Lester wants to be a better teammate

676030.jpg

Lester wants to be a better teammate

FORT MYERS, Fla. Jon Lester met with the media Sunday morning for the first time this spring. Here are a few of the highlights:

How much hes been looking forward to the start of spring training
Its been a while. I think with the way everything ended, since that day. Obviously, it leaves a bitter taste in everybody's mouth and Im definitely motivated to get back and ready to go. Its been a long winter, and just excited to be here. Cant beat being here. Its an awesome place. They did an awesome job, kind of a different feeling just being out here.

How much he has thought about September
A lot. Its one of those things I dont think you ever really forget. In baseball it seems like every year theres something you never see before. That was one thing Ive never really seen. Now that its over and were here and its a new season, a new start. Im kind of glad a lot of these guys went through it. Im glad I went through it. Its going to make us better. It s going to make us stronger to where if we get in a situation like that where were not paying good, we can reflect back on last year and September and realize, OK, we can get through this and we can learn from it and play better.

On why the team had nothing to draw on in September
I dont think any of us had been through it. I think thats the biggest learning curve is going through situations. And when you go through it the first time youre nave. Were all saying were going to be fine. I think kind of the mindset is were going to be in the playoffs. Well get there and when we get there everybody's going to come back and be healthy and ready to go. We stunk. I stunk. Tampa Bay was better and thats just basically how it was. Now you put that in your filing bank and just like your experiences in the World Series and the playoffs and pitching in tight games, the Yankee series all year, you file those into your memory bank and when you get back into those situations you draw from it and learn from it and know Ok, Ive been in this situation before we know how to handle it.

On manager Bobby Valentine wanting Lester to take more of a leadership role
I want to try to. Its something that I think the guys in my age group never really had to do because weve been around guys like Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek and had veteran guys that have been around a long time and weve just kind of sat back and let them do their thing and kind of follow them. So I think its time for us and me to step up and try to feel comfortable in that situation and try to just do the best I can in it. And hopefully just by me going out and pitching and doing the stuff I do in the weight room and in between starts people can, young kids can see that and say alright well this is what I need to do.

On what he learned from his mistakes
Just not doing it. Just being a better teammate. Being on the bench. With that being said, the starting pitchers do have a lot of stuff to do during the game that we dont get to before the game because position players are the priority. And if were not pitching, we let them go first and we come in after the game starts and do some of our stuff that we need to do, whatever that is as far as re-gen or getting with trainer Mikey Reinold and doing some more arm stuff, some type of rehab or just maintenance. So were not going to be out there all nine innings. But Ill be out there more supporting my teammates.

Thoughts on his September performance
Obviously, its disappointing. I kind of like starting bad and finishing good. Need to go back to that formula. It seems to work better for me. But its disappointing. Its a crucial time of the year. Im supposed to pitch good and I didnt. I dont know why. Physically I was, it was September and I was behind and just trying to grind through it. But its just one of those things. It just wasnt in our cards to be good in September. It stinks. Its disappointing. Usually as soon as the season ends I go home I dont think about baseball. I move on I spend time with my family. We travel, that sort of thing. But it just seemed like it kind of lingered in my head and I think that helped motivate me to get in the gym a little earlier and start getting the movement back to baseball. And I think that kind of added a little bit desire to this year getting down here and getting ready.

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.