Pats add a headache to address a headache

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Pats add a headache to address a headache

The Patriots have dipped their hand in the metaphorical garbage can once again and drawn out . . . Aqib Talib.

He is, as we say, troubled.

A former first-round pick from Kansas in 2008, Talib was suspended two games for disciplinary reasons in his junior year in college. Before the draft, he admitted to failing three drug tests (weed). And he's currently serving a four-game suspension for performance enhancers.

Talib also got in a fistfight at the rookie orientation symposium in 2008 with another player, got in a fight with a teammate in 2009, got in a fight with a cabbie in 2009 (that earned him a suspension from the 2010 opener) and had gun charges against him dropped in June.

He finds trouble, trouble finds him. Who knows? They hang out, put it that way.

Yet, as with other "troubled" players the Patriots have plucked -- Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco (I should have a button on my keyboard that I can hit which just pops their names up) -- Talib might be nice with some cleaning up.

Comes in, mans one of the corner positions, kicks Devin McCourty to safety full time, plays out the final season of his rookie contract, likes it here, re-signs, and becomes a good player and okay citizen.

Or he may not work out at all. Hell, he could be shooting holes in the solar panels at Patriot Place by Thanksgiving, terrorizing cabbies in Providence, and be sitting on a bale of weed in Foxboro center when the Patriots tell him that "it's not working out." And then he fights them.

These are the things we know:

The Patriots liked him very much in 2008 when he was coming out of Kansas and spent a lot of time working on him and visiting with him before drafting Jerod Mayo in the first round.

Bucs coach Greg Schiano and Bill Belichick are tight, so -- while this is not a sweetheart deal (New England gave up a 2013 fourth-rounder in exchange for Talib and a '13 seventh-rounder) -- the Patriots probably had the inside track to getting this done because they are out of conference for the Bucs, and the Pats knew Tampa Bay wanted to move him.

The Buccaneers decided they wanted to move Talib when they resigned themselves to the fact he would leave at the end of this season as a free agent.

Talib is 6-feet-1, 205, and 26 years old. He has 18 picks and 53 passes broken up in 58 games. He fancies himself a shutdown corner and always wants to cover the opponent's best receiver. He also got destroyed by Hakeen Nicks (10 catches, 199 yards) earlier this season and his play has been below his standards prior to the suspension.

He was not a problem for Schiano this year, according to sources in Tampa, but he is still dogged by maturity issues.

The signing of Talib will bring on the "what price success?" conversation and clucking about the Patriots wanting to have it both ways -- model organization, but one amenable to hiring guys with legal issues if they help the cause.

The Patriots' mindset on this stuff is simple. Every incoming player gets a clean slate. If they dirty said slate, there will be no debate. The player will be gone.

"But what about the children?!"

A) You don't have to have Aqib over for dinner. B) The children -- and everyone else in the house -- will be over it if the Patriots occupy bleak Sundays in January with playoff games.

To the Patriots, the end (winning games, fixing their secondary) justifies the means (hiring a serial jerk to help them win games and cover wide receivers).

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.