Curran: Jeff Fisher and Bill Belichick reside at opposite poles in NFL

Curran: Jeff Fisher and Bill Belichick reside at opposite poles in NFL

Jeff Fisher in August: “I’m not going f****** 7-9. Or 8-8. 0r 9-7, OK. Or 10-6 for that matter. This team’s too talented. I’m not … going … to settle for that. K? I know what I’m doing.” 

Jeff Fisher in November? Embroiled in a pissing contest with Rams Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson because Dickerson didn’t pump the tires of Forever .500 Fisher.

With a cross-country trip to visit the Patriots looming this Sunday, Fisher finds himself stomping out a stupid brushfire because he chose to wag his finger at Dickerson as to the way the quid-pro-quo game is supposed to be played.

“As I told him in the conversation, you can’t have it both ways, you can’t be critical and then come back and ask for this, and ask for that,” Fisher said. “That’s just common sense. And we got it resolved. Again, based on that last conversation I had with him and the text, it was resolved. Anything about New England?” 

Given Dickerson’s continued agitating since his conversation with Fisher, it clearly isn’t all resolved.

And this may be why the Rams -- despite the breadth of talent they have in all three phases -- are going to have to go on a tear to avoid going 7-9. Or 8-8. Or 9-7, OK?


Fisher is the king of quid pro quo. It’s how he’s survived so long. He hasn’t coached a playoff game since 2008. He hasn’t won a playoff game since 2003. Since taking over the Rams in 2012, his win totals are seven, seven, six and seven.

But he is the anti-Belichick in terms of cozying up to the league office and doing its bidding in ways great and small.

Consider this past offseason. The league office wanted to make sure that, with three teams eyeballing a move to Los Angeles, Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s team got most-favored nation status. The backroom dealing is all detailed in this ESPN story. And no coach could be counted upon to advance the league’s interests more than Fisher.

He joined the NFL’s Competition Committee in 2000 and was co-chairman of the group from 2001 through 2010. Even when he out of coaching in 2011, he was retained as a Competition Committee advisor. He rejoined the group in 2012 and stepped down this year with the Rams move to LA looming.

Not coincidentally, the Rams then made sure get themselves to the top of the draft where they could inject some drama into the proceedings by starting a “Who will they take?” debate between not-so-glamorous candidates Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.

First, it was leaked that the Rams would take Wentz. Then, as PFT’s Mike Florio wrote at the time “The Rams have leaked to (MMQB’s Peter) King that they don’t know ‘with certainty’ who they’ll pick. And they’ll apparently adhere to that approach until they are on the clock two weeks from tonight, in order to ensure that the top of the draft will preserve some amount of intrigue. …

“The greater value flows to the NFL, which wants to ensure that the draft will draw maximum interest and ratings and revenue. Which is precisely why the Rams have leaked to King the notion that it’s not a done deal that they’ll take Wentz.”

Good publicity? Great publicity.

Fisher and the Rams were also co-conspirators in making sure Missouri’s Michael Sam was drafted in 2014. Even though Sam was a standout at Missouri, he was viewed as an NFL tweener and not highly regarded as a prospect. But, as the first openly gay player in the draft, the NFL knew it would face backlash if Sam went undrafted. Fisher took the plunge for them in the seventh round and NFL Media was -- coincidentally -- embedded that day to give a behind-the-scenes recounting of how it all went down.

It was subsequently reported that Fisher agreed to select Sam if the NFL would keep his team off of the HBO show Hard Knocks that season. Fisher bristled at the very notion he’d engage in an episode of back-scratching. Sam? He said he was “Not surprised at all.” 

I wrote about this in some detail back in April.

The upshot of all this as it relates to New England is that Fisher -- as a longtime NFL apple polisher -- has adhered to and promoted the league’s party line as it relates to the Patriots.

For more than a decade, he’s been part of the Competition Committee cabal that’s tried to bring the Patriots to heel for everything from the way they handle receivers, to the way they take advantage of formation rules.

During the so-called SpyGate was controversy in 2007, Fisher frequently fanned himself with his hymnal over the fact the Patriots recorded the hand signals of opposing team’s defensive coaches.

"The rules are very, very clear,” Fisher said on one occasion. There is no need to be more specific or clarify any rules whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, Fisher’s defenses are frequently considered among the dirtiest in the league. Given that rep, Fisher’s hiring of BountyGate villain Gregg Williams to coordinate his defense was a bold move, to say the least.

Last year, when the Rams laid a dirty hit on Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater, it wasn’t hard to connect that to Williams’ “kill the f****** head” directives with the Saints. 

Former Patriot Rodney Harrison pointed that out and noted how little respect he had for Fisher. Fisher responded in kind.

So Sunday, the Patriots will see Fisher and his Rams. The last two games against Fisher’s teams, the Patriots won 59-0 and 45-7.

Fisher may tell his team at some point this week that he “is not losing f****** 59-0 on Sunday…” We’ll see if they respond better now than they did in August.

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year. 


Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

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Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry go over the moves the Patriots have made this offseason and rank their favorite moves and what to expect from those players.

(1:00) Ranking the Patriots acquisitions so far.

(5:30) Will Danny Shelton or Jason McCourty have a bigger impact n the Patriots defense?

(13:00) What can Patriots fans realistically expect from Cordarrelle Patterson?

(16:00) Are the Patriots a better team now than they were at the end of the Super Bowl?

(17:00) What is the next position in need for the Patriots?

(23:00) How concerning is the tension level between Belichick/Brady/Gronkowski, when should Patriots fans start to panic?