It's getting crowded in here

It's getting crowded in here
September 23, 2010, 11:29 am
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By Michael Felger

One more loss to the Jets and we may have to put a cap on Cartel memberships. Were having trouble keeping up with the demand as it is.

Hey Felger!To me, last Sunday's epic meltdown is a classic example of how the Patriots are not who we thought they were -- Super Bowl contender -- because Super Bowl contenders do not have repeated second-half road woes. This team needs to get their coaches and players on the same page because if they take this act to Miami on Oct 4, I think then it'll be as clear as crystal that this team is in big trouble.Matt Framingham

Define "trouble." Do you mean trouble as in 6-10? Or trouble as in 10-6 and an early exit from the playoffs? To me, I still consider the second of those two options the floor for this team.

Look, Ive been as critical of this team as anyone, and I think its valid to questions the philosophies that begat the Pats fall from the elite. But I dont think they suck . . . well, maybe the defense does. But you get the point. Arguably the two worst years the Pats have had since 2001 are 2002 (9-7) and 2009 (10-6, first-round blowout loss). For all their problems, I dont see them going lower than that. I expect them to be a playoff team.

Felger,What is it with the Pats and the second half? Are they gassed? Is the God of play-calling on coffee break? This has been going on for years now. What?PaulFarmington, Conn.

One word: Coaching. I mean, what else can it be? If its conditioning, as you suggest, that comes back to preparation (i.e, coaching), right? If its inexperience, how do you explain the issues on offense? Thats a veteran group. There is no other possibility. Belichick andor the staff is letting the team down.

Speaking of that staff, I have a question: In 2006, after one year as the offensive play-caller, QB coach Josh McDaniels was promoted to the vacant offensive coordinator position. Obviously, he was worthy of the title. Given the fact Bill OBrien remains the QB coach for the second straight year and the OC spot remains vacant, I think Belichick has left us no choice but to conclude hes not ready for the job. Either that, or the organization doesnt want to pay OBrien a coordinator salary. If someone has another possibility, please let me know.

Actually, ask and ye shall receive . . .

Felger,It took some time for Romeo and Charlie to get offers, but once they left it only took new DC Mangini one year to get a head coaching offer. Josh McDaniels was named OC and was quickly snatched up by the Broncos. Simply put, coordinators under BB end up on many teams' short lists when interviewing for head coaching vacancies. It may be far-fetched, but is Bill not giving coordinator titles to coaches his way of slowing down some of the turnover in the coaching staff in Foxboro?Also, curious about what the Woods opinion is of the "journalist" from TV Azteca.TomRhode Island

The Wood doesnt watch Sports Tonight, thankfully, so she's never seen my exclusive, 1-on-1 with Inez Sainz in 2006. And, thankfully, she doesnt read the bag. So I can tell you folks that Sainz may be the single, hottest woman I've ever seen in person. Best tush of all time.

Anyway, as for your first point, I don't buy it. I have a hard time anyone would be knocking down OBrien's door, no matter what the title. But at least its a theory. Ill take it.

Felger, The Jets loss is on the offense, much like last year. In the second half, Brady just is not getting it done. As pedestrian as the 'D' is, they stopped the Jets (and their momentum) to start the third quarter, only to see the offense crap the bed.Brady underthrew Gronkowski when he had toasted Wilson and we were still down by only 7. They stopped going to Welker and the tight ends for almost the whole second half. I said it last year and I will say it again: If we get merely decent performances from Brady in the second half, Pats would have won 12 games last year and would be 2-0 this year.We should expect some ups and downs early from the 'D', but the offense has no excuse.Dave

Couldnt agree more. The defense is supposed to suck. Brady is supposed to cover for it, and he didnt on Sunday. Point blank.

Mike,I completely disagree with you in regards to your thoughts on the young defense. What you saw Sunday was growing pains especially from the cornerbacks. This was expected and should not be a shock to anyone. You are assuming that Darius Butler will not improve. How do you know that at this point in his career? He is only in his second game of his second year with the Pats. He is now being depended upon to be a No. 1 or No. 2 corner for the Pats. I think it is unfair at this point to make the judgment that he cannot improve, and this is who he is going to be as a player. Asante Samuel took several seasons before he developed. Vince Wilfork took into his second season before he really developed into a player. You are assuming he is Ellis Hobbs, but I think he has already shown more natural ability than the former Pats CB.The young defense is a work in progress, and I believe its already better than last year's team. It is going to take time to develop and gain experience. Oh by the way, this young defense got pressure on the quarterback Sunday. Did you notice that? All I am saying is you shouldn't take a short term analysis on a defense that is a long term project. Should I remind you how Matt Cassel developed over the course of a season as a starting quarterback? It is possible for a player and a defense to improve.Regards,Russ

True. On paper. But ask yourself the following question and be objective: What young player on the Pats defense has improved the last 2-3 years? Not Butler. I think he got worse as last year went on, and this year has been scary. Not Brandon Meriweather. Hes a backup right now. Not Jerod Mayo. (What happened to him?) Not Terrance Wheatley. Not Jonathan Wilhite. Help me out here. Ron Brace? Maybe but the only direction he could possibly go was up. He almost ate himself out of the league. Pat Chung? I might give you that one, but lets see. The rookies McCourty, Spikes, Cunningham have played only two games, so we have no idea.

Conceptually, youre right. The defense is young and should get better. But Id feel better about its prospects if there were so many young players who already seem to have flat-lined.

Felger You DB!I'd like to start by thanking Kevin Faulk for having a tremendous career as a Patriot. Like Troy Brown, Faulk was and is one of the glue guys that made the last decade great. Barring a miracle of some sorts, I am forced to believe Sunday's loss in McDonald-land will be the last time we get to see the crafty veteran. And you shouldn't be surprised that I sound overly fatalistic about Faulk returning. I think it's very unlikely that he pulls a Rod Woodson and returns next season. In the preseason, amid all the Brady contract speculation, he signed a one-year deal and assured everyone in an interview that he would retire a Patriot, an obvious hint that he was thinking about calling it a career after the season. Couple that with the very real possibility of a lockout next year, and the chances of Kevin returning at 37 are depressingly remote. My outlook is just as gloomy for finding his replacement on a team whose depth at running back has been reduced to kiddie pool levels. The Clock struck 12 on Lawrence Maroney's career and he turned from a first-round bust into a fourth-round afterthought. Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris are serviceable players but they are both injury prone and, even more damning, they both got beat out for touches Sunday by the overachieving BenJarvus Green-Ellis. And none of these guys have the offensive omnipotence or the blocking skill of Faulk. And for the love of God, I don't want to hear Patriot drones trumpeting Tom E. Curran's report on Danny Woodhead as an answer to replacing Faulk. Curran, whose expert analysis on the Patriots running back position crafted the single funniest moment in Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight history ("three backs, one cup;" I still can't decide what was better, you reduced to trembling hysterics or Tanguay's desperation to be in on the joke), says he's only positional depth right now. That's it. Forget the Hard Knocks propaganda. He's had less than five days to learn a playbook that isn't done in finger-paint and hieroglyphics. Expecting him or anyone to replace Faulk and his almost symbiotic relationship with Brady right away is ludicrous. Hell, even Kevin Faulk wasn't Kevin Faulk right away. Remember, it was J.R. Redmond that Brady checked down to repeatedly on the last drive of the Rams Super Bowl. And the really scary part is that the players skills and aptitude are only half the equation. Does anyone really believe that a staff that hasn't made consistent second-half adjustments on offense for years has what it takes coach up someone to come close to the levels of excellence fans are used to with Faulk? Not likely.MikeAttleboro

You heard it here first, Mikey. Little Danny Woodhead is going to be a factor on this team. I love guys like that. Seriously.

Hey Felger! I'm going to agree with you on one point and disagree on another. Randy Moss: I'm not putting this loss on him, but you're right. The offense was much better, is much better, when Moss is just another option. I put most of the blame on Brady for this. He has become enamored with the home-run ball. For one thing, he doesn't throw it that well, and it breaks up the continuity and timing of the rest of the offense. As far as the talent thing goes vs. the Jets, I still think its pretty even. Take Darius Butler out, please, and put Bodden over there and I don't believe the Jets win that game. I am not a fan of the way the Patriots have built this team, but except for one or two positions I'd still take the Pats roster of the Jets. Unfortunately, one of those positions is left cornerback. He is awful!!!SteveChester, NH

So you agree that, talent-wise, the Jets are nearly the equal of the Pats? Do you realize what a step that is?! You know what they say at any 12-step program, "The first step . . . ?" Will you stand up at the next meeting?

And my Moss take is really more fact than opinion. Just look at the Pats record in close games, tight division games, playoff games, cold weather games, etc., with the Moss offense vs. the BranchGivensBrown offense. Its not even that close.

Felger,Why is no one saying that the Pats will franchise and then trade Moss next year?The Pats always want to control top talent and where they land, i.e. Branch and Seymour. They would never let a talent like Moss leave for nothing unless they think he has nothing left.My guess is that they franchise Moss and then let him make a deal, preferably with a team that will not be a factor in then AFC (Minnesota, Green Bay, Chicago, San Francisco) and get a second-round pick for him.PATS FanSharon

Fair point, but I wouldnt be afraid of him if I were the Pats. Just shade a safety over the top and bait the opposing QB into chucking it deep. Right? Seemed to work pretty well for the Jets.

Hey Felger,After watching games the past two weeks, It seems a like every team (except the Patriots) has pass-rushing defensive ends and outside linebackers. Why can't the Pats get these types of players?KenWhitman

Because they dont draft them. Seriously, how many true pass rushers has Belichick ever drafted here? One (Jermaine Cunningham)? Two (Tully Banta-Cain, in the seventh round in 2003)? None? And if you dont draft them, you have to sign them, and those guys are expensive. Bad value, Ken. Cant have that.

Felger, Maybe it will take more than four years to build this defense. I wanted to throw out some thoughts in case you ever want to write about how this defense went from a top 10 in 2007 to maybe the worst in the NFL right now.Starting defense in the Super Bowl:LE Ty Warren (now out for the season), replaced by Ron BraceNT Vince Wilfork, still startingRE Richard Seymour (out of his prime but still efficient, traded to Oakland), replaced by Gerald WarrenLOLB Adalius Thomas (out of football), replaced by Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine CunninghamLILB Tedy Bruschi (retired), replaced by Jerod MayoRILB Junior Seau (retired), replaced by Brandon SpikesROLB Mike Vrabel (out of his prime but still efficient, traded to Kansas City), replaced by Tully Banta-CainSS Rodney Harrison (retired), replaced by Patrick ChungFS James Sanders, still startingLCB Asante Samuel (Pro Bowler lost to free agency), replaced by Darius ButlerRCB Ellis Hobbs (traded to Philadelphia), replaced by Devin McCourtyThe only upgrade is probably McCourty over Hobbs. Everyone else is worse.In 2009, the Pats traded out of No. 23, where they could have drafted Vontae Davis (a shutdown corner), Clay Matthews (a pass-rushing OLB), or either James Laurinaitis and Rey Maualuga, both impressive young inside linebackers. And these guys were legit stars in college; it's not like they were playing for small programs. Everyone had them as blue chippers. Clays Dad said he hoped the Pats drafted him.So what has gone wrong with this DEFENSE? Is it lack of experienced coaching? Is it poor drafting? Are these players not getting better? Or is it the scheme? They dont blitz and they seem to play cushion defense.The answer is all of the above. You cant blame them for retooling that starting 11. Four are retired, one is out for the season and three others were over 32 years old. But they could have been fielding the lineup below. You tell me, has Bill Belichick lost perspective and his ability to put together a Super Bowl team?LE - Gerald Warren replacing injury Ty WarrenNT VinceRE Richard SeymourOLB Mike VrabelILB Rey MaualugaILB Jerod MayoOLB Clay MatthewsSS Brandon MeriweatherFS James SandersLCB Asante SamuelRCB Devin McCourtyI dont know, Felger, that its is a dramatically better defense than what they are putting on the field right now. And I dont think you need to be Ron Wolf to come up with it.George

I dont believe this is the George who created the Cartel, but I dont care either way. You, sir, have just become an honorary member! Borges read this and shed a tear.

Felger,I've been with you 100 percent in regards to the "value" approach that the Patriots take and the reality that it was NOT how the Patriots won early in the decade. If you look at it objectively, the best year the Patriots have had over the last decade was 2007, where they loaded up AGGRESSIVELY through trades (Moss and Welker) and free agency (Adalius Thomas, Dante Stallworth). Believe me, I'm one of the biggest diehard fans out there, but the Patriots just keep giving me (and you for that matter) more ammo. I am so sick of hearing about getting good "value." I want to hear about talent, not value.The perfect example is the '09 draft. The Patriots obviously needed a corner, coming off a year where they let Asante walk and saw Hobbs and O'Neal destroy the secondary. Instead of staying at 23 and taking Vontae Davis (who is turning into an absolute force at CB), the Pats went for the "value" approach, trading down and eventually taking Darius Butler in the second round. If you watch those two guys play, you can clearly see Davis is leaps and bounds ahead of Butler in terms of talent and development. Any objective viewer would take Davis over Butler in a heartbeat.Hell, for a third-round pick in 2011, I'd take Cromartie, a proven talent and playmaker who put the clamps down on Moss after Revis left the game, and who already has more interceptions than the Patriots do as a team. He struggled against Baltimore, but once he gets settled in and adjusts to Rex's scheme, he will likely be better than any of the corners we spent high picks on. How's this for value in regards to using draft picks and solving issues at CB: trading a 3rd for Cromartie vs. drafting McCourty in the 1st, Butler in the 2nd, Wheatley in the 2nd, and Wilhite in the 4th. Hmm, to me, seems like the Jets are getting better "value" given the resources they've used.JP

Its simple, JP. At some point you get what you pay for.

Felger,I have to congratulate you on pulling the wool over the eyes of the typical troglodyte Patriot fan. Your anti-Patriot Cartel schtick has most of these dumb saps totally buffaloed. Get the suckers all riled up and they'll tune in to watch. As an added bonus, they don't question the real problems with the team and will keep handing over their hard-earned dollars to watch mediocrity. The truth is that, like most media members, you are totally in the Patriots organizations pocket. You seldom criticize BB and you are a total ball-washer for the Kraft family. The only question I have is, are you on the Kraft payroll or did you sell out for a Patriot jacket and the gourmet meals in the press box?There are three big problems with this team that are going to lead to 8-8 at best and no playoffs:1. The Emperor has no clothes2. Tom isn't so Terrific3. The Krafts are inept and cheapFirst of all, I think we can concede at this point that not only can't BB buy the groceries, he can't coach them very well, either. He was totally out-coached in the second half by Sexy Rexy. We now know that, like his mentor Parcells, he can't win without top-flight coordinators. He really blew it this offseason when he didn't put the full-court press on to get back RAC and Charlie.Second, we are seeing the gradual downslide of Brady into Bledsoe territory. Locking on to one receiver, missing open players, holding the ball too long, fumbling . . . sound familiar? I hope Hoyer can play because he'll probably be in there soon.Last, the Krafts are both incompetent and cheap a deadly combination. The whole Mankins situation is a joke. Portly Bob won't allow a player to come back until he gets a public apology. No movement on re-signing Moss, making Brady wait until the last minute, not re-signing Samuel, etc. Did you get a good look at your future No. 1 receiver last week? Tate doesn't even know where to line up half the time. As a receiver he makes a great kick returner. They better re-sign Moss or next year will really be ugly. I know most people think BB is responsible for not spending the money, but I think Kraft is the one who won't spend past the cap, which we both know is a fraud. You can spend way over the cap if you want to. Kraft has a cash cow in the Patriots and he is milking it for all he is worth. P.S. Your one true hatred is for Favre. You must really be loving the last two weeks as he slowly flushes the Vikings season down the toilet!JackNewport

On Favre . . . I told you people! Hes not going to be very good this season. I wouldnt be surprised if the Vikings miss the playoffs. Last year was his last shot, and as Robert Di Niro said in Copland, "HE BLEW IT!"

Meanwhile, Jack, I know or thing or two about anti-Patriot rants. Ive written them, read them and duplicated them on television and radio. As a founding Cartel member I consider myself something of an expert on the topic. And I have to tell you, that was top-notch. First class. It feels better just to get it off your chest, doesnt it? Ill introduce you around at the next meeting.

Felger,Knowing what we know after the Mankins apology situation coming to light, do you think the Krafts were behind Vrabel being sent out of town?MattNatick

What do you think?

Mike,Keep doing what you do. You are a professional and speak the truth regardless of what team or sport. You have a lot of respect, not like Mr. Curran, whom I tried to inform below:"Tom, I have been a Patriot season ticket holder for 15 years. I just wanted to express myself by informing you that whenever I listen to you or see you on with Felger, etc., it is so obvious that you talk from your HEART. We ALL understand that your a PATS fan but PLEASE give credit when credit is due. You sound so unprofessional at times when you constantly dismiss other teams who have done well and go above and beyond to find something NEGATIVE about them . . . "Also, based on your title you need to make a better effort on working on that accent when you pronounce certain terms. Beside sounding very HARSH, you sound uneducated my friend . . ."JUST SAYING!!!"True Pats Fan

I have no idea what that was about, but any time any of you want to rip Curran here in the D-Bag mailbag, go nuts. Consider it an open invitation.

Felger,Did you watch the HBO special on brain injuries? Probably not, since questioning Savards concussion is beyond reprehensible. Ellsburys ribs are one thing. Someones brain is a completely different subject. Someone should start questioning your character.GeorgeWoburn

Ah, Mr. Cartel himself. There you are. I think youre the perfect "someone" to take up the torch when it comes to questioning my character. Anyway, for what its worth, I believe Savard is legitimately messed up. I also believe the events of the last six months the Cooke hit, his early return, the too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty, the trade rumors, etc. have been a contributing factor. In other words, I think hes battling more than just headaches and blurred vision.

Felger,Why do you talk so much about what athletes are doing wrong? You should play a sport and see how hard it is.LizandroProvidence

Au contraire, Lizandro. Au Contraire.

Hey Felger,Since you are an admirer of Larry Fitzgerald's thick hips, I figured you would have the inside track on his body's physique for this season. Has he got those same thick, yummy-looking hips you made many references to during the '09 season? Please give us something here, Michael. We are all waiting with baited breath.MarissaProvidence, RI

I havent been able to take a gander, yet. Marissa. But Ill keep you posted. I can provide a scouting report on Brandon Spikes, however.

Could we be related? My grandparents were Russian Jews.Mark VelgerJersey City

"Felger" is actually stage name, Mark. Im really a Felcher, of the Wisconsin Felchers.

Felger,Last week I couldnt get the report card anywhere. There was a link to it on the site, but not a "live" link. Nothing happened when you clicked on it.Am I missing something? Id hate to miss it two weeks in a row.Sean

Good God, man! Youre right. Two weeks without the card is like two weeks without sex. Or a good Patriots rant. Or a spirited Cartel meeting. It wont happen again.

Read Felgers Patriots game columns Monday mornings. The report card posts on Tuesdays. Email him HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 the Sports Hub.