Tom E. Curran

BEST OF BST PODCAST: Patriots advance to AFC title game vs. Jaguars

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: Patriots advance to AFC title game vs. Jaguars

0:41 - Tom Curran and Albert Breer discuss some of the big takeaways from the Patriots win over the Titans in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

4:49 - Jalen Ramsey told the fans in Jacksonville that the Jaguars would be going to the Super Bowl. Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith talk about if they have a problem with what Ramsey said and if the Patriots would be using his quote as bulletin board material.

9:25 - Curran, Breer, and Giles discuss Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels likely not returning with the Patriots as Patricia seems to be headed towards the Lions while McDaniels goes to the Colts.

14:06 - Michael Hurley joins BST to preview the Jaguars/Patriots matchup and discuss the Patriots schedule and road to the Super Bowl. 

With McDaniels, Patricia heading out, Pats now have double the distraction potential

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With McDaniels, Patricia heading out, Pats now have double the distraction potential

News about the Patriots coordinators over the past 24 hours is far from a shock.

And it’s not really news if you’ve been sticking with us over the past couple weeks.

 

(Yes, as a matter of fact, I did hurt my arm patting myself on the back…)

MORE - Pats don't need to apologize for anything

The Colts have been the preferred destination for Josh McDaniels since this started. Aside from geography, there was very little recommend the 3-13 Giants over the 9-7 Detroit Lions for Matt Patricia. Unless a chastened, meddling owner, an infant-laden locker room and a quarterback headed for the glue factory would be selling points for you, you’d go to Detroit 10 times out of 10 to stay out of that the Jints morass.

How will these acorns from the Belichick Tree fare?

It’s hard to even project. Depending on Andrew Luck’s shoulder, Indy’s either in semi-rebuild or headed for a full reboot. The Lions have the pieces in place but Patricia is in his first time around as a head coach. For a dozen years, he’s peeked over his shoulder to see if Bill Belichick approved of every on-the-record comment he’s made.

Fly free now, little bearded bird!

For both guys, it’s time. What else is left to prove in New England?

If you take a long, realistic look at the Patriots roster as they prepare for the AFC Championship – what’s the sense in sticking around until things get rocky?

The best core players are near or past 30 (Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Matt Slater, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Tom Brady). Two that aren’t - Donta Hightower and Rob Gronkowski – have fairly long injury histories and even if Gronk’s turned the corner, his contract is up in 2019.

Bill Belichick might be done in 12 months. He might be done in five years.

More than what’s “wrong” or insufficient in New England, though, is the simple fact of professional advancement and fulfillment. Challenge yourself. Make a bunch more money. Who knows, if you’re McDaniels, maybe you follow the same trajectory as Belichick and win five Super Bowls.

The “brain drain” can be stanched at the coordinator level by simple elevations of current assistants. Brian Flores and Chad O’Shea are the likeliest candidates. But there are other places it can flow. 

Every coach that departs a program needs lieutenants to bring with him who can pass on his vision to the team he’ll lead.

Fortunately, the GMs in Detroit and Indy – Bob Quinn and Chris Ballard – already have their economic and personnel philosophies in place. But, generally, coaches like to bring with the players who are can interpret and serve as go-betweens. 

Over his first two seasons in New England, Belichick brought aboard Anthony Pleasant, Bryan Cox, Bobby Hamilton, Roman Phifer, Antonio Langham and Otis Smith. He also brought coaches like Eric Mangini and front-office execs like Scott Pioli. 

And the outflow was what got sticky when Mangini left to coach the Jets and was perceived by Belichick to be pilfering players and coaches before he was even out of Gillette Stadium. 

Here’s a list of the Patriots who’ll be up at the end of this season. Here are the ones who’ll be up at the end of the 2018 season. Highlighting the list of guys expiring after 2019 is Brady.

You can rest assured McDaniels and Patricia are both familiar with all those names.

Before anyone goes anywhere, the 2017 Patriots have a chance to add another line to everyone’s resume. In years past, the interview process didn’t seem to hinder either man because they were both coming back. Now, with both coordinators committed to leaving, we’ll see how well the balance is struck.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Curran: Pats ignore the noise, and make some of their own

Curran: Pats ignore the noise, and make some of their own

FOXBORO -- Well, that was a thoroughly unsatisfying evening for America.

Aging, new-age health nut Tom Brady didn’t break his hip. He didn’t curl up like an armadillo at the first sign of danger or drop into the Lotus position on the sidelines and seek his bliss on the sidelines.

PATRIOTS 35, TITANS 14

He threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns. Among his 53 attempts were two feathered fallaways (one complete, the other should have been) a 65-yard heave and two or three that were chased by a vapor trail.

The glimmer of hope the country was offered in the form of a 7-0 Titans lead at the end of the first quarter was chased by a merciless 35-0 run by New England. When the Titans -- trailing by 28 -- were driving with less than four minutes left, Bill Belichick tried to curb the threat by challenging a reception.

A New England false start penalty morphed into a Tennessee infraction instead and the Patriots suddenly had a drive-continuing first down that -- after two more Titans penalties -- they capped with a touchdown.

CBS’ cameras showed no cloaks and no daggers. Just the same, old maddening shots of muskets firing after touchdowns and a whole lot of fun being had by the most reviled fanbase in American sports.
The reported tension and dysfunction the country hoped would manifest itself in a humiliating face-plant against the absolutely not-ready-for-prime-time Titans was instead a loud announcement that, whatever issues the Patriots principals may be having after 18 years working together, it isn’t harming the on-field product.

Vital signs? Strong.  

“This time of year, there’s no such thing to me as distractions,” said Patriots safety and captain Devin McCourty. “Unless you have some issue going on with your family or something like that, there is nothing else that can distract you.

“I don’t care what comes out, what’s said, our goal from the beginning of the season was to be able to play in the playoffs and try to go out there and win games in the playoffs,” he said. “There’s nothing right now that can deter us from that. We’re going to stay focused on that, try to play our best game each week that we earn the right to go back out there and I think we know that. We know once you get in the playoffs, it’s not given to you. You’ve got to go earn it. We did that tonight. Now it’s all about getting ready to go for next week.”

Brady built a wall between himself between himself and anonymous allegations of him coercing teammates to go to TB12 Performance, celebrating the Jimmy Garoppolo trade, agitating for a contract extension and throwing teammates into trouble because he was skittish and fragile. But enough of that slipped through over the past week for him to be more than aware what the swirl has been.

And he was happy to offer his rebuttal on the field.

“[The field] always feels [like a sanctuary] and I think being on the field is a great place to . . . go prove it,” he said. “You can talk all day about what you’re going to do or what you can do. Ultimately, you’ve got to go out there and do it. I think just having the opportunity to go play . . .  I’ve had so many great teammates over the years and this team has done such a great job this year focusing on what we need to. When you get out there, that’s the best part of the week. To be in the playoffs and to play well and to advance is just really great for this team. Like I said, we've just got to do it again next week.”
 
The Patriots are in the AFC Championship for the 12th time since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady arrived in New England. A chance to go to their eighth Super Bowl in 18 seasons looms. The chance to win three in four seasons for a second time is that much closer this morning.

That, in the end, is what they are all there for.

“I thought about it today,” said left tackle Nate Solder. “I was sitting at home, getting jittery and nervous. But when I get here it was like, ‘Boom, this is what we do, this is part of the program, this is what we know.’

“And I do think that the outside world wants to make it about something it’s not,” he acknowledged. “And it’s constantly our job to make it about football. That’s what it is. It’s not about all these other things that get thrown in there. And we don’t let them become distractions. The purity of the game is what we’re here for. I think even in our own heads sometimes it can get mixed up, too. But when you have games like this, the playoffs, and you’re around your teammates playing football then it’s pure and it’s fun and it’s genuine.”

A player like Ricky Jean-Francois -- a seventh-round pick in 2009 who played in San Francisco, Washington, Indianapolis and Green Bay before becoming a Patriot -- is 31. What gets written and said about the level of tension and uncertainty goes in one ear and out the other. He’s closer to the end than the beginning. He doesn’t have time for that stuff.

“What’s fun is the journey and the process and being able to go and perform on a stage this big,” he said.  “I tell these young guys, ‘I know some cats who’ve been in the league a long time and have not seen the postseason. So when you’re out there and making a sack, believe me, feel blessed and be happy. You could be home watching on TV, but you’re here putting on a performance. We’re out here to play together and when things go right, look at each other and celebrate. Smile.’

“I’m an older guy so when I see a young guy celebrate, I embrace that, I put that in my memory bank,” Jean-Francois added. “When I have to hang up my cleats, that’s what I want to look back on.”

Saturday night was one of those satisfying nights players like Jean-Francois will revisit. And the kind of night America’s come to revile.

Same as it ever was.