You hate to admit it, but . . .


You hate to admit it, but . . .

By Michael Felger

A Felger three-fer two football, one Bruins -- to get Jets Week started.

Before we get started, please know that I fully expect the Patriots to beat the Jets this weekend. I believe the Pats are a better team with better coaching, better quarterbacking play and a better track record against quality opponents. I'd be stunned if Bill Belichick allowed that team, of all teams, to come into Foxboro and win on Sunday.

But here's something I think people around here arent recognizing.

The Jets don't suck.

They aren't nearly the mess you want to believe they are.

Two years ago they lost the last three games of the season with Brett Favre at quarterback and Eric Mangini as the coach. That's a mess.

Now they've made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the Joe Namath era. You said they were frauds for backing into the postseason last year, but they followed that up with 11 wins, another playoff victory, and a trip back to the divisional round. Sounds like something approaching validation to me.

You think the Jets are pathetic, but if they're pathetic then that doesn't speak very well of you. The Pats are just 2-2 against the New Yorkers since Ryan got there. The Jets have won three of their last four playoff games after Saturday's win in Indianapolis. The Pats? They've lost two straight.

The Jets may have been plagued by inconsistent quarterback play, but Mark Sanchez is just 24. He's probably going to get better. Their best defensive player, and for my money still the best corner in football, Darrelle Revis, is just 25. The core of their offensive line is young and under contract. Ownership has proven it will spend what it takes and the drafting by the scouting department has been pretty good.

Again, none of that will mean a heck of a lot on Sunday. The Pats should win. It could very well be another blowout. And maybe the Jets will never catch you as long as Tom Brady is here.

But if you think the Jets aren't legit or aren't headed in the proverbial "right direction," then you're simply blinded by your hatred for them. And I'd hate to be you if the unthinkable happens on Sunday.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, Peyton Manning suffered the seventh one-and-done playoff defeat of his playoff career on Saturday. Its not that he played poorly or, as has been the case in the past, gave the ball away in the fourth quarter. Its just that he lost again. His Colts are now 9-10 in his postseason lifetime. And, again, seven of those nine defeats came in their first playoff game. Ouch.

Then again, watching the Colts under Jim Caldwell only backs up a part of what Ryan had to say about Brady last week. Namely, that Brady benefits more from his coaches than Manning does from his. Folks around here took it as a major blast and it was certainly a dumb thing for Ryan to say, on many levels but it has more than a grain of truth to it.

I would have been more outraged over the Bruins collapse in Montreal on Saturday night had it not been so familiar. I mean, really. Aren't you conditioned to it by now? And at what point will you finally realize the sad truth?

This is what you're going to get from this group of players and this coaching staff.

This is who they are.

The most depressing part of the story is that the general manager of this soft, underachieving group, Peter Chiarelli, keeps giving out big contract extensions to the core of it.

Zdeno Chara, the captain who was on the ice for all three Montreal goals in the third period and overtime, who didn't get angry until the game was over and who then slinked out of the locker room without doing his job and speaking for the team, is signed for another 7 12 years. He's 33. He's been in the league 12 years and has been to just one conference finals and has never been to the Stanley Cup finals (the Senators went the year after he left).

Goalie Tim Thomas, who has been very good this year but was nevertheless brutal down the stretch in Montreal and has now blown third-period leads in each of his last two games, is signed for 2 12 more years at a cap-killing 5 million per season. He's 36. He's won one NHL playoff round in his life.

Marc Savard, who has been dreadful since returning to the lineup in November and looks like a shadow of his pre-concussion self, is signed for 6 12 more years. He's 33. He's never been out of the second round.

Coach Claude Julien, who is in his eighth NHL season and has never been out of the second round with three teams, is in the first year of his contract extension.

I could go on, but you get the point. Even if president Cam Neely wanted to clean house behind the bench (a big "if" given the fact Jeremy Jacobs just got through paying off Dave Lewis' deal), he's stuck with much of the roster. And as we've seen, it's a roster that has no idea how to win beyond a first-round level.

So as disheartening as Saturday's loss was, it's even worse to consider what's ahead unless a major shakeup occurs.

E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots


Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots

Marcus Cannon has had his run as a piñata. The Patriots offensive lineman is a frequent target when things go wrong up front and, usually, he’s deserved it.

A bit of anecdotal evidence? 

Sunday, I tweeted that every time I watched Cannon, he was making another good play.

On cue, about 10 tweets came back at me with variations of “Keep watching him!”

I asked Bill Belichick if he agreed with the layman’s assessment that Cannon’s playing well.

“I think Marcus [Cannon] has done a good job for us for quite a while,” Belichick began. “I mean he’s stepped in for Sebastian [Vollmer] and then last year when Nate [Solder] was out [and he substituted] for Nate. He has played a lot of good football for us.

“We extended our agreement with him off of his rookie contract which I think speaks to the fact that we want him on the team and we like what he’s doing and so forth and he’s continued to I’d say show with his performance [that he has] validated the confidence that we have in him.”

Cannon’s ending to 2015 – a poor performance (along with the rest of the line) against the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game was followed by a performance against the Cardinals that was marred by late-game holding calls.

But with Sebastian Vollmer injured (and still injured) it was sink or swim with Cannon which had plenty of people rolling their eyes.

But – as I said – every time I see Cannon, he’s either holding off a defensive end in pass protection, steamrolling downfield in the running game or making really athletic second-level or cut blocks in the screen game.

“Like every player, as they gain more experience they do get better,” said Belichick. “I think our offensive line’s certainly improved over the course of the year and playing with more consistency than we did last year. But there’s always room for improvement and the continuity that we’ve had there since (right guard) Shaq [Mason] has gotten in the last few weeks – we had Shaq over on the right side a little bit at the end of the season last year and then this year most all of the year except when Shaq was out for a few weeks there at the end of training camp and the start of the season – but our overall consistency and communication on the offensive line has been better because we’ve had more continuity there so that helps everybody.”

It can’t hurt that the lineman whisperer, Dante Scranecchia, has returned to coach the group. Cannon’s conditioning and physique looks better. He just appears more athletic and explosive. And he’s seemed more relaxed in the limited time the media’s in the locker room.

All off that added up equals nobody really talking about Marcus Cannon.
“Like any lineman, the less you call his name probably the better he’s doing,” said Belichick. “It’s probably a good thing when you guys don’t talk about him. Then that probably means they’re not doing something too noticeably wrong, right?”


Dombrowski, Red Sox making adjustments in wake of recent departures


Dombrowski, Red Sox making adjustments in wake of recent departures

In recent days and weeks, the Red Sox have lost their general manager, their vice president of amateur and international scouting, an assistant director of amateur scouting, a member of their analytics department and their mental skills coach.

But Dave Dombrowski, the team's president of baseball operations, insists that the team is not in danger of "brain drain.''

"No, not at all,'' said president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski in a conference call with reporters. "We've lost some good people, but it's also a situation where we have a lot of good people and I think when you have a good organization, if you're winning and you expose people to situations, (a certain amount of exodus) happens. I think the other part of it is that we're more than capable of filling some of those roles from an internal perspective. We've got some quality people and I think the thing that's great about it is, it allows people to grow.''

Dombrowski announced that, in the wake of the departure of Amiel Sawdaye, the former VP of amateur and international scouting who left Monday to become assistant GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Sox were promoting Eddie Romero, formerly the vice president of international scouting, to the position of senior vice president/ assistant GM.

Romero, the son of former Red Sox utility infielder Eddie Romero Sr. will help Dombrowski in personnel matters and player development, while Brian O'Halloran, who has the same title as Romero, will continue to handle administrative matters including salary arbitration and contactual negotiations.

After the departure of Mike Hazen, who left to become GM of the Diamondbacks last week, Dombrowski interviewed Sawdaye and Romero as Hazen's potential replacements before determining that neither had the necessary experience yet to become a major league GM.

Dombrowski said there would be additional internal promotions and adjustments to announce in the coming weeks. He added that senior advisors Frank Wren and Allard Baird, each former general managers, would see their responsibilities increase when it comes to conducting trade talks with other organizations.

Sawdaye's departure is one of several this off-season for the front office. Earlier this month, Steve Sanders, who had been the team's assistant director of amateur scouting, left to become director of amateur scouting for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Also, Tom Tippett, a longtime member of the team's statistical analysis staff, will leave soon too pursue other opportunities. The team recently informed mental skills coach Bob Tewksbury that his contact would not be renewed, according to the Boston Globe.

Dombrowski indicated that Laz Gutierrez would be promoted to take the place of Tewksbury.

In other news, Dombrowski revealed that the entire coaching staff -- hitting coach Chili Davis; assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez; first base coach Ruben Amaro Jr.; third base coach Brian Butterfield; bullpen coach Dana LeVangie; pitching coach Carl Willis; and bench coach Torey Lovullo -- had all agreed to return for 2017.

That, of course, is subject to change since Lovullo is believed to be a target of Hazen for Arizona's managerial vacancy.

Dombrowski said the Diamondbacks had yet to request permission to speak with Lovullo, though that may happen soon now that Hazen has hired Sawdaye to fill out his front office.

When Hazen was hired by the Diamondbacks, he was limited to hiring just one member of the Red Sox' Baseball Operations staff. But, Dombrowski added, that limit didn't apply to uniformed staff members such as Lovullo, who would be leaving for a promotion.