Quick Slants The Column: On booing Goodell and overvaluing Jimmy G


Quick Slants The Column: On booing Goodell and overvaluing Jimmy G

Big night, Philadelphia. How you gonna treat the man NFL owners pay $35 million to be their meat shield? The first round of the draft is one of the few Roger Goodell appearances the league can’t manage. Released from the protection of John Mara’s coat pocket, Goodell has to hear a voice vote from fans every time he approaches the mic. He can grin, bang nipples and backslap all he wants with the first-rounders and sling that “Welcome to the family!” line of BS. He can hit the stage with the ghosts of Reggie White, Buddy Ryan and Chuck Bednarik. Philly’s too smart to get caught watching the paint dry. 

Got into a brief and spirited debate on the topic of Jimmy Garoppolo this morning on our “Boston Sports Tonight” email chain. I opined that perhaps Garoppolo is a bit overrated. Overvalued may have been a better adjective. Here’s why. With a fleet of teams dying for a quarterback they can build around, the Patriots squelched all Jimmy G suitors by declaring him untouchable. We may ultimately find out it was all a ruse and the team winds up getting a boatload of picks in exchange for him but from everything I’ve been told since September that’s not happening. Garoppolo will stay a Patriot and the team will figure out later how to proceed with him once his contract is up in March.

If Garoppolo isn’t franchised and doesn’t sign an extension to back up Tom Brady until Brady either retires (not on the horizon) or is traded (gasp), then why did the team pass on the haul it could have had? The theory most often posited is that Garoppolo is Brady insurance. If Brady gets hurt in 2017 and Jacoby Brissett is the next-man-up, the team is cooked. But that reality has existed throughout Brady’s tenure whether he had Rohan Davey, Matt Gutierrez, Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett behind him. It didn’t faze them then. Garoppolo is better than all of them. Potentially. And that’s probably why the Patriots don’t want to make a decision on him before they have to. They look at all these forever .500 teams trying to find a quarterback answer and think, “There, but for the grace of God and the presence of Brady, go I.” Garoppolo isn’t going to be better than Brady. But he fits the suit better than anyone they’ve ever had and they like the fact they found him, developed him and were right about him. Clearly they believe he is a greater asset as a backup with a soon-to-expire contract and a complicated future than the collection of young players they’d be able to draft with whatever picks they got back in a deal. This, of course, runs counter to the way the team has traditionally done business. Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio have found innovative ways to acquire, stockpile and flip picks. The fact the team’s already got its 2017 draft haul of Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy, Dwayne Allen and Mike Gillislee thanks to pick-flipping. Garoppolo could yield the next batch of picks the Patriots could use in the “rent-to-own” model they’ve shrewdly adopted. But Garoppolo is the extreme outlier. And the Brady-Garoppolo-what’ll-they-do dance is fascinating because it highlights the confluence of everything – draft, free agency, cap management, trades, potential vs. proven, old vs. young, icon vs. phenom – at the most important position in sports on the greatest franchise of this era. 

Which brings me to this: we’ll have former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis in studio tonight at 9pm on Boston Sports Tonight helping us through the first round of the draft. Looking forward to his insight on why Garoppolo is persona-non-tradeable. Put the over-under on “Tommys” at about 47.

Change to pass-interference rule is WAY overdue

AP Photo

Change to pass-interference rule is WAY overdue

Yes, please, on the proposed adjustment to defensive pass interference. No, thank you on the revised catch rule.

And I know I'm going to have my dreams crushed on both counts.

Despite all the arm-flapping and breath wasted that "NOBODY KNOWS WHAT A CATCH IS ANYMORE!!!!", long-distance pass interference has been a bigger bugaboo for the league for a much longer time.

In 2017, there were 129 pass interference calls longer than 15 yards. The proposed rule change that will be debated at next week's NFL Annual Meeting will make pass interference a 15-yard penalty unless it's egregious and intentional. In those cases, it will continue to be a spot foul

So overdue. For too long offenses have been rewarded by officials on 50-50 balls where DBs and receivers engage in subtle handfighting. It's absolutely illogical to expect middle-aged officials in okay (or worse) shape to keep pace with Gronk-sized receivers and whippet-quick defenders, then make calls on plays 40 yards downfield.

If you're going to throw a flag that gives the offense 40 yards, there should be an extreme degree of certainty accompanies that flag. And too often, the officials are forced to make educated guesses. Next thing you know, Joe Flacco and Rex Grossman are in the Super Bowl.

It's probably the most difficult penalty to call in football, yet it carries the greatest punishment for a defense? What sense does that make? 

I actually think the NFL should go a step beyond and make pass interference reviewable. I'll even make this concession -- it's reviewable only for DPI that puts the ball inside the 10 and is longer than 15 yards. How's that?

"More reviews?!?!? We don't need more reviews?!?!?!"

Okay, but you'll accept them when a dimwit coach argues a spot on a three-yard run that may or may not mean a first down, but not on a play that hands the offense half the field? Come on. Forward thinking.

As for the contention corners are going to begin bludgeoning receivers once they realize they're being beaten deep -- BAM! -- that's where you get the aggravated pass interference (API . . . trademarked 2018) that can be dropped on their heads.

A DB that doesn't turn to face the ball and runs through a receiver? An arm bar all the way downfield preventing a receiver from getting his hands up? A way-too-early arrival? That's API and it's a spot foul. What are the possible negative consequences?

It will now spawn debate as to what's aggravated PI and just garden variety PI. And it asks officials to make another judgment call.

But the truth is, it already is -- in many cases -- a judgment call. And if I were an official reaching for my flag on a Hail Mary from the 43 at the end of the game where there was jostling, I'd sure as hell be happy that I have the option to call garden variety PI and put the ball at the 28 rather than put the ball at the 1.

It's a rule change that makes the game better. That way you don't have calls like this or this. This 55-yarder would be an API (defender hugs Crabtree).

Tellingly, there's no outcry about the need to reform pass interference NOW like there is about the catch rule. You know what needs to happen? A few more plays like this where the Patriots profit. Then you'll see a damn MOVEMENT!


Pro day circuit shows Belichick in his element

Pro day circuit shows Belichick in his element

Bill Belichick is a teacher. His father was a teacher. His mother was a teacher. He is very much their son in that regard. 

The glimpses into Belichick's essence aren't as rare as you might think, but they still generate an inordinate amount of interest because he's arguably the best to ever execute the kind of teaching he's made his life's work.

Every time he takes several minutes to answer a conference call or press conference question thoughtfully, the hundreds of words found in the text of the transcribed answer typically create a stir on Twitter. NFL Films productions that show Belichick operating behind the scenes are devoured. Exclusive interviews, where he shares his insight on individual games and matchups, NFL Films productions that show Belichick operating behind the scenes are devoured. Exclusive interviews, where he shares his insight on individual games and matchups, make every installment of the ‘Do Your Job’ series a must-watch.

Clips of Belichick on the practice field aren't necessarily hard to find, there just aren't many of them considering how many practices he's run over the course of his decades-long career. But thanks to more lax media policies at the college programs he visits for pro days, video of his on-the-field work pops up on a regular basis this time of year. They are mini-clinics dotting the internet. 

This is Belichick in his element. Even in the middle of a random university campus. Even with scouts, coaches and front-office people from around the league watching his every move. Whether he's coaching players one-on-one or three or four at a time, Belichick is imparting his wisdom on eager close-to-blank slates. All the while he's trying to evaluate how they're absorbing what he's giving them. Do they pay attention? How do they process information? Are they error-repeaters? 

It's a fascinating give-and-take between the 60-something coach trying to build a roster and the 20-something players trying to make one, some of whom hadn't yet hit kindergarten when Belichick won his first ring in New England. And he seems to enjoy it. 

Here's a quick look at some of what Belichick has been up to the last few days at Georgia, South Carolina and NC State.