…and perhaps a few early offseason notes. I mean, the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl loss has been analyzed a gazillion times over the last week. How much more is there to say? Well, I had to write something to throw out my final pick record, so I’ll throw a few thoughts out there in no particular order:
*Josh McDaniels is the most recent story, so maybe we should cover that first. That was kind of a slimy thing he did to the Colts. But hey, the contract wasn’t signed, right? He changed his mind, for whatever reason. Sure, he gave the Colts every indication he was taking the job. Then, of course, didn’t. Maybe that’s an indictment on how the NFL handles these situations? If Josh signs that deal in the wild card week, then there is no backtracking, correct? But the NFL doesn’t allow that.
Most people feel bad for the assistants that signed contracts with the Colts. And yeah, there is some validity to that too. But again, why did they sign their contracts and leave their current jobs when Josh hadn’t actually signed his yet? Shouldn’t the head coach be sealed up in blood before anyone else does anything? Sure, the assistants planned to go with him for probably several months. And then officially for several weeks, once Josh told them he was taking the Indy job. But again, nothing was signed. I’ve heard a lot this week about “well, the assistants had been planning to go with McDaniels for up to a year when Josh got a head coaching gig”. Yeah, that may be true. But what if Josh never got a head coaching opportunity this offseason? The assistants were going to quit their jobs anyway like a year ago, even they didn’t know when McDaniels was going to be offered a head coaching position (more importantly, TAKE, a head coaching position)? I don’t know. Assistants often get screwed. And maybe I am taking a hard line here. But I am not feeling as bad as most about their “plight”.
One last thing, the “family” reason for why McDaniels stayed is sweet and all. But it’s also nonsense. Sure, stability for coaches and their families is not something that happens often in the league. But Josh didn’t stay for that reason. The Krafts made him the heir apparent to Bill Belichick. Period. Maybe nothing is signed. But you honestly cannot tell me that McDaniels sullied his reputation around the league and kind of torpedoed his head coaching prospects, at least for the immediate future, without receiving SOME kind of promise in the process. No way he stays otherwise.
*You know what else I have determined is also nonsense? The fact that everyone thinks that if Malcolm Butler plays in the Super Bowl, the Patriots automatically win. Now, don’t get me wrong. Having Butler on the sideline sure didn’t help. And for a player that played 98% of the snaps all season to all of a sudden be benched in the most important game of the year is certainly questionable. But would one player have had made the difference?
Reports came out this week that Matt Patricia and probably Belichick had the players often in the wrong positions all game. They didn’t match up to Eagle packages the best way. They had plays where Marquis Flowers was rushing the passer and their best pass rusher, Trey Flowers, was going into coverage. They left Nick Foles uncovered on his touchdown catch. They had dime defense in for obvious running downs. Etc., etc., etc.
We all know that Johnson Bademosi and Jordan Richards are special teams players at best and in Richards’ case, maybe not even a real NFL player. So Butler comes in. But then Eric Rowe is still out there. And he was terrible too. Maybe Bademosi and Richards still get snaps. And maybe Butler does ok, but the other three still get torched. Devin McCourty was awful too. And Butler has not been great overall this year either. EVERYONE on the defense, with the possible exception of Stephon Gilmore, was brutal in the Super Bowl. No pass D, no run D, no nothing. The coaches did not help things. James Harrison played something like 93% of the snaps. Sure, he was “fresh” from not playing much of the season. But you are really going to depend on him as well?
I think we all want to hear why Butler was benched. But with the entire defense being historically bad, and the coaching also matching that, to suggest that having his presence merely in the lineup would have changed things I actually think is a little bit of a leap.
I will also admit that I told someone during the game that “I would play a dead Malcolm Butler over a fully operational Jordan Richards” though. So there’s that…
*Most New England fans expected Doug Pederson to wet his pants at some point in the game and for the Pats even to win somewhat comfortably. I know I did. But that man deserves a ton of credit for the game he called. He wasn’t afraid, that was a big start. He exploited matchups. Went for it on 4th downs. All that. He was probably the real MVP and not Foles. Hell of a call on the 4th down TD to Foles down by the goal line. The Pats had no idea what was going on for that play. Well, for a lot of plays actually. But that one in particular.
*The Super Bowl loss makes me more angry that Brady did his whole “Tom vs. Time” Facebook thing and that Bill did his “The Two Bills” 30 for 3o. It probably doesn’t matter either way. But I feel like they have never done stuff like that in the past and now here they are doing it the week of the Super Bowl. Tom obviously had a choice on when to schedule his stuff and I am sure Bill did too. It just seems odd that this is the year they decide to do that kind of stuff. Just felt like to me that these guys kind of thought the game was in the bag. Maybe not, but that’s what I’m feeling.
*Speaking of one play on defense, by Butler or anyone else, maybe making a difference, how about the fumble by Brady with just over two minutes left? THAT’S the one I cannot get over. Didn’t we all think that when they got the ball back at that point that Brady would march them downfield and score pretty easily? Sure, Brady got swallowed up pretty quickly. And sure, it’s hard to nitpick an offense that had over 600 yards. But that was obviously a killer.
*On the fumble, it’s also hard to blame an offensive line that played over its head all day. But that was clearly a bad spot for a glitch.
*As for the people on the offensive line, Nate Solder has had a decent, if unspectacular career. Hard to criticize him too much also, since he and his family have gone through some significant battles off the field. But if he’s not retiring as some people think, I’m not resigning him anywhere near the 10-11 mil or whatever he made this year. As average as LaAdrian Waddle and Cam Fleming may be, I’d consider resigning them for short money, hope 2017 third round pick Antonio Garcia can contribute something and then add another vet or two to compete at lesser money. I’m spending every available penny to revamp that defense next year if I’m the Patriots.
*One offensive free agent I would spend a little extra to bring back, however, is Danny Amendola. Even if he is again the fifth receiver on paper next year behind Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. As long as Brady is here, I want Danny here. The guy is just money. He won’t take yet another pay cut to stay after his huge offseason, will he? He’s been taking cuts for years, does he finally go the other way? Not sure what the market will be for him, or what he wants to do, but I’m keeping him here. I’m good with these 5. Not sure I care much about Kenny Britt or Philip Dorsett.
*While we are on offensive free agents, I have loved what Dion Lewis has brought to the team, but if he’s looking to cash in, we’ll see ya later. I don’t blame him because of how his career has gone with injuries and being cut and all that. I’m just not spending a lot of dough on running backs. I’d give Gillislee another shot next year since he is signed. I’d also see if Rex Burkhead would come back at similar money as this year…or less. He missed some time this season but looked pretty good when he was out there. I’d like to see more. In fact, I would have liked to have seen more of him in the Super Bowl, especially after Cooks got knocked out. Would have played him at receiver instead of Dorsett for that matter.
*It’s too bad Alan Branch retired this year and didn’t tell anyone. Could have used the 2016 Branch in the playoffs. Much more so than Ricky Jean Francois.
*I hope Brady isn’t blaming Amendola for overthrowing him on his pass route. Similar how everyone blamed Wes Welker in 2012 for dropping Brady’s wide open pass, including probably Brady himself and as we all know, Brady’s wife Gisele. Both throws could have been better. But both catches should have absolutely been made. Maybe Gisele understands now.
*Man I hope Jimmy G is the real deal for the sake of the 49ers. He’s pocketing like 43 million next year alone from what I understand. Just…wow…thank God Bill got that second round pick for him…ugh…
*Cooks trying to jump over the defender on the goal line when he could have beaten the guy to the outside was pure stupidity. Yes, that play could have worked. But I still think it was a dumb play call. Brady needs to throw it there, simple as that.
*Then the botched field goal the play after. Not Stephen Gostkowski’s fault in that case. Though being that short an attempt, the feeling here is he still should have made it. He got off a decent attempt actually. BUT, the missed extra point was brutal. Gostkowski had a pretty good year. But it’s time to at the very least bring in some competition for him next year.
*Guess the Eagles’ backup left tackle wasn’t so bad, eh? I suppose when you have a 39-year-old James Harrison playing over 90% of the snaps, maybe that’s a big part of the problem. But where also was Trey Flowers? Oh, sometimes he was in coverage. Nevermind…
*Not sure anyone is talking enough about how that stupidity with the kickoff return on the very last drive cost the Pats some pretty good field position. Maybe they are a lot closer on that last play and don’t have to fire up a Hail Mary?
*The strategy of deferring when winning the coin toss is something that has worked well for the Pats over the years. But in some games, doesn’t it make sense to take the ball, score on the first drive and make the other team actually play from behind instead of it always being you? Seems like this would have been a good time to do that, playing against a backup QB and a lot of players that hadn’t been on this stage before. Never know, the Eagles could have folded under the pressure early. Instead, the early lead for them in this game may have given them some confidence. Not to mention that the Pats allowed the Eagles to march downfield pretty easily right before the half. There goes that plan…
I guess that is enough. And we shouldn’t feel too bad I guess. 5-3 in Super Bowls in the 2000’s should make most people happy. Maybe it should be 6-2. Maybe it should be 2-6. The Pats probably should have lost to the Rams, Seahawks, and Falcons. Maybe they should have beaten the Eagles and won both Giants games. Who knows? Sometimes these things even themselves out over time.
Guess I am just trying to keep things in perspective…trying…
Week (against the spread): 1-0
Week (straight up): 0-1
Season (against the spread): 143-124 (53.6%…I can live with that!)
Season (straight up): 180-87 (67.4%)
Moving on to the defense…while being thankful the roster apparently has not changed in the last couple of days. Cuz, you know, Bill likes to consistently churn the back-end of the roster and mess us all up. Wait, I may be the only one who cares about the bottom of the roster. Anyway, here goes:
Locks: Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise
In: Geneo Grissom
Way Out: Caleb Kidder, Rob Ninkovich (retired)
Comments: This is what I wrote in the first roster projection last year: “Flowers and Grissom don’t appear to be stars in the making.” Oops. At least on Flowers. Welp, I’ve been completely off before. And most assuredly will be again. Truth be told though, most people thought Flowers was on the fringe of the roster before the 2016 season. Now he is the unquestioned top defensive end on the team. So I wasn’t the only one. There have been plenty of whispers about Ealy early in camp. His attitude. His fit on the team. His “coachability”. And he has been on the sidelines quite a bit, from all reports. But the key phrase here is, “early in camp”. I’m not taking him off the lock list…yet. Rivers and Wise were two of their four draft picks. Not likely to go anywhere. And I am hearing Wise is running with the starters at this point. Grissom takes Ninkovich’s spot. It helps that he is a factor on special teams as well. Most were surprised at Nink’s sudden retirement. But maybe we shouldn’t have been. He’s getting up there in age and also wasn’t the same difference maker last year as in previous years…you know, before the PED suspension. Yup…
Locks: Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine
Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo
Way Out: Josh Augusta, Adam Butler
Comments: Pretty much cut and dried here. Branch re-signed on a nice deal. Guy was signed to a fat deal himself, kind of out of nowhere. May be a little push for Brown in his third year. But the Pats like to rotate their big guys anyway. Valentine showed enough last year to be locked in this year. Hamilton and Kilgo may find themselves on the practice squad and therefore may surface on the active roster at some point this season. And Augusta and Butler are “Way Out” for the simple reason that I’ve never heard of them. Good enough for me.
Locks: Dont’a Hightower, David Harris
In: Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Harvey Langhi
Out: Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates
Way Out: Brooks Ellis
Comments: When I started putting together this column last week, I actually had Harris as only “In” and not a lock. Thought he may be that typical veteran who was a star elsewhere and then couldn’t adapt to the Patriots system/culture/etc. Seemed to be a prime candidate for that. Then I saw they gave him the green dot like 2 days into camp, leading the communication on the defense. I know, that is “early in camp” too. But I look at this development a little differently, right or wrong. McClellin, Roberts and Van Noy all bring different skills to the table so I figured they all stick for now. Langhi gets a nod here, simply because almost every year an undrafted free agent makes the squad out of the gate…and usually contributes. He is the early pick simply because they gave him the most dough. Freeny gets squeezed here, but wouldn’t shock me if he makes it, primarily for his special teams ability. Bates is from Maine and that’s nice. Ellis? Yup, no idea who he is.
Locks: Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones
In: Cyrus Jones
Out: Justin Coleman, D.J. Killings
Way Out: William Likely, Dwayne Thomas
Comments: Here’s another thing I wrote in the first roster projection last year: “Cyrus Jones HAS to be better than any of the teams’ third cornerbacks last year, doesn’t he?” And I had Jonathan Jones as “Way Out”. Oops. And. Oops. But I can’t see them giving up on Cyrus after only one year. Wouldn’t be unprecedented though. Jonathan has been apparently playing the slot in camp. Add in the fact he is, yup, a special teamer…that makes him a lock. Seems to me they like Rowe a lot too.
As for Gilmore and Butler, that whole scenario in the spring still baffles me. Butler has done everything the team asked since he came out of nowhere 3 seasons ago. Played at an All-Pro level the last two years, playing for peanuts and didn’t utter much of a peep about that. I mean, he knows how this organization operates. But still. Then New England gives Gilmore a huge deal right out of the gate as free agency opened. Not typical Patriot behavior. Don’t blame Butler at all from being pissed. Wasn’t surprised there was the stuff about him working out a contract with the New Orleans Saints and hoping the Pats worked out a deal with them. Nothing materialized with the Saints (or any other team, for that matter) and Butler is still here without a long-term deal. And even since then, you haven’t heard much from him regarding all of it. And now I think most expect Butler to play with a chip on his shoulder and help himself in free agency next year. That will also benefit the Patriots of course. But did the team play this out right? Time will tell. But hope Gilmore ain’t a colossal bust…
Coleman could I suppose be a back-end guy, but there’s no room. Killings was I believe the 2nd highest paid undrafted free agent in the Pats pool, so maybe he gets on the practice squad and gets elevated at some point. Likely & Thomas? Maybe I should watch more college football, so I can know who some of these camp bodies are.
Locks: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon
Out: Jordan Richards
Way Out: Jason Thompson, Damarius Travis, David Jones, Kenny Moore
Comments: Richards probably actually gets one more chance behind the three no-doubters and makes the squad when they break camp. Three safeties is kind of thin. But the other guys? You know what I am going to say.
Locks: Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST)
Way Out: None
Comments: Nothing really to say here. Some are surprised Belichick did not bring another kicker to camp due to Gostkowski’s uneven year last year. I’m not. There are plenty of kickers “kicking” around (haha) and I’m sure Bill has one or two or three in mind if last year’s issues move forward into this year. No sense in wasting another camp spot on a kicker. Other than that, the six here are pretty obvious.
That’s about the size of it. I’ll wait until later in camp to project the practice squad and IR/PUP/NFI and other lists. Actually, I’d say no one actually starts on the PUP list this year. Only Hightower and Branch are currently on the preseason PUP list. Hard to believe they will miss the first six weeks of the season, but I suppose you never know…