Belichick lightens up on Inside the NFL

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Belichick lightens up on Inside the NFL

Bill Belichick's been around football for a long time -- emphasis on long. But if his interview with the guys from 'Inside the NFL' is any indication of the connections he's made over the years, it's pretty obvious why he's so highly regarded by just about everyone around the league -- and beyond.

Take Charles Barkley for example. That's right, Charles Barkley. You probably never saw Belichick and Barkley grabbing dinner together while he was head coach of the Cleveland Browns, but it happened.

The two go way back to the early-to-mid '90s, and on Wednesday night Belichick joined host Cris Collinworth and special guest Barkley on Showtime's 'Inside the NFL', where Belichick joked that dinner with Barkley was one of the highlights in his Cleveland career.

"I have a lot of respect for Charles ... as a competitor, athlete," Belichick said. "How do you lead the NBA in rebounding at 6-4? That's what a real competitor is."

Although Barkley is officially listed at 6-foot-6, 252 pounds, the message is still clear, and coincides with Belichick's mentality that the player who works the hardest will get the most opportunities. Barkley was certainly a player who fit that mold while in the league, and one that you can bet Belichick would have utilized to the fullest.

Speaking of such, just how would have Belichick used Barkley if he played in the NFL?

"Tight end," Belichick answered. "Great hands, smart, knows how to get open . . . tough in the red area, and we'd use him on some crackback blocks."

Sound familiar? Like, maybe, Rob Gronkowski? Gronkowski is also listed at 6-foot-6, 265 pounds, and seems to fit the definition Belichick gave of Barkley.

Collinsworth joked that Belichick's friendship with Barkley is what got him on the show, after alleged failed attempts by Phil Simms -- and expert analyst on the show -- to get him on.

"Phil knows I'd do anything to help him, so that's a bunch of garbage," Belichick said with a smile.

In 1979, Belichick and Simms began their careers with the Giants, Belichick as the special teams coach and Simms as the first pick made by the Giants in the 1979 NFL draft.

"After about a year or so, nobody wanted either of us," Belichick joked.

That's certainly true for Simms, whose career started off very slow due to injury and underwhelming play, but probably not so true for Belichick.

He eventually became the Giants' defensive coordinator in 1985 and the team, with Simms at quarterback, won two Super Bowls. Simms played a major role in the first one in 1986, and helped get the Giants to the second one before breaking his foot in the 14th week of the 1990 season.

But Belichick's Giants days are far behind him, and asked about his current Patriots team, Belichick seemed pleased with the results to date.

"I thought that the win against Dallas was a good, tough win for our football team," he said. "We haven't had a lot of those lately, to be honest."

Belichick specifically pointed to the last defensive stop and offensive drive of the game, when Patriots players on both sides of the ball "stepped up when they had to."

And then the conversation turned to the coaches' handshake at the end of games, in light of the recent exchange between the 49ers' Jim Harbough and the Lions' Jim Schwartz.

Belichick addressed similar questions earlier this week, but kept it interesting, saying again that he thinks the whole thing is a little bit overblown in terms of media coverage, but also admitting: "I've had a lot of memorable handshakes at the end of games and coaches have said things to me that I've remembered for the rest of my life."

Whether win or lose, Belichick said, an opposing coach can say the right thing and it means a lot.

No doubt Belichick heard a lot of "keep your head up" handshakes while head coaching the Browns.

In 1995, Belichick's last year with the team and the team's last year in Cleveland before moving to Baltimore, they held the 10th pick in the NFL draft. Belichick and the Browns' director of player personnel at the time, Michael Lombardi (now the insider on 'Inside the NFL'), had their eyes on a player in particular -- Warren Sapp.

Sapp is now also an expert analyst on 'Inside the NFL' (seeing a trend here?), although he wasn't present for the interview.

So what happened in 1995? Why didn't the Browns take Sapp, a seven-time Pro Bowler?

"Mike Lombardi loved Sapp, as I did," Belichick recalled. "It was one of those situations where the two of us were overruled by other powers to be in the organization on that day."

Belichick is most likely talking about the Browns owner at the time, Art Modell. The Browns ended up trading that pick to the San Francisco 49ers for a 1995 first-round pick (30th overall), a 1995 fourth-round pick, and a 1996 first-round pick.

So how did it work out for the Browns? They took Craig Powell, a linebacker out of Ohio State with their first pick in 1995. Powell was a bust, and out of the league after three seasons.

In 1996, after Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore, the Ravens drafted Ray Lewis with the pick they received in the deal. By then though, Belichick was gone.

He was on his way to serve as assistant head coach under Bill Parcells in New England.

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Quick Slants the podcast Ep 54: Brady, OTAs, and contract situations

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Quick Slants the podcast Ep 54: Brady, OTAs, and contract situations

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry attended Thursday’s OTA session and offer their analysis on some of the new additions in Quick Slants the podcast.

Also on the docket, a look at some upcoming contract situations for the team, Tom Brady’s 17th season and Robert Kraft taking legal action in support of Brady.

Listen to the entire podcast via the player below, or by searching CSNNE on iTunes.

New Patriots DE Chris Long willing to be led

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New Patriots DE Chris Long willing to be led

Chris Long’s been in the NFL since 2008. As the offspring of Hall of Famer Howie Long, he knows the ways and means of life in the league.
 
So, it’s instructive that a player who’s been around this long decided that success here hinged on allowing himself to be led. Check the ego, check the pride, behave as if you know nothing.
 
In doing so, Long’s affixed himself to the side of fellow defensive end Rob Ninkovich like a 275-pound remora.
 
“Rob and I really clicked,” Long said Thursday after a Patriots OTA session open to the media. “We’ve got a lot of similarities, and he’s a great guy to learn from and shadow. He’s been here obviously a long time. Rob knows how to do things the right way around here. When you see a guy like that, if you’re halfway smart, you follow him around and do what he does. If Rob goes to lunch, I go to lunch. That type of thing. Rob’s a good buddy already.”
 
Long was also observed Thursday spending a lot of downtime with Jabaal Sheard, the two defensive ends on a knee near the Gatorade conversing for a couple of minutes.
 
With Chandler Jones now a Cardinal, the Patriots defensive end depth chart this offseason has have Sheard and Ninkovich at the top, with Long in the mix situationally, one supposes. Reps need to be split for freshness. Meanwhile, Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers are coming into their second seasons and will push for time as well.
 
For his part, Long isn’t projecting anything.
 
“Well, I’m still learning, so I can’t make the determination yet,” Long said. “Ask me again during training camp. Every day in the NFL is an opportunity. A coach I’ve had before said every day is an interview, and that’s how I like to look at things. Every day, you have a chance to get better and learn and worry about your own — farm your own land and do all that good stuff. That’s the way I approach everything. It would be a disservice to the other guys if I was worried about anything other than myself, that opportunity just to get out here on the practice field and compete and get better.”
 
And let yourself be led. 

Surprise! Rex and Rob Ryan talk themselves up

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Surprise! Rex and Rob Ryan talk themselves up

Can’t you just imagine the Ryan brothers as teenagers, riding along in a pickup, windows down, hair whipping, hollering their skewed affirmations over the Lynyrd Skynyrd.

“Biggest badasses in town?! US!!”

“Handsomest fat guys to be!? US!!”

“Defensive-geniuses-in-waiting destined to be criminally underappreciated and overlooked so that we’ll forever be obligated to remind everyone at every turn how tough, accomplished and slighted we’ve been? HELL, THAT’S US TOO!!”

It’s May, which means it’s Ryan propaganda season. Not that Jenny Vrentas of MMQB did the Ryan’s bidding with her fun Q&A that’s online today. 

All she needed to do was hit record and lay the recorder on the table. Rex and Rob take care of the tire pumping themselves.

Fortuitously, now that they’re together in Buffalo as head coach (Rex) and assistant head coach/defensive capo (Rob), they can pat each other’s backs rather than reach back and do their own themselves.

Rob – poopcanned from his last two jobs as defensive coordinator in Dallas and New Orleans – carried the show in this one firing passive-aggressive darts at Saints head coach Sean Payton and promising to “beat” Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

“At the end of the day, the last two years in New Orleans were a waste of time for me,” said Rob Ryan, who was fired last November by Payton. “I want to give everything I have to a team that I want to be a part of, with a head coach I want to be a part of. Not only is Rex a great head coach, but he is also a great defensive coach. He’s going to be the best coach that I can work for, anytime. And I have worked for Belichick, who is the best head coach in football, in the history of the game. But we’re going to beat him, and we’re going to beat him together. And it’s going to be an awesome challenge. I need to be in a multiple system. I was hired to be in a multiple system in New Orleans, and I did a damn good job and got fired for it. I am more hungry now than I have ever been. So I wanted to go with the right guy. And the right guy is someone I have 100 percent trust in and 100 percent faith in.

Payton has already termed Ryan’s contention that it wasn’t Ryan’s defense as “silly.” 

This in-depth look at the precipitous drop of the Saints defense has plenty of damning info about what a “hot mess” Ryan’s operation was. 

Payton is quoted in the piece saying after Ryan’s dismissal, "There were a few things that you looked at from a year ago and you said, 'We can't have X number of snaps with not the right number of guys on the field. We can't burn timeouts, you know, every other week because we can't get the right personnel on the field.' We just can't do that. We can't have guys looking left and right at the snap of the ball. There's a game last season where the first eight plays of the game, we're misaligned and we don't even cover down the right way. Those were just facts."

Facts, schmacts. You want facts? From the interview:

ROB: Well, the highest-rated defensive coach in the history of the league is you.

REX: Right.

ROB: We can pretend there is somebody else, but there’s not. Hey, my numbers are what they are. Now, I took over some pretty lousy jobs, but that’s OK. But no one’s numbers are better than his. I’m talking about Dick LeBeau’s; I’m talking about Belichick; I’m talking about all of them. Hell, even our dad. Who is the best that ever laced them up? Well, I’m just saying. To be the best defensive coach in football, I’ve got to learn from the best, so I came here. It’s been how many years since we’ve been together? He’s not learning anything, but I am. Look at some of his protégés. Bob Sutton is doing a fantastic job in Kansas City. Chuck Pagano was with Rex. He spun off a ton of great coaches, and it is going to be fun to be a part of that.

Here’s the thing, the Ryans are very bright defensive coaches with an in-the-trenches-with-you bedside manner that invites massive huge loyalty from their players.

But there’s also an outsized sense of pride and ego that both men seem to have that causes them to get caught up in style over substance.

Rex wanted to build a bully in Buffalo. His Bills talked tough before facing the Patriots last September and came unhinged in the first half, effectively taking themselves out of the game before it began. 

The Bills have an terrific array of defensive talent even with the loss of Mario Williams this offseason. They added Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland in the draft – both well-regarded players who could have early-career impacts. They have the pieces. But they had them in 2015 as well and underperformed. The fact is, Rex is in a “prove-it” season. Even though he points out in the interview that his family has coached in six Super Bowls, three of those were coached by Buddy Ryan, two by Rob and one by Rex. In 66 combined seasons of NFL coaching. Belichick’s coached in eight by himself in 42 NFL seasons. The results are lacking.

It is worth noting before I put a bow on this that respect for Belichick isn’t lacking. The interview is chock-full of references to Rob’s time with the Patriots from 2000 to 2003.

“All the respect in the world for Bill Belichick,” said Rob. “That was fantastic training working for him for four years, and I learned a ton. Look, he is the No. 1 nemesis of every coach in this league. So it’s not just Rex. Now, I think if you ask their offensive staff, the worst they ever play is against Rex. People say, “well, he hasn’t beat them [nine out of the last 10] tries.” Yeah, well, he has beat the hell out of that offense. I am sure the respect is mutual. But I know one thing, we are going to beat them. We are together, we’re going to beat the best. It’s two against one. Him one on one against any coach in the league, that guy is pretty damn good. And he’s also got his best buddy Tom Brady with him. He trained him, and he single-handedly made him great as well.”