Red Sox 'excited' to have Drew

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Red Sox 'excited' to have Drew

The Red Sox announced the signing of shortstop Stephen Drew on Wednesday afternoon, after the two sides had agreed to a one-year, 9.5 million deal last week. Drew, who turns 30 in March, is the younger brother of former Sox right fielder J.D. Drew. He was a first-round (15th overall) pick of the Diamondbacks  in 2004 out of Florida State. In seven big league seasons, he is a career .265 hitter, with a .328 on-base percentage and .433 slugging percentage. He has a career .978 fielding percentage. Drew was limited to a total of 159 games in 2011-2012 after breaking his ankle on July 20, 2011, when he was thrown out sliding into the plate against the Brewers. He did not get back onto the field until June 27. In 2012, Drew appeared in a combined 79 games between Arizona and Oakland, which acquired him in a trade Aug. 20. He hit .223, with a .309 on-base percentage, and .348 slugging percentage, all career lows.  In 75 games at shortstop, he posted a .972 fielding percentage, also a career low, off his .978 career average and .984 career best in 2010. Drew had a career-worst 0-for-22 streak at the plate between the Diamondbacks and As. The 79 games were the fewest in his career for a full season, behind only 59 in 2006 when he made his big league debut July 15. The Sox are confident Drew, with a fully recovered ankle, will help the team. He was one of the better every day shortstops in baseball for quite a stretch there and then he had the ankle fracture that he suffered in 2011 and it took the full year to get back out playing, which is understandable. Its a really, really difficult injury, said Sox assistant general manager Brian OHalloran, filling in for general manager Ben Cherington on a Wednesday afternoon conference call. But he played well down the stretch and you saw him helping Oakland in their stretch drive and in the playoffs after the trade. We brought him in for a physical exam and our folks are very pleased with his progress. Its obvious to them how hard he had worked, given the nature of that injury, how hard he had worked to strengthen it and we feel that hes going to be fully healthy for us. Its going to make us a better team. Were excited to have him.
He didnt have spectacular numbers in 2012, but hes going to do the job at shortstop, said one scout when the deal was first reported.  Hes going to be an everyday, make-the-play type of guy. Nothing sensational. I think the big question with him is his bat going to come back. Drew is a left-handed hitter, giving the Sox some more balance to a lineup that was becoming predominantly right-handed. I think with the wall there, he can go the other way, he can take the ball the other way, said the scout.  To a left-handed hitter that wall, that can make guys, if they know how to go the other way with a pitch, that can add 20-30 points to their normal average.  And you dont have to be a power guy to play wall ball. I think hell do fine. He can catch the ball. He can throw it across the infield. Hes a left-handed hitter whos had an average offensive production-type career, and he can take the ball the other way.  So, I think thats a good bet that hes going to have a good year. Stephen Drew will wear No. 7, just as J.D. Drew did in his tenure with the Sox.

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.