Patriots

Patriots don't need to apologize for anything

Patriots don't need to apologize for anything

When the Steel Curtain Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl of the ‘70s, which quarterbacks did they go through to do it?

How about Joe Montana and the Niners when San Fran began its dynasty back in 1981? 

Or the Steve Young Niners in 1994 when San Fran won its last?

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Yeah, most wouldn’t remember. It gets lost in the fog of time. And, really, what does it matter that it was Bob Griese, Dan Pastorini and Vince Ferragamo for the Steelers. Or Scott Brunner, Danny White and Ken Anderson for Montana and the Niners. Or Erik Kramer, Troy Aikman and Stan Humphries for the ‘90s Niners. 

Play golf long enough, you’ll hear the phrase, “Nobody asks, ‘How?’ They ask, ‘How many?’"

If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, it will be completely forgotten in just a few years that the last four quarterbacks standing in the 2017 playoffs were Tom Brady, Case Keenum, Nick Foles and Blake Bortles.

Well, maybe not completely. But mostly. 

In winning five Lombardis, the Patriots have dealt with their would-be dynasties (Rams and Seahawks),  the MVPs  (Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Steve McNair, LaDainian Tomlinson, Matt Ryan) and a squadron of present and future Hall of Famers. 

Are they supposed to wear a black armband to commemorate the AFC teams that couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain? A helmet decal in memoriam of the quarterbacks who couldn’t stay healthy? A moment of silence for all the brain-dead coaching decisions that came before?

Is it on them to apologize for the “tomato canzzzz” they’ve knocked down over the years? Of course not. It’s not their fault they’ve dominated the 2000s any more than it’s the hallowed Celtics fault for dominating a six-team NBA. 

If title No. 6 comes for Tom Brady against forgettable competition, that doesn’t leave any more smear on his legacy than it would if people ever noticed that Bill Russell shot 44 percent from the field and 56 percent from the line over his career.

Great is great. No need to apologize for the ineptitude of those around you. 

There are those who walk among us thinking the Patriots should do that. They are the ones who sit in their darkened dens watching black-and-white highlights of the Impossible Dream Red Sox, clutching a 1967 Red Sox pennant in one hand, a Narragansett in the other, face illuminated by the candles flickering from their shrine to Yaz. 

Those Red Sox supposedly changed everything by losing in the World Series. Seven games, though. It took seven games. So for decades, paeans were penned for them. Captain Carl didn’t need pliability and hydration, he was huffing on heaters in the clubhouse. Man’s man. Owner Tom Yawkey didn’t bar certain reporters from Super Bowl breakfasts. Dick Williams engaged with the media, dammit!

Robert Kraft may be more progressive than Yawkey in terms of race relations and Belichick has not been spotted nude on a hotel balcony as Williams was. Still, it’s worth noting that Brady, Kraft and Belichick ought to be ashamed of themselves for picking on the rest of the NFL like this. The ’67 Sox had the grace to lose. Remember that. 

Anyway, since the 2017 Patriots will not be teleporting their 53 to another, more competitive season, let’s look at this football Leviathan in Foxboro. 

Because, after speed-bumping the Titans (#AsExpected), what’s overlooked is that Patriots are not that overwhelming. 

Their best defensive player and most reliable skill position player – Donta Hightower and Julian Edelman – are long, long gone. The offense revolves around two of the best that have ever played their positions – Brady and Rob Gronkowski – a castoff nobody else in the league wanted (Dion Lewis), a wiry, aging rabid ferret at wide receiver that everyone hated when he got here (Danny Amendola), and another wide receiver that everyone seems to hate now (Brandin Cooks). 

Defensively, the glue-guy in their front-seven is Kyle Van Noy. The Lions didn’t have any further use for Van Noy when they traded him in 2016. They rely defensively on Elandon Roberts – a very short NFL linebacker – and a chunk of their eight sacks were recorded by guys named Marquis Flowers, Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise. Do you know what Lawrence Guy looks like? No, you do not. Don’t lie. 

The guys on injured reserve aside from Hightower and Edelman include wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, valuable young run-stopper Vincent Valentine, Marcus Cannon (a very good right tackle), a useful linebacker (Shea McClellin), a great special teams player (Nate Ebner) and a rookie who looked like he might help with pass rush right away (Derek Rivers). Toss in Cyrus Jones too for the hell of it. 

Now the Patriots will face Jacksonville – which may have finally stuck a fork in the Roethlisberger-Tomlin Era Steelers – on Saturday night. 

How desperate are self-obsessed Patriots fans and media to find a boogeyman to keep them awake at night?

They believe that 71-year-old Tom Coughlin – who isn’t even the damn coach but is a Jaguars executive – is reason to sleep with the lights on. 

He’s not. And neither is Blake Bortles or Leonard Fournette. 

The complement of defensive talent is easily the best the Patriots have seen this season. But they are young and dumb. They are going to attack and pursue and there will be plays when Tom Brady looks completely mortal. Which in itself is a cause for great concern, as we’ve seen. But the Brady and Josh McDaniels will hoist the Jags on their own petard and use their speed and youth against them (even though they don’t have near the offensive talent Pittsburgh does). 

The chortling will begin if/when the confetti flies in Foxboro next week. The Patriots are proud of beating Mariota and Bortles…LOL!!! Joe Montana was 4-0 in Super Bowls!!!! They should be embarrassed!

The fine print might tell a different story. But nobody reads the fine print anymore. So the Patriots will probably have to settle for a “Sorry, not sorry” and begin planning for Minny.

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Would WWE outbid Patriots for Gronkowski?

Would WWE outbid Patriots for Gronkowski?

If Rob Gronkowski is serious about leaving football to become a wrestler, it probably won't be for the kind of money the Patriots are paying him, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer tells WEEI.

“I think that is more of a Gronkowski is going to make the call himself and I don’t think it is WWE is trying to — they are not going to outbid him," Meltzer told WEEI "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show on Thursday. "They are not going to spend $10 million a year on him. But, if he’s done with football, are they interested in him? Yeah, it is pretty clear they are."

Meltzer reported last week that World Wrestling Entertainment was interested in signing Gronk to a "similar style" deal to that of Ronda Rousey, who left UFC to join WWE for a reported $5 million a year. Gronkowski is scheduled to make $8.6 million from the Patriots in 2018. 

Meltzer cited NFL-turned-wrestling examples of James Laurinaitis, Kevin Greene and Brock Lesnar as the footsteps Gronk could follow. 

"Now, can you do it on a Brock Lesnar schedule of 10 matches a year? Yeah, probably. Lesnar was a unique type of character. He made probably $5 million-plus a year in wrestling the last couple of years.

Gronkowski is also said to be contemplating a career as an action movie star. 

Here's more on Gronk from NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran. 

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Not many needs for young interior offensive line of Patriots

Not many needs for young interior offensive line of Patriots

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent to that area, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today we're looking at a spot where the Patriots are completely set . . . we think: interior offensive line. 

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HOW THEY PERFORMED: It wasn't always pretty, particularly at the outset of the season when Tom Brady was being hit at a rate that rivaled years when he was most battered. And the way the season ended for this group -- with Shaq Mason allowing a sack to Philly's Brandon Graham that helped end the Super Bowl -- was obviously less than ideal. But that shouldn't overshadow how this group performed, particularly in the second half. Mason was a borderline Pro Bowl talent (Pro Football Focus' fourth-best grade at right tackle for 2017), pairing his devastating run-blocking with a vastly-improved ability to protect. David Andrews continued to play solidly and effectively make calls from his place as the line's pivot, getting through the season as PFF's No. 4-graded center. And while Joe Thuney had occasional issues with power rushers, he graded out as PFF's seventh-best left guard. Three top-10 players at their respective spots? And a reliable all-around backup in Ted Karras (three total pressures and one bad snap in two starts at center)? Plenty of teams around the league would love to be as solid up front. 

 

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018: Thuney, Mason, Andrews, Karras, James Ferentz, Jason King

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED: Not dire. At all, really. It's a 1 out of 10. They have three young, relatively healthy, improving players who will come back in 2018 and should slot in as immediate starters. The No. 1 backup at all three interior spots, Karras, is back as well. Ferentz is veteran depth piece who spent last season on the team's practice squad and was given a future contract by the team soon after the Super Bowl. Jason King (and Cole Croston who can play both guard and tackle) will also be back with the team when offseason training begins. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY: The best guard on the market was one of the best guards in the league in 2017: Carolina's Andrew Norwell. Other veterans who will garner interest on the market? Colts 2014 second-round pick Jack Mewhort and former Patriots starter Josh Kline. Jonathan Cooper, briefly a Patriot, will also be back on the market this offseason. Will the Patriots be interested in any of them? My guess is no, unless the team is put in an impossible situation at left tackle and they want to try Thuney on the outside, freeing up their left guard spot . . . but that's a pretty far-fetched scenario at this point. Even though Thuney played tackle in college, the Patriots drafted him to play on the inside. 

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT: Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson will be fascinating to track on draft day. The 330-pound guard is considered by some to be one of the two or three best football players in the draft. He's touted by experts as a surefire longtime starter with All-Pro potential. But he's a guard. Are teams going to be willing to spend a top-10 or top-15 pick on a position that is ably filled by late-round picks and undrafted players all over the league? Nelson's an interesting case study in that regard. It's a pretty strong draft class at the top, it seems. Georgia's Isaiah Wynn and Texas-El Paso's Will Hernandez have received first-round buzz, as have a few centers: Iowa's James Daniels, Arkansas' Frank Ragnow and Ohio State's Billy Price. Then there are the tackles-who-may-be-guards-at-the-next-level. Texas' Connor Williams, who we mentioned in our tackle assessment, is the biggest name who could end up getting kicked inside. 

HOW THE PATRIOTS CAN ADDRESS IT: There really isn't much to address, in my opinion. However, there's a little wrinkle here that's worth keeping in mind. The Patriots were reportedly interested in drafting Indiana's center/guard prospect Dan Feeney in the third round last year. They had the 72nd pick. He ended up going to the Chargers at No. 71. The Patriots traded down for a pair of picks when Feeney was gone. One was used to get defensive end Derek Rivers. The other helped them snag tackle Tony Garcia. Why the interest in Feeney? His size (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) and athletic profile (7.52-second three-cone, 101-inch broad jump) actually compared somewhat favorably to those of Logan Mankins (6-4, 307, 7.52-second three-cone, 95-inch broad jump). The idea of having him at center, between Thuney and Mason, could've been enticing. So will the Patriots jump at the chance to add a similarly-gifted player to play in the middle if the opportunity presents itself? Never say never, but I don't think so. Andrews received an extension after the draft, keeping him in New England through 2020, and he was named a captain before the 2017 season.

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