Curran's Mailbag: These aren't the 2010 Patriots


Curran's Mailbag: These aren't the 2010 Patriots

What is it with us and the ability to look at a cloudless sky and automatically assume we are just in the eye of a hurricane?

I swear, 90 percent of New Englanders could hit the lottery and immediately start grousing about the taxes they'll have to pay.

We'd dumb into inheriting an oceanfront home and -- instead of breaking out the umbrella and beach chair -- spend the day inside trying to determine the likelihood of tsunami.

So it is with the Patriots getting the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Playoffs next weekend.

"Remember that time the Patriots beat the Jets 45-3 in December and then lost to the Jets in the playoffs at home...? That wasn't awesome..."

That was also 2010 when the Patriots -- in spite of a 14-2 record -- were a REBUILDING team. Still one of the most underrated seasons the Patriots have had under Bill Belichick. Rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Randy Moss jettisoned and washed-up Deion Branch returning midstream. Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis as scrap-heap guys in the backfield. A broken Wes Welker hurrying back from his ACL to catch 86 passes. No suitable outside pass rusher and a defense with rookie Brandon Spikes, useless Brandon Meriweather, retread Rob Ninkovich and bargain bin Kyle Arrington at one corner.

When those Patriots annihilated the Jets, New York lost Jim Leonhard on Friday afternoon in practice. And those Jets had already shown the Patriots more than a few times they could stop their offense as it was then constituted.

So when they came into Gillette for the Divisional Round, they were pulling an upset but one that came over a flawed team that had outwitted and outlasted opponents to get to 14-2.

These Patriots? Actually more stocked for the Texans rematch with Rob Gronkowski coming back and a week of rest to get dented guys fixed. And those Texans? They were an A.J. Dalton overthrow away from being down 20-19 with two minutes remaining.

Now . . . MAILBAG!!!

Q: @tomecurran Ray Lewis is GREAT, but ever notice after loss he doesn't face media or puts blame on himself? - Sgt Football @SgtFootball A: Sarge, I was in that Ravens locker room a lot from 2006 through 2009 when I was at Lewis was never hard to find after a loss. You can quibble with aspects of his persona but being criticizing him for being unavailable to the media is not one I'd choose.
Q: CSN reporters? Some of the funniest sports follows on twitter. @tomecurran @RattoCSN & @RoobCSN, all worth your time. - RumfordJohnny @RumfordJohnny A: Ray Ratto is the funniest sportswriter in America. The prevailing tendency of columnists to get a little older and reach a point where they hate sports and only write for their equally jaded media peers hasn't visited Ray. For instance, Ray could name most of the players on not only the local teams but upcoming opponents on whom he columnizes. Don't always get that around here, especially since Bob Ryan semi-retired. Shame. (And I'm aware that wasn't a question per se. Good jumping off point for a rant, though.)Q: @tomecurran @profootballtalk why hasn't A. Peterson been asked about PED use in his much better than usual recovery? - Sgt Football @SgtFootball
A: It definitely is. Not sure asking him about it is the fastest path to finding out. Actually, the fastest path to finding out would be for the NFL to get HGH approved ASAP but that's not going to happen. From Rivers to Brady to Welker to Peterson to Manning to the incredible rise of J.J. Watt from pizza boy to best defensive player in all of football, recoveries from ACL's and improvements in performance stretch credulity.
Q: @tomecurran "The Texans got past Cincinnati Saturday in a Wild Card matchup XX-XX." ---- Premature publication? - Chris S @cmsarro A: Yup. Had to run out of the house at 7:25 p.m. Saturday before that game went final. We missed on the update...who won, anyway?
Q: @tomecurran early thoughts on next weeks matchup? - brian flanagan @soxoct27 A: Sure. It will come down -- once again -- to Vince Wilfork beating the hell out of Chris Myers and gumming up the Houston stretch running play with Arian Foster. If the Bengals could have won that matchup -- or not been as susceptible to checkdown and tight end action as they were -- they would be heading to Denver. Foster got the ball 40 times! Eight on receptions. Owen Daniels was targeted 11 times and caught nine for 91. That's protecting the Pro Bowl quarterback from doing something stupid. The Patriots may challenge Schaub to beat them.

Q: @tomecurran What time? - JOHNNY J3 RODRIGUES @johnnyrod1 A: 4:30 p.m. EST next SundayQ: @tomecurran So do you think this game was more Texans defense or Bengals ineffective offense? - Norm Welch @rednckdaddyA: Oh, the Bengals were plenty ineffective. For A.J. Green to not even be targeted in the first half? For BJGE to get three carries? Plenty ineffective.Q: @tomecurran Think they wear the lettermen jackets next week? - Eric Paulson @epaulson89 A: Have to. Don't they?Q: @tomecurran How the hell do you not tell Belichick to (stop it) when you ask questions and he gives such a (unpleasant) response? - Ryan Hammond @RealRyanHammondA: Trying to work on being less sensitive in 2013.

Q: @tomecurran Why would we want (Scott Pioli) back? We have Nick Caserio now, who is doing a good job. - Drive for SB 47 @PatriotsExtra A: I mentioned on the Twitter that Pioli returning seemed unlikely because it would be a step back to the warm bosom of the Patriots that might give the perception he was uncomfortable away from New England. It is worth noting, though, that two years ago the Chiefs were an 11-5 playoff team and Matt Cassel was a 27-7 TD-to-INT guy and Pioli's name wasn't mud the way it became when the team went south and those waiting to assail him because he made their lives harder with the way he wanted to run his franchise were able to get out the torches and pitchforks.
Q: @tomecurran why are you guys already talking about the Broncos??? - Kax @Kaxi A: Because they are the most likely impediment for the Patriots getting to the Super Bowl. We are allowed to look ahead because we don't play for the team and, hence, won't be asked to stop Arian Foster.

Q: @tomecurran Name the last highly successful NFL coach (SB's) that was significantly overweight like Andy Reid? Why is this not discussed? - Dean Harrington @DeansDeskA: Mike Holmgren in Seattle. John Madden. I dunno, skinny guys can stink too. Just ask Mike Nolan. Interesting launch point for a book I recently saw recommended as well, called "Why We Get Fat" by Gary Taubes. Give it a read. Helps explain a lot including why the Boston effort to lose 1 million pounds in 2012 finished up 939,000 pounds short.

Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end


Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

Monday may have marked a low point in the relationship between the NFL and its on-field employees.

The fight between the league and its best player of the past two decades was in the headlines again. Tom Brady, tied to the NFL’s bumper and dragged around for almost 500 days, had his NFLPA legal team baring its teeth again in the Deflategate mess. The eye-gouging and hair-pulling in that imbroglio over a puff of air allegedly being removed from footballs has cost the league and the PA about $25M so far.

Meanwhile, NFLPA President Eric Winston was saying the league "cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it involves players.” That comment flowed from a Congressional report alleging the NFL tried to exert influence over who would conduct studies regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the condition that’s been blamed for a myriad of former players winding up addled, incapacitated or dead.

I say “may have marked” because the relationship between the two sides has cratered so frequently over the past two years, it’s hard to know exactly what the low point has been. Or how much lower it can go.

And, with the 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement only half done, there is ample opportunity for things to get worse. Because, really, why would they get better?

With the NFL’s owners safe knowing that their emperor/puppet/human shield is still in place to take the hits and do their dirty work, there’s seemingly no groundswell among that group to relieve Roger Goodell of his duties. Despite reports of growing owner discontent over Deflategate, the Ray Rice investigation, and an appeal of a case in which the league was found to have withheld $100M from players, there is no Sword of Damocles dangling over the league to cut ties with Goodell.

He was able to oversee the league’s re-entry in Los Angeles (though that “triumph” was fraught with owner acrimony), is going to get a game played in China, keeps edging closer to getting a franchise based in Europe and may even land one in Las Vegas, has enhanced the league’s reach on social media (the announcement of some games being aired on Twitter) and keeps making billions hand over fist.

Goodell’s presence won’t be an impediment to a new labor deal getting done for another five years. By then, when the issues of Goodell’s role in player discipline, drug testing and his relationship with the union come to the fore, the owners might feel compelled to cut him loose after 15 seasons in charge.

But even then, the league’s owners will be in the business of pointing out to the players how good they’ve had it under the current CBA. The league’s salary cap structure – decried as a disaster in the first years of the deal – has seen the cap grow from $120M in 2011 to $155M this year. Players’ practice time and the wear and tear on their bodies has been reduced thanks to the new limits on contact enacted. Benefits are better. Retired players are getting better care. Players have more off-field marketing opportunities with companies that want to affix themselves to the most popular sport in the United States.

As bad as the headlines have been for Goodell, in five years (or probably fewer since negotiations on a new CBA will begin in 2020) who will remember the disaster that’s been Deflategate? How inspired will players be to miss games and paychecks for the satisfaction of knowing Goodell can’t be his own arbitrator anymore?

To sum it up, Goodell’s dark disciplinary reign may well continue unabated for a few more seasons. But as long as the league rains money on its players through the end of this decade, the clock isn’t ticking on Goodell and the owners in the form of labor strife.

Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate


Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the Dan Patrick Show -- hosted by Ross Tucker on Monday -- to discuss the petition that was eventually filed to the Second Circuit requesting a rehearing for Tom Brady's case. 

During the discussion, Smith insisted that Brady made a settlement offer long ago that might've resolved things. But because the NFL wanted more, a deal was never struck. Now here we are, almost 500 days since the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015, and Deflategate is still a living, breathing thing. 

"Tom's a standup guy," Smith said. "And I think he made a settlement offer to resolve this. The league chose not to take it, and that's where we are . . . I don't want to go into details, but it was an incredibly generous offer to resolve this. The league asked for something that no man should agree to do."

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran explained on Monday's episode of Quick Slants that Brady was willing to accept a one-game suspension for a lack of cooperation at the outset of the investigation. But the league was looking for a face to take the blame, Curran explained. 

Both Jim McNally and John Jastremski were willing to take the heat off of Brady, but Brady insisted that he would not throw anyone else under the bus because he believed that there was no wrongdoing on his part or anyone else's when it came to the preparation of game footballs. 

With no one offered up to shoulder the blame, the NFL declined to agree to any proposal from Brady's camp. At that point, it would have been almost impossible to predict that this case would one day be only a step or two from getting the US Supreme Court involved. 

Yet here we are.