Patriots

Why Patriots have 'all' of Bengals' special teams calls, and vice versa

Why Patriots have 'all' of Bengals' special teams calls, and vice versa

FOXBORO -- The Cincinnati Bengals won't need to do much advance scouting to prepare for the New England Patriots' special teams units Sunday.

That's because the Bengals' special teams coordinator is Darrin Simmons, who spent a total of five seasons as a special teams assistant to Scott O'Brien on the Baltimore Ravens (1998) and Carolina Panthers (1999-2002).

O'Brien later spent six seasons as Bill Belichick's special teams coach in New England from 2009 to 2014, winning a Super Bowl with the Patriots in his final year.

That's a lot of dot-connecting, though: The Bengals having a former assistant of a former Patriots assistant on staff won't impact Sunday's special teams play that much ... right?

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick thinks otherwise.

"It's like an intrasquad scrimmage," Belichick said Friday at his press conference. "They have all our calls, we have all their calls."

Belichick admitting the Patriots will have "all their calls" will draw the inevitable "Spygate 2.0" jokes in light of the NFL investigating New England for filming Cincinnati's sideline last weekend.

The roots of special teams coaching trees run deep, though. Belichick noted Simmons runs Cincinnati's special teams in a very similar manner to New England, where Joe Judge has been special teams coordinator since O'Brien retired following the 2014 season.

"The way they handle situations is fundamentally the way we would handle them," Belichick added. 

"Not that we would always do it the same way. You might have two or three options, but you would see similar strategic positioning or strategy that either we would use or have used."

"Sometimes it feels like you're looking at yourself on film," Patriots special teamer and co-captain Matthew Slater said Friday. "... It's not Scotty to a tee, but there are some similarities."

O'Brien apparently taught Simmons well: Despite their 1-12 record, the Bengals boast the No. 1 special teams unit in the NFL based on Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), per FootballOutsiders.com.

The Patriots, who have gone through four different kickers in 2019, are distant 19th in special teams DVOA.

As strange as it sounds, 10-3 New England might be satisfied to battle the Bengals' special teams unit to a stalemate Sunday in Cincinnati.

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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."

Tom Brady reacts to Dante Scarnecchia's retirement with heartfelt message

Tom Brady reacts to Dante Scarnecchia's retirement with heartfelt message

On Tuesday, longtime New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia decided to call it a career.

Several Patriots players bid farewell to the soon-to-be 72-year-old via Instagram, including quarterback Tom Brady.

Brady left a comment on the Patriots' Instagram announcement, commending Scarnecchia's for his unmatched dependability:

Couldn't have been a greater man or coach! What a privilege to play and work with Dante for two decades. The definition of the Patriot Way - consistent and dependable EVERY DAY!!

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Five of the Patriots' six Super Bowl titles came with Scarnecchia coordinating the blocking schemes that protected Brady.

As for who will take on the difficult task of replacing Scar, assistants Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo appear to be the leading candidates.