Patriots

Healthy discussions on Parcells, Moss during Patriots Hall of Fame nomination process

Healthy discussions on Parcells, Moss during Patriots Hall of Fame nomination process

FOXBORO -- One by one, the names were rattled off. There were 13 in all. All were deemed worthy of consideration for the Patriots Hall of Fame by the nomination committee, which met at Gillette Stadium on Thursday. 

Committee members could only scribble three names onto their respective ballots. Of that group, three will be made finalists. One will be voted in by fans and fitted for a red jacket later this year. 

From the team's perspective, to have that many names worth discussing is a first-world problem. Still, whittling down that group to three was a challenge. 

This year I was able to sit in on the nomination committee meeting and vote for the first time. I'll lay out my choices below, but first, here are some of my takeaways from the discussion . . . 

NOMINEES RUN THE GAMUT
Of the baker's dozen considered, two were head coaches. Three were safeties. Two were defensive linemen. There was a receiver and a dynamite special-teamer. One was a tight end. One played tight end occasionally and often scored when he did.

Three players won multiple championships early in Bill Belichick's tenure. One won one in his last season with the team. Two made two Patriots all-decade teams for their contributions during the 1970s and 1980s. Names from the 1960s and 1990s were represented as well. 

Here were the nominees: Julius Adams, Larry Eisenhower, Chuck Fairbanks, Tim Fox, Russ Francis, Rodney Harrison, Fred Marion, Lawyer Milloy, Randy Moss, Bill Parcells, Richard Seymour, Mosi Tatupu and Mike Vrabel.

Fairbanks (2013), Marion (2012), Parcells (2011, 2012, 2014), Seymour (2017, 2018) and Vrabel (2016, 2017, 2018) have all been named finalists in the past but were not chosen by fans. Adams, Francis, Harrison and Tatupu have all been nominated in the past but none have made it to the fan vote.

Leon Gray (finalist in 2013 and 2015) was voted into the Hall on Thursday by the senior selection committee. 

NOMINATION COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Who's cutting all these names down to one final trio for fans to pick from? 

The 10-person senior committee includes Patriots director of football research Ernie Adams, the ultimate sounding board for these discussions considering he spent 1975-78 with the Patriots under Fairbanks and then returned with Belichick in 2000. Ron Borges (Boston Herald/Globe), Bill Burt (Lawrence Eagle Tribune), Jim Donaldson (Providence Journal), Mark Farinella (Sun Chronicle), Glen Farley (Brockton Enterprise), Ron Hobson (Patriot Ledger), Carlo Imelio (Springfield Union News), Paul Perillo (Patriots.com) and Matt Smith (Kraft Sports Productions) round out the group. 

Others on the committee this year: Patriots Hall of Famers Andre Tippett and Steve Nelson, executive director of the Patriots Hall of Fame Bryan Morry, Patriots.com's Fred Kirsch, play-by-play man Bob Socci, public-address announcer John Rooke, 98.5 the Sports Hub's Marc Cappello, Fox 25's Butch Stearns, ESPN's Mike Reiss, Boston Sports Journal's Chris Price, the Globe's Jim McBride, the Herald's Kevin Duffy, our guy Tom E. Curran and myself. (Curran wrote about his votes here last year.)

FOCUSING IN ON PARCELLS, MOSS 
Is it any surprise that two of the nominees who sparked the most spirited discussions Thursday were two people who frequently sparked spirited discussions when they were still in the league? The cases for Parcells and Moss both carved out a significant chunk of time during the meeting. 

It's made clear beforehand that the conversations surrounding individuals nominated are confidential, but I can give you my thoughts on this pair.

Parcells absolutely changed the culture in New England. The team may be elsewhere if it wasn't for him, and the Patriots Hall of Fame itself might not exist had he not come in and turned things around when he did. How he left the franchise, though, remains part of his legacy. I think that complicates things enough that it makes him less than a slam-dunk candidate -- particularly when stacked up against some of the others eligible.

Moss was electrifying for three seasons in New England. I think that sometimes gets forgotten because his 2007 was so otherworldly. But he had 1,000-yard seasons in 2008 (with Matt Cassel) and 2009 to go along with his record-breaking first year with Tom Brady. With just over three years in Foxboro and without a ring to show for his stay -- especially when up against other players from the same era who won championships -- Moss' candidacy doesn't quite rise to the level of some others this year, in my opinion. 

MY VOTES
Each committee member can vote for three names. A first-place vote is worth five "points," a second-place vote is worth three, and a third-place vote is worth one. 

I voted for Vrabel, Seymour and Harrison. In that order. To me, they were the no-doubters among this year's nominees. The only question is who gets in when. 

Harrison -- who has yet to make it through to the fan vote despite being eligible the last few years -- had two dominant seasons on Super Bowl-winning defenses. He was a true eraser, someone teams had to game-plan around, and a booster shot of culture for a program that was just starting to solidify even though it already had one title under its belt.

Seymour very well could be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the very near future. There's a case to be made that he's the best player (among those eligible) to have played under Belichick and not be in the team's Hall of Fame. That will change. And soon. Seymour has been a finalist each of the last two years, and I'd expect he'll be back in the same position again this spring. 

Vrabel, who has been a finalist each of the last three years, was my top choice. When I had the opportunity to say my piece on the current Tennessee Titans head coach, I made sure to emphasize that he was, in my opinion, representative of what has made this franchise great for the better part of the last two decades. He was Mr. Versatility. In between drives spent rushing and setting an edge, he was a red-zone threat as a tight end. He also made legitimate contributions in the kicking game, and -- as Jerod Mayo has explained to us in the past -- he was one of the few linebackers in Belichick's system who could play both on the edge and off the ball effectively. Vrabel was whip smart, challenging teammates and coaches alike on a regular basis, and he had few peers when it came to performing under pressure. 

NEXT PATS PODCAST: Mayo on the life of an LB under Belichick

For my money, among this year's nominees, Vrabel best embodies the qualities of the type of player that has come to define this dynasty. But I don't have final say. You do.

Votes will soon be tallied and three finalists announced. That announcement is expected to be made later this month, with the fan vote opening up online soon thereafter. 

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NFL playoff picture: Updated AFC, NFC seeds, matchups, standings after Week 14

NFL playoff picture: Updated AFC, NFC seeds, matchups, standings after Week 14

Sunday was a great day for the Baltimore Ravens, whose standing atop the AFC was strengthened with their victory over the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots losing to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Unless something drastic happens, the road to Super Bowl LIV in February will travel through M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The top two seeds in the NFC are still up for grabs after a wild day of exciting action, highlighted by the San Francisco 49ers' 48-46 win over the New Orleans Saints on the road.

Here's a look at the updated AFC and NFC playoff pictures based on the outcome of the Week 14 games. This story will be updated as more games conclude.

AFC
1. Baltimore Ravens, 11-2, AFC North leader: Bye week

The Ravens held on to their lead atop the AFC with a 24-17 road win over the Buffalo Bills. The Bills were the Ravens' toughest test remaining in the regular season. Baltimore has three very winnable games (vs. Jets, at Browns, vs. Steelers) left, making the AFC North leaders clear favorites to secure the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

2. New England Patriots, 10-3, AFC East leader: Bye week
The Patriots still have the No. 2 seed after losing to the Chiefs at home Sunday. Earning the No. 1 seed likely would require the Patriots to win all of their remaining games and for the Ravens to drop two of their last three matchups. The chances of that scenario playing out are pretty slim, though. New England's focus now must be to preserve its playoff bye -- the Chiefs and Bills are the top two threats for the No. 2 seed. The Patriots also have only a one-game lead over the Bills for first place in the AFC East, but these two teams will play in Foxboro in two weeks.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4, AFC West leader) vs. 6. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5, second wild card)
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes earned his first career win versus the Patriots to improve Kansas City's standing in the AFC playoff race. The Chiefs' win, combined with the Texans' loss, moves Kansas City up from the No. 4 seed to the No. 3 seed. Houston owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Kansas City if these teams finish with identical records. The Chiefs host the Denver Broncos, travel to play the Chicago Bears and finish at home against the Los Angeles Chargers. They also clinched the AFC West title Sunday.

The Steelers maintained their hold on the second wild card spot with a 23-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Pittsburgh owns the tiebreaker over Tennessee based on win percentage in conference games.

4. Houston Texans (8-5, AFC South leader) vs. 5. Buffalo Bills (9-4, first wild card)
The Texans followed their huge win over the Patriots in Week 13 with an awful performance versus the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Houston lost 38-24 and at one point trailed 21-0 in the second quarter. The Texans play the Tennessee Titans in two of their final three games of the season, and those matchups likely will decide the AFC South division. Both teams will be 8-5 entering Week 15, but Houston currently owns the tiebreaker over Tennessee based on win percentage in division games.

The Bills failed their toughest challenge of the season and lost at home to the Ravens despite a late comeback attempt. Buffalo remains in a great position to make the playoffs, but a wild card berth is the most likely scenario. The Bills still have a chance to win the AFC East, but that likely would require winning their final three games, including a Week 16 showdown versus the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

In the Hunt
7. Tennessee Titans, 8-5
8. Cleveland Browns, 6-7
9. Oakland Raiders, 6-7
10. Indianapolis Colts, 6-7

NFC
1. San Francisco 49ers, 11-2, NFC West leader: Bye week
The 49ers went into New Orleans and earned a 48-46 victory behind four touchdown passes from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. It easily was the 49ers' best win of the season, and it temporarily moves them back into the No. 1 seed ahead of the rival Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks can reclaim first place in the conference by beating the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night. Seattle owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over San Francisco. The 49ers and Seahawks will play once more in Seattle in Week 17.

2. Green Bay Packers, 10-3, NFC North leader: Bye week
The Packers took care of business at home with an unconvincing win against the Washington Redskins to maintain their one-game advantage over the Vikings for first place in the NFC North. Those two rivals will play once more in Week 16, and that game could have huge implications on NFC playoff seeding, as well as the division title race.

3. New Orleans Saints (10-3, NFC South leader) vs. 6. Minnesota Vikings (9-4, second wild card)
The Saints lost to the 49ers at home despite six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) from quarterback Drew Brees. New Orleans dropped from the No. 1 seed to the No. 3 seed because it loses the tiebreaker to the Packers based on win percentage in conference games. The Saints already have clinched the NFC South title, but now a playoff bye is in jeopardy. 

The Vikings beat the Detroit Lions at home Sunday to keep the pressure on the Packers in the NFC North race.

4. Dallas Cowboys (6-7, NFC East leader) vs. 5. Seattle Seahawks (10-2, first wild card)
The Cowboys went into Chicago and disappointed on "Thursday Night Football" by losing to the Bears. Dallas' defense got roasted by Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and that tells you everything about the state of the Cowboys right now. Despite the loss, the Cowboys still lead the NFC East -- easily the worst division in the league -- and would host a Wild Card playoff game against the 10-win Seahawks if the season ended today. The league reportedly will not consider re-seeding despite the NFC East's struggles.

In the Hunt
7. Los Angeles Rams, 7-5
8. Chicago Bears, 7-6

Instant Overreactions to Pats' loss vs. Chiefs>>>

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Tom Brady on having elbow wrapped after Patriots loss: 'I'll be fine'

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Tom Brady on having elbow wrapped after Patriots loss: 'I'll be fine'

There are still three days until the Patriots release their first injury report ahead of their Week 15 matchup against the Bengals, but Tom Brady has a prediction: his name will show up.

When Brady went to the podium following Sunday's 23-16 loss to the Chiefs, his right elbow was heavily wrapped.

"I just got hit right on my elbow. It's fine," Brady said. "I'll probably be on the injury report, but I'll be there next Sunday."

Brady was sacked three times Sunday while going just 19-for-36 for 169 yards, his second-lowest total of the season and his third sub-200 yard game of the 2019 season.

The 42-year-old quarterback also appeared on last week's injury report thanks to toe and elbow issues, but he was taken off the report Friday ahead of the Chiefs game.

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