Curran: Mulling Meriweather's Patriots future

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Curran: Mulling Meriweather's Patriots future

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

The good news for Brandon Meriweather? The 2011 draft class is short on safeties. One canassumethe New England Patriots hate when their employees get themselves involved in a story where the words "shot," "two men," "head" and, of course, "Patriots" are repeated over and over. It's bad for the Patriots brand and bad for that employees long-term prospects. Yet that's what's happened with Meriweather since a story broke on Deadspin.com that a well-known Florida personal injury attorney had two clients fingering Meriweather as the guy who shot them during a fracas. How will the Patriots react to this? That's really what's pertinent to the general public since Meriweather is only in our consciousness because of his football talent.Let us analyze. First off, contrary to public perception, Meriweather hasn't really done anything during his time in New England to advance the thug image he brought with him from the University of Miami. He executed a dirty hit on Baltimore's Todd Heap last year during a game. That's the extent of his rap sheet here. When he came to the Patriots as a first-round pick out of the University of Miamiin 2007, he was fresh off incriminating video of himself trying to stomp opponents during an on-field brawl with Florida International University (Meriweather is No. 19). That happened months after Meriweather shot - legally - at an individual who fired a bullet into his roommate Willie Cooper's buttocks. So while one can assume that he had a short leash in terms of behavior, he hadn't even pulled at the leash in his first four seasons here. Until this story bubbled up. Whether Meriweather was acting as peacemaker, as an anonymous eyewitness told the Boston Globe, or was just an onlooker, the Patriots will certainly be harsh on Meriweather for his mere presence in the situation.If it was going bad at the Blue Jeans Lounge, it was probably time to call it a night right then instead of heading back for a house party, which is where the shooting allegedly took place. Did Meriweather have a right to be out with his friends and cousins? Of course. Does that mean it was the right place to be? Doesn't seem so.(I make this judgment as a veteran of being in spots that I had a right to be in but weren't the right place to be.)Often, a players' off-field missteps are viewed by their team in terms of how valuable he is to the team. Meriweather, who is entering the final year of his contract, has been to the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons, In 2009, he was an alternate and got in when others weren't able to go. In 2010, he was selected despite being the third-best safety on the Patriots and seeing his playing time cut drastically in the middle of the season. He admitted to "doing his own thing" instead of executing the defense which is a reason his time was cut. To sum it up, he's a talented player who hasn't reached his potential. He's not a leader in the locker room and doesn't ooze (or even give off a whiff) of the professionalism secondary mates like James Sanders, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and Leigh Bodden do.If he shot the gun, he's probably done in New England before the 2011 season starts. If he didn't, he'll be done after the 2011 seasons ends.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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.