First, a quick HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my older sister, Emilie. Yes, there is a reason my daughter shares the name (though we spell it Emmalee). My sister may not have understood why I wasted so much time on baseball and the like, but she held her own and then some in Little League, and she is quite simply the most loving, caring and most generous person I have ever known in my life. With more like her, the world would be a much better place. Happy birthday, older sis. I love you.
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Peter King, as always, is a wealth of information about the NFL, but also some great Patriots-related thoughts and opinions shine through this week in his Monday Morning Quarterback column at SI.com:
First, a little bit of what makes a winning team:
I think I hate to do this. I really do. We're in Week 6 of the football season, but I have to give some advice to Joe Torre and Brian Cashman right now, because they are decent men, even if they do work for the Evil Empire. Get in a car sometime this month, and drive 3½ hours up I-95 to Foxboro. Visit the Patriots. Or if you're inclined to go a place where you might be more invisible, fly to Chicago, rent a car and drive north to Lake Forest, where the Bears are headquartered. Learn how to build a winning team and how to navigate through the noise that disrupts every big-market team today.
Football isn't baseball, you'll argue. Football is the ultimate team game, and baseball is more of a stars' game. But the one thing all good baseball teams have is the one thing all good football teams have -- role players. Guys who don't need the credit and who don't earn the big money. In baseball, David Eckstein is a winning player, much the same as Mike Vrabel is. It wasn't so long ago that both of them were on the street. The best team in football right now is the Chicago Bears. Look at their roster. Ever hear of Bernard Berrian, RashiedDavis, Mark Anderson, Tank Johnson, Alfonso Boone or Jason McKie? Don't feel bad. Not many football fans have, either.
Those are six of the 25 or 30 most important players on the team rampaging its way through the NFL right now. I'm guessing their combined salaries equal one month of AlexRodriguez's. This is what Bears GM Jerry Angelo told me the other day: "One of the things I learned from the Patriots and Steelers in the last few years is they lost more than they gained in free agency, and they never were worried about it. They drafted rank-and-file players, developed them, were patient with them, knew the exact roles they wanted them to play and put them in those roles. Dan Graham, Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson ... are any of them stars? No. Are they Patriots players? Yes. And that's all they care about.''
Before this season, Angelo was assailed for not getting a big-name receiver in free agency. He was in the game for Antwaan Randle El but didn't think he was worth $6 million a year, and lost him to Washington. "I got hammered by the local media for not getting a good receiver,'' he said, "but I said, 'Guys, we've got good receivers here. They fit the profile of what we want in a receiver.' But because we'd done a poor job of stabilizing the quarterback position, you couldn't tell what we had at receiver. We'd gone for five years playing three or four quarterbacks almost every year. How do you know if your receivers are any good? They never work with the same quarterback. Now that we've had Rex for an offseason and he's been healthy for the regular season, now we can judge the receivers. And what we have is pretty good.'' To say the least. It's a lesson for all other franchises, regardless of the sport.
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I could not agree with Peter King, whom I am eternally grateful (taste-buds)/full of rage (expanding waist-line) with for introducing me to the Starbucks holiday themed nectar of the gods: the eggnog latte, which will be back soon. The Patriots, Steelers, and (soon) the Bears have become model franchises. They, like the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins in baseball, are doing it right. There is no magic formula for competing year-in and year-out: it takes intelligence, discipline, and confidence. Intelligence: to be one step ahead of the competition and create an intelligent plan. Discipline: to follow that plan to its logical conclusion and not jump ship at a moments notice. Confidence: the ability to believe in yourself and trust the team (front-office and players) you have put together to follow-out the plan and win.
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Next, this little shot that I have taken repeatedly over the past few weeks on display on a national stage:
Anybody out there seen David Givens? Remember him? He signed a $25 million contract before the season in Tennessee.
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Sometime, at the end of the season, some idiot on TV or radio (or print) will admit they were wrong and the Patriots did the right thing not signing Givens. I said it from day one, but what do I know? I am not TV or radio (or in print, really) like the professionals. Just once I would like to hear the Kerry Healey Campaign Headquarters, I mean Dennis & Callahan, admit they are unprepared idiots who are talking out their @$$.
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Finally, this little nugget about old friend Lawyer Milloy:
Lawyer Milloy is playing the run better than he has since his Patriot days. I was wrong about him.
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Good for the old boy. He cannot cover the slowest tight end or fullback anymore, but I always thought he could put a hit on. Playing the run was never a problem. I hope he at least comes back to Foxboro for one last day with Ty Law. They were a huge part of that first Super Bowl run in 2001.
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Last note this afternoon (this one is more for Gallagher, who would appreciate it most): how great would it be to have the Schaefer/Foxboro/CMGI/Gillette Stadium PA play Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin after the Patriots create a turnover or force a punt. Just the part where Robert Plant croons: We are your Overlords.
It would be beautiful, I know it. (Kathy is looking at me like I am insane and shaking her head. I know what she is thinking. Bad enough I have the kids hooked on the Beatles and Aerosmith, and that Emma was singing the Fabulous Thunderbirds classic: Wrap it Up the other day in the car, but she will draw the classic rock line in the sand at Plant & Page. Not that I can really blame her!)
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