Bledsoe, Parcells prime candidates for Pats HOF


Bledsoe, Parcells prime candidates for Pats HOF

By Tom E. Curran
Who was more important to the New England Patriots, quarterback Drew Bledsoe or the man who drafted him, Bill Parcells? Is it the guy who wrote the script or the guy who read the lines? There's a good chance that this is the choice that will face Patriots fans when the 2011 Patriots Hall of Fame nominees are announced by the team on April 15. And it's up to you to make the ultimate votes. On Friday, a committee of media, staff and alumni met to discuss Patriots players who are eligible and deserving of Hall of Fame induction. This reporter ... no, no this, right HERE. Ok, I was in the room. Our job was to hear the discussion then nominate three players in descending order. When the ballots are counted, the top three vote-getters will be announced to the public and the public will vote on the 2011 inductee. There's always a lot of discussion about players from different eras. Getting insight into guys I'd only watched play (as opposed to covering or not seeing at all) was a big part of the session. Asking guys like Andre Tippett or Steve Grogan or Ernie Adams to explain the merits of Raymond Clayborn vs. Leon Gray vs. Houston Antwine was an education. But now we're getting into the "modern" eraof the Patriots. The conversation now becomes even more fascinating because the "saving" of the franchise and the current "flourishment" somewhat trump the great players from the star-crossed seasons past. I've been a stalwart supporter of Leon Gray, the late Patriots' left tackle who was with the Patriots from 1973-'78. John Hannah played next to Gray and the two were one of the most potent guard-tackle combos in league history. Gray went to two Pro Bowls (1976 and '78) and was an All Pro ('78) while with the Patriots. But he was foolishly dealt to Houston in 1979 where he kept on being awesome. He's been on my nomination list before. So has Clayborn, Antwine and another old-timer Houston Antwine. But with Bledsoe and Parcells both coming up, all the other guys were fighting for that third nomination spot on my ballot. And to me, the first spot was kind of easy. Bledsoe. Even though the word "underachiever" appears on his Patriots' epitaph, From 1993 to 1998, he was the best young quarterback in the NFL. I remember writing in 1998 that there wasn't a quarterback in the league you'rd rather start a franchise with. The talent was there. The production was there. The wins, the playoff appearances and the toughness were there. But the combination of Parcells being a pain in his ass, Pete Carroll being too soft, Bledsoe not being a maniacal worker and an ever-changing parade of offensive coordinators and systems caused Bledsoe's development to flat-line. And then he got worse. Still, he was the franchise hood ornament, the most important player the franchise ever had until the third week of September, 2001 rolled around. Parcells? His impact on the franchise was nearly equal to Bledsoe's. On the day he was hired - four months before he drafted Bledsoe - nearly 1,000 season tickets were sold. In four seasons, Parcells made the Patriots compelling. He made them relevant. He ended their years of being a punch line. But he was here for half as long as Bledsoe. His divorce from the team was messy (a Twitter poll I threw out there on Friday had Bledsoe as the pick by a 4 to 1 count) and he was as reviled as he was beloved by the time he fled to the Jets. Bledsoe? At least outwardly, he never did anything to sully his "class act" image, though he oozed disdain for Belichick and a tolerant condescension toward Brady at times during that period from September through January. Last up? I went with Leon Gray, narrowly, over Raymond Clayborn. So I did my part. And so did the rest of the panel. Come April 15, you'll get the chance to finish the job. I'll keep you posted.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'


Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'

Malcolm Butler didn't mean any disrespect. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 


When the Patriots corner picked off a Landry Jones pass in the first quarter -- one that was intended for receiver Antonio Brown -- Butler stood up in the end zone, faced the Heinz Field crowd, stuck one arm in the air But and gyrated like someone had attached jumper cables to his facemask. 

He was doing his best to mimick one of Brown's well-known touchdown dances.

"Me and Brown had conversation before," Butler said, "and it was a joke to him once I showed him how I do it. Much love for that guy. Nothing personal."

For Butler, it was the highlight of what was a productive afternoon. The third-year corner was asked to shadow Brown for much of the day, and he held Brown to five catches on nine targets for 94 yards. He also broke up a pair of passes intended for Brown's teammates.

“Stopping Antonio Brown, that’s impossible," Butler said. "You can’t stop him. You can only slow him down. I just went out there and tried to compete today . . . Great players are going to make plays but you have to match their intensity.”
Even on the longest throw from backup quarterback Landry Jones to Brown, a 51-yarder, it appeared as though Butler played the coverage called correctly. 

Butler lined up across from Brown and trailed him underneath as Brown worked his way from the left side of the field to the right. Butler was looking for some help over the top in that scenario, seemingly, but because Brown ran across the formation, it was hard for the back end of the defense to figure out who would be helping Butler. 

Coach Bill Belichick admitted as much after the game. 

"He was on [Brown] a lot the way we set it up," Belichick said. "Look, they've got great players. They're tough to cover. They hit us on a couple over routes, in cut where they kind of ran away from the coverage that we had. 

"The plays were well designed. Good scheme, good thorws and obviously good routes by Brown. They got us on a couple, but I thought we competed hard. We battled all the way. We battled on third down. We battled in the red area. They made some. We made some, but they're good. They have a lot of good players."

And Brown, in particular, is about as close as it gets to unstoppable in the NFL. Butler found that out in Week 1 of last year when he matched up with Brown in his first game as a starter, giving up 9 catches for 133 yards to the All-Pro wideout. 

Though Sunday might not have been perfect for Butler, it was better than that day about 14 months ago. And at times, it was worth dancing about. 

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6


SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's Stephen Hauschka and Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro missed short field goals that would have won the game in overtime and the Seahawks and Cardinals settled for a 6-6 tie Sunday night.

Hauschka's 27-yard field goal was wide left with seven seconds left after Catanzaro's 24-yarder bounced off the left upright.

The tie was the Cardinals' first since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It was the first for the Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976.

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