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Ask PFW: Another man's trash Pt. 2

Read part two of this weeks wide ranging Ask PFW mailbag...

Was anyone else at all bothered by the fact that Brady wasn't on the sidelines for ANY games this past season? I understand taking a few weeks off following the injury but I would imagine his presence would have been appreciated by his teammates and the fans. Am I wrong to expect this from our team's leader and the face of the franchise? Shawne Merriman was on the sidelines in San Diego cheering his team on almost every game this season. I think Brady will be back and better than ever in 2009, but I wanted to see if anyone over at PFW was bothered by this at all.
Dylan Swanson

Was any at PFW bothered by it? No. Was anyone else bothered by it? Yes. You're not alone, Dylan, many of your fellow fans wondered where Brady was. But having players on injured reserve on the sidelines is really not the way the Patriots do things. How many times did you see Rodney Harrison on the sideline during games? How about Adalius Thomas? Those guys are certainly key players and team leaders, but once they were lost of the season they were out of sight. Many coaches feel it's best to keep players on injured reserve (and thus not returning) away from the team. Brady spoke with Matt Cassel on a regular basis and offered whatever insights he could to help. Just because he wasn't on the sideline doesn't mean he didn't care. And using Merriman as an example is weak. This is a guy who spent the season serving as an analyst for a football show on Comcast SportsNet and that's the guy you want Brady to emulate? No thanks.
Paul Perillo

I know that both Brady and Cassel will take up about 22 percent of the salary cap. In baseball, the salary cap seems to be a suggestion. The Yankees pay a huge luxury tax every year. How does it work in the NFL? Can a team go over the cap? What is the penalty? Is there a time when it may be wise to do so?
Michael Nicolosi

Well first of all there is no salary cap in baseball. The luxury tax is a threshold that teams can exceed if they're willing to pay a penalty to the lower revenue teams. That's why teams like the Yankees can spend as much as they want on player salaries. The NFL has a strict salary cap system and that number cannot be compromised for any reason. Teams are not allowed to exceed the cap, which is scheduled to be in the neighborhood of $123 million in 2009. If any potential moves would put a team's payroll above that mark, the move wouldn't be allowed unless the team did something (released a player, altered a player's salary) to stay within the confines of the cap.
Paul Perillo

If the Pats are looking for some more depth at WR, how about Antonio Bryant? He's very under the radar so he wouldn't cost much, and he had over 1,200 yards receiving on a team without a very prolific passing game.
Sam Frankel

Bryant has a terrific season after languishing the past couple of years amidst some personal issues. He showed that talent has never been his problem and enjoyed a nice rebound last year in Tampa. I'm not sure he's under the radar, though. The time for that would have been last year. Now he's coming off a huge season and will hope to get paid for it somewhere. I like his overall game and believe his skills would fit in nicely in New England as a deep threat complement to Randy Moss, but I'm not sure Belichick would be willing to make any kind of significant investment in Bryant.
Paul Perillo

What do you think about Cassel being traded to Chicago for a proven veteran corner like Nathan Vasher? The Pats obviously need all the help they can get in the secondary and Vasher could be the shutdown corner that we're looking for. Is there any possibility to this?
Ryan Adams

Unlike most of the proposed trades we receive, this one actually makes sense. Cassel for Vasher works in terms of value for both teams, assuming the Bears would be able to work out a long-term deal with Cassel. I don't think it would happen, however. While I don't think Kyle Orton is a top-tier quarterback by any means, I also don't think he's a stiff. He's shown he has the ability to win football games albeit with ordinary statistics – numbers that were not all that different from Cassel's last year. Orton was actually having a solid season before he injured his ankle about just after the halfway point of the season and he struggled down the stretch. I could see Chicago wanted to stick with him rather than cough up a player like Vasher, who would certainly look good in a Patriots uniform, and the money it would take to re-sign Cassel. I like the thought but I don't think it will happen.
Paul Perillo

After reading the WEEI article, I would like your thoughts on it. The article in question is the Open Letter to Belichick. Look, as brilliant as Wes Welker and Randy Moss are (and yes, they are great), they're expendable. Have we won championships with them? No. Without them? Yes. What we need is a Super Bowl-contending defense, which we currently do not have. Trade Welker or Moss, along with Cassel, for draft picks or defensive players. Stop giving me record-setting offenses and give me Super Bowl-winning defenses.
Robert Chilton

I did read the WEEI piece you referenced and I totally disagreed with it. I have nothing but respect for the author, Kerry Byrne, who actually used to do a radio segment with me as part of the "NFL Sunday" pregame show on WEEI. But I think he's missed the boat on this one. The Patriots didn't lose to the Giants in the 2008 Super Bowl, and thus barely missing out on going 19-0, because of Moss and Welker. The offense was outstanding and the defense lagged behind. I certainly wouldn't dispute that. I believe the defense needs to improve – I also wouldn't dispute that. But to put it in such black and white terms as we've won without Moss and Welker and haven't with them is absurd. Just exactly how did Moss and Welker cost us the Giants game? Moss caught two touchdowns while Welker caught just about everything else. If you could document specific defensive players the Patriots passed on in order to acquire those receivers then maybe I could see the point. To the contrary, in addition to picking up Moss and Welker the Patriots signed the biggest defensive free agent available that year in Adalius Thomas. In short, the 2008 Patriots were far and away the best team in football. They happened to get upset in the Super Bowl and that was terribly disappointing. But it had nothing to do with a team that wasn't constructed properly. They finished 18-1 and that's a better record than any of the teams that won the Super Bowl finished with. They just picked the wrong day to turn in their worst performance. It happens. Hell, even Pittsburgh's top-ranked defense looked quite average in the Super Bowl against a high-powered Arizona offense. If not for Ben Roethlisberger's last-second drive that allowed the Steelers offense to bail the defense out, the Cardinals would have pulled the upset. Like I said, the Patriots defense needs to get better but not at the expense of the offense.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering why everyone is saying that our secondary is our biggest problem. Our rushing defense was ranked lower (15) than our pass defense (11).
Salim Hajjar

That's an example of just how deceiving statistics can be because there was no comparison between the Patriots run and pass defenses this past season. In all honesty, the Patriots secondary was terrible for most of 2008. Opposing quarterbacks ripped through them with regularity until the weather turned late in the season and that knocked the numbers down a bit. Playing in driving rain (Oakland), snow (Arizona) and wind (Buffalo) over the final three weeks, the Patriots were able to contain opposing passing games well enough to make the numbers look respectable. Heading into those final three games the Patriots were ranked 16th against the pass while opposing quarterbacks averaged a passer rating of 92. That's an absurdly high number at that late point in the season. But benefiting from the elements the New England secondary was able to improve its standing a bit down the stretch. Meanwhile the run defense was 15th at the same time and remained in that spot until the end. In the first 13 games, seven opposing quarterbacks compiled passer ratings of 91.7 or better. That's why most people believe the secondary needs to improve. With very few exceptions (first Miami game, second Buffalo game) the run defense was much more consistent and effective despite average numbers.
Paul Perillo

You are the greatest. Random Super Bowl question: Just curious as to how often a team that has never been to a Super Bowl loses to a team that has been to the Super Bowl.
Bethany P.

In the 43 Super Bowls that have been played, teams that have Super Bowl experience are 16-3 against teams making their first ever appearance. Here's a list of all the games that have taken place between teams that have been to at least one Super Bowl going against teams making their first trip. (St. Louis' trip as the Rams in Super Bowl XIV is included as the franchises first trip):

Returning team beats first timer
II – Green Bay over Oakland
IV – Kansas City over Minnesota
V – Baltimore over Dallas
VI – Dallas over Miami
VII – Miami over Washington
XII – Dallas over Denver
XIV – Pittsburgh over Los Angeles
XV – Oakland over Philadelphia
XXI – New York Giants over Denver
XXV – New York Giants over Buffalo
XXIX – San Francisco over San Diego
XXXIII – Denver over Atlanta
XXXIV – St. Louis over Tennessee
XXXVIII – New England over Carolina
XL – Pittsburgh over Seattle
XLIII – Pittsburgh over Arizona

First timer beats a returning team
IX – Pittsburgh over Minnesota
XXXV – Baltimore over New York Giants
XXXVII – Tampa Bay over Oakland

As the days fly by through February and the draft and scouting combine inch closer, I still see no progress as far as the management and coaching staff situations the Patriots are currently dealing with this offseason. I would like to see New England get a jump on plugging up these gaps and I hope you could give some verification on who will most likely be filling in for whom besides Coach Belichick.
Theodore Price

Well there actually has been plenty of movement in that area, Theodore. The Patriots announced the hirings of quarterbacks coach Bill O'Brien, special teams coach Scott O'Brien, tight ends coach Shane Waldron and defensive backs coach Josh Boyer. The only position coach spot that currently is unoccupied is wide receivers. Technically the Patriots don't have an offensive coordinator in terms of title, but Bill O'Brien will handle some play calling responsibilities similar to the way Josh McDaniels did back in 2005 before officially being named offensive coordinator the following year. There have been a lot of changes and it's tough keep track of them all.
Paul Perillo

Since drafting Daniel Graham, these are who Belichick has drafted with his first round picks: 2003: Ty Warren; 2004: Vince Wilfork, Ben Watson; 2005: Logan Mankins; 2006: Laurence Maroney; 2007: Brandon Meriweather; 2008: Jerod Mayo. As you can see, the last seven first-round players have had last names that begin with either a W or M. Some first round prospects that would work are Eugene Monroe, Rey Maualuga, Aaron Maybin, Jeremy Maclin, D.J. Moore, Chris Wells, Knowhson Moreno and Fili Moala. What do you think of the many M and W players that have been picked, and do you think it will continue in 09?
Scott Hageman

Who says Belichick is unpredictable at draft time? The things our loyal readers come up with … will it continue? Sure, why not?
Paul Perillo

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