it started. It’s been good because now I come out here and there’s nothing I’m worried about. I just try to play better, which I didn’t do very well today.

Q: What do you think about Joey Galloway and Fred Taylor and the new weapons on offense?

TB: I think it’s great. I love having veteran players come onto this team because they have the experience. They know football and they know the language and terminology and the learning curve is so much accelerated for them. It’s challenging in our offense for a young player because there’s a lot that we do. It changes every week. Especially as a receiver, you might be in one spot one day and the next spot the other [day] and the route we are calling – there are three different variations to the route based on the coverage. It’s tough, so when you have a veteran player, he’s – ok yeah, I get that, I did that. When you get a rookie, he’s trying to make sure he gets out to practice on time. When you have Fred who’s excited to run the plays and now he has to learn our terminology versus the terminology he’s known… He’s excited, he feels excited to be here. That youth comes out in him, so I think hopefully we are going to get the best out of both he and Joey and Greg Lewis. I don’t know if you saw that catch he [Greg] made today, but that was ridiculous. I told him that was the one he caught in the Super Bowl – that weasel.

Q: Have you told those guys that you are trying to do something special?

TB: I think they know that we are all trying to do something special. We haven’t had the kind of season we would’ve liked going into our fifth year. There have been some ups and downs and I think we’ve realized you need to be extremely consistent in everything you do to accomplish your goals. It is challenging. Look at Miami last year – they were the division champs last year. We are not in that spot anymore, so we have to make the improvements to catch up to the other teams. We have an AFC team that won the Super Bowl, a team that we seem to play every year. When you don’t make the playoffs you’re looking up at a lot of teams. We’ve got to get back to winning some football games.

Q: How confident are you that you can be the same player that you were before the injury?

TB: We’ll see. Like I said, talk is cheap. I could sit here and tell you guys that I’m going to play until I’m 80, but that doesn’t matter. I’m going to do the best that I can do and I’m going to try to be the best leader and the best teammate and supporter of the guys on my team – it’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing. Like I said, I’m grateful to have that chance and to be out here today. I can’t wait to get out and start playing games.

Q: For veteran guys the first time they have an injury it’s a shock. Did you go through that?

TB: I think you wake up the next day and think was that a dream? Because that’s not really how I thought it was going to go. I had never been injured and then that passes with me pretty quick though. I don’t dwell on it. I just kind of go, well that sucks. Okay, now what do we have to do? Right after, you’re hurting a little bit but then you are focusing on the things that you have to do to get better. I think it went pretty fast in a lot of ways – the rehab process and getting back here. It goes fast because there is something else to focus on and you’re always trying to make improvements just like we do on the practice field. In a different way, when you’re not practicing you’re trying to make improvements so you can get back out here with this goal in mind. It’s challenging because you’re not playing. It’s challenging because you can’t help your teammates in the role that you’ve always helped them in, but I am obviously supportive of them. I’m hoping that I can be back out there leading them once again.

Q: Was it difficult to watch the games?

TB: Watching the games wasn’t a problem – I loved that. It’s the end of the game that’s the problem, because when you win you’re like, I wasn’t a part of any of that [and] they’re all celebrating in the locker room and I’m laying on my bed. And when you lose, you are bummed because the team lost. It’s probably the emotion of a normal game. For the players there is always emotion after the game. During the game you are rooting and cheering for the guys and hoping that everyone is doing well and everyone is safe, but once the game ends you try to go to bed early.

Analyzing The Foxboro Carousel

This offseason has been another of attrition for the coaching staff and front office of the New England Patriots. Here are some of our thoughts on what’s been happening, and what could happen:

Move: Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels leaves to become head coach of the Denver Broncos

Analysis: Obviously this is a big loss for the Patriots. They’re losing the playcaller for an offense that set records in 2007 and which was near the top of the NFL in 2008 despite losing an MVP quarterback in Tom Brady and inserting a QB who hadn’t started a game since high school. Very impressive.

Our site co-founder here, Scott Benson weighs in on the loss of McDaniels this way:

I think it’s silly to suggest that because Bill Belichick is in charge these departures will not have a recognizable impact on the 2009 Patriots. It seems inevitable.

McDaniels was clearly at the top of his game as an NFL coordinator. The incredible 2007 (most regular season points in history, most touchdowns in history, Brady’s 50 TD’s, Moss’s 23, both records) backed up by 2008’s patchwork success (Cassel’s development into an actual threat, supplemented by the team’s best rushing season in 23 years) says enough to me. You can’t argue that McDaniels produced at a high level throughout his tenure as Pats OC.

Ascribe that production to Tom Brady, or Bill Belichick, but I’m saying it’s also the work of an organized, prepared coach with full command of his resources. These things don’t happen by accident.

I still hear complaining about the Super Bowl. You know one thing I remember about that Super Bowl? An offense that had been humiliated all day going on a five minute, eighty yard drive to score the go-ahead touchdown with just under three minutes left. For all the grief they took, they crawled off the mat and scored a touchdown – for the lead – on their last real possession. Make ONEEFFINGPLAYONDEFENSE – which, of course, the Patriots can’t do – and you’re seeing the Tom Brady to Randy Moss touchdown highlight for the rest of your life.

How can we take this – a repeat of their ultimate fate the year before – and conclude that it was Josh McDaniels who lost the Super Bowl for the Patriots?

Here’s the thing that really gets me about losing McDaniels. There was something interesting about having a very young coach with a lot of experience at the shoulder of the veteran Bill Belichick. You’re lying if you don’t admit you’ve thought at least once of McDaniels becoming the eventual successor to Belichick, who would presumably assume a Parcells-like luxury box job at some undetermined point in the future. Who do they have now that offers the same promise?

That’s a good question…as far as replacing McDaniels, it’s been the Patriots way for the most part to promote from within when it comes to coordinators. Romeo Crennel left, Eric Mangini was promoted. Mangini left, Dean Pees was promoted. Charlie Weiss left, McDaniels moved up. If you recall though, the McDaniels move wasn’t immediate. The Patriots actually went a season without a named Offensive Coordinator. McDaniels could be seen calling the plays in, but he didn’t have the title. The second year after Weiss left, McDaniels got the title.

Given that history, we can’t see the team going outside the organization to replace McDaniels. So don’t plan on Mike Martz, Mike Shanahan or any other big names coming in. How about internally? The two names most often mentioned are tight ends coach Pete Mangurian and receivers coach Bill O’Brien. Mangurian served as offensive coordinator under Dan Reeves in Atlanta, while O’Brien was an OC for Duke and Georgia Tech prior to joining the Patriots staff. A longshot could be linebackers coach Matt Patricia, who actually started his Patriots coaching career as an offensive assistant.

Another possibility is that Bill Belichick simply takes on a larger role with the offense, essentially serving as the OC, while grooming one of the other coaches (O’Brien?) to take on the role in the future, much like he did with McDaniels. That might actually be the most likely scenario.

Move: Special Teams Coach Brad Seely moves onto to Cleveland to join Eric Mangini’s staff as Assistant Head Coach and Special Team coordinator.

Move: Patriots hire former Denver Special Teams coach Scott O’Brien (Though they haven’t officially announced this.)

Analysis - Here are some thoughts from Patriots Daily contributor Greg Doyle:

If Scott O’Brien is the new special teams coach, that is a good hire. I remember reading an article about him at the time the Pats played Carolina in the Super Bowl (I believe) and O’Brien was the Special Teams coach there. Belichick was saying how he didn’t know him from Adam when he interviewed him for the Cleveland Special Teams job back in ’91 but gave him an interview on a recommendation. So the guy comes in and immediately starts showing Belichick these charts and graphs and things he had done and makes this overwhelming presentation.

Belichick hired him in Cleveland to coach the Special Teams and said he ended up being one of the best coaches he ever worked with and they became friends. That was O’Brien’s first NFL job and Belichick said he went on to become one of the best Special Teams coaches in the league. I think Belichick liked Seely too and he did a good job, but after a couple bad plays this year maybe felt it was time to shake things up and try some different schemes, fresh ideas on special teams, etc. O’Brien is also thought of as a top Special Teams coach, so after all the defections the past few years from the coaching staff, front office, I feel like at least they are adding one long-time, well-respected NFL coach and that is good. At least there is a little positive addition rather than all the subtraction. Its a good thing plugging in young coaching assistants as they prove themselves, but I think if they have to go with too many there is too much of a lack of experience on the staff, so I am glad they at least added one veteran coach.

(The link has been removed from the DenverBroncos.com, but O’Brien’s biography is still on the site.)

As to why Seely and the Patriots decided to part ways…maybe it was just time? Seely was one of the few here who pre-dated Belichick, and perhaps he had his sights on bigger opportunities that he didn’t think he could get here. This season saw a few gaffes on Specials Teams, and it appeared from afar that Belichick and Seely might’ve had some disagreements on the sidelines. By getting the Assistant Head Coach title from the Browns, perhaps Seely gets a bigger paycheck and better opportunity to become a head coach someday…if that is what he wants.

Other Moves: It seems like Dom Capers was a one-and-done here in New England, and his departure opens up another spot on the coaching staff. I for one, would love to see Romeo Crennel come back here and have a spot on the staff. The special assistant/secondary position vacated by Capers would seem to be a nice fit for Crennel, should he even want to work next season. The Browns will be paying his salary for the next few years, so Crennel might just want to take some time off. He’s been quoted as saying that he’d only work in the “ideal” situation next season, hopefully he might feel that coming back to New England might constitute just that.

Having another veteran defensive mind on the staff would be a great asset, especially as the team looks to get younger on that side of the ball. There will need to be plenty of teaching and instruction to the younger players, and who better than RAC to get through to them on Belichick’s defense?

Defensive Assistant Josh Boyer is another possibility to fill the secondary coach role, having served in that role in college before joining the Patriots.

Scott Benson also weighs in on the loss of Scott Pioli to the Kansas City Chiefs:

I’m surprised, mainly because Pioli had convinced me that he would stay on the job at least until the day the Pats held the league title again. A message board friend suggested today that Pioli might have passed on job offers last year in the hope that the Pats would grab their fourth title in 2008, enabling him to go out on top (and most marketable). Probably seemed like a good bet at the time. And I thought I felt bad when Brady went down against Kansas City (hey, wait a minute…).

Anyway, Pioli is inarguably a major figure in the history of the team. No other ‘general manager’ in team history accomplished anything approaching his success. He was widely credited with responsibilities ranging from the draft to pro scouting to contract negotiations. Neither he, nor Belichick, ever did anything to discourage the media from portraying their success as a partnership.

At least with Pioli, it appears that they were grooming his successor, even if he is being thrust into the role earlier than first expected. Today’s piece by Mike Reiss on Nick Caserio paints him as exactly the type of smart, hard working guy you would need in that role, someone who has been in both the front office and on the coaching sidelines.

Summary: The Patriots have already sustained losses this offseason that are going to sting for a bit. Regardless of who the replacements are, there is at the very least going to be a “transistion” or “breaking in” period that is going to have to be endured. The flip side is that perhaps an injection of “new blood” is appropriate at this time, especially in the special teams area. In any event, we’ve got a lot to talk about and observe this offseason.

ESPN: Broncos To Hire McDaniels

It appears that the Patriots have suffered their first loss of the offseason, with the news tonight reported by Chris Mortensen of ESPN that the Denver Broncos have come to an agreement with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to become their next head coach, replacing Mike Shanahan.

(Hey, can we get Shanahan to replace McDaniels as OC?)

Here’s Mortensen saying what sold the Broncos on McDaniels:

The Denver Post also has a report on the story, with the added nugget that McDaniels plans to bring Dom Capers with him. Capers, who served as special assistant/secondary coach with the Patriots this season, was something of a mystery man during his brief stay in Foxboro.

The Future Dynamics of Player Relations

By Bruce Allen
[email protected]

This is another peek inside Bill Walsh’s Finding the Winning Edge.

There is a chapter entitled “Handling The Pro Athlete” which deals with ways in which to promote sound player relations. It also addresses challenges that can arise, including substance abuse, diversity in the locker room, domestic violence and player assistance programs.

The chapter concludes with a look at the “Future dynamics of player relations” and tries to forecast circumstances and factors that may affect player relations in the future. Keep in mind that this book is now 10 years old, having been published in 1997. See if what Walsh predicted has come true:

  • Players will become even more preoccupied with “self.”
  • Agents will become even more dominating factors in the lives of the players they represent; these agents with provide counsel on all matters involving their players and will act in a self-serving manner.
  • Only the most informed (i.e. knowledgeable) and most talented (i.e. demonstrated ability to teach) coaches will gain the respect of players.
  • Because of the money involved, players will be even more concerned with their current situation, as opposed to having a long-term perspective.
  • Players will give even more attention to their “unique image”; as such, the media will become even more of a major factor in the player’s life.
  • As they earn and accumulate wealth, players will be even more susceptible to the “lure” of an unacceptable life-style.
  • Players will reprioritize their sense of loyalty; their allegiance will be given to their agents first, then to their friends, and next to the media. In this regard, the team will not fare well.
  • Players will be even more inclined to engage in histrionics on the field during the game. Such attention-seeking demonstrations will continue to be an outgrowth of a player’s attempt to achieve notoriety by drawing attention to himself.

These were only some of the items mentioned in a rather lengthy list. Of the above, I found several particularly interesting. The third one down, which deals with coaching, seems to fit well with Bill Belichick, who certainly fits both criteria. It also fits a coach like Mike Shanahan. These two are among the longest tenured coaches in the league and certainly considered at the top of the coaching pile.

The role of agents in the lives of players is right on the money, as well as the obsession with image. The “unacceptable life-style” one I found interesting. Could this apply to someone like Michael Vick, who perhaps felt that he was protected from the consequences of his actions somehow?

The last item is one that has become an everyday occurrence among all athletes. From Terrell Owens to Chad Johnson, Ray Lewis, and yes, Randy Moss, these on-field demonstrations just seem to get more prominent each season, despite the efforts of the league to keep them more subdued.

Was the coach a prophet here, or were these things easy to predict? Talk about it in the comments.