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In 'The Two Bills', Belichick offers heartfelt thanks to Parcells

In 'The Two Bills', Belichick offers heartfelt thanks to Parcells

FOXBORO - When ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary on Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells, "The Two Bills," airs Thursday night, it may provide some insight on what goes on behind the scenes with the Patriots' top three coaches when they aren't planning for their next game. 

One of the piece's most fascinating exchanges came when Belichick and Parcells - being interviewed together for the first time since 1991 - discussed the end of the 1990 season, when it was apparent Belichick would soon be a head coach. Parcells said in the interview that he knew Belichick was ready, and Belichick thanked Parcells for preparing him for what he'd face as he climbed the final rung on the coaching ladder. It was the ultimate sign of mutual respect. 

"I felt like Bill was certainly deserving of anything I could do to help him get ready," Parcells said. "We had, I think, a few conversations about several different subjects, and I would explain to him why I was doing things."

Belichick considered those conversations invaluable.

"It was really important," he said. "And I so appreciated what you did, Bill. I can't tell you... 

"It would just be periodically, he'd say, 'Hey come on into my office,' and I'd go in there and Bill would say, 'Here's something that I just want to make you aware of what's going on.' 

"Look, you're the defensive coordinator. You're not involved in the draft. Or maybe a player's got a discipline problem or a contract problem. Whatever it is. You're oblivious to that, really, as an assistant coach. But Bill would call me in and say, 'Here's something that's going on.'

"I really appreciate those times that you did that. It was very helpful to open my eyes and open my horizons to some things that I really wasn't paying that much attention to."

Belichick now finds himself in a position similar to the one Parcells was in at the end of the '90 season, though Belichick has two coordinators who are assumed to be leaving for head coaching positions after the season. 

Based on Belichick's appreciation for Parcells' mentorship in the documentary, it would make sense that over the years Belichick has done similar things for Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels in order to prepare them for their next step. 

We know that before McDaniels took his first head-coaching job with the Broncos in 2009, Belichick provided McDaniels with a coaching "bible" and the two met periodically in the 2008 season to discuss different aspects of being a head coach. Since 2012, when both McDaniels and Patricia were named to their current posts, both have been interviewed several times for head jobs around the league, which means these tutoring sessions have probably been going on for some time now for both Belichick acolytes.  

This particular "30 for 30," directed by Ken Rogers and produced by NFL Films, also may offer a window into why neither Patricia nor McDaniels is looking to stick in New England to eventually replace Belichick. After what happened with the Jets in the late 1990s, with Belichick waiting to take the reins from Parcells and never getting them, which the documentary covers thoroughly, it would stand to reason that Belichick would have no interest in being involved in a succession plan that didn't time out perfectly for all parties involved.



Chilly Brady can warm up to another playoff run

Chilly Brady can warm up to another playoff run

FOXBORO - If you were one of the hearty souls that braved single-digit temperatures and a wind chill that made it feel -50 (hey, I’m not a weatherman nor do I play one on TV), Tom Brady has a lot of love for you.


“That was pretty hardcore today,” said the still-thawing out quarterback after the Patriots’ 26-6 win over the Jets. “To be out there and to brave that weather, sit in the stands, that was pretty sweet. It was a great way to end the year. We started 2-2 and 13-3 is pretty good and to get the No. 1 seed. So, our biggest games are ahead of us, and hopefully, the fans enjoy that and they come out ready to go whenever we play.”

That weather had an impact on Brady Sunday afternoon. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes - that almost never happens - going 18–of-37 for 190 yards. Brady wasn’t razor sharp but neither were his receivers. There were a handful of drops, including a well-thrown deep ball to Philip Dorsett, and several miscommunications with Brandin Cooks and even Danny Amendola that probably shouldn’t happen at this point in the season.

“It just makes everything harder,” said Brady. “I mean, it’s harder to throw, it’s harder to catch, it’s harder to tackle. I mean, it’s just, I think for you guys standing out there in 10 degrees, it’s pretty tough. So, it’s a very technical sport. And, really, you’re not really playing the weather. You’re playing the other team. So, whoever handles it the best wins, and today winning 26-6, I think we handled it pretty well.”

Brady wasn’t in the best of moods postgame. Maybe it was the cold. Maybe it was his performance or that of the offense in general. He was hurried on 11 of his 37 throws, though sacked just once. Brady also took a couple of hard shots, including one in which he landed on his right shoulder - the throwing shoulder - something he’s very conscious of avoiding. When asked about the group’s performance and where the unit was headed going into the playoffs, he kept it short.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I mean, it’s going to be a different defense, different plan and we’ve just got to get going and execute better, and I think we can do that.”

Past history would side with Brady. Heck, recent history - like early November - would also back that sentiment. On this day, the Pats clearly removed Rob Gronkowski from being a major piece of the game plan to more of a decoy, no doubt in effort to keep him healthy as the Pats head for the postseason. Gronk was not targeted once. In fact, watching from above, it looked like Brady never even looked in his direction. The Pats were also without Chris Hogan again this week, and Rex Burkhead and James White and Mike Gillislee and even Malcolm Mitchell, who returned to practice this week after re-injuring his knee back in August. Some - if not all of those players - are being counted on for a January return. 

“Yeah, it’s going to take – I mean, if those guys are able to get out there and play, I think anytime you get good players healthy, it helps a lot,” Brady said. “So, there’s a lot of guys, like Brandin Cooks, Danny [Amendola] – they played a lot of football this year and have been out there for a lot of snaps – Dion Lewis has. So, if guys can kind of take some snaps off, I think throughout the week of practice and the games, I think that really pays off. So, you’d like to be able to use everybody, and we have a good roster, especially on offense, and a lot of good skill players. I think it’s got to be more than just two or three guys doing it. If we can get five or six guys healthy and everyone plays a role, then that’s going to be great for the offense.”

There’s no denying that, nor the fact that Brady is at his best when he has a full arsenal of weapons at his disposal. But even without that, the Pats have put themselves in position to be in position for the next step, a home playoff game, then another and finally, they hope, a trip to Minnesota and another Super Bowl appearance.

“I mean, football’s a team sport. I mean, we’re 13-3. That’s the best in the AFC. That’s what we’re playing for, and that’s all that really matters.”


Harrison makes good first impression on Patriots

Harrison makes good first impression on Patriots

FOXBORO -- James Harrison was certain he had more football left in his aging but powerful body. The Steelers thought otherwise, letting the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year rot on the bench or sending him home, inactive week after week. 

The Patriots were the only team to offer Harrison a contract after he cleared waivers last week and were almost immediately rewarded Sunday, just a handful of days after the edge setter arrived. 

"I don't really listen for what people say I can do," said Harrison. "I listen for what they say I can't do. I want to prove them wrong. I want to show them I'm able to still do it."


Admittedly, Harrison can't do it like he used to. The man is 39, after all. But he did enough Sunday to make you think he can help the Pats when the playoffs roll around in two weeks.

Harrison played 28 of 57 possible defensive snaps, setting the edge, dropping into coverage when needed and then finishing with a flourish, recording a pair of sacks. 

"He worked really hard to get things down and to handle the roles that he was in today," said Bill Belichick of Harrison. "Very professional, has a lot of experience, but not in this system so he had to do a lot of things to try to acclimate himself to what we do, and terminology, and adjustments and so forth. He really worked hard on that. He got better every day. You could see that through the course of the week. Sometimes it piles up and the load just becomes -- there's a diminishing return effect. In his case, I would say that wasn't the case."

Harrison has been used to playing essentially one way for the better part of his 16-year career. His brief immersion into the Patriots' way of playing defense was a shock to the system and Harrison doesn't feel as comfortable as Belichick tried to make it sound.

"I'm not acclimated," he said, cutting off a questioner. "I was getting a lot of help. The guys that were out there that have been here were helping me out."

It's been odd for Patriot players to grow accustom to having Harrison as a teammate. In his previous lives with the Steelers and even the Bengals, Harrison made his dislike of the Patriots known whenever he had the opportunity. And it wasn't the run-of-the-mill, "I hate them because we're rivals." No, it went to a different level, invoking "Spygate" and more. 

"It's certainly different," admitted Matthew Slater. "Hard-nosed guy. Great competitor. But it's easier seeing him wear 92 for us than someone else."

Lawrence Guy also had to stare at Harrison from the opposing sideline for a few seasons in Baltimore. Again, those two teams don't like each other, but for different reasons. I asked Guy about those days, saying I couldn't imagine Harrison was well-liked by the Ravens.

"I plead the Fifth," smiled Guy.

As for how Guy feels now, "He's a great dude. An awesome teammate."

Laughter ensued, but you get the point. This is unusual because of the player, not the circumstance, which -- as Harrison reminds us -- happens all the time in any line of work.

"it's like you going to report for a different news channel or paper," he said. "This is no different."

Harrison will have an some extra time to prepare for the Pats' next game. They've got the first-round bye. That means plenty of time to study and learn this defense. But in the not-to-distant future, Harrison has something else in mind.

"My focus right now . . . it's Sunday, right," he asked. "That means tomorrow is Monday. Monday is leg day."

And to Harrison, probably another opportunity to prove those that doubted him they were wrong.