Super Bowl 49

Patriots 3 & Out: Why would Nick Caserio even want to leave for Texans?

Patriots 3 & Out: Why would Nick Caserio even want to leave for Texans?

Between OTA's, minicamps, free-agent signings, and potential contract extensions, there's no offseason for Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry. So every Friday, they're going to tackle three Patriots-related questions. It could be issues facing the 2019 team, league-wide debates, or something a little more off-the-wall. Here's this week's 3 & Out...

Why would Nick Caserio even want to leave?

Curran: It’s a valid question. The guy has been here since 2001 as chief cook and bottle washer.

In that time, he’s been part of six Super Bowl wins and nine AFC Championships. He is the right-hand man to Bill Belichick as Director of Player Personnel and has been that since 2008.

But the job is what it is. Even with the amount of latitude he’s given in preparing for the draft and free agency, he’s not building the team Nick Caserio wants but the one Bill Belichick wants. When the Jets hired Joe Douglas last week and gave him $3M — surely a rate higher than Caserio — it probably gave pause. As it must for Caserio when he sees guys who came up alongside or under him like Lions GM Bob Quinn or Titans GM Jon Robinson running their own gigs and having the autonomy to build something rather than be part of something that is virtually self-sustaining.

Meanwhile, the 43-year-old Caserio has to look at the landscape here and wonder what the state of the team may be when Belichick and Brady shuffle into retirement.

And also wonder whether he’s even the individual next in line to run things. 

Perry: I feel like I'm a John C. Reilly "Step Brothers" GIF reading through Tom's reasons for why Caserio would at least be interested to listen to Houston's offer. "Yep ... Yep ... Yep."

When I consider this situation, I always come back to Tom's final point. You don't get into the positions members of the Patriots brain trust occupy, you don't experience the kind of success they have, without being pragmatic. Even coming off of another championship, there has to be an understanding at One Patriots Place that this run isn't going to last forever.

So can you blame anyone for being curious as to what might be out there in terms of other opportunities? Particularly opportunities that might come with greater responsibility and a salary bump?

Even if Caserio ultimately wanted to stick in New England, an interview for a general manager position might provide him with the leverage he needs to improve his situation with his current employer.

Bottom line: There are an abundance of reasons for him to be open to the possibility of landing in Houston. The question is whether or not he's eligible to do so. Which is why we're now wading through the NFL's anti-tampering policy...

The NFL’s PI clarification makes great sense… 

Curran: So this is what the league came up with after conversations with anybody who had a mouth and an opinion.

In short, in the final two minutes there will be a replay review for PI if someone clearly gets clubbed. Nothing gets overturned unless said clubbing was unanimously obvious to 50 drunks in a bar. Hail Mary passes will be subject to the same criteria after there being talk that the Hail Mary would not be subject to review. All seems fine with me in theory.

But in practice? Will they review and throw on a play like this, the final Hail Mary of Super Bowl 52 or would the clearing out of Chris Hogan be illegal contact and not enforceable?

I am in the minority it seems in embracing PI review. It’s been an embarrassment to have the least informed people watching the game be the ones making the calls when there was a way to fix it. But it’s still going to have a few, shall we say, bugs… For fun, here’s a bunch of PI video examples from NFL Operations.

Perry: No issues here! Should play out seamlessly! Really looking forward to there being no officiating controversy whatsoever in the most critical moments of football games! What a weight lifted off the shoulders of football fans and their teams. What a time to be alive.

And as excited as I am for the league to treat game-changing plays in the final two minutes differently than they do the other 93 percent of the time, what I truly cannot wait to witness is a head coach — who has the ability to challenge pass-interference calls in the first 28 minutes of each half — maintain a zen-like calm in the waning seconds of a game even when the "stricter criteria" for pass interference review benefits his opponent when it matters most. What a remarkable show of poise and sportsmanship that will be.

The league could simply make every play reviewable, force coaches to use their challenge flags strategically if they want to be able to challenge a pass interference penalty late, and call the game the same way throughout. But why mess with perfection?

What we have here, clearly, is a fool-proof plan with which everyone will be perfectly satisfied — not only for 2019 but for years to come. Bravo.

 Tom voted for SB49 and SB51 as the two greatest games in NFL history. Homer?

Curran: Come on. Seriously? The Patriots win over the Falcons was an overtime game that featured the most improbable comeback in Super Bowl history.

It featured mind-boggling plays — the Julian Edelman and Julio Jones catches — and was a 60-plus minute synopsis of what has made the Patriots the Patriots. Relentlessness.

And SB49 ended with the Malcolm Butler interception after the would-be dynastic Seahawks got down to the Patriots 1-yard line with time ticking down. That was a truly great Seahawks team and Tom Brady put up 14 points on them in the fourth quarter to erase the 24-14 deficit. Absolutely gripping game.

Immaculate Reception game? It wasn't a Super Bowl, the final score was 13-7 and the Steelers didn't wind up even going to the Super Bowl.

The Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl? Loved it. And there were indelible plays made but it was the Cardinals, who went 9-7 that year.

Super Bowl III The Guarantee? Kind of a snoozefest. I feel OK about where I went. Oh, and these are polls that are being run by the AP in celebration of the NFL's 100-year anniversary. 

Perry: If I argue Tom isn't a homer, does that then make me a homer? It is, in my opinion, hard to argue with his choices here.

The "28-3" game has to be a runaway favorite for the No. 1 choice, doesn't it? For that to have happened, on that stage, with the league MVP on one side and arguably the greatest player in league history on the other makes it remarkable for reasons beyond even the unfathomable series of events required to make that kind of comeback possible in the first place.

I think there are arguments to be made for other games at No. 2. Super Bowl XLIX would probably be my choice, again because of the players, coaches, teams and stakes involved. Not to mention it ended on what might be named by AP voters the No. 1 play in the league's 100-year history.

But I could see the Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl being the choice for some since it probably had a greater number of memorable plays than that Patriots-Seahawks matchup.

The Patriots-Panthers Super Bowl might be up there for some because of the back-and-forth nature of that second half. Of course there may be West Coasters who go with "The Catch" or Broncos honks who ride with "The Drive," but these rankings should give Super Bowls more weight.

The fact of the matter is the best Super Bowls ever played have occurred in the last decade.

Click here for post-minicamp Patriots' 53-man roster projection>>>>

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Report: Jets interested in signing Malcolm Butler

Report: Jets interested in signing Malcolm Butler

How would Malcolm Butler look in green?

With the disgruntled, likely-soon-to-be-ex-Patriots cornerback about to hit the free-agent market, the New York Jets will look into signing him, Newsday reports.

The two-time All-Pro corner, whose transformation from Super Bowl hero as a rookie to Super Bowl benching has become the mystery of the Pats offseason.

It's no mystery that Butler, who turns 28 in March, won't be back in Foxboro after four seasons. Could the Patriots see him twice a year in the secondary of their AFC East rivals? 

Curran: Butler benching maddening capper to weird year

Curran: Butler benching maddening capper to weird year

MINNEAPOLIS – I’m not taking the cheese tonight. I’ve taken the cheese before and then had to walk it back. It’s no fun.

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So, I’m going to wait before I arm flap with full indignation about the benching of Malcolm Butler. Bill Belichick’s been doing this too long for it to just boil down to him having had enough of Butler’s act. There has to be something more that we still haven’t learned in these hours after the Patriots' 41-33 loss to Philly.

You know it, I know it, the country knows it -- and most importantly, the Patriots themselves know it -- that keeping Malcolm Butler on the bench cost them Super Bowl 52.

Bill Belichick said it was football-related, not disciplinary.

Matt Patricia vomited this word soup up on the podium when asked why Butler didn’t play: “We were just trying to run some packages we had on defense and those guys that were out there were out there for all the situations that we needed them for. So, it kind of turned out that way and the game with the way it went and some of the situations that came up, that was just kind of the way it went.”

Standard double-speak. Frustrating? Disingenuous? Absolutely.

Johnson Bademosi and Jordan Richards were out there trying to cover people in key situations while a guy who quite literally saved a Super Bowl for them three years ago was rotting on the sidelines? Whoops. C’est la vie. That’s the way it goes. Couldn’t find a spot for him.

Naaahhhh.

You know it, I know it, the country knows it, there had to be a bigger transgression from Butler somewhere along the line for him to get benched. 

If being short and playing at less than a Pro Bowl-level for them this year were truly sins, the mind reels at what kind of punishment the mechanical and easily duped Richards deserves.

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This is a coaching staff that’s put Troy Brown, Julian Edelman and Matt Slater in to play defense when things got dicey. This is the same coaching staff that had enough of Kyle Arrington in Super Bowl 49 and yanked him in favor of the undrafted, unknown Butler.

Whatever Butler did, it better rise to the level of insubordination that makes a forfeited championship worth it.

Because everyone deserved better. The players and coaches who give their lives up to get to this spot, they deserved to be able to give the Eagles their best shot. That meant Butler on the field at some point trying to stop Nick Foles from riddling them for 373 yards and three touchdown passes while the Philly offense went 10-for-16 on third down and 2-for-2 on fourth down and amassed 538 total yards.

Bill Belichick’s earned the benefit of the doubt, so I’m going to hold it until we find out the real reason the Butler didn’t get to do anything.

This wasn’t Wes Welker benched at the beginning of the AFC Divisional Playoff against the Jets for a pile of foot jokes. By football standards, this is capital punishment.

Eric Rowe, who started in place of Butler said he didn’t know prior to the game he was starting.

“No, that wasn’t the plan,” Rowe said when I asked him at the postgame press conference. “It wasn’t official until kickoff.”

It was unmistakable that Butler’s teammates were at a loss and upset Butler didn’t play. While there weren’t any open lamentations about the coaching decision to sit Butler, it was easy to read the facial expressions and body language when the question was posed. Of course, it hurt the team.

And that’s where the weirdness of it all comes in.

How many times have we heard Belichick say over the years that he does what’s best for the football team? A few thousand?

And on the biggest stage, in the biggest game, Butler watched while the defense got carved up? You have to do some amazing mental contortions to divine how that was what was best for the football team.

Unless letting Butler play in spite of whatever offense he committed was a bridge too far for Belichick. Whatever it was, it better have been worth sacrificing a championship for.

It’s been a weird, weird year.

VIDEO

The Jimmy Garoppolo trade for a bag of kicking tees at the trade deadline. The Brady-Belichick tension that’s been ongoing. The omnipresent vibe that this ride’s almost over and people are getting strange as this dynasty wheezes into the station.

Earlier this week, “The Two Bills” 30 for 30 documentary detailed the weirdness and strange dysfunction of Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick’s split. Clashing egos, clandestine deal-making and power struggles had far-reaching impacts on NFL history.

Does it seem that foreign from what we’re seeing right now? Even as the game rolled along, the speculation that Josh McDaniels was going to leave the Colts at the altar and stay in New England was flying.

Does that mean he’s staying? And if so, does that mean he’s elevating to replace Belichick? If so, why so?

We don’t know why Malcolm Butler sat. We don’t know what Bill Belichick’s going to do. We don’t know if Josh McDaniels is staying or going.

What we do know is the Patriots lost a Super Bowl to the Eagles and a one-time Super Bowl hero turned into a Super Bowl zero. Strange days, indeed. 

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