Pump the brakes, will ya?

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Pump the brakes, will ya?

By Michael Felger

Yes, the Patriots allowed just three points against the Jets.

But can we pump the brakes just a bit on the Pats defense?

Felger, Oh, the defense! Oh, why does Belichick always trade down? Oh, we'll never have a good defense! Oh, we won't be able to stop anybody. Oh, the season is lost!!!! Oh, oh, oh..... I guess you know about as much about football as a flea on Belichick's ass. Michael

Is that sarcasm I'm sensing?

And I don't know about fleas on Belichick's tush, but in the interest of full disclosure, I had a tick on my ass last month. True story. He was in there for a day at least. Scared the crap out of me. But you'll be happy to know that I got it in time. I think.

Felger, The story of Monday's game was the maturation of the Patriots' young defense. There were very few lapses, and you can see that players like McCourty have Pro Bowl talent. The 45 points we've seen before. We've not seen the Pats hold a good team (and the Jets are a good, not great, team) to a field goal. I wouldn't get too excited about the Jet's ground game. When they started to pound the ball, the Pats were up big and were delighted to see the Jets eating up clock. Tomlinson was mostly stuffed in the first quarter. Regards, John, Boston

Ah, a more reasonable approach to the question.

Don't get me wrong, John. The Patriots played well on defense on Monday. And there is no question that some of these young players are going to be good. The list is not a short one -- McCourty, Mayo, Spikes, Cunningham, Chung, Deaderick, Brace, Pryor.

But you know there's a "but'' coming, and here it is:

Are you and other fans really ready to say this is a great defense? Or even a good one? I'm not. Mark Sanchez was brutal, and it's not like the Pats were very good on that side of the ball in the month leading up to the game. In fact, I think their best work this season came against Baltimore and Minnesota in the second month. I still consider the unit mediocre at best. And I say that with no malice. It's no one's fault. It's the youngest in the league. It was an intentional rebuild on the part of Belichick, and so that's what's going on.

The good news, as we've pointed out, is that you no longer need a great defense to win championships. As long as you have an offense like the Patriots', you only need and opportunistic one. And that's what the Pats have.

Felger, I wanted to see what your thoughts were on the ManningBrady hype from the ColtsPats game a couple weeks ago. Since that game, Manning has had the worst span of his career and Brady has been almost perfect. Have you ever seen two players be compared as 1A and 1B -- and then one have a tailspin like Manning is having? Mike Marshall

The Brady-Manning debate over the past month has been about as close as my Randy Moss argument -- which is to say it's been a rout.

Seriously, Manning has thrown 11 interceptions over the past three games and has fifteen on the season. Do you realize that Brady has never thrown more than 14 picks in an entire season? The only time he's come close to having as big a slump as Manning is currently in came nine years ago, when he threw seven interceptions over a three game span in 2002.

Simply put, Manning has made more mistakes with the ball than Brady over the course of their careers. That's a fact, not an opinion. It's one of many reasons why Brady is better.

Felger You DB! There arent many things better than heading out to Foxboro to see the Pats manhandle Mayor McCheese and his band of green felons. Watching a 45-3 beat down in weather that only true football fans brave was outstanding. Observing their evolutionarily challenged fan base exit Gillette en mass after the Spikes INT, like they all had to call their probation officers at the same time, was not only entertaining, but improved the smell inside the stadium considerably. And laughing as the Mayor trotted out Joe McKnight for some garbage time carries while Jets castaway Danny Woodhead (is he proving me wrong or what?) was celebrating on the sideline with 115 all-purpose yards under his diminutive belt, was the cherry on top. But Mikey, none of that has caused me to test the friction-based thermal breakdown of Lubriderms viscosity than what's happened the last three Sundays running. Peyton Mannings magical transformation into a quivering pile of regular season turnovers is absolutely chafe inducing. Usually he reserves these glorious meltdowns for the postseason, but the pressure is on a little earlier this year. Racking up eleven interceptions with four of the picks going for TDs in just three games should confine Manning to comparisons with Tom Hodson, not TB12. Now the spin were hearing is that all the Colts injuries are the true source of Mannings struggles. Forget pumping the breaks Mikey, I am going to have to shift straight into park. Manning still has Reggie Wayne & Pierre Garcon. Jacob Tamme has been at least an adequate fill-in for Dallas Clark (Tamme is averaging a half yard more per catch than Clark did). And dont let anyone tell you Blair White is just another guy. The second TD grab he made against the Pats was studly. No JAG reels that rope in. Now compare this cast with what Brady had in 2006. Troy Brown, Reche Caldwell, Ben Watson, Doug Gabriel, Chad Jackson and Brady had 12 picks all season with this group! To put this in a statistical perspective, Wayne will probably finish the season with more yards and receptions than Brown, Caldwell and Gabriel combined. Not to mention the fact that Manning would have had to file his tax return as a charitable organization if he ever had to audible to Caldwell and Gabriel. But I don't want this fun to end, Mike! I would love to see Manning make the postseason just to see another one and done flame out at home. Watching the Colts get their lunch handed to them at home vs. the RavensJets would be Wild Card entertainment that only a quart of Quaker State could withstand. Mike Attleboro

As usual, Mike does this better than I ever could.

Dear Mr. Felger: Thank you in advance. I can not stand the manner in which you express opinions, however you need to be lauded and recognized for the keen insight that you displayed. Riding home in the car a few months ago, I caught the tail end of your show and decided to call in. Thank you again for taking the call. I will admit I have a tough time listening to your show and listening in this instance was an outlier. I asked if you thought Mr. Bill O'Brien was overmatched. This question came on the heals of the departure of Mr. Moss. You said something to the effect of, No, and keep watching. This team will do better.'' It was toward the end of the show and you moved quickly on to the next caller, but you were and are correct. I apologize. You were right, I was wrong in viewing this coach as a weak link. Monday's game was surreal. I felt as if Charlie Weis were back in the offensive coordinator's position. Mr. O'Brien is starting to work the process. He is doing what we as Patriots fans have come to expect, coach up and coach smart. Chris in the Car

Thank you, Chris, for the most polite rip job I've ever been a part of. And I must concur. I nailed this one. Flushing the turd freed up the entire offense, including the man drawing it up. You can tell O'Brien was headed in the right direction even before the trade, when Moss had just three targets against Buffalo and only one vs. Miami. Of course, that resulted in Moss nearly (or actually, depending on who you believe) punching O'Brien's lights out. But give O'Brien credit. He knew which direction the offense had to go, and he went there. Getting Moss out of here just made it easier on him.

Felger, Do the jets go after Josh McDaniels now?? Makes sense to me. Danny

I know I would. The sooner they get Sanchez away from Brian Schottenheimer the better.

Mike, While I am ecstatic over the Gonzalez free agent signing, the Red Sox body of work compares miserably to the Yankees in this area. I have done some cursory research comparing the two franchises. I must tell you, it's enough to make you toss your cookies all over your pants. The fact that the Yankees outspent the Sox on free agents is irrelevant! Look at how well the money has been spent. I just looked back to 2006, but if you go back to when the Henry crowd took over, it's even worse. Look at who the Yankees signed over that period and look at who the Sox signed. Then to make that vomit chunky, look at who departed those franchises as free agents (no one significant from the Yankees left them yet we had some major defections). If you force fit all the free agents into two categories (performed and disappointed) it's appalling to see the percentage effectiveness of the spend, which is why the difference in total spend is irrelevant. Maybe the researchers can do an examination over the Henry years and expose how ineffective the Sox are in their free agent spend and also have a list of the key players who left each franchise and were successful (Damon, Lowe, Martinez for the Sox. Meanwhile, who left the Yankees of note, Kei Igawa?). It is not about how much you spend but how well you spend it. I'm not a Pink Hat. I love the Sox. But they need to be called out on this. Tojo

They have, Tojo. I don't sense much support for Theo for his signings at shortstop or in the bullpen. Was anyone actually in favor of JD Drew? And how excited are people about John Lackey? I think we've hammered him pretty good for losing Victor Martinez. I still don't get what was wrong with Jason Bay.

I don't think there is anyone out there -- other than Rob Bradford maybe -- who would say this regime has been good in the free agent game.

Felger, I'm with you in saying that Julien plays that fourth line way too much. For instance, on Tuesday night did you notice that with 2:30 left in the third period and a face-off to the right of Miller. Julien elected to put the fourth-line out there, and they ended up wasting about 66 seconds of ice time at the end of the game. Why not burn a timeout and get your first or second power play unit out there? And in OT, he rolled with three forwards and one defenseman during the OT 4-on-4. But when the Bruins went on the 4-on-3 PP, he put two defensemen and two forwards to start the PP. Julien is not the guy to get this team deep into the playoffs; let alone win a Cup Mark

You know how he would counter that? Look at who was on the ice when the B's tied the game with six minutes left in the third period: Brian Campbell and Brad Marchand. Believe me, I'm with you, Mark. It drives me nuts, too. But I don't see it changing -- at least in the regular season. We'll see if someone can light a fire under his butt in the playoffs.

Felger, I'd like to hear your honest assessment on two players you've been critical of in the past, Marchand and Wheeler. In my opinion, they've been two of the Bruins' most consistent forwards this year. I don't want Marchand on the top two lines, like you claim everybody does. Aside from the occasional dumb penalty he's been good in an energypenalty killing role and has been way more agitating than Begin was last year. Plus he's young and can still develop. Wheeler has stone hands at times but is still fourth on the team in goals, does a good job killing penalties, and has seemed more involved and noticeable this year. I'd rather move any of PailleRyderFerence to clear cap space and keep Wheeler around. On Chara, his cap hit drops by a million next year. Thirty GMs view him as a top-five defenseman in the league and someone would have given him this same contract, if not more. 6.5 million is reasonable for him. I'd rather have him than not, even with his 0-5 record in Game Sevens. I contend that the SturmRyderFerrenceThomas contracts are what are prohibiting the Bruins from persuing a puck-moving defenseman, not Chara's. He's one of the main reasons the team is at the top of the league defensively each year. Cut money elsewhere to bring in another defenseman because they'd miss him if he was gone. I agree that Chiarelli has been overly generous with contract, but I'd rather see that than have him lowball players out of town like Theo. Dave Manchester, NH

I accept most of your points. Marchand is perfectly fine on the fourth line. I like him better than Begin, too. I just think a lot of fans get carried away with what he brings to the table. He's an energy guyagitator. Lets not get carried away. And Wheeler has been better, true. I just don't think his ceiling is very high. I would shed a tear if they used him as a chip to upgrade elsewhere.

Finally, even if Chara was as highly valued across the league as you say (and Im not so sure), do you think there was any risk of him getting much more than he got in Boston? I don't. Hes currently scheduled to be the second-highest paid defenseman in the league next year. Was someone going to make him the highest-paid? No way. And if there was such a team, then you could always match. When you sign someone early you should get a discount, and I don't think the B's did with Chara -- or Bergeron. Trust me, these contracts are going to hurt the team's flexibility down the line, just as Thomas' is right now. But aside from all that, when are the Bs going to make someone play for their next contract? You know, set someone up to have a contract year? It might help address the "hunger" issue this team seems to have many nights.

Hi guys, I was really enjoying Tuesdays radio show until you started discussing the little "Cheers" segment they do at Gillette. I believe one of you (Felger: It was me) called it G-A-Y. WTF?? What, are you 12? Do you think there arent gay Patriots fans out there? Do you think your entire audience is made up of straight men? Because I can attest to the fact that it is NOT! I can assure you that your listeners may not be straight or may have a gay child or parent. Signed,Female Patriots fan whose family is not entirely heterosexual.
I apologize, Mrs. Tanguay. I promise to be more sensitive in the future.

Felgers Patriots-Bears game column will post Monday morning. The report card appears Tuesday. Email Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Pandolfo ready to jump from player development to Bruins assistant

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Pandolfo ready to jump from player development to Bruins assistant

Jay Pandolfo grew up a rabid Bruins fan as a native of Burlington, Mass, and got to live out his youth hockey dreams playing in the Black and Gold at the very end of an excellent NHL career that included winning Stanley Cups for the New Jersey Devils. 

Pandolfo then was hired as a Player Development coach with the Bruins and was charged with working with their young prospects. Pandolfo responded as he typically does with a great work ethic and an open-minded, success-driven attitude, and did some very good things with young players Frank Vatrano, David Pastrnak and Noel Acciari the past couple of seasons.

So, it was a bonus for both the individual and for the team when Pandolfo was added to Claude Julien’s NHL coaching staff this week and it also bodes well for the further development of young players on the NHL roster. Perhaps Pandolfo can even coax a little more production out of young veteran forwards Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly, who were both lackluster given ample chances to consistently produce last season.

Pandolfo was also a part of the interview process two years ago when Geoff Ward departed from Boston’s NHL staff and the Bruins eventually hired Joe Sacco as Julien’s top assistant.

Clearly, developing the young players was a mandate with the hires of both Pandolfo and Bruce Cassidy to the NHL staff, and getting the coaching experience in the NHL is something he wanted to try after his retirement as a player.

“Coming out as a player, Jay expressed interest from day one to get into coaching, had been a part of the search process [last season] that Claude referenced earlier. I’ve spent an awful lot of time with [Pandolfo] in the last two years while he’s transitioned into a development role. He spent a lot of nights behind the bench in Providence. He watches a lot of video with our players in a development role,” said Don Sweeney, who also added that Pandolfo’s move to coaching would open the door for former Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner to become more involved in the B’s burgeoning Player Development Department. “I don’t really think it ever left him that he wanted to take a crack at this. I think it’s sort of in him as part of his fabric to want to teach, to want to impart upon the players the knowledge that he knows what it takes to win.

“He’s won. I’ve trained with him in the summer; he knows exactly what it takes. I think that it’s in his blood. It doesn’t mean that he can’t transition back out in a year’s time if it’s something that he doesn’t want to do. But it’s something that he wanted to jump into right from the get-go.”

Both Pandolfo and Cassidy have the unique position of having already coached many of the prospects, either in the NHL or on the cusp of breaking through from Providence. Take it one step further, Pandolfo also has the unique perspective of having played with many of the B’s core group of veteran players. That experience can be a vital conduit between those players and Julien when normal brush fires crop up or when the head coach is actively looking to gauge the true pulse of his team.

“I think it’s a huge benefit. I think working with especially some of these young guys who will be coming up in Providence. Even getting to know the prospects that hopefully will be making the jump and whether it’s a year or two years, having those guys feel comfortable with coming into a situation,” said Pandolfo. “I’ve played with a lot of guys that are still on the Bruins, so I think being comfortable with those guys [is important], and those guys knowing me and being comfortable with them being able to bounce stuff off me. As an assistant coach, you know, a lot of times you’re a bit of a sounding board too for those guys. You know they can’t always go to the head coach for things, so you know they like to sometimes talk to the assistant, and get a feel for what everyone’s thinking.

“It’s a good situation. I played for Claude so I’m very comfortable with him. Working with Butch the last couple years has really helped me a lot and we’re real comfortable together. So it's a similar situation. I’ve known Joe for a long time and also working with Goalie [coach] Bob [Essensa] as well down in Providence on a regular basis and having a really good relationship with Don Sweeney the last two couple years, it’s a very similar situation. For everyone I think it’ll allow us to get close as a group right from the hop. I think that matters a lot when you’re trying to build a winning team.”

Clearly, the Bruins are trying to make adjustments to the coaching staff in the hopes things will be different than they’ve been the past two seasons. It remains to be seen how many more changes need to be made before the truly positive results start to return for the Black and Gold, and things begin to stabilize on Causeway Street. 
 

Cassidy wants Bruins to break out ‘quicker and cleaner’

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Cassidy wants Bruins to break out ‘quicker and cleaner’

It was more than a decade ago that Bruce Cassidy had his one and only NHL head coaching shot with Washington Capitals, so the enthusiasm was predictable and genuine when the longtime AHL coach was named to Claude Julien’s staff this week.

Cassidy paid his dues in Providence with the Bruins the past eight seasons and posted winning records in all five seasons as coach with playoff berths in each of the past four years. He also did all of that while developing the young talent that’s come through Boston’s organizational pipeline and showed a particular penchant for working with young defensemen.

The hope is that the Black and Gold can break the puck out of their end with a little more speed, precision and confidence with Cassidy in charge of pumping some energy into the transition game. The one caveat: a hockey team also needs the personnel to be able to transition the puck no matter how good the coaching might be.

“Obviously there’s going to be some roles that those two new coaches are going to have. Bruce Cassidy will definitely be behind the bench taking care of the defense part that Doug Houda had. Bruce Cassidy being a former defenseman and one that was very successful, I think, in the transitioning of the puck and has done a great job also with the group that he had in Providence,” said Julien. “I think that’s going to be a good place for him and certainly a good area for him to help improve our transition game back there.”

The list is long of B’s players that also counted Cassidy as their head coach: Noel Acciari, Tommy Cross, Brian Ferlin, Seth Griffith, Alexander Khokhlachev, Torey Krug, Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, David Pastrnak, Tyler Randell, Ryan Spooner, Malcolm Subban, Zach Trotman and Frank Vatrano. Cassidy and P-Bruins assistant coach Kevin Dean’s work with Krug, Johnny Boychuk, Miller and McQuaid among others in AHL has earned them plenty of plaudits in the Bruins organization.

Cassidy finished with a 207-128-45 as the bench boss for the P-Bruins and has said in the past that a return as an NHL head coach is the goal for him. There is a strong belief that Cassidy would be the choice for an interim head coach if an in-season change was ever made with Julien and that missing the playoffs  the past two seasons has dialed up the warmth levels on his coaching hot seat.

Cassidy was clearly avoiding that subject on Wednesday, and instead will dutifully work with the defensemen as fired assistant coach Doug Houda had done for the last 10 years in Boston.

“I’m excited about it. Obviously, to be able to learn from a coach with Claude [Julien]’s pedigree, a Stanley Cup champion, I know it’s a big honor for me. It’s been great down in Providence with me for eight years. To be that much closer to him is only going to make me a better coach, so for me it’s a very exciting time,” said Cassidy, who guided the Capitals from 2002-2004 with a 39-29-8-6 record. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself because the stamp of approval is always Claude’s first. Just meeting with him and having discussions, even previous years, I think what we’d like to grow in our game is the ability to move the puck out of the zone quicker and cleaner.

“That may involve a few more one-man breakouts. Players have the ability to beat the first fore-checker with their feet, make a good outlet pass, then you don’t have to always use your partner, so we’re not quite as predictable. So that’s how I’d like us to look on the transition part, where we’re a little more fluid coming out of our zone. That generally is a mindset that the defensemen have to buy into, that they have the ability to do that. Everyone’s is a little bit different. Every player on the back end has the ability to move the puck. They might not all be labeled necessarily puck-movers throughout hockey, but they’re NHL players, they all have the ability to move the puck and we want to sort of grow their game there and at least reach their ceiling.”

Cassidy will have his transition game work cut out for him with stay-at-home defensemen like Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller clogging up the Bruins roster, but there clearly could be later dividends for him in Boston if can work wonders with a defense that finished 19th in the NHL last season. 

Jim Breuer reads purported Jastremski email to Toucher and Rich

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Jim Breuer reads purported Jastremski email to Toucher and Rich

On Toucher and Rich, comedian Jim Breuer reads an email he says he received from a man he met at a Mexican resort who said he was John Jastremski, a key figure in the Patriots’ Deflategate saga. 

Watch the video for more.