Curran: Seau was a transcendent Patriot

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Curran: Seau was a transcendent Patriot

What did Junior Seau mean to the Patriots?

In 2008 and 2009, his on-field relevance diminished, the Patriots would still use a game-day roster spot so that he'd be in uniform on their sidelines to lend stability and leadership.

"I havent coached too many that are any more passionate than Junior is," Bill Belichick said in October 2009 after signing the 40-year-old back to lend stability to an immature defense. "I think thats good for all of us. Its good for him, its good for all the players, its good for the coaches and its good for the team. He brings a lot of positive energy and toughness, so those things are all good."

Seau was nearly 41 when his final NFL season ended. He'd been in the NFL for 20 years, nearly half his life.

It's not illogical to wonder today if leaving professional football led to Seau becoming untethered. it was a profession around which he'd built his identity. Then, quietly, the vocation that gave his life meaning and gave him an avenue to have an impact had ended.

Junior Seau was a soon-to-be Hall of Famer. He was an icon. A linebacking legend. It appears that transitioning to being Junior Seau, former player, was exceedingly hard.

He said in 2009 when he re-signed with the Patriots that he was ready for a post-football life.

"Its not tough to leave the game," he said on a conference call. "Theres such a great lifestyle that you work so long for to enjoy. Im not going to cry about cutting up oranges and apples and packing a cooler and going to a football game, my sons football game, or my daughters volleyball games and heading home and surfing for three hours. Having a tuna sandwich and playing the ukelele. Theres nothing bad about that so I did not miss it. Its just part of my life. I love life challenges and I live for those moments. I live for those moments. This is a challenge. I cant forecast whats going to happen, just give me a helmet and well work on it."

The same day Seau was saying that, Tom Brady was noting that when he walked in at 6:45 a.m., "Junior was already in there in like a full sweat. He hasnt changed at all."

And maybe that cuts to the heart of it. The change - despite what Seau said - was too hard to make.

Some players adjust with ease. For some it's harder. Some never do and the number of ex-NFL players who have taken their own lives in recent years is sad, tragic and sobering.

It causes us to question so much.

Does the willing bodily sacrifice these men make leave them so diminished that depression follows?

Do the head-on collisions lead inevitably to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and - in extreme cases - suicide?

Does society's hero worship by fans and media - and the fact that players accept it - make it impossible for some men to face their post-football lives without that?

Is the NFL complicit? Are we complicit? Would you, should you let your son play football given the way it apparently does to some men?

These are the questions that people who knew him as a football player wrestle with on the day Junior Seau killed himself.

Those who knew him better - family, friends, former teammates, coaches - wrestle with that but also with the loss of a man who had a transcendent personality, a gift.

"Before every game, you have to get your popcorn ready because you can't wait to hear those speeches, let alone see his face and the emotion that comes out," teammate Kyle Arrington said in 2009. "It's really indescribable how you can hear it in his voice -- the emotion, the passion, the hunger."

"We all gather up, and there is a silence in the room, and everybody is just looking at him," Myron Pryor said. "You're listening to him speak, and he's getting everyone going. There is a little chill down your back, a little sweat on your forehead."

Curran: McDaniels staying with Pats shouldn't be a shocker

Curran: McDaniels staying with Pats shouldn't be a shocker

For weeks the speculation regarding Josh McDaniels wasn't a matter of "if" but "when."

But while national media had McDaniels signed, sealed and delivered to multiple landing spots, the proposition that he'd leave at all was never a likelihood. 

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The Rams weren't attractive to him from the outset. Jacksonville didn't excite him, either. And on Monday, he passed on the 49ers opportunity. 

The lure of a blank slate in San Fran at quarterback and GM didn't outpace the uncertainty of going cross-country to work for a seemingly dysfunctional franchise that's cycled rapidly through coaches and has an unrealistic sense that it's a long, long way removed from its glory days, the only remnant remaining from that being perhaps the logo on the helmet. 

With four kids and a job McDaniels considers one of the 10 best on coaching -- head man or no -- he will stay on as the Patriots' offensive coordinator.

"I was really impressed with (Niners owner) Jed York and (team executive) Paraag Marathe . . . and the people that came from the 49ers organization," McDaniels said on a conference call this morning. "They did a great job with their presentation. Humbled to be included in that process. At this time it's just best for my family and myself to remain here in New England and focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the year however it turns out."

The same faulty speculative reasoning that had McDaniels as good as gone from the Patriots will move on undeterred today and surmise that McDaniels is staying with the Patriots because he knows, or has been promised, that he'll receive the head coaching job when Bill Belichick steps aside. 

While the Kraft family certainly thinks highly of McDaniels and that could come to pass, anyone tapping their foot and checking their watch waiting for Belichick to step down is in for a long wait. He's showing no signs of wrapping it up and, while I haven't been told directly McDaniels isn't the automatic successor, he wouldn't be taking interviews at all if he were assured that. 

What will be interesting to see is whether interest remains high in him for other jobs or the perception that he's never going to leave means teams don't bother to ask. San Fran obviously had its heart set on McDaniels. Even though Nick Caserio passed on the chance to interview with the Niners for their open GM job, the team did talk to Louis Riddick about the spot. He and McDaniels have high regard for each other. 

Between McDaniels, Caserio and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, the people closest to Belichick on the coaching flow chart all had chances to go somewhere else and all passed on the chance. It's another example of not why the Patriots are good but why they remain good. Stability. 
 

McDaniels: 'Best for my family and myself' to remain with Patriots

McDaniels: 'Best for my family and myself' to remain with Patriots

Josh McDaniels will be staying put in New England, he said on Monday, because that's what's best for him and his family at this point in time. 

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The Patriots offensive coordinator was a front-runner for the open head-coaching job in San Francisco but has removed his name from consideration.

"I was really impressed with [Niners owner and CEO] Jed York and [Chief Strategy Officer and EVP of Football Operations] Praag [Marathe] and [Director of Football Administration and Analytics] Brian [Hampton] and the people that came from the 49ers organization. They did a great job with their presentation. Again, humbled to be included in that process.

"At this time it's just best for my family and myself to remain here in New England and focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the year however it turns out."

Next season will be McDaniels' sixth full season back with the Patriots since returning during the playoffs of the 2011 season.

"I've always said how grateful I am to have this opportunity to work here with Mr. Kraft and his family, and coach under Bill with a lot of great guys on our staff, and to have the privilege to get to work with the players that we work with each day," McDaniels said. "It's a great opportunity. I'm very thankful to be here, and very much looking forward to this week against Pittsburgh."