Patriots

Patriots fans have changed their tune on Antonio Brown real fast

Patriots fans have changed their tune on Antonio Brown real fast

It's official. Any and all "what should the Patriots do?" conversations are a waste of time. Bill Belichick's going to do what he's going to do and we're going to like it.

I don't have any exact metrics for how many Patriots fans wanted the Pats to sign Antonio Brown vs. how many didn't. We can only go off the various social media polls offered as the country watched the final crazy days of the AB-in-Oakland experiment crash and burn in ways none of us could imagine.

And those polls looked like this:


(Even that 51-49 count is skewed, as the poll has remained open since the Patriots signed Brown.)

Then the Patriots got AB, and the polls looked like this:


We don't have any conviction. There's "In Belichick (The GM) We Trust" and there's "I don't trust myself to lean one way or the other because no matter what I think, it disintegrates the second Belichick acts to the contrary."

Please understand this isn't preaching; I didn't want Brown either, but now that the Pats have him, I'm assuming it's going to work. We're all sheep in the same herd just following a GOAT.

But we were warranted to feel the way we felt, which at least for me was this: Antonio Brown is bad news. He isn't Randy Moss, a guy who was younger than AB is now when he came to the Pats and took a massive pay cut to do so. Moss was a bad seed with the Raiders, but you could explain it away by him being in a rotten situation in Oakland for two years. Make no mistake, the current Raiders are a mess, but the bleep-show we just saw unfold was all AB.

The Pats got Moss (and Corey Dillion three years earlier) at or just before the draft, months removed from any bad juju we'd seen with their respective clubs. The Patriots signed Brown *one day* after he posted a recording of his coach. This guy is a whole other level from the reclamation projects have attempted.

And from a cost standpoint, this is more Dillon than it is Moss, as the Pats paid a second-round pick for an aging running back when they made that swap with the Bengals. The Patriots are giving Brown up to $15 million ($9 million of which is guaranteed) for 15 games this season. That would be far more than Julian Edelman, and while Brown is a far superior player, the money shows the Pats are hardly considering this a flier. They're paying Brown to be a star, not a fixer-upper.

If Brown is even remotely professional and does that horrible thing Jon Gruden asked him to do on the phone call (play football), the Pats will win the Super Bowl, which I'm pretty sure they were going to do even without him. Score one for "we shouldn't have opinions on these things until we see which one Belichick picks."

But is there anything Belichick the GM could do that Pats fans wouldn't accept? The Lawyer Milloy thing was before they'd won multiple Super Bowls. Law, Seymour, paying Amendola instead of Welker, paying Gilmore instead of Butler, the list goes on. It's all good.

But what happens at the end of the season, when Tom Brady's a free agent? What if Belichick plays hardball to the point Brady signs elsewhere, or -- and I think we're sleeping on this one far too much -- says that it's too late to offer him market value after years of underpaying him?

That's where the rubber would really meet the road with "In Belichick (The GM) We Trust." Right now, there shouldn't be a Pats fan on the planet who would accept a Brady departure. After how quickly we changed our tune with Antonio Brown, I feel like Stidham jerseys could become a best-seller. 

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How Jimmy Garoppolo won his 49ers teammates over soon after Patriots trade: 'It was sick'

How Jimmy Garoppolo won his 49ers teammates over soon after Patriots trade: 'It was sick'

MIAMI -- George Kittle was dressed as a pirate. It was the day before Halloween of his rookie season. He was going to celebrate the holiday as any 24-year-old would. Then, as any 24-year-old would, he peeked down at his phone to check on a notification.

Jimmy Garoppolo had been traded by the Patriots to Kittle's 49ers. He had a new quarterback.

"I said, 'Wow, that's really interesting.' It was cool," Kittle remembered. "Jimmy G. Two Super Bowls. Hell of a leader. It's fun to have someone like that."

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Kittle and other Niners this week remembered the deal that sent Garoppolo to San Francisco and in the process changed the course of the franchise. They couldn't have known exactly what they had then. Garoppolo had only two NFL starts to his name. But now, sitting in front of microphones in Miami in the days leading up to Super Bowl LIV, they couldn't believe their good fortune that Garoppolo landed in their laps. 

The hints that they had something in Garoppolo came early. 

"Honestly, it sounds cliche but it's real, it was at the first practice," said fullback Kyle Juszczyk. "He ran the scout team the first day. And that first period he absolutely diced our defense. You could see it in his footwork, his mechanics, the confidence that he emitted. You could see that this guy was the real deal."

For Kittle, the sign came loud and clear that his offense had a new leader. It came before Garoppolo even made his first throw from under center. 

"It was funny, his first play under center, he has a really good cadence," Kittle said, referring to the quarterback's calls at the line of scrimmage. "He has a good voice for it. Right after he said, 'Hut! Hut! Hike!' for the first time, everyone was like, 'Whoa! Nice!' It was sick."  

"Very authoritative," offensive tackle Joe Staley said of Garoppolo's line-of-scrimmage vocals. The 13-year veteran smiled and added, "He's commanding. Lets you know he's there."

It came together quickly for Garoppolo in his second professional stop. He started five games after being traded, winning all five, and completing 67.4 percent of his passes at a clip of 8.8 yards per attempt. 

He tore his ACL after three games the following season, but rediscovered his 2017 form this season. The Niners went 13-3 with Garoppolo taking the snaps. He completed 69.1 percent of his throws (fourth in the NFL), threw 27 touchdown passes (sixth), and put up an 8.4 yards per attempt figure (third). 

"I didn't really know much, actually," Staley said of Garoppolo's days in New England. "I remember the one game he had in Arizona where he started and did really, really well. But didn't know much. Didn't have much of a reaction [to the trade] either way. Knew everyone was really high on him. 

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"Then he came in here and he really blew me away. In the huddle. All the little nuances of being a quarterback. The command that he had. His quick release. You could definitely tell that he was trained in that Patriots system as far as getting rid of the ball fast, which is awesome for an offensive lineman. He's continued to grow and develop since he's been here. It's been awesome to see him get to this point."

The Niners are back in the Super Bowl after a 4-12 record last season. Back in the Super Bowl with a chance to win one for the first time since January 1995. And thanks in part to Tom Brady continuing to play at an MVP level the season Garoppolo was dealt, thanks to the Patriots holding onto Garoppolo until midseason that year, all it cost the Niners to change everything was a second-round pick.

"I think," Juszczyk said, "we got him for a bargain."

As he retires, Dante Scarnecchia lauded for the careers he impacted with Patriots

As he retires, Dante Scarnecchia lauded for the careers he impacted with Patriots

MIAMI -- No matter which player you ask, regardless of position, the respect with which Patriots players speak about Dante Scarnecchia is ubiquitous. 

In the wake of the news that the legendary assistant coach will retire, one player made it clear: There will never be another "Scar."

"It's part of this business," the player said. "Coaches change. Players change every year. It's just something you have to deal with. It is what it is. There'll never be another Dante Scarnecchia. The next coach doesn't need to be Dante Scarnecchia, they need to be themselves."

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The Patriots have a couple of in-house candidates to fill Scarnecchia's offensive line coach shoes in coaching assistant's Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo. Popovich has assisted Scarnecchia in previous seasons, but it was Bricillo who took on those duties in 2019. Bricillo joined the team prior to the start of last season. 

Bricillo spent the previous nine seasons coaching offensive linemen at Youngstown State. Popovich has been with the Patriots for four seasons and served as assistant running backs coach in 2019. 

No matter who is the "next man up," as goes one of the team's mottoes, Scarnecchia has been irreplaceable for the Patriots. 

"I think he's done so much for the game he deserves some credit," the Patriots player said. "Number one, I think he was a great coach. His record, his career, his history, the success of the teams, lines, players under his [guidance] speak for himself. More importantly, I think he cared about each one of his players on a personal level. That made a player want to buy in. 

"Two, I think he was just a great ambassador of the game. I think being able to talk to him and hear him and get to play for him, he loves the game more than anything and is an ambassador."

Scarnecchia has long been a hard-driving coach on the practice field. He's meticulous about the way in which his players carry the blocking pads in drills. After practices, he wanted his players to place their helmets in a perfectly straight line on the turf during cool-down stretching periods. 

There were rules to adhere to, standards to uphold. If they weren't, Scarnecchia wasn't above raising his voice to a decibel level that could be heard by most training camp attendees at open summer practices. 

Players tried to do things Scarnecchia's way. They tried to live The Gospel of Scar. They tried because they valued their jobs. But they also tried because they wanted to make Scarnecchia happy. He showed them that he cared for them, and they tried to pay him back with their effort. 

"I think people forget at the end of the day, we're people," the Patriots player said. "There's a personal aspect to this game. You're not just collecting a paycheck every week. There's a personal aspect to it, there's more to it why we all play. 

"We all believed in him. We believed what he was telling us was for our benefit. He wanted the team to succeed, but he [wanted his players to succeed] when someone's putting that much time and effort into it." 

Scarnecchia's compiled what could be considered a Hall of Fame resume over his five decades of coaching. He won five Super Bowls in New England. He helped Nate Solder and Trent Brown pull in record contracts as free agents. He helped tutor Stephen Neal, turning him from a college wrestler into a Super Bowl champion. 

"You can't take away from what the athletes went out there and did at the end of the day, under his teaching and his leadership," the Patriots player said. "Players were able to develop themselves and make a career for themselves. A lot of that credit does go to [Scarnecchia]. Getting them to buy in and believe not only in him but in themselves, teaching them the right way of doing things."