The 'D' is Topic A

The 'D' is Topic A
September 30, 2010, 11:10 am
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By Michael Felger

You guys enjoying the Brandon Meriweather era as much as I am?

Felger,My seats are behind the Pats bench and watching the way Brandon Meriweather carries himself, I would bet he watches the Top 100 Players Of All Time on the NFL Network expecting to see himself. What makes this guy so happy with himself? Guys like him are dime-a-dozen in the NFL, and the defense has been brutal. That clown has won NOTHING! I'm starting to see some Jeremy Jacobs-type problems in Foxboro. More than one player has spoken out against the Krafts and found themselves gone. The Krafts put their inflated egos before the team and it's showing. Mike Vrabel should still be here, and the reason they have no coordinators is because they don't want to pay for top coaches. I did hear Jonathan Kraft say in an interview that he coaches Pop Warner because the kids deserve professional coaching . . . Seeing the offense, I'm starting to think he may be calling the offensive plays in the second half because that's the only explanation I can come up with. This is not the Patriots that set the standard in the early part of the decade, that's for sure.Paul

To me, Meriweather is the face of the Patriots defense right now: Young and not very good, certainly not as good as he thinks he is. He should be better, and we can't figure out why he isn't. Going into the year, we all knew that if the defense had any shot of being a factor, Meriweather and Jerod Mayo would have to be the leaders and the playmakers. They were the ones entering their primes. They were the ones with the experience in the system. And while there's still hope for Mayo, Meriweather is losing consumer confidence by the day. He hasn't started the last two games and it's hard to imagine his performance last week will get him back in the starting lineup Monday in Miami.

That has nothing to do with the Krafts, by the way. And I can tell you this: Jonathan would have told him to hold his outside leverage on that C.J. Spiller touchdown catch.

Hey Felger, Who's calling the plays on defense? As I watch the games I try to look at the sidelines and it seems to me that Matt Patricia is doing the play calling. What do you think?GeorgePeabody

I think it's the guy from Hangover.

Its either him . . . or Jonathan Kraft.

Okay, seriously, it's a combination of Patricia and Belichick.

Hey Felger!Yes, the defense leaves a lot to be desired. But I thought they looked a lot better in second half vs. the first. This was a big improvement over the last two games where they were much worst. Was this just because they were playing Buffalo or was it halftime adjustments?DennisWinthrop, ME

Are you kidding? You thought the Pats defense looked good in the second half? I'll grant you that they caught a few balls thrown right at them, but they didn't exactly stymie the Bills' offense. Were you watching when Steve Johnson caught a 37-yard touchdown pass between Pat Chung and Devin McCourty (the alleged good players in the backfield)? And I guess we're not counting the kickoff return.

Felger,I was thinking after the Pats' stellar defensive performance against Buffalo and that, wow, Dom Capers or Romeo Crennel would look pretty good on this team right now. But then I realized that Bill has gone all Howard Hughes in his old age and if he had the choice would push away the coordinators after that 2004 Super Bowl if that happened now. He could never share the credit, for the same reason he ignored the Spygate memo. He is the most arrogant man in the league, and arrogance as we all know comes with age. But then I thought about it. Rex Ryan was a defensive guy. He became head coach and turned the Jets defense from good to great. Eric Mangini, as bad a head coach as he is, has put together a pretty good defense in Cleveland. So let's face it. Belichick has put together great defenses in three different organizations. He shouldn't need a coach to improve it. So maybe it really is scheme and talent, which is his fault, too. And Felger, we both know the reason he didn't name Patricia defensive coordinator is because after all the clubhouse problems last year he feared an uprising if Pepper Johnson got passed over. You want a good comparison for this year's Patriots? The 2008 New Orleans Saints. Awesome offense, 30th defense in the league. They went 7-9, hired Greg Robinson and won it the next year.So there's hope, that and the Seymour pick. I mean that guy stunk anyway. (five tackles, two QB hurries, one sack last week).GeorgeWoburn

The thing with the defense is that it doesn't need to be great for the Pats to win a title. This is the new NFL. It just needs to be timely. The Saints and Colts, to cite two examples, give up plenty of plays and plenty of points. But they also have guys who can get to the quarterback and defenses that can force turnovers. And as compliments to their offenses, its just enough. Just think of the new NFL like you would an NBA game. You know the other guys are going to score. It's just a matter of getting a few stops.

All of which is a long way of saying I agree with you. The Pats may be a long, long way from having the kind of defense they had from 2001-04, but the fact is they don't need it to be that good to win another championship. They just need it to be good enough.

Mike,Check this quote from a Jerod Mayo interview:Asked who the team's defensive coordinator is, Mayo said, "Bill Belichick." Asked if Belichick sometimes has to desert the defense to attend to duties as head coach, Mayo said, "He's always with us . . . He's the defensive coach. He's there. He does everything that former defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to do."If he's doing everything that Dean Pees, Mangini and RAC did, it isn't a tough leap to say that some other area is getting less attention. Man, what I wouldn't give for a competent coordinator that Bill trusted and didn't have to hand hold and coach from over his shoulder on either side of the ball. Too bad nobody like that was available in the offseason.The biggest problems with this team right now are coaching, defense and Brady's decision-making. Two of the things on that list are things that five years ago we couldn't even imagine being weaknesses. I'd like to think past history tells us both Brady and Belichick are going to return to form in fine style, but honestly, my "In Bill We Trust" membership card doesn't go as far as it used to.Peace,JakeBoston

"Too bad nobody like that was available in the offseason"? Crennel. Weis. Martz. Nolan . . . Ah, sarcasm. Sorry, Jake. Im a little slow.

Felger,You stated the other day that you didn't believe that money was a factor in the Patriots not having any coordinators. When Romeo Crennel left for Cleveland, he was the lowest-paid defensive coordinator in the NFL. Also, Charlie Weis was looking for a coordinator job when he was hired by Notre Dame. Not only do the Patriots not have coordinators, three of their position coaches were coaching assistants last year. How can Butler and McCourty learn from an inexperienced position coach? I think that Bob Kraft wants coaching salaries low in case there is a lockout.JimKennebunk ME

I didnt say that I "didnt believe" money was a factor in not having coordinators. I said I "didnt want to believe" money was an issue. Or, rather, I couldn't bring myself to believe that. Because if I did, then I would lose some faith in the Krafts as owners. And I believe, on balance, they've been great owners. So I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. But you're free to believe whatever you like.

Hey Felger!Ok, so all week we have analyzed and dissected Brady, Belichick, no coordinators, crap defense, bad drafting etc. We have pretty much all come to the realization that this team is in deep doo doo. So what, then, do we do? I know you and Mazz love to come up with all sorts of numbers to support your facts, not opinions. I'd like you to look this one up if you can. How many coaches have gone to Super Bowls and then gone back to Super Bowls with the same team but whole different personnel? Has anyone? Point being, if this is almost an impossibility or an improbable occurrence, are we as Patriot followers better served by blowing the whole thing up, Belichick included, and starting over with a younger team, younger players and different expectations? I know this is blasphemy to talk like this up here, but realistically the guy and his methods are getting old. Think about it before you call me a putz.SteveChester, NH

P.S. BB was lying whenhe said he'd never seen "Hard Knocks." No way he picks up the littleguy without having watched that show.
That question is not putz-worthy in the least, Steve. Its an excellent point to consider. The only coach who had repeated Super Bowl success with markedly different personnel was Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks (Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien). Gibbs' last title was nine years after his first, so I would say that most of his roster turned during that time. Theres one answer for you. But I can't come up with many others. Don Shula lost a Super Bowl as coach of the Colts and then came back and won a few with the Dolphins. The last two championships that Chuck Noll won in Pittsburgh were a lot different than the first two (more passing), although much of the personnel was the same. But the point remains the same, what Belichick is trying to do is exceedingly rare. But that doesnt mean I'd move on from him, Steve. Something tells me he has a chance to do it.

As for Danny Woodhead, Im with you. Didnt we ALL watch him on HBO and say, "that would be a great Patriot?"

Felger,I don't know why Belichick remains committed to the 3-4 defense when all of their defensive personnel from the glory years is gone and hasn't been adequately replaced (except Wilfork). Half the teams in the league are going after Patriots front-7 types (when they had little competition for these guys 5-7 years ago) and they aren't plentiful coming out of the college ranks to begin with. Going with a 4-3 dumbs down the defense so the rookies and second-year guys can actually contribute and Bill can still confuse the offense with the blitz coming from one of three linebackers. Also, having 4-3 rush ends like Freeney or Peppers provides a pass rush by default (granted, they don't grow on trees) -- rather than trying to manufacture a rush with suspect OLBs that also have to learn to drop into coverage and hold the edge against the run. They have linebackers suited for a 4-3, not a 3-4. I'm not saying anything everyone doesn't already know, but Bill's bullheaded insistence on staying with the system when the personnel isn't there really calls his football common sense into question. I'm pretty much bald -- and Bill has me pulling out my eye brows. Bob

Scary as it sounds, Im not sure if they have the best personnel for either scheme, Bob. If they go 4-3, who are the defensive ends? Cunningham? Banta-Cain? Mike Wright? Ninkovich? I don't know if they have anyone to play those spots in anything other than a change-up situation. So I have no problem with the Pats sticking with the 3-4. They just have to start drafting impact guys for those outside linebacker spots.

HEY FELGER! Two things I took from the Patriots escaping with a win against the Bills: 1) If the defense continues to struggle against journeymen like Fitzpatrick, then the Patriots might as well not show up against a quarterback like, let's say, PEYTON MANNING?! 2) Tell me if we can survive with the running backs we have on this team.MatthewFramingham

1) I hear fans say this a lot, but I think its overblown. In other words, we think Peyton Manning should be able to double Fitzpatrick's output. But just think what that means. Do you really believe the Colts will score 60 on us? I don't. There's only so much time on the clock. I think on the Pats' worst days, they will be allowing point totals in the high 30s. The bad news is that it looks like anyone could do it to them, not just the Colts.

2) Yes, we can. Not that there's a true lead back left on the roster, but the running-back depth chart isnt the issue with this team.

Michael,If we compare the pure talent of a young Brett Favre to a young Tom Brady, you would have to say that Favre has it all over Brady. Favre was so talented that he could get away with being a thoughtless gunslinger in his early years. Tom was slow and skinny and had to develop arm strength. His physical abilities were not that impressive. What made Brady different was his incredible work ethic, preparation, and intelligence. Nobody worked as hard as he did. He was so prepared that no matter what situation he was in during a game, he was already prepared for it. These intangibles made Brady a great quarterback, not his physical abilities. Is it possible that Brady's work ethic has decreased so much that he has slid back into being the mediocre quarterback that he truly was and is?RickWinthrop

"Mediocre" is way too strong a word, Rick. But everything else you say is fair. Beyond fair. To me, the "Tom Brady Story" always centered around him outworking everybody else. It always involved his brain, not his arm. Ironically, I think his arm has never been better than it is right now. Its the rest of it that we have to wonder about it. And its not that hes not still working hard. Of course he is. But is it at the same obsessive, non-stop level it was early in his career? Even he admits its not.

Felger,N.E. 38, Buffalo 30. We're going to the Super Bowl!!! We're going to the Super Bowl!!! Cold Lone Stars and T-bone steaks in beautiful Dallas!!! Road game in Miami next week . . . oops, 2-2 here we come.JackNewport

P.S. My super secret Cartel decoder ring hasn't arrived yet. Please ship overnight express mail.

Gasper handles the shipping. Ill have him get on it.

A few comments;1). Randy Moss is a prima donna and the most overrated person in pro football. 2). The Patriots' play-calling sucks and so does Papelbon.3). Is Sara still on Fox Boston? I see they have someone else in her spot on Saturday evenings who is obviously not as good. She always did a great job as the anchor personPJ

1). I disagree, believe it or not. There are more overrated players (Favre) and bigger prima donnas (Tony Romo). And Moss' skill set isnt overrated. But how that skill set translates to winning championships is.

2). Yes and, for this year at least, yes.

3. You bet. She was just out sick. As Pat Burns said a couple of weeks ago, the Wood isnt dead. Far (expletive) from it.

Hey Felger,Why in the hell did the Red Sox sign Beckett to a long-term deal? The guy sucks now and he'll suck until his contract is up. Mark my words.DaveSouthwick

Again, "suck" is too strong of a word. But he sure is overrated. Has been for a while. But I'm with you. Why did the Sox feel the need to give him that contract at the beginning of the year? Were they afraid he'd be a problem? Did they not want him to be upset after they gave Lackey that deal? It seems to me they would have increased the odds of getting a productive year out of him had they made him pitch for his next contract. A pissed-off Beckett could have been a good thing.

Hey Felger,Instead of the NBA cracking down on player outbursts, why don't they hire competent referees? The officiating in the NBA is the worst, most subjective, and don't forget crooked.ErikHyannis

Get back to me in the playoffs the first time Eddie Rush is assigned. Well have some fun.

If some of these young players for the Bruins step up and earn a roster spot, who are the veterans most likely to be cut or traded? I'm really just hoping this team plays with integrity. Yeah, right!! (Another stupid statement by that moron Tanguay.) Anything short of a top-three seed and a trip to the conference final would be a letdown.KenWhitman

Right now theres room for Jordan Caron. But when Savard comes back I'd be keeping an eye on Michael Ryder andor Blake Wheeler if they play like they did last year. Another decision will have to be made when Sturm gets back.

As for expectations, you are absolutely correct. Another second-round (or earlier) exit will be considered a failure.

Felger,After a world-wide embarrassment in the playoffs last year, and with the same owner and G.M., can you give me three reasons why fans should watch the Bruins this year and suffer the agony of an inept owner? They're going to ruin a good young rookie in order to put people in seats.PetePeabody

You can hate the owner if you like. Hes earned the right. But the three reasons Ill be watching the Bruins are: 1) Hockey is the greatest sport on the planet. 2) The Bruins should be pretty good. 3) Seguin and maybe even Caron.

Felger You DB! Did I hear that NESN isn't sending their play-by-play team to Europe to cover the Bruins opener because they didn't want to foot the bill? I simply refuse to believe this is the truth! A sports network that is able to produce such critically acclaimed shows as Sox Appeal and Pocket Money would never allow their standards to go this low. Honesty, to let one of the NHL's original franchises have their opening night play-by-play call done via remote is a monumental embarrassment. But more importantly, it's also an in-your-face reminder to Bruins fans of how much the NESN brain trust values your local hockey team as opposed to the Red Sox. The Sox went to Japan, and Don and Jerry were probably kimono deep in sashimi and Geishas as they called the games from the Tokyo Dome. The Bruins open their season in Prague and Jack and Brick get to dodge the cleaning crew in Watertown and salvage Bugaboo Creek leftovers from the NESN Daily taping. I'm sorry, but I can't fathom the fact that NESN is more than willing to pay to fly Charlie Moore across the country to gut sunfish with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Chuck Woolery but can't find the dough when it comes to the B's. Was the opportunity to inspect Zdeno Chara's bike collection in nearby Slovakia not enough of a draw for Linda Pizzuti? After dealing with years of spendthrift ownership, B's fans shouldn't have to deal with their network shortchanging them with its coverage. And speaking of equality in coverage, can we get Heidi Watney's wardrobe provider to start sending their wares Kathryn Tappen's way? Those Quaker's R Us outfits make the neutral zone trap seem erotic. MikeAttleboro

I'll make NESN a deal: They can take Dickerson and Tanguay to Prague and we get Watney and Tappen. Straight up.

Felger,Is there any chance of a live real time stream of your Sunday show on the web? The brain trust at CSNNE has decided to substitute Rangers preseason hockey for your show in the Hartford area. It makes no sense, and you can't contact programming to ask why. Please use your enormous influence to get your smiling face back on my TV.PaulFarmington, CT

I've heard the Cartel is big in Connecticut, and this just confirms it. Ill get on that.

To whom it may concern,I watched the 11:30-noon program on Boston Comcast SportsNet and was offended by the frequently used words, "suck" and "sucky." Its absolutely unnecessary and unprofessional language on a nationally broadcast sports commentary show! Who is censoring this show? What is the need for this kind of language? I believe you need to edit your commentators. While "suck" and "sucky" are common in our world, they are inappropriate on a news show.Please confirm to me that my comments have been forwarded to the appropriate RESPONSIBLE management.Nancy
How else do you expect me to describe the NBA, Nancy? But Ill do my best to clean it up going forward.

Felger,Why do people trash you? There is not a personality in Boston who comes close to the quality of the work you do EVERY DAY!I'm happy Tanguay is off radio. It must be painful to have to do TV with him. He is so very weak, not funny, tries to be a know-it-all . . . so very bad. CharliePutnam, CT

You're right on Tanguay, Charlie. He blows.

Better, Nancy?

Read Felger's Patriots game column next week on Tuesday. The report card will post on Wednesday. Email Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.