Just a few stray thoughts on a Wednesday.
It won’t be long before we find out where OBJ decides to finish his season. The Patriots are in the chase but it’s reported they aren’t in the lead. If they don’t get him, too bad for them, but it’s more of a shrug and a sigh than a reason to kick rocks.
He’s got a skill set the Patriots don’t really have in terms of short-area quickness and run-after-catch ability, a point I made last week and one that was confirmed to me by folks in Foxboro in the last few days. He is an accomplished player with a physical playing style that absolutely fits the Patriots way of doing business.
If he thinks a Super Bowl run with the Packers or Chiefs or a homecoming with the Saints is more appetizing than a Super Bowl run with a rebuilding team in New England, I can’t mount a persuasive argument against.
As well as the Patriots have played, as close as they are to being 8-1 and not 5-4, I still think offensive tackle, team-wide inexperience (in the league, in the program or with each other) and the lack of that one high-end offensive talent that has to be game-planned for is probably gonna get ‘em. Not until the playoffs. But it’s gonna get ‘em.
Could OBJ have changed that, presuming he goes somewhere else? Probably. Would he have been worth the risk given the toxicity he eventually brought to the Giants and Browns? Definitely.
He’d have been on an audition. He would have chosen New England. He would have been given the lay of the land and seen that Bill Belichick’s world is different than Ben McAdoo’s and Kevin Stefanski’s. At this point in his career, he needs whatever team he goes to more than that team needs him in his present state.
So OBJ is/was a risk worth taking.
Don't take it all out on Tony!
Tony Corrente is the kind of guy who goes 65 in the left lane because THAT’S THE SPEED LIMIT DAMMIT. And if we’re going to have anything resembling a civilized society, Tony will ensure his area is well-policed. Even if he has to stick his droopy behind into the thigh of an NFL linebacker to ensure, “HE BUMPED ME!” can be his cover story for throwing the flag, he’ll do it.
Because the priority for a guy like Tony is that the game be run on his terms. He is the lead official. It’s his JURISDICTION. It’s his COURTROOM. And he’s been charged with maintaining order in the court.
Even after a spinning back-kick, an oh-so-scary wander over toward the Steelers sideline and a personal-space intrusion to the oncoming punter, Cassius Marsh still hadn’t given Tony a compelling enough reason to throw the flag. So Tony threw the sag bottom. Then he threw the flag.
Same energy as home plate umpires who ring a batter up on a called strike three then turn to watch the reaction and listen for any grumbling while said batter returns to the dugout. “Just give me an EXCUSE to run you!! Please!!”
All that being said, can we stop with the false indignation about players not being able to show emotion?
You can execute a spinning back kick and do a quadruple-front-handspring down the field if you want. The point of emphasis is just that it can’t be directed at an opponent. And the players know that. A receiver knows that something as benign as mic-dropping the football on a defensive back after a first-down catch is going to get flagged in 2021. So, absurd as the rule is, don’t do that particular thing. Or do it and take your chances.
But don’t act surprised and unjustly accused when a flag is thrown for precisely the kind of thing everyone was told in August the uptight league was going to start enforcing.
Remember when the Cowboys almost lost to the still-scuffling Patriots a few weeks back? The wind beneath the Patriots' wings that day was the Cowboys’ failure on fourth-and-1 from their own 34 on the game’s first drive. The Patriots scored a touchdown three plays later and it was game on.
Against Denver on Sunday, the Cowboys went for it on fourth down on each of their first two possessions. They failed on fourth-and-1 from the Denver 38. They failed on fourth-and-2 from the Denver 20.
On their third drive, perhaps remembering that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, they punted on fourth-and-1 from their 45. That was labeled the worst coaching decision of the week by EDJ Sports.
There’s science behind that ranking and all the rankings on EDJ Sports. But -- as with the Patriots' decision to attempt a 55-yard field goal at the end of the game against the Bucs or punt it away in overtime against the Cowboys -- a coach will never, ever, ever be in a position where he can just weigh what the GWC (game-winning chance score) tells him.
So it’s funny to me that McCarthy gets harpooned for the decision to turtle instead of sticking his hand in the fourth-down fire for a third time and doesn’t even show up in the top-five best decisions for opting to be aggressive earlier in the game because his GWC wasn’t high enough on those. I need to get one of these guys on the pod for a respectful and dignified back-and-forth.
Josh McDaniels and his future in Foxboro
I hit this at the start of "Quick Slants" on Tuesday night (6p ET on NBC Sports Boston!) but wanted to revisit here. It’s about Josh McDaniels’ 2022 future.
As I’m watching Sam Darnold, Tua Tagovailoa, Zach Wilson, Jordan Love and so many of the other recently-minted, would-be franchise quarterbacks face-plant I can’t help thinking how NFL owners must view McDaniels. He’s got the quarterback widely-considered fifth-best in the crop heading toward Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Meanwhile, the lack of development seen from the guys I mentioned and all the Trubiskys, Rosens, Haskinseseses etc., has to leave any owner thinking, “You need a quarterback to win big. A quarterback on his first contract is the best quarterback you can have. McDaniels has developed Mac Jones, Jimmy G., Jacoby Brissett and Matt Cassel and won games with all of them.
He’s worked with the greatest to ever do it in both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. He reconfigured his offense in 2020 to get wins out of Cam Newton and -- despite Newton’s limitations as a thrower and the humbling nature of the experience for Newton -- the quarterback loved ‘Mickey D’s.’ He’s the best there is at getting the most out of the most important position in sports.
And that’s why, when the openings come, it may be hard for the Patriots to keep McDaniels in house. Before, doubt about McDaniels stemmed from the Denver experience. Then it was Brady’s excellence. Then it was McDaniels’ cold feet.
But McDaniels has made it clear he wants to be a head coach again. He’s 46 next spring, closing in on the age Bill was when he took over the Patriots. He’s 12 years on from being hired in Denver. If he’s not going to be named heir to the Patriots throne, then why stay? Belichick is soon to be 70. Robert Kraft is 80. Who’s driving the car for the rest of the decade now that the car’s pointed in the right direction?
Honestly, as it was for Belichick when he was in coaching purgatory behind Bill Parcells with the Jets, McDaniels’ situation here is mirroring it. The Jets gave Belichick assurances to keep him around. Assurances Belichick later rebuffed on a napkin. Will the Patriots do the same thing with McDaniels? Or even try?