Time keeps on slipping...

...slipping, slipping into the future. Yup, when the Steve Miller Band lyrics come out, you know it has been too long since a previous post. My apologies (if there's anyone left reading the blog) as I've been crazy busy at work and haven't had the energy to post--its the only time I miss the train rides back and forth to Boston every day (OK, it took three days of training in the city to kill that romantacized idea, but still it was a lot of free time on the laptop back in the day...).

Without further ado, some recent thoughts on the Patriots:

Three key topics this off-season:

*Scott Pioli
*Josh McDaniels
*Eric Mangini

Pioli signing with the Kansas City Chiefs and leaving a gaping hole in the Patriots front office is definately going to signal a change in the Patriots free agent signings, operations, and drafting. One main criticism of Bill Belichick in his Cleveland days was his draft picks. For some reason, I think a lot of the draft busts have been guys Belichick drafted over objections with the idea to "coach 'em up" rather than getting guys who can play. Of course, this may not be true, but all the late round linebackers, early round wide receivers, and others could simply be part of the chaos that comes from trying to predict what kind of players coming out of college will be.

Pioli's motivation leaving the Patriots and his mentor is no doubt the same as Bill Belichick's was back when he left the shadow of the Tuna in order to strike out on his own: "can I do this all by myself without my mentor or not?".

Josh McDaniels is a question mark as far as finding someone to step in and bond with Tom Brady and Randy Moss and keep the record-setting offense on track. Both defections raise the question of who stays and who goes on the coaching staff and front office? What impact does that have on the offense and defense? Is Belichick more involved with the front office and less hands-on coaching? Or is the opposite true? Who is brought in as QB coach? Does Belichick keep that job like he did when Dick Rehbein died?

Where do these new coaches and front office folk come from? Some can promote from within. What happens with the offensive coordinator position? I would love to see Belichick bring in someone like Mike Martz from the outside who can add some fresh wrinkles to the offense. Can you imagine Brady, Moss, and Martz together? What kind of offense would that be? 600 points in 16 games?

What about the defensive coaches on the move? After this past season of continuous defensive breakdowns, there has to be some kind of change. Will Romeo Crennel return as defensive coordinator? Dom Capers must be on is way out, right? Did he have any impact on the defense in 08 (Positive impact, I mean)? How about growing the two new defensive backs from tehe draft, Jonathan Wilhite and Terreance Wheatley. What impact did those two make this season? Is it a situation like with Brandon Merriweather whehere he needed a year in order to get it and learn the defensive system? I seem to remember a second and fourth round pick stepping up as rookin\es in 2003 and making positive contributions on defense as the team marched to the Super Bowl. Those two were named Eugene Wilson and Asante Samuel. Or is it simply unfair to compare those Wilhite and Wheatley to Wilson and Samuel at this point?

Of course, it is easy to contrast the defection of McDaniels from the Patriots with the leaving of the Eric Mangini to the Jets three years ago. This time around, there is no animosity, no anger, just an acknowledgement of an earned opportunity for McDaniels and glowing statements about him. Not to denigrate the ManGenius, because he obviously is thought highly enough that merely hours after being shown the door by the J-E-T-S JETS, JETS, JETS he is able to find a new position as head coach in Cleveland. Mangini benefits from the perception as the Jets front office as bunglers: witness their whole Brett Favre fiasco, bringing him in as a savior even though he has not been a top ten QB for almost ten years. Also, how about the Jets mishandling the entire Boston College/Coach Jags situation: what kind of idiot GM does not call the school athletic director to indicate that he wanted permission to interview his head coach and instead runs an end around and costs the coach his job--yeah, lots of college coaches are motivated to deal with that second-string Mickey Mouse organization in New York.

This is yet another test of the Patriots depth: is Bill Belichick continuing to develop coaches as he did when Romeo Crennel left (McDaniels and Mangini were generation 2.0). Are there more branches on the Belichick coaching tree?