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Super Bowl Leftovers…

…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%)

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First Round Upset Brewing?

For the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs that start tonight?  Against the mediocre Chicago Bulls?  Are you f’n serious?

A little bit actually, sorry to say.

From the get-go, I’ve been a little nervous about the series.  On paper, the C’s should win in 5 or 6 fairly comfortably.  But the news of yesterday kind of got me thinking about things.

The news from yesterday?  Chyna Thomas.  Yup, wait…who?

For those who haven’t heard, Chyna was a younger sister of Celtics star Isaiah Thomas and was killed in a car accident Saturday morning.  We all know what this team looks like without Isaiah.  And a lot of times it simply ain’t pretty.

My guess is that IT plays in all the games.  But, for one, he will quite obviously be playing with a heavy heart, as he damn well should be.  For two, between games, he will be logging some serious travel miles out to Washington state during the series to be with his family.  One could argue that he should just skip games to spend time with his family during this difficult situation.  And one may be right…he probably should.  I just don’t believe he will, right or wrong.

Isaiah has been awesome this year, especially in the 4th quarter.  But this will, and should, take some toll on him.  Although basketball is certainly secondary to real life, the games must go on as they say.  And IT’s situation will probably have some effect on the series.  How much remains in question.

That all being said, as I said above, this series caused some concern for me regardless of what happened yesterday.  Let’s start by saying that finishing with the top seed in your conference doesn’t really make you the top seed.  I know, they are the #1 seed because they finished first.  So my comment may sound idiotic.  BUT, should any team going 53-29 be a top seed?  I don’t know.  Doesn’t seem like a top record for a #1 seed.  The C’s would have been 4th in the West.  And the Cleveland Cavaliers should have been better than 51-31 with that talent.

The Cavs should have cruised to 60-plus wins with that roster.  But they rested guys regularly, had some injuries, roster turnover, mentally took some games off probably and so on and so on.  But they were focused on the long haul…as any team should be.  More concerned with a championship run than seeding.  They are one of the few teams that can do that sort of thing.  My guess is when they dismantled the Celtics in Boston a couple of weeks ago, that cemented their feeling that they could beat anyone anywhere, especially in the East, and they weren’t going to expend too much energy to get the #1 seed.  Valid thinking, in my mind.

Back to the Bulls series…admittedly, I have not watched a lot of Chicago Bulls basketball this year.  And it seems that they gave up a bit on this year at the trading deadline when they shipped two rotation players and a pick to OKC for 3 guys that don’t play…this year at least.  Dwayne Wade is 150 years old.  Rajon Rondo has been a distraction, per usual, benched on occasion, not to mention the fact that it appears he hasn’t been very good this year either.

I paid such little attention to the Bulls this year that I don’t even know who some of their players are.  Cristiano Felicio.  Who?

So I guess I am completely unqualified to comment on the Bulls.  But I will anyway.  Because this piece is more about how I think the Celtics will play down to their level anyway.

Plus…the Bulls still have Jimmy Butler.  Maybe not as awesome as everyone thinks he is.  But still likely the best player in this series.  I do apologize profusely to you Isaiah.

One more thing on Rondo:  A lot of people are expecting “National TV Rondo” here this series.  You know, the one that routinely throws up triple-doubles.  I am not expecting that.  I am not sure how much of that he has left in him.  However, I do expect him to up his game though.  Sure, based on the stage.  And the opponent…to show Boston fans what they are missing.  And probably will play tighter D on Isaiah.  To also “prove” to C’s fans that he is better than Thomas.  And all that.  But…we will see…

In any event, back to my concerns with the C’s before considering all of the above.  The Celtics seem to leave a lot of teams in games, despite how average or poor the opponent is.  They have trouble scoring without Isaiah on the floor.  Brad Stevens keeps trying to play 11-12 guys…even if one or two of them are when he tries to spot in a Tyler Zeller or Gerald Green for 5 minutes or so.  Or even James Young sometimes.  Too many.

More concerns?  Ok!  They can’t rebound.  Too many threes.  Kelly Olynyk sucks.  Marcus Smart shoots too much.  Oftentimes, Al Horford doesn’t shoot enough…from inside the three-point line anyway.  We’ve been through all of this before.  It hasn’t changed.  And now it’s the playoffs.

Thus far, I believe that ownership, Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have done well in this Celtic “rebuild”.  I don’t know if a faster path has really been available.  But the fact remains that Stevens has not won a playoff series.  Until they do, I am always going to be skeptical.  Isaiah has been bottled up pretty good in past playoffs.  Sure he gets his points, but the percentages have been brutal and the points have been tough to come by.  Jae Crowder was atrocious in the first round last year.  Blame the ankle injury if you will.  I don’t…completely.  At least he was out there.  Avery Bradley went down yet again, so he was no help.  He’s always a ticking time bomb with injury.  So who knows this year?

I’ve had the same concerns with this team that I’ve had all season and you’ve all heard before.  The playoffs are a different animal and with the Cs playing only supposedly “good” teams, any issues will be exposed.  Ultimately, I think the Celtics win the series 4 games to 3.  I had initially thought 4-2, but that changed with Isaiah’s situation.  Maybe I shouldn’t have adjusted…after all, these guys have distractions all the time and, as professionals, should be able to handle them, right?   This one feels different though.  Bottom line though?  If the C’s don’t get through the first round, the season is a colossal failure…

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