Not standing Pat

Not standing Pat
January 27, 2011, 10:43 am
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By Michael Felger

And so the dialogue continues . . .

Felger, Why do the Pats get a pass on having the third-lowest payroll in the NFL? I clearly don't get the "cap" in the NFL, where the Jets can spend 116 million and the Pats are at 92 million. In other sports, it is crystal clear: Spend over the cap and you pay a luxury tax. Or a hard cap like in the NHL, where you have to move guys in order to clear space. The Pats have consistently been a low payroll team. Jonathan Kraft will come on the radio and dance and spin, but the truth is they are 24 million behind the Jets and all but three teams in the NFL. Couldn't they do better than the scrap-heap DL at the end? They could if they had spent some money up front and got some real depth. Boston's media crushed the Bruins for years for being cheap. The Pats have let some good players walk and maybe could have added a quality player if they had been willing to spend. I am tired of two things: 1) Them getting a FREE pass on payroll, and 2) them TRADING DOWN in the draft. How good would David Harris and Clay Mathews look in a Pats uniform - guys they could have taken but they "traded down." Make the damn pick. Spend the freaking .JR

First of all, the third-lowest-payroll number you site, which was reported here in this Forbes article two weeks ago, is in the process of being corrected by the team. According to their figures, their team payroll ranks anywhere from second in the league to ninth.

Whatever. All I know is that they spent more than enough money to win that game against the Jets. And based on their recent forays into free agencyveteran acquisitions (their 2009 class of Shawn Springs, Joey Galloway, Fred Baker, Derrick Burgess and Fred Taylor was horrific), I'm not sure how much I trust them there anyway. Since the cap became, for all intents and purposes, a non-factor around 2005, the number of quality free agents across the league has dropped precipitously, largely because teams simply have the ability to re-sign all the players they want to re-sign. There are very few diamonds in the rough anymore. And for every Julius Peppers (worth every dime), there's a Albert Haynesworth (not worth a cent).

This is all a long way of saying, I don't care how the Patriots get their players this offseason. If they can get a Devin McCourty by trading down in the first round, as they did last year, go nuts. If they can get production from the waiver wire in the form of Danny Woodhead, as they also did, fine with me. Just continue to get good players.

Mike,After reflection and prayer I have come to a peaceful place and can objectively look at what has transpired and determine its impact on what we thought about this team.They should have paid Vince a year ago, it would have been a bargain. This guy got the big money and did what you wish every player did. He got paid more and gave you more.Jerod Mayo is legit, but he's Ted Johnson -- not Bruschi or Vrabel. Gronkowski is legit, and he might end up being the next Ben Coates. Finally a hit after what seems like twenty straight swings and misses at the position. At sunshine.com they call that "persistence . . . it's one of the things you have to admire about Bill!"Chung and Cunningham showed flashes, but so did Butler a couple years ago, so I'm not exactly inking them in the starting defense for the next four years and calling the whole thing problem solved.I can only hope Gasper's fears are justified and we have seen the last of the Big Bang Clock. He is the final floater and it's time to get out the plunger and be done with these turd fergusons for good.Where did Aaron Hernandez go? Oh, wait, I saw two columnists and three hosts give the same cliche answer: "Rookie wall." Yeah, that really affected McCourty.Woodhead reminds me of Faulk early in his career, fumbles and all. How Brady can be on such a different page with ALL of his receivers and just have it chalked up as their fault is typical, but feels wrong to me. The Jets frustrated Brady from the week leading up to the game right through it and he played frustrated. This guy used to be confident, cool and clutch in big moments and winning big games, and against New York he looked frustrated, confused and helpless. I'm not saying he isn't the best quarterback in the league, but he's certainly under suspicion.Peace,JakeBoston

On the Big Bang Clock, I couldn't agree more. What the Patriots defense needs first and foremost is more talent up front and more seasoning throughout the unit. But a secondary concern for me is attitudeidentity. The defense just doesn't seem to have any tone-setters. Wilfork can't really do it from his position and Mayo, unfortunately, doesn't really fit that description. On paper, this should be Meriweather's role. He's been in the league four years now and should be hitting his prime as an on-field general and off-field leader. And he's neither. He's more often part of the problem, not the solution.

Felger,There needs to be a new graphic at the end of the Sunday show (ala the Bruins graphic) that says something along the lines of "It has been X (number of days) since the Patriots last won a playoff game."If you're keeping track of these things as of today (12711), that number is 1,103 days. That is getting in the neighborhood of the amount of days between Pete Carroll's last playoff win and Bill B's first (1,483 days).JohnFranklin

Haven't you heard, John? The Patriots' last three playoff losses had nothing to do with one another. They were all separate entities. All individual fluke occurances. Nothing more than a few plays going the other way in each instance. Forget that the Pats offense looked almost exactly the same in all three (five sacks vs. the Giants, three sacks vs. the Ravens, five sacks vs. the Jets). Forget that the Pats had beaten all three teams in the regular season. Forget that in all three the Patriots were the less aggressive, less physical team. Forget that they lost to a better defense each time. Nothing to see here, John.

Felger,Would this young Patriots team almost be better off entering the playoffs as a wild-card team? Home field in the NFL doesn't seem to matter. Maybe scenarios such as "us against the world," "the underdog," "nothing to lose" -- along with being in a road hotel and having no distractions from family and friends -- would benefit this mostly inexperienced team. What do you think? The Pats' best wins this year came on the road when there were doubts: San Diego, Pittsburgh, Miami, even Chicago.KenWhitman
I flatly reject this. Having the bye and home field is still a huge advantage. Simply put, it's two games to make the Super Bowl versus three. If having the bye means you might have to knock off some rust early in the divisional game, I'll take my chances with that.

Just look at the scoreboard. Let's take a 10-season sample. Over the past decade, of the 20 Super Bowl teams (beginning with Patriots-Rams in Super Bowl 36 and ending with Packers-Steelers in Super Bowl 45), 14 were first- or second-seeds. Bye teams, in other words. Yes, plenty of teams have broken through from the wild-card round to win it all (the Steelers, Colts and Giants did it in three consecutive years), but the overall sample shows that the bye teams still make it at a much higher rate (70 percent).

Hey, Felger,The Patriots have some issues that need solving this offseason and I believe that the main three should be 1) a pass-rushing linebacker, 2) the left side of the offensive line, 3) and another wide receiver with proven big-play potential. The draft could help all these problems, but youth is something that they have and proven talent is something that is needed. Names to consider at linebacker, although unlikely, are Lamar Woodley and another talent out of Kansas City, Tambi Hall, who is a beast. If they work to sign both Light and Mankins, that problem is nullified. Options at wide receiver could be Sidney Rice and Vincent Jackson, and Ochocinco has one year left on his deal and has expressed interest in joining the Pats. Another intriguing option, however also a dream scenario would have Larry Fitzgerald landing with the Pats if they could find the right package.SteveHanson

Forget Fizgerald. Phenominal player. Maybe the best. But the cost is prohibitive. But the more I think about it, the more I'm buying on Chad Ochocinco . . . er, Johnson. I've always liked his game. He's an excellent route runner and he competes hard. And I think he could leave the other garbage behind for at least a season. Don't get me wrong: wide receiver help is way down my list of priorities (perhaps not even in the top five), but if the Pats can get him cheap, then I'd do it.

But also keep in mind, there will be no player movement until there is a new CBA. And that's not happening anytime soon.

Hey, Felger,You want to know why the Patriots are home watching the games?The No. 1 reason was on the field Sunday in Chicago, making life hell for Aaron Rodgers.The Krafts didn't want to go the extra mile for their fans and pull the trigger on Julius Peppers who could've made life hell for Mark Sanchez last week. I guess Peppers was "good value" after all.DanEast Providence

Peppers is a good example of how no price is too high for a legit game-changer. I mean, really. Is anyone in Chicago -- from fans to coaches to ownership -- complaining about how much Peppers got (42 million guaranteed)? Is anyone complaining here about how much Wilfork got? Heck no. If the player is good, the price justifies itself. Don't let anyone tell you Peppers wasn't worth it.

All of which is a long way of saying, if the Pats want to spend big money for a true force on defense, I think they should go right ahead.

Felger,Right off the bat, Dale said to you what I have always said about you. Youre the king of the straw man. You are the Rodney Harrison of talk radio. You look for one person to offset your argument and thats your straw man. Patsfans.com does not represent all New England fans. Okay, Scarecrow?I look back at the Celts in the '80s and know they left at least one title on the table. When Tom Brady is gone, he will have left two on the table. Maybe 2001 was a gift, so that offsets 2006, but 2007 and this year hurt.People are killing Big Bens performance, but it solidified one thing in my mind: One, the importance of having a defense to bail you out when youre off your game. Two, if youre going to throw picks, better up 24-3 than 0-0. People forget that Tom Brady threw some big picks against the Colts in the end zone in 2003 and the Panthers in the Super Bowl that helped keep those teams in those games. But Tom also made key plays when the game was on the line, like Ben did.The Jets losing might have given some people some solace, but they are going to be around for awhile. They have the coach, they have the QB, they have a superstar defensive player and they have an ownership that is dying for a championship. The moves the Patriots make after the CBA will be a big indicator of there willingness to win. If Mankins walks, if they dont upgrade the O-line behind Brady or at least try to upgrade the defense with some tradesfree agency, then they arent keeping up with their rivals. Draft picks alone are not going to get it done. Brady is 34, not 28. They have about three more bites at the apple, tops, at least with No. 12 at a high level. GeorgeWoburn
I agree with everything you said with the exception of the "straw man" thing as it relates to WEEI. Anyone who listens to that station for 10 minutes knows I was right.

Felgy,I've heard you resurrect your "cap is crap" argument, and I keep wondering: How do you not see that the Jets represent a paradigm shift in the NFL's business model? I know I keep peppering you with this question, but it just seems so obvious to me. And in the aftermath of this Jets loss, I've got to say: the Patriots could use some edge on that roster. It's not just "energy" as the pundits say -- ferocity. And more often than not, unfortunately, such ferocity comes from guys with bad reputations. Case in point, LaGarrette Blount -- the Oregon player who punched out an opponent in 2009, went undrafted, and has become a damn good NFL back. A little more intimidating than, say, Danny Woodhead. My theory: With a core of young talent, the inability to go after "reach" players has really hurt the fabric of this team. When these signings work, they provide an edge necessary to winning big games and championships. Not suggesting a roster of ex-cons, players with rape accusations, or domestic abusers, but the Patriots need guys who are on the verge of losing it. This is, after all, football.Later, chief.GregManchester, NH

Again, I couldn't agree more that, in addition to talent, the Pats, particularly on defense, need edgeattitudeidentitytone-setting. Call it whatever you want. They need it.

Michael, Right before the second half started during the Jets-Steelers game, my son told me that the Jets were done. I told him that the Jets would come back. Why? It may be a cliche, but the Jets have "heart."What I have come to realize is that, win or lose, I admire teams that have this quality. What disgusted me most about the Patriots playoff loss to the Jets was their lack of it. After they drove two times down the field and only came away with three points, the team essentially gave up. You could see it. It was unacceptable. All four teams that played Sunday (except Cutler) played their hearts out. The Patriots, so used to playing from ahead, simply game up when they had to struggle from behind. Ditto when they played the Ravens last year. Makes you miss the likes of Law, Bruschi, McGinnest, Milloy and Harrison.Rick Winthrop

More commonality in the last three playoff losses. I know it's a cliche, but just ask yourself, who wanted these games more? It's not even close when it comes to the Jets game. Ditto for the Ravens disaster last year. And you could make the same argument for the Giants Super Bowl. Michael Strahan's team simply took far more snarl onto the field than the Pats.

I need to reiterate that this is a secondary issue for the Pats, but I think it's an issue nonetheless.

Hey Mike,I am rather confident in the future of the Pats, considering the surplus of draft picks. I know the justified pessimists will point to the dearth of talent the Pats were able to procure in past drafts and the optimists will point to the plethora of talent the Pats have managed to stockpile in the two previous years. However, I would be more interested to see if the lackluster drafts and re-emergence of quality of drafts coincided with Saban's stint in Miami. I think Belichick was dismayed when Saban decided to coach the Dolphins. Not because he would be forced to coach against Saban twice a year, but rather because he was losing an invaluable and trusted source on college prospects. When Saban coaches college football, Belichick has a scouting report on all of his players plus all of the opposing players Saban's team plays. Your thoughts?Best,Dan,Wakefield

Overrated. Belichick also relied on Urban Meyer for that information. And that led to the Chad Jackson debacle -- perhaps the worst draft maneuver of Belichick's tenure. Saban also gave Belichick some questionalbe players from LSU (Rohan Davey). Don't get me wrong, both Meyer (Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham) and Saban (Randall Gay) have helped, too. But it's not the secret weapon some portray it to be.

Felger, Mike Reiss posted some "next level" stats about defensive pressure percentages before the Pats-Jets playoff game. The Pats rushed four or fewer 73.8 of the time. The league average for rushing four or fewer was 66.7. The Pats rushed five or more (aka blitzed) 26.2 of the time. The league average for rushing five or more was 33.3. The Pats blitzed one or more DB's 10.9 of the time. The league average for rushing one or more DB was 15.9.Don't these numbers show a somewhat glaring issue with Belichick's scheme? His defense is extremely passive compared to the majority of the rest of league, and he doesn't have good enough talent to consistently get pressure with a four-man rush. If you look at the teams left in the playoffs over this past weekend, they can all pressure the QB very well. Option 1 is to keep the scheme relatively the same, where it is a more conservative bend but don't break approach that relies on a standard four-man rush to get pressure. If this is what he wants to do, then go out and get a dynamic pass rusher. This team has never replaced Vrabel or McGinest or even Colvin. Move up in the draft for elite TALENT and get a guy like Demarcus Ware or Shawne Merriman (pre-injuries) or spend the money on a premier pass rusher in free agency.Option 2: If he doesn't want to shell out the big bucks or a high draft pick for a pass rusher (highly likely as we prefer to sign Banta-Cain's and Eric Moore's from the UFL), he's got to shift his defensive philosophy to more of a one-gap attacking style of defense. I'd love to see BOTH a dynamic pass rusher added and a more aggressive scheme, but at least one is absolute necessary. Will this gut wrenching loss finally propel Belichick to make more radical changes and FINALLY address the glaring needs on defense, or will be sitting here next year bitching about the same issues?JP

No one disagrees that there has to be improvement with the pass rush. It was an obvious need going into this season, Belichick did very little to address it and he ultimately paid the price. If the Pats don't do anything this year, either, then you have a right to crush them. I just wouldn't hold my breath expecting a new scheme. This is how Belichick does it. He just needs to find the bodies to plug into the system.

Hey, Felger,What is your opinion on Roethlisberger and where he ranks among current quarterbacks? He may not put up stats like the Bradys and Mannings of the world, but the guy makes plays and get gets his team Ws. If the Steelers are to win the Super Bowl, he would have three rings, same as Brady and he would have all three of them since Brady won his last. Is Roethlisberger better than Brady right now? And then you would have people talking about a possible "Steelers Dynasty" winning three of the last six Super Bowls. Could the Steelers be considered a dynasty?Ryan

The shorts answers are yes and yes. Yes, Roethlisberger will absolutely deserve to be considered in Brady's class if he and the Steelers beat Green Bay. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I believe he belongs in the conversation already. Maybe not as a quarterback, but certainly as a winner. Roethlisberger just gets it done at this time of year. He does it in a different way, and it's not how I would draw it up (I prefer accurate, pocket passers), but how can you argue with the results?

Same goes for the Steelers as a team. Another win and they most definitely will have entered your conversation.

Hey, Felger,I am a diehard Pats fan, but I try to be somewhat objective. Some of the things I hear fellow Pats fans about the Jets say are simply ridiculous.1. I still hear people say that Rex Ryan is a big buffoon, a fat slob with a big mouth, an overrated coach, a guy that just got lucky, etc. What? Have you watched football the last two years? Back to back AFC Championship games. Can we stop with the notion that he doesn't know what he's doing? Ok, maybe he needs a little help in the game management aspect at times, but not only does he know how to motivate his players, he's a brilliant X's and O's guy on defense. Maybe he's the real defensive genius, not Bill.2. This whole notion that the Jets will all of a sudden fall apart and not be a factor because they "put all their stock in winning this year" and "aren't built to last long term" is laughable. It's something insecure fans tell themselves to make them feel better heading into next year. Have they looked at the Jets roster? Contrary to popular belief, the Jets still have a great young core: Revis is 25 and locked up long term -- best defensive player in the game. Mangold and D'Brickashaw, two Pro Bowl offensive lineman in their mid 20's and both locked up. Mark Sanchez is 24 and has shown the ability to elevate his game in the playoffs and win in hostile environments on the road. He will only get better. Dustin Keller is a good receiving TE and is in his mid 20's. Key guys like Cromartie, Harris, and Holmes are still in their mid to late 20's, and the Jets will find a way to keep these guys if they feel they are important going forward. Woody Johnson has been and will continue to be willing to spend -- something Bob Kraft should look into doing.3. Give Tannenbaum credit -- he aggressively addresses the Jets' needs. He's not afraid to move up in the draft or take on guys with off-field issues. He'd rather trade third-round picks for proven talent like Cromartie, Edwards or Jenkins than use third-round picks to draft guys like Tyrone McKenzie, Shawn Crable, Kevin O'Connell, Guss Scott, etc. He'd rather trade a fifth round pick for Santonio Holmes, we'd rather trade a third round pick for Derrick Burgess. He has a need at CB -- he trades a pick for Cromartie -- proven talent. We have a need at CB after Asante leaves -- we sign Deltha O'Neal and Fernando Bryant then spend two second-rounders (Wheatley and Butler) and a first rounder (McCourty) on trying to address the need. Seems like the Jets were more efficient and got better "value" there. People want to rip him to shreds for trading away third round draft picks because it's not the Patriot Way -- well what exactly has the Patriot Way netted you in terms of third round draft picks? Almost every third round draft pick has busted out during the Belichick tenure. The two best third rounders: Hobbs and Kaczur -- both of whom were considered JAG's when they were starting and both of whom were routinely criticized. Maybe Bill should be a little more aggressive like Tannenbaum -- trade up for talent, trade a third round pick for Boldin or other proven talent, etc. For every Vollmer, Gronk, and Chung, there has been a Brace, Butler, Bethel Johnson, Chad Jackson, Terrence Wheatley. Second- and third-round picks aren't guaranteed gems. The best offseason the Pats had was actually 2007 -- when they traded picks for Welker and Moss.4. Some people STILL continue to call the Jets lucky or frauds. These are the worst of the homers. Are they so blind with homerism that they can't see the scoreboard? Haven't the Jets become what we used to be? A great X and O coach with unbelievable schemes to stifle top flight QB's. A dominant defense that can beat anyone anywhere. A physical and aggressive team that plays with a chip on their shoulder because they feel disrespected. A team that goes on the road in the playoffs with confidence and pulls off big time wins. It's laughable. The Jets aren't going away. They're here to compete for a while -- and it may be a good thing, as it will push Kraft to spend. Pablo

Let's see what that Jets loss does, Pablo. If the Pats trade up, spend money, take chances -- then I think we will most definitely be able to draw a paralell. Sort of like what the Sox did after the television ratings came in.

But I don't know if they necessarily need to do those things to get back ahead of the Jets. I still think the teams are pretty even. The Pats just need to get back to being a more physical, aggressive playoff team.

Hey Felger,So I've been turning my attention to the NFL draft now that Pats season is over. I've been reading up on various guys -- several who have been described as "a Patriots type of player."Then, it suddenly hit me. When did that (if it hasn't already) stop becoming a compliment, and start becoming an insult? Do we REALLY want "a Patriots type of player?"Not me. Aside from last year's jackpot, the Pats haven't exactly been great when it comes to the draft recently. I don't want the same old "smart, hard working" football player. I WANT PLAYMAKERS, MIKEY! And the Pats currently have, what, three? I'd say McCourty, Woodhead, and Gronkowski are "playmakers." The Pats have plenty of other very good players -- see Mayo, Jerod -- but they aren't playmakers. You know, guys who come up with clutch interceptions, or absurd runscatches on fourth down. The Pats are a very solid team with some excellent young players and veterans too, but who's really 'clutch' on this roster?If there was ever a year for the Patriots to take a chance on a young stud OLB, this HAS to be the year. I swear, if they draft a TE with 17, I may die.AndrewLeominster

Fine. I just wouldn't hold your breath for Clay Matthews, Jr. or someone like that. To repeat: I don't see them changing their system to get "playmakers" in here.

Hey, Felger,How can you not be rooting for the Packers to win the Super Bowl? I know you are far removed from living there but isn't Favre right up there with Moss as your most hated athletes? He's gone, and if Rodgers wins one, maybe people will start to see Favre for what he really is. I can't understand how people can stop rooting for teams they grew up rooting for just because they live somewhere else. You rooted for the Pack in '97 vs. the Pats. What changed? PatAbington

Have I said I'm not rooting for the Pack? I'm rooting hard, bro. I just don't love their chances. I've seen them do too many dumb things and lose too many games they should have won to be over-confident in their chances.

And as I've said before, I think GM Ted Thompson is the biggest hero in this entire drama. He's the one who finally stood up and told Favre to screw. I love that guy.

Hey, Felger,With all the bad losses since '07, what team has the most pressure to win it all?AnthonyBedford NH
What a great question. Different stakes involved with all teams, to be sure. The Celtics have a closing window and have to win in the next year or two, because it's going to be a while until they get back to this level. The Pats have only a few more years (3-5?) with Brady at this level, but if the young defense develops as we think, their window should be a little longer. I still think the Pats have a chance to be considered the greatest team of all time with two more Super Bowl wins, so those are pretty big stakes. If they don't do it, they'll still be considered a team of the decade. With the Sox, the pressure is now squarely on the players. John Henry and Theo have built a wagon; it's not their problem any more.

Which leaves us with the Bruins. They may not have the most pressure on them because their sport is clearly fourth in town right now. The stakes aren't very high. But in terms of "needing" a championship, it's not even close. The B's need it more than any other. I still think the "pressure" is the greatest on the Pats because of the expectations and the popularity of the sport. Super Bowl titles just mean the most.

Felger You DB!In the wake of Jay Cutler's epic case of shrinkage in the NFC championship game we saw quite a few current and former players call Cutler's toughness into question -- and rightly so in my opinion. Culter wasn't noticeably injured and let his teammates' dreams of playing in a Super Bowl die in the hands of 39-year-old Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie, who had 14 career passing attempts. That was Cutler's choice, and he has no one to blame but himself. But it was the sports media's predictable and formulaic response to this backlash that I have a problem with. They have called the public questioning of Cutler's heart and the legitimacy of his injury a product of football's "Cro-Magnon" culture and his critics "not real men." They can quote reruns of Davey and Goliath as they broadcast from high atop the moral high ground, but they are doing exactly what Cutler did: Taking the easy way out. Where do you need to go for the straight take on this? One that simply considers nothing but the facts? Prime Time. Here is a quote from Deion:"I have expectations, and when you don't meet my expectations, you open yourself for us to try to guess," Sanders said. "Now what's the problem? You're a big-time player. And big-time players must play big-time games." Sanders also said he thought the injury would need to warrant surgery "for him to get a pass on this one."Only Sanders isn't talking about Cutler here. He's talking about LaDainian Tomlinson. LT reportedly sprained his MCL, and after a few plays, sat out of the 2007 AFC Championship game. And this was while his QB Phillip Rivers played with a torn ACL. You can call "Time" a lot of things, but his take here and his riff on Cutler were admirably similar and consistent. What wasn't consistent was the outrage on the part of past and current players. Where were the quotes killing LT from Derrick Brooks, Asante Samuel and Maurice Jones-Drew? Would Raheem Brock have tweeted, "LT u little siSsy?"Would Darnell Dockett's locker room protocols remained the same: "If Im on San Diego, LT has to wait till me and the team shower and get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room?"Not likely. The real story here isn't that Cutler moped off the field and left his team for dead. It's that L.T. did the exact same thing three years ago and the NFL's "Cro-Magnon" culture let LT back into the cave with no questions asked. Mike,Attleboro

You bet. The difference is that Cutler is an a-hole, so no one has his back. His peers don't like or respect him, so no one gets his back. A better comparison is Donovan "pukey shoes" McNabb. Everyone loves the guy, so he gets a break at every turn despite having more than a few questionable performances in big games. It's a popularity contest, right?

I did like Haine's mustache, though.

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