Patriots

Could Texans still try to swing a trade for Patriots exec Nick Caserio?

Could Texans still try to swing a trade for Patriots exec Nick Caserio?

Unless the Texans found former GM Brian Gaine so inept they couldn’t take him for another day, one gets the feeling the team leaped before they looked when they canned him.

Now, with their pursuit of Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio running aground, the team is without a personnel chief and Gaine is doing whatever exiled GMs do in June when they have the rug pulled from under them.

The Texans, according to Houston oracle John McClain, will divvy up the workload between head coach Bill O'Brien, executive vice president of team development Jack Easterby, director of player personnel Matt Bazirgan and senior vice president of administration Chris Olsen.

Houston is an upper echelon AFC team. For them to seemingly create an issue where one didn’t outwardly exist and then have no remedy in place is the kind of self-sabotage that’s helped keep the Patriots where they’ve been for two decades.

Making it worse is that Caserio and Easterby have the same agent, Bob LaMonte. Houston should have been able to find out Caserio had the clause in his contract preventing him from leaving the Patriots before his deal expires after the 2020 draft .

(In case you are wondering, no, I didn’t know the Patriots character coach had an agent before this process began either.)

What’s the Texans’ recourse? They can wait, keeping the seat warm for Caserio. They can do what they did when they hired Gaine, skipping down the list to grab someone they may not be sold on. They can make another run at Patriots Director of College Scouting Monti Ossenfort, who the Patriots blocked them from speaking to in January of 2018. Or they can keep up their pursuit of Caserio with a trade.

The possibility of that happening remains alive for another few weeks before training camp begins.

What would it cost? The Patriots' asking price would have to be a first-rounder. Caserio is making around $2M per year according to a 2017 report by Jeff Howe. The Patriots have a streamlined personnel department so his workload is substantial. He also is instrumental as a coach-without-title and shares a brain with Bill Belichick on the types of players Belichick wants in his program. The reason Caserio has the autonomy he does — and he does have more than people think — is because he inherently knows what his boss is looking for.

A first-rounder would seem to be a non-starter for Houston. It’s bad enough they are parading around the party with their fly down. A first-rounder would seem like they’re compounding the mistake.

Something less? Even though Caserio certainly has very high value, to me, the Patriots need to gauge Caserio’s frame of mind and perhaps consider a deal.

I don’t know that he “wants out” but I’m certain he’d have enjoyed the chance to hear a pitch about making more dough, crafting a team with O’Brien and having a part in something that’s being built rather than maintained.

To be blocked from doing so — albeit because of a clause in a contract he agreed to — well, it’s got to feel constricting. And it makes Caserio a lame duck GM as his contract winds down.

Will the Patriots do anything to assuage any irritation he has before he and the personnel staff embark on the grueling process of scouting college players, evaluating every one of the other 31 rosters in the league and making the scores of roster moves the team annually makes?

Or would they consider getting value for him while they still can as they would with a player on an expiring contract?

The question is, how motivated are the Texans to get their man?  

Click here for latest Patriots 53-man roster projection

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Dante Scarnecchia hints at new Patriots offensive line coaching structure

Dante Scarnecchia hints at new Patriots offensive line coaching structure

Dante Scarnecchia reportedly helped the New England Patriots at this year's NFL Scouting Combine, but he's not coming out of retirement a second time.

How do we know this? Because the former Patriots offensive line coach has already named his successors.

In a recent interview with ESPN's Mike Reiss, Scarnecchia all but confirmed that Patriots assistants Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo will coach the offensive line in tandem this season.

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"They're both really good coaches and both really good people. Very, very smart guys," Scarnecchia told Reiss. "I know no one has been named, and there are reasons for that, but clearly those are the two guys that are going to do it, and I think they'll do an outstanding job.

"The other thing is they know the players. It's not like they're new, coming in from the outside. They've both been around there -- especially Cole, who has been in the system for five years. Carm for one."

The Patriots' official website (which has never been heavy on details) still lists Scarnecchia as the team's offense line coach. Popovich is listed as New England's assistant running backs coach, while Bricillo is labeled a "coaching assistant."

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Both assistant coaches have experience on the offensive line, though: Popovich was the offensive line coach at Minot State for two seasons until joining the Patriots in 2015, while Bricillo spent nine years as Youngstown State's offensive line coach before coming to New England in 2019.

The Patriots went outside the organization to replace Scarnecchia the first time he retired, naming Dave DeGuglielmo their offensive line coach in 2014. DeGuglielmo lasted just two seasons in New England, though, and it appears the Patriots are promoting from within this time to replace the legendary Scarnecchia -- who, to be clear, is not coming back in 2020.

"I've done it for 48 years. I think that's plenty," Scarnecchia told Reiss, "and I'm really, really grateful for every day, every year of those 48, and all the things it's provided us."

This NFL analyst's 2020 Patriots prediction might be boldest one yet

This NFL analyst's 2020 Patriots prediction might be boldest one yet

Finding a consensus opinion on the 2020 New England Patriots has proven to be difficult over the last few months.

One reason for that is, for the first time in two decades, we will soon see the Patriots without legendary quarterback Tom Brady, who left the franchise as a free agent in March.

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Brady was the team's starting quarterback since 2001, and he won six Super Bowl titles in his 20 years with the franchise. Brady didn't miss many games in his career. Although, when he missed almost all of the 2008 season with a knee injury, New England went 11-5 and nearly made the playoffs. In 2016, when Brady served a four-game suspension stemming from Deflategate, the Patriots went 3-1 with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett leading the offense at quarterback.

Even though the Patriots have enjoyed some success without Brady in a small sample size, most experts aren't expecting another great season from New England in 2020. 

NFL.com columnist Adam Schein is included in that. He recently broke down his nine bold predictions for the upcoming season, and the first one was titled, "Patriots will collapse to a top-five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft." Here's a portion of his explanation:

The problems that ultimately led to New England's undoing down the stretch last season still exist -- in fact, they're probably even more problematic. And the Patriots no longer have the G.O.A.T. to serve as the ultimate deodorant for what stinks. The receiving corps remains underwhelming. I like the long-term upside of the two tight ends New England drafted in the third round -- Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene -- but the roster lacks a proven NFL commodity at the position. The offensive line is average at best. Same with the backfield. Defensively, the Pats went from historic during the team's 8-0 start last season to leaky in the second half of the year. And the unit lost a number of key players, including Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.

What record does Schein see the Patriots earning in 2020?

This season in Foxborough has 5-11 written all over it. If everything breaks right. I think the Jaguars, Patriots and Giants are the three worst teams in the NFL right now.

Even for a bold predictions piece, this is quite bold.

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The Patriots simply have too much talent to finish 5-11.

The defense did struggle at times against better competition last season, but this unit is still loaded with talented veteran players, including the league's best secondary and the reigning AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner in cornerback Stephon Gilmore. 

The offensive line was among the league's best in 2018, and it took a step back last season mostly because of injuries. Starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn missed a good chunk of the year with a foot injury, and starting center David Andrews missed the entire campaign due to blood clots. If healthy, this o-line should be among the 10 best in the league, especially if right guard Shaq Mason returns to his elite form after a down 2019 season.

The offense as a whole lacks a dominant playmaker, but few teams have more depth at running back than the Patriots. The receiving corps is a bit underrated, too, and this group should be plenty productive if Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu and N'Keal Harry are healthy in 2020.

Quarterback is the biggest question mark. Jarrett Stidham impressed as a rookie last year during training camp, the preseason and regular season practices. His teammates and former coaches have been singing his praises throughout the offseason, too. That said, he's only thrown four career regular season passes, so the 2019 fourth-round draft pick very much is still an unknown. Stidham has never started an NFL game, and the pressure that comes with being the guy to replace a legend like Brady is going to be challenging.

Will the Patriots extend their streak of winning 10-plus games in 2020? You could make a strong case for why that run will end. You also could argue New England's 11-year postseason appearance streak will end. But to predict the Patriots will finish 5-11 and/or be one of the league's worst teams is just a little too bold (even for bold predictions) when you look at the talent on the roster and the quality of the coaching staff.