Patriots

Many former Patriots players, coaches will be in AFC, NFC championship spotlight

Many former Patriots players, coaches will be in AFC, NFC championship spotlight

The matchups are set for the AFC and NFC championship games Sunday, and there are players and/or coaches with ties to the New England Patriots on each of the four remaining playoff teams.

The team with the most former Patriots players and coaches is the Tennessee Titans, who knocked off the Pats and the Baltimore Ravens to set up an AFC Championship Game showdown versus the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel spent eight seasons in New England and won three Super Bowl titles as a linebacker. A couple of his players also won a Lombardi Trophy (or two) as a member of the Patriots, including Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler.

The most notable former Patriots player who will be competing on championship Sunday is San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who will take on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship at Levi's Stadium. The Patriots traded Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick during the 2017 season, and he has led San Francisco to a 20-5 record (including the playoffs) as its starting quarterback. If Garoppolo leads the 49ers to a Super Bowl LIV title, they will tie the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins with six.

Here's a list of coaches (listed in their current roles) and players with Patriots ties whose team is playing on championship Sunday.

Tennessee Titans
Mike Vrabel, Head coach
Dean Pees, Defensive coordinator
Jon Robinson, General manager
Dion Lewis, RB
Cody Hollister, WR
Malcolm Butler, CB
Logan Ryan, CB

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Kansas City Chiefs
Brendan Daly, Defensive line coach
Mike Pennel, DL

Green Bay Packers
Jared Veldheer, OL

San Francisco 49ers
John Lynch, General manager
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB
Jordan Matthews, WR

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Awesome NFL video highlights all 36 turnovers forced by Patriots defense in 2019

Awesome NFL video highlights all 36 turnovers forced by Patriots defense in 2019

The New England Patriots defense ranked among the NFL's best in 2019, and a huge reason for this unit's success was its ability to force turnovers.

The Patriots forced the second-most turnovers in the league with 36 during the regular season. They also led the league with 25 interceptions and a plus-21 turnover differential. Veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore tied for the league lead with six interceptions and was named AP Defensive Player of the Year.

It's safe to say the Patriots defense was aggressive and opportunistic throughout 2019, and it certainly helped overcome some of the team's offensive struggles during the second half of the campaign.

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Check out all of the turnovers forced by New England's defense last season in the video below:

The Patriots' Super Bowl title defense ended surprisingly early with an AFC Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. The defense played pretty well, holding the Titans to just 13 offensive points. Tom Brady and his offense couldn't generate much of anything versus the Titans defense, though, and the Patriots lost 20-13.

New England's defense could look much different in 2020. The unit has several key players eligible for unrestricted free agency, including safety Devin McCourty, linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, and defensive tackle Danny Shelton, among others.

Curran: Where things stand for Brady, Pats a month from free agency

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

We can understand Derrick Henry supporting Ryan Tannehill amid speculation that Tom Brady may consider joining to the Tennessee Titans.

Tannehill is Henry's quarterback, after all. He's not going to throw him under the bus.

But Chris Simms has no stake in the game -- and still believes the Titans would be better off with Tannehill than the six-time Super Bowl champion in 2020.

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Here's Simms on Wednesday's edition of NBC Sports PFT Live with Mike Florio:

 

"Everybody out there: You're crazy!" Simms said. "Tom Brady is not better than Ryan Tannehill right now! I'm just sorry! 

"I know Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback ever, certainly the most accomplished. (He's) the man. But that doesn't mean he's the best in 2020."

Simms didn't stop there, suggesting the Titans may not have defeated the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round if Brady was under center instead of Tannehill.

"The Titans weren't a team that had weapons galore," Simms said "They didn't have great weapons (either). We didn't really know about A.J. Brown until Ryan Tannehill got in there."

Got all that, Patriots fans?

This kind of take is nothing new from Simms, who ranked Brady as the NFL's ninth-best quarterback last summer and put Matthew Stafford ahead of the 14-time Pro Bowler at the midseason point.

He's also not wrong that Tannehill was excellent last season, leading the NFL in yards per attempt (9.6) and ranking second in touchdown percentage (7.7 percent) while going 7-3 as Tennessee's starter.

But 10 starts do not an elite quarterback make -- especially a QB who had the NFL's 2019 leading rusher (Henry) taking the heat off him.

Were Brady's numbers worse than Tannehill's in 2019? Sure. His 6.6 yards per attempt were the second-lowest of his career, while his 3.9 touchdown percentage represented his lowest rate ever.

As Patriots fans will tell you, though, Brady also helped a team with a revolving door of mediocre offensive weapons score the seventh-most points in the NFL while finishing 12-4.

All debates aside, the money could prove Brady's worth compared to Tannehill: The former may command north of $30 million in free agency, while the latter might be several million below that number.

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