Category Archives: Tom Brady

The End of an Era? (I think not.)

One could argue that the Patriots reign of terror ended yesterday at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens. One could stomp and crow and shout for the hills, the King is Dead! The King is Dead! The Ravens have slayed the King!
One could also just hand out business cards proclaiming themselves an idiot.

The Patriots were so good, so automatic, so money in the bank for so long that anything less than winning seems to be failure.


But to call the era of relevancy complete, after this season? Really? What are they going to do? Blow up Gillette Stadium and sell the franchise to the idiots at Majestic Reality Co.? Change their name to the LA Riots? Let’s be careful as we define the end of this season as it relates to history. Many teams have come back from devastating losses to be champions again. Every week in the NFL is a massive crapshoot. To now define the future based on one bad loss/season is pure folly. To be shocked by the loss to the Ravens or the way it happened only tells me you haven’t been watching the Patriots this season or you were watching them through red, blue and flying Elvis silver colored glasses. Beware of Sportscenter, it makes you stupid. The way the Patriots lost yesterday was only surprising for one reason, it happened at home. All of their weaknesses were exploited at the same time. The only thing that kept them in the game at all was the fact that the opposing quarterback completed 4 passes in the win. (So Kelley Washington, relax out there bud. You guys just became cannon fodder for the Colts)

The Indianapolis Colts, the AFC’s current team of royalty have made the playoffs every season since 2002. They won the Super Bowl once. (2006) Does that mean that every year the Colts lost they were at the end of an era? No, every season the team retools, reworks the franchise a little bit. They then go out and play again the next season.

One team gets to win the Superbowl per year. The Patriots had a down year on all three sides of the ball. That doesn’t mean they’re leaving the league. They couldn’t finish games, they couldn’t win tough road games, they couldn’t beat other good football teams. Does this mean that everything we’ve learned about the franchise is no longer accurate? Everything that happened between the years 2000 and 20010 is now kaput, because, uh, we have zero context to base it on? Because Bill Belichick doesn’t put on a little hat and dance and make jokes for the media in his press conferences? Because Tom Brady has sex on the regular with a Brazilian super model? Is this the other shoe dropping or is it just what the NFL has been about in the free agency era. The NFL that the Patriots somehow managed to beat consistently over the last decade. Oh I know, It’s because we like things in tidy little packages and a decade just ended. Therefore all things that occurred in that decade must be ending too. Right?

They have 4 draft picks in the first day of the draft, one of the best quarterbacks, best deep threats and best coach’s in the NFL. (Along with a slew of other “nearly best” distinctions) The absence of perfection does not equal zero. Pop quiz, who wins the AFC east next season?

You really want to put your money on the New York/ New Jersey Football Jets?

The Patriots reign of terror will end when Brady and Belichick hang ’em up. Unless of course they manage to pull off the rarest of all feats, the dynasty transition. Don’t think the Indianapolis Peyton Mannings are immune to this either. (Paging Curtis Painter) This is all assuming that football in 2011 isn’t canceled in the name of pure unadulterated greed. Which is looking more and more the case.

In football, as in life, you lose sometimes. You make mistakes. You have down years. You sacrifice for the future while trying your hardest for the present. These things happen. Your past success may not indicate future performance but it sure helps when you’re in the business of prognostication. The Patriots will contend again.

The thing is, in sport, the games always need to be played. A play, a game, a season, an entire era is defined one block, one read, one decision at a time. Mistakes are made, capitalized upon. A linebackers hips turn the wrong way, a safety baits a throw. Every moment of every game there are minute details that help determine the outcome of the play, the game, the season. No other team in sports in judged in such a knee jerk way. The Lakers lose by nearly four dozen points in a finals game and come back the next season to win it all. The Penguins can’t beat the Redwings until suddenly they can. The Yankees suffer the curse of A-Rod and then they don’t. Our collective rush to judgment is so profound in modern society that facts are trampled, speculation becomes headline. The Patriots aren’t done forever and ever. Neither are the Eagles, the Packers or the Bengals. Each player, each coach, each franchise will suffer its wounds and move back towards victory the best they can. If systems and talent are in place more games will be won than lost. Opportunities will occur again.

Chances are, this time next year the Patriots will be in a position to make a run again and the media may or may not be telling you “The Patriots NEVER EVER lose a home game in the playoffs!” “You NEVER EVER bet against the Patriots in this situation!” “The Patriots have the BIG GAME EXPERIENCE!”

That’s when you’ll have your opportunity to make your own judgments. Good luck out there.

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Filed under Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, NFL, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady


First of all, I think the replay showed a first down. The official who spotted the ball did not have the best angle to make the call and he had a defender in his way to boot. If they make that first down, game over.

On the other hand, if you punt the ball to Peyton Manning with two minutes left at home, up by less than a touchdown, you are largely conceding the game. If anyone thinks that Peyton doesn’t march the team down the field and score you’re nuts.

I think we should be celebrating greatness or at least the pursuit of it. Instead, the status quo rules again. The same people who line up to criticize Belichick for “running up the score” will now appear in droves to say that it was a horrible call and finally we have proof that Bill Belichick is a big meanie and no longer a “genius”.

The decision to go for the first down shows several things. One, supreme confidence in his football team. Obviously, if they make the first down, Bill’s genius nearly doubles in size. He would have been heralded by the media, the fans and the Patriots players (past and present) alike. (yea Rodney Harrison, I’m looking at you, Mr. Declarative Statement) He would have won the game.

Two, Bill Belichick is very secure in his job. The vast majority of coaches in the NFL would never let that decision cross their minds because they are afraid of losing their paychecks. His job is secure. He went for the win. He lost the game. Moving on next week to the Jets.

Three, they made a good play call, completed the pass, and had a questionable spot dictate the end of the game. It was a matter of inches at the most. It’s not like they fumbled the snap or scrambled and threw it away. The play could not have been closer.

If you’re a Belichick hater and you want to criticize him, criticize him for time and replay management. Bill is usually one of the best in the NFL at clock management, yet Brady is calling a timeout to go over a play they just had several minutes to discuss? Why were there not several options? What exactly happened there? The circumstances are pretty specific… An official’s review of a play only occurs “within” two minutes. The time on the clock when the attempted conversion failed, two minutes. The Patriots had no time outs and were unable to initiate a video review of the spot. By the time the Patriots had a replay they wanted to challenge, they had burned 3 timeouts. They had stopped scoring every drive. They had given Peyton Manning all the time he needed to engineer a comeback. When you’re playing a team like the Colts and you have them on the ground, step on their necks. Double tap them, if you will. You can’t allow them to zombie their way to a 6 point deficit with two minutes remaining. If you’re looking for a point to criticize Belichick on, let’s talk about the play call on 3rd and 2. If you’re going to go for it on 4th anyway, why force an out to a very well covered Wes Welker? A bubble screen to Welker on 3rd and 2, great call. An off tackle or stretch run with a spread formation, great call. A timing route that was nearly picked off and returned for a touchdown? Why that Bill? Why not chip away half of the distance or even convert right there with a play call that has more factors involved than a receivers hand’s being at the same spot the ball is (and the defender’s not). A simple out route is a great play call if the defender is playing off, but if it’s tight man coverage and he even suspects it for a second he can jump the route and break up the pass. (or worse) A play involving team blocking and a runners ability minimizes risk of breakdown. There’s a good chance you gain at least half the distance you require even if the play was less than successful, setting up a quick snap QB sneak, or a run up the face of the D or a play action pass. Or something other than a two yard pass. Because at that point, in a 4th and 2 situation, the other team’s defense is really, really focused on Wes Welker, the tight end and Kevin Faulk. Like, really, really focused. In 4th and 1 or less, they have to account for Welker and Faulk, the TE, the run play, the play action pass, the QB sneak, the fade to Moss, the deep ball… all of it. It just seemed to me like the Patriots fumbled the end of that game. By fumbled I mean clock management and play calling. The coaches department. The players, for the most part, executed what they were asked to. If you’re going to criticize the head coach, dig a little deeper than the 4th and two.

The thing that cracks me up (oh, I’m not laughing) is the swell of fans and media calling it a bad call. Ok, sure. It didn’t work out. But the Patriots have converted over 70% of their 4th down conversions this season. The move showed balls the size of hippity hops. He believes in his offense and he knows what happens if Manning gets the ball back. The Patriots defense was able to do little more than surprise and trip up the Colts offense. On a long enough time line you run out of surprises for Manning, In fact, when the Colts stopped trying to run the ball and became as Manning later said more “one dimensional” they started moving the ball and scoring nearly at will. Not to go all Ayn Rand on you but I appreciate the boldness. I want the coach of my football team to have the freedom to make bold decisions. I am tired of panels and committee’s deciding our fates. Here’s a guy who has earned the right to make a decision. It’s so rare that we allow one man to do anything anymore. Everyone has to agree and compromise on everything and a singular vision gets blurred and sidetracked. Yet here we have a guy who’s sole desire is to improve his football team and win football games and people line up to tear him down. He made the call, they failed. They lost the game. Life moves on. Jets next week, division game, try to do better every minute.

When Shanahan went for two to win the game last season, he was a genius. When Belichick went for a 1st down vs Atlanta this season, on his own 24 yard line, he was lauded for the decision. When Belichick has his long snapper snap the ball through the uprights vs Denver in 2003, he was brilliant. When coaches make very bold decisions and they succeed, the masses trip over themselves to celebrate their guts, their confidence, their brilliance.

But you can’t have it both ways. You either support a decision or you don’t. You can’t just wait for the results to come in and decide then, with the benefit of hindsight, whether a good decision was made or not. A coach has to make decision’s based on a litany of factors, all within a very finite amount of time. The vast majority of the time NFL coaches go the safe route, the conservative approach. The vast majority of the time, a coach will call the prevent defense instead of blitzing, punt the ball instead of going for the first down. Often these conservative approaches produce head shaking and frustration among the fans. Going for the win is glorious. Coming up an inch short, considerably less glory. But before you know what the outcome is, you have to decide.

At that point in the game, if the Patriots convert the first down, they have won the game.

But they didn’t, and they lost the game. Would he do it again, in the playoffs? Let’s hope we have a chance to see. Because say what you want, that was an awesome football game.

I hope the Pats win next week by a hundred.

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Filed under Ayn Rand, Bill Belichick, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, NFL, Peyton Manning, Sports, Tom Brady, Zombieland

The NFL goes to the UK

It’s been far too long. Six weeks ago I was struck by a car while riding my bicycle in Venice, CA. Shoulder surgery has kept me from being able to extend my arm to type. It’s been quite a stretch to miss, as a writer with my interests. I’ll try to keep it topical and reasonably short.

A few thoughts on the NFL in England.
I like the regular season games overseas. It’s fascinating to watch international fans cheer for American football. This year, one of my favorite aspects of the crowd seemed to dissipate. In the past, every time an official was speaking the crowd would boo and hiss him, even if it was just an explanation of a procedural penalty with little game impact. This time around it wasn’t as obvious. Fans actually seemed to follow the game action too, not just randomly getting loud and quiet. Still not as in tune as an American crowd, but starting to appear, (at least through the TV) like they are into the game situations.

To dig into the PR guts of the whole operation, I have to wonder if the NFL sent in publicity coaches to speak with players and coaches to help avoid any embarrassing gaffes. Watching 4 post game pressers and reading a dozen or so articles on the game gave me the message to the English fans, We love the experience, the fans here have been great, we love England, God save the queen, the NFL and it’s players are proud to play in Wembley Stadium, etc. The more polished the source, the more on message the answers seemed to be. Belichick and Brady nailed it, Welker a little less corporate of an answer, and Brandon Meriweather even less. It’s not that they didn’t stick to the message, it’s more that their responses were less focused. I can’t see why the NFL wouldn’t send in specific PR types to help these guys. When you’re running what is essentially a sovereign nation, you have to take these things into account. A slip of the lip by a player or coach that offends the sensibilities of the common Englishman could be devastating to the NFL’s obvious desire to expand their brand internationally.

The NFL and the media really wanted this to play like all of London was transfixed, even for a day, about this amazing sport of American Football and the National Football League in particular. A quick check of the most read, emailed and discussed topics on Sunday night revealed that the masses were far from focused on the NFL. The excitement generated from the game in London was largely relegated to the small but legitimate group of NFL fans who live there and the media machine. In a way, if it’s in the paper or on the web, it is a big deal, even if the citizens didn’t think of it on their own. It’s self fulfilling, do something out of the ordinary and people will talk about it. I do believe though, that the fact that stories about Manchester United , Morrissey’s on stage collapse and Leona Lewis (who?) rank among the top ten viewed and the NFL’s annual trip to London does not appear on any of the top ten lists, speaks volumes about the masses interest in the game.

I do think that the NFL would work in London. It may be far from ideal for the players and teams on the schedule, but it would work on a business level, easily. First of all, if the NFL had a team in London, it would gain access to the British and European airwaves. People would be able to / be forced to watch NFL football at home and in pubs. They would be inclined to root for the team, even if just casually at first because of intense national pride and curiosity. The beauty of the NFL is the supreme product on the field. There are aspects of the league that irritate consumers but when it comes down to it, the product delivers. Years like this where the competitive balance of the league is drastically off are the exception not the rule. Even in this season, when there are more horrible teams than I can remember in recent memory, prime time games have been excellent, with few blowouts and several close finishes. The strength of the NFL has historically been it’s conduciveness to television. A heavy television presence in the 80’s spawned a lost generation of British fans. A local rooting interest would only serve to fuel the fire. Sports shows, web sites, blogs, newspapers would have no choice but to cover the rest of the league, at least to provide fans of the local club the basic info required to root for a team. The built in fanbase and novelty alone would keep Wembley packed to the rafters. The NFL may never approach soccer’s appeal, but it doesn’t have to. We’re not talking about the WNBA here. We’re talking about a supreme athletic event that directly appeals to a sports fan’s general desire for strategy, strength and athleticism. People will watch. The entire United Kingdom would have one team to root for.

Logistically, kind of a nightmare. The way the NFL builds their schedule, a team plays a home and away with each divisional opponent, (6 games) the league and TV interests cherry pick some interesting matchups and each division rotates games against a division in the other conference. This means that every 4 years, London would have to play teams like Seattle, Arizona, Oakland, San Diego, Denver… Now we’re talking about a 6,000 mile flight, twice in a week. It’s not exactly Australia but at that level jet lag still becomes a serious factor. Then you have the competitive hangover on the next week’s game. This season, the Patriots and the Bucs get a bye week immediately following the international flight. A 16 game schedule with a one bye week per team would be incredibly difficult to assemble in a way that didn’t make teams resent each away game with the London team. An 18 game schedule with two bye weeks would simplify things but a sea change and schedule expansion is already something the NFLPA has opposed.

The NFL needs to expand internationally in part because it’s a greedy corporation. (redundant, I know) It also needs to expand because it may be peaking or even reaching a plateau for the first time in it’s history. American companies in general are no longer enamored or satisfied with the 300 plus million citizens of the United States. Small fries when you start glancing at our planets population of over 6 billion people. More zero’s equal more zero’s in the profits column and America just ain’t as big as it used to be. Globalization is upon us, and it’s not just manufacturing.

I wonder if the magic pull of the NFL may be decreasing a tick in our near future anyway. An expansion of the league will upset it’s perfect 32 team symmetry and incredibly balanced scheduling. An expansion of the schedule could lead to more injuries and missed games by the leagues best players. It could continue to erode that feeling that every game really really matters. In a way, they need to expand for the hearts and mind as much as for the wallet. Anything can become over saturated, America and the NFL are no exception.

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