Thursday, September 21, 2006

BELICHICK LOVE AND HATE

Apparently, I have been spending too much time thinking about Bill Belichick. Maybe it is because the Red Sox have faltered down the stretch, maybe it is because there are only one or two Revolution matches on per week, or maybe it because Comcast does not include the Fox Soccer Channel in any regular packages and is depriving me of the joy of watching Everton stand-up to Chelsea and smack around Arsenal.

Back to the point, I recently read the fabulous EDUCATION OF A COACH by the much respected David Halberstam (who wrote a number of great books about the baseball in the past. Just look him up on Amazon.com) followed immediately by PATRIOT REIGN by Michael Holley (wasting his prodigious writing talent taking calls from idiots like Frank from Gloucester on WEEI). I feel like I have a much clearer view of what is going in Foxborough and how the Deion Branch, Adam Vinatierri, Willie McGinest, and David Givens moves actually fit in the master plan of Bob Kraft, Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli. Of course, it further reinforces the fact that many local media members are woefully under-informed and do not avail themselves to a wonderful look into the inner-workings of a brilliant management team. Much like I felt after reading MONEYBALL, certain front-office maneuverings begin to make sense and moves that were made fall into a logical place as patterns emerge.

As evidence of the disparate views of the New England Patriots coach, I give the perspective of two football writers who I regularly read and enjoy, Jason Whitlock of ESPN.com and the esteemed Dr. Z of SI.com:

First up, Jason Whitlock:
Besides the New Orleans Saints, which 2-0 squad is the league's biggest fraud?
The New England Patriots, of course.
One-possession victories over the Bills
and the Jets do little to instill confidence. The Pats are headed to 2-2.
They'll lose to a mediocre Denver squad this weekend and then they'll get
spanked by Cincinnati and Bill Belichick will begin to miss all of the veterans
he has let go.
Yeah, good analysis, Jason. Apparently you could not tear yourself away from the thrilling Chiefs-Broncos game to watch any of the Patriots game. Funny, I remember the Patriots winning a lot of games like these first two games when they won back-to-back Super Bowls.

Now, the one and only, all original, all chutzpah, Dr. Z:

I think it's fascinating the way the Patriots have changed their style, from
Charlie Weis' short pass attack to a running game, to adjust to a shift in
personnel. Can it be that this was something they planned before the draft,
because they knew Deion Branch would be a contract problem and maybe they'd lose him and Tom Brady would need time to adjust to his new receivers?
It's scary to believe that they saw everything coming so far ahead of time, but I'll never know because they don't talk about such things. I mean you can ask them if they breathe air when they step outside and they'll respond, "If it helps our
team."
But I saw what they did to the Jets last Sunday, and even with
Brady having an off day, they controlled things with their ground game. Corey
Dillon is running mad now. He's become a mean runner, probably because they
drafted another back, Laurence Maroney, in the first round. At Minnesota Maroney
was a guy who read the defense and reacted, as if he were on cruise control, a
guy with good outside speed, but hardly much toughness. Now he's a slasher,
inside or out, a quick thrust guy who can break tackles.
"Surprised me, too, that they took him," said a scout who's friendly with the Patriots' personnel people. "He really didn't seem like their type. But they told me after the
draft, 'Just watch. He'll fit in. He just ran in college the way they wanted him
to. He can do it our way.'"
I saw two things with that Patriot ground game, which looks like the best since Martin was on their team. Their left tackle Matt Light, smaller and less gifted athletically than some of the ballet masters who play the position, is one of the best drive blockers in the game at that position. Pass blocking? Well, I've seen him give up sacks, and they'll occasionally protect him with a tight end chipping on the rusher. But he gets a lot more thrust on that side than almost everyone else in the league at the position. And he's a guy who probably will never make a Pro Bowl squad.
The second thing I noticed was the quickness of New England's center, Dan
Koppen.
"You can't have a decent running game in the NFL with a slow center,"
says a Patriots scout who actually did talk to me. "There are too many
adjustments, too many quick things he has to do. Actually, most of the good
running teams in the league have light lines. We're not that big up front.
Neither are the Falcons or Broncos, two of the best running clubs.
"How do you tire out a defensive line? By getting 'em moving and chasing, and that's
what these light lines are geared for. You can hog 'em with those big guys, and
all the defensive lineman will do will be to drop to a knee and take the
double-team. But make him run and he'll get tired."
You don't find the precision running games anymore, probably because in the free-agency era, offensive lines aren't together year after year like they used to be.

The fact is, the Z-man gets it. There is a reason the Patriots won 3 Super Bowls in the past five years, should have had a chance to go back there in 2002, and if Tom Brady were not playing through the same injury that sidelined Donovan McNabb for half the season.

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PAYBACK

Bring on Jake the Snake! Champ Bailey? He is going to be the CHUMP this week! Heck, bring me the heads of both Bells! Rod Smith is going to have a huge target on him this game with Rodney and Eugene looking for him coming over the middle of the field. Is anyone else ready for this game? Denver handed the Patriots their first post-season loss since the days of Pistol Pete Carroll. Tom Brady, after two pedestrian weeks, after an off-season of thinking about Champ Bailey racing down the sidelines every time the alarm clock rang in the morning (what is the deal with him and Bridget Moynihan? Do they live together? Do they just go out to dinner and celebrity functions? Is she a prop for Tom? What he heck is People magazine good for if they cannot give me updates on this?).

Since I am still thinking of Pistol Pete, are we all PUMPED and JACKED for this game? I am all worked-up just THINKING about it. I know I am. I have no idea how I am going to last until 8:30PM on Sunday (plus the inevitable conflict of missing out on the Simpsons-American Dad-Family Guy trifecta that has lamentably become the only must-see non-sports TV. The other crappy non-cartoon show sucks eggs and should be replaced by new Futurama episodes immediately if not sooner).

And after the Pats beat the Broncos we jump in the van and track down Shannon Horse-face Sharpe and beat him with baseball bats while shouting: WHO IS CALLING THE *expletive deleted* NATIONAL GUARD NOW, *expletive deleted*?

* * *

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