The dog days of summer have certainly arrived and training camp can't come soon enough. With just another couple of weeks to go, hopefully the latest Ask PFW installment can hold most of you over … even you Roman Conquest!!
My question is about the poor quality of "Ask PFW." So many of the questions printed are neither serious nor genuinely funny. Precious space is wasted on filler, like the four-line testimonial that started off the 6/21 column. If your egos need a boost, why not just savour your strokes in private, and print just the meat of the question? Why so much irrelevant chitchat and lame joking? If you guys are bored with serious football talk, why not turn the job over to someone with fresh legs? Why so many typos and solecisms? Can't you be bothered to proofread what you write? Why so many correspondents complaining about being overlooked – can't you answer their notes by private email, rather than cluttering up the column with stuff of no interest to anyone but the writer? And what pleasure is it to these folks to have their previous, presumably substantive questions overlooked, only to make it into the column with a mere complaint? Why answer essentially the same questions over and over again – "Will Dillon fit in at Gillette, huh? Huh? Will he? Will he?" - while ignoring deep, searching think pieces like mine, twice bypassed: "What must the Pats do to continue their winning ways, and not fall off, as they did in 2001-02, following their first Super Bowl win?" Why not select interesting questions and give thoughtful (or genuinely funny) answers, rather than the preening ego-stuff?
Glad to see we have another satisfied customer. Sorry we've wasted your time for the past several months. I didn't realize how deep and thoughtful you were. But like some others, I guess you only believe your questions are relevant and deserve to be answered. So what must the Pats do to continue their winning ways and not have the fall off they experienced in 2002? That is, as you so eloquently pointed out, quite a "think piece" you've left me to ponder. Of course it's also a totally subjective question that has no definitive answer, but since you're obviously a thinker along the lines of Aristotle or Socrates, I'll give it some thought. First, I don't think the 2002 Patriots suffered from the normal post-Super Bowl malaise. I thought that team got the most out of its ability and did extremely well to come as close to making the playoffs as it did. It was not a powerhouse group that steamrolled its opponents in 2001. They played hard every week and came up a tiebreaker short of winning the division. Finishing 9-7, in my opinion, was an overachievement.
So how does this team do better and get back to the playoffs?? For openers I believe this group is much richer in talent than the 2001-02 teams were. Tom Brady is much more seasoned and much better equipped to handle the highs and lows a full season as a starter will bring. And now he has Corey Dillon to lighten the load occasionally if Charlie Weis opts to lean more on the running game. Defensively, replacing Ted Washington is a concern but overall the group should be every bit as strong as last year. And if Rosevelt Colvin can make it back healthy, it could be even better with such a pass rushing threat from the outside. It would be difficult to imagine the team suffering more injuries than it did last year, so that alone should make their job easier. Since Belichick has been in charge, I haven't seen many instances where motivation has been a problem. Judging from mini-camp, the team appears as hungry as ever and the business-like attitude the coach oozes has definitely permeated the team. That certainly doesn't ensure success or another title, but in terms of preparation the Pats have done their homework.
I have the highlights from the Super Bowl on the "3 Games To Glory" DVD, and I keep noticing that all of the Panthers major yardage plays came on the weak side of the secondary (Tyrone Poole's side). With the amount of yardage racked up on that side during that game, it would seem that this is a weakness. With the addition of some very good second receivers in the division (David Boston, Miami; Lee Evans, Buffalo; Justin McCareins, Jets) is this something to worry about, or should I just continue to believe that BB will take care it?
Not to sound like Captain Obvious here, but if Poole plays the 2004 season the way he did the 2003 postseason, especially the Super Bowl, then I'd say it's a major concern. But Poole was pretty solid for the most part last year. I thought he was victimized a bit by Tennessee and Carolina in the playoffs when both of those teams opted to avoid Ty Law at all costs. You make a good point about the second receivers in the AFC East, but I do trust Belichick in this department. Secondary play may be his biggest strength as a coach. Between Poole and Asante Samuel, plus veterans like Burris and Buckley, I believe the Pats corners opposite Law will be more than serviceable. But I do consider that position one of a scant few concerns heading into camp.
After the Patriots first Super Bowl win, they came out with a book about the history of the franchise. In one part of the book they mentioned that the Patriots were thinking of moving down here, to Birmingham. It was also mentioned on a local sports talk station here recently, which prompted me to ask you about this. I am a Patriots fan from the day I was born, and was born in Boston. Now, living here, and just now finding out about this, I'm curious as to how serious this flirtation was. Can you shed any light on this?
Most Pats fans know the team played one game in Birmingham, back in 1968, against the Jets when Fenway Park was unavailable. But most are unaware the franchise contemplated moving there back in 1970. After the AFL-NFL merger took place, all 26 teams at the time agreed to be playing in stadiums that could seat at least 50,000 fans. Neither BU Field, Fenway Park nor BC's Alumni Field (the franchise's three previous homes) held that many, so then-owner Billy Sullivan needed to find a bigger place. He wanted to move into Harvard Stadium, which held 40,000 but had room for temporary stands that would allow it to meet the league's quota. But Harvard initially balked, forcing Sullivan to look elsewhere. Hugh Morrow III, head of an organization named Birmingham Pro Football, was interested in bringing the Patriots to Alabama and planned to speak to Sullivan about a possible move. But the Patriots eventually worked out an agreement with Harvard and the Patriots played there in 1970. The old Foxboro Stadium (then Schaefer Stadium) was built soon thereafter and the Patriots have moved there in 1971.
Corey Dillon is only signed for two years, do you guys think if he has a really good first year then the Patriots might sign him to a longer deal and keep him their feature back? The second question is on Ty Law. What are the chances on getting a deal done that will make him happy and keep him in a Patriots uniform, or is that just wishful thinking and he is just going to play out his 2 years and move on?
Hey Curtis, say hi to the RemDawg for me.
My guess is neither of those players will be Patriots in 2006. Dillon probably has a better shot, but even if he racks up 2,500 yards in the next two seasons, he'll still be less than two months shy of his 32nd birthday when the 2006 season opens. That's getting up there for an NFL running back. And assuming he's highly productive, he'll likely be looking to make up for the lost wages he agreed to take when he came here from Cincinnati. So it's sort of a Catch-22 for the Pats – the better he plays the more money he'll want, likely pricing him out of New England. However, he could look at New England as the only place he wants to play and accept less to stay with the team that gave him this opportunity. How's that for wishy-washy.
As for Law, I really can't see him here in two years. My gut says he's gone after this season, but Belichick has definitely taught me to never say never. Provided Law stays healthy, he'll be looking for a big deal as soon as he becomes a free agent, whether that comes after a release in 2005 or when his contract ends in 2006. Either way, I don't believe the Patriots will give him that big deal.
I know what the difference is between a restricted and unrestricted free agent, but what decides which one they are? Is it their next to last year in their contract makes them a restricted free agent, and the following year unrestricted? Is that why Ty Law will be a restricted free agent after this year?
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Come on, Shane. Your living in Costa Rica and you can't keep up with the intricacies of the collective bargaining agreement?? Shame on you! Anyway, let me clear some of this up for you. In order to be an unrestricted free agent a player must have completed at least four years in the league. A player can become a restricted free agent after completing three years. So if a rookie signs a four- or five-year deal and remains with the team that signed him, he would never become a restricted free agent. Rookies who sign for less than four years would become restricted free agents after their third season. After a player is in the league for four years, he would become an unrestricted free agent anytime his contract expires or if he was released. So in using your example of Ty Law, you're incorrect in saying he'll be a restricted free agent next year. He will be entering the last year of his contract, but if the Patriots keep him he gets paid and if they release him, he'll become an unrestricted free agent.
Why does Bill Belichick seem intent on adding a "veteran" QB after Rohan Davey just ripped apart NFL Europe? Is this merely for depth purposes or is it for someone to challenge Davey? I suppose I am in the minority in thinking that Davey could perhaps step in for Brady today without the Patriots missing a beat. Davey has talent, which is more than one can say for a lot of "veteran" quarterbacks in this league. Am I missing something here?
Other than a little perspective, you're not missing anything, George. Sorry, that was a little harsh and I usually save those kinds of remarks for Bryan. But I do disagree with you a little here. How have you made the determination that the Pats wouldn't miss a beat with Davey? Are you basing that on the seven career passes he's attempted in the NFL? Davey played well in Europe but that's a far cry from NFL success. Ever hear of a player named Dameyune Craig? He tore up NFL Europe in 1999, was named MVP, passed for 611 yards in one game and still never stepped off the bench as an NFL quarterback. I'm not saying Davey will be just like Craig, but I'm trying to point out there have been great performances in Europe that haven't led to NFL success. Davey might turn out to be a fine NFL quarterback, but the fact is we just don't know right now. Just like we didn't know in 2001 that Tom Brady was going to be a fine NFL quarterback. We found out about Brady when Bledsoe got hurt. Maybe we'll find out about Davey soon but until then he's an unknown. Hopefully a strong preseason will show the Patriots coaches that he's ready to step in when needed.
I read with amusement your comparison of the 2 Bills, I personally would never want Parcells to coach my team. Parcells quits right in the middle of his rebuilding as shown with both the Patriots and Jets, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this is his last season in Dallas either, especially if he doesn't make the playoffs. Belichick is BY FAR the better coach.
New Haven, Conn.
In reading Andy Hart's response to this question last week, I find it difficult finding what you could have taken issue with, Bill. Andy thinks, and I agree, that Belichick is the superior Xs and Os football coach. Asked to take one to run his team, Andy said he'd take Belichick. But rather than be a blind homer, he correctly pointed out that Parcells didn't just luck his way into all the success he's had as a coach either. He's an excellent motivator and has had a lot of success as a coach as well. I personally think this is a very interesting debate. If you're concerned with the long haul, I think you'd be crazy if you didn't take Belichick. I disagree with your assessment that Parcells "quits in the middle of his rebuilding job." He rebuilt the Giants and won two Super Bowls before leaving. He rebuilt the Patriots and went to the Super Bowl before leaving. He rebuilt the Jets and went to the conference title game before leaving … seems to me the rebuilding was done when he left all three. Parcells does seem to get restless after three or four years with one team and his wandering eye would concern me if I were in charge of a franchise. But you can't ignore the fact that Parcells successfully turned around four franchises and brought them all to the playoffs. Belichick's record in New England is phenomenal, but his mark in Cleveland wasn't nearly as impressive. That counts, too. Parcells' worst record as a coach was his .500 mark with the Patriots – and he took them all the way to the Super Bowl. And the Patriots were also his biggest rebuilding job, although inheriting the 1-15 Jets was surely no picnic. We all respect Belichick as the great head coach that he is, but I see no cause for amusement in citing Parcells' accomplishments as being comparable to Belichick's. Seems to me the Patriots have been very lucky to have two such outstanding coaches in their recent history.
How do you think the T.E. position is playing out so far? Will the Pats run more 2 T.E. sets?How is Ben Watson coming along? And is Daniel Graham still working hard on his hands?
D. Graham fan
The tight end spot figures to be one of the Patriots strengths. With Fauria and Graham returning, plus rookie Benjamin Watson, Charlie Weis will have a ton of options to use different sets and personnel groups this season. Contrary to popular opinion, the Patriots did use a great deal of multiple tight end sets last year – somewhere between 25-30 percent of the time. I'd look for that number to rise a little, especially if Watson is ready to contribute early. Fauria and Graham are a good combination since both can be used as blockers and receivers. Graham worked a ton on catching the ball in the offseason but now he needs to show that during games. But overall I'd say tight end is a very big asset for this team.
I read in a recent PFW that there were only 21 players on both Super Bowl teams. That seems like a lot of turnover for a good team. Who are some of the veterans on the Patriots that you see getting let go before the season or what positions do you think have openings?
Boca Raton, Fla.
The most common names that come up as veteran candidates to be let go are David Patten and Ted Johnson. But I don't either is going anywhere. Both can still fill valuable roles and neither will break the bank in terms of the salary cap. As for openings … I'd say the defensive backfield competition will be wide open. Beyond Ty Law, Tyrone Poole, Eugene Wilson, Rodney Harrison and probably Asante Samuel, I'd say the rest are up for grabs. The offensive line also should provide heated battles – both for starting jobs and for backup roles. And of course wide receiver is one of the deepest positions of the team so roster spots will be tough to earn.
Where does Belichick's decision to come to the Patriots (in lieu of the J-E-T-S) sit on your list of biggest NFL moments of the past 25 years? I mean, seriously - if you think about it, those two Super Bowl trophies could be sitting in the Meadowlands right now instead of Foxboro, thus altering the history of two of the league's most valuable franchises. Or, is his decision overblown, and it's plausible that either the Patriots or Jets could or could not have pulled out either of those two titles with our without Belichick? Am I a raving lunatic?Second, it is clear that at the very least, Belichick has played an enormous role in these two titles, if not fully responsible. Has he ever given any indication as to when he wishes to retire? Also, does have a Parcellsian itch that would cause him to want to simulate success with multiple teams to increase the depth of his legacy? Or, does he seem more of a Gibbs-type, one who will want to stay with one franchise (once he has had success there) for the remainder of his career?
While I'd stop short of call you a raving lunatic, Paul, I do think you're overblowing the impact of Belichick's decision just a bit. I mean, on a list of biggest NFL moments of the past 25 years?? I'd save things like player milestones (rushing for 2,000 yards, touchdown reception records, etc.) for such a list rather than a coach's decision to take one job over another. There's no way of knowing what would have happened had Belichick elected to stay in New York rather than come to New England. I certainly would be of the opinion that the Patriots would not have won two Super Bowls, but that doesn't mean I'd be willing to say the Jets would have. It's just impossible to say for sure.
As for Belichick's future, that's a tough call as well. My personal opinion is that he won't continue coaching into his 60s. I can see him staying with the Pats for another few years and then walking away when his contract expires. He's made comments in the past about not being interested in being the next Marv Levy, who coached into his 70s and was being talked about as recently as last year as a potential candidate for a vacancy. I don't see Belichick as having the "Parcells itch." I think the Patriots will be his last job. Of course like most media types, I have absolutely nothing concrete to base that opinion on.
With the media being asked to report significantly less mini-camp news than in prior years, very little was mentioned about how the various rookies fared during camp. Last year, it was obvious from the amount of action they saw in mini-camp that BB was high on Samuel and Wilson. Did you get the sense from the action during this year's mini-camp that BB was particularly pleased with any members of this year's rookie class?
Well, I could tell you Dan, but then I'd have to kill you … or at least make sure you never let the Patriots staff know that I said anything. The Patriots asked that we not speculate on depth chart issues and other such items of importance at mini-camp. But at the risk of getting myself in hot water, I'll say I thought Guss Scott was pretty active at safety and seemed to on the field a lot with the regulars, although I'm sure that was because Eugene Wilson sat out the camp recovering from his groin injury.
Will Dexter Reid be allowed to wear No. 2 this season? I thought rules regarding uniforms were fairly strict about what positions could wear what numbers.
Rule 5, Article 1, Section 4 of the 2003 NFL rulebook states that defensive backs must wear numbers between 20-49. So Reid will not be allowed to wear No. 2 in the regular season. He can wear it during the preseason if he wants, like Bryan Cox wore No. 0 during the 2001 preseason. There is also a line stating that any request to wear a special number must be made to the commissioner. According to the Patriots media relations staff, Reid has yet to make any such request.
Why do you think the Pats released Otis Smith? Did he not pass the physical or do they feel they have enough depth at that position?
It definitely has nothing to do with him not passing his physical. He had no health problems and was on the field during mini-camp last month. My guess is the coaches felt they had enough depth in the secondary and plan on sticking with some of the younger players instead. Jeff Burris and Terrell Buckley are still on the roster so experience won't be a problem if the coaches feel they need help in that department. I do find it a bit strange that Smith was signed in April and couldn't even make it to training camp before getting released, though.
Now that O-T-I-S is gone, it's clear that Ty Law and Tyrone Poole are going to be the starting cornerbacks. But there is still T-buck, Burris and Asante Samuel for the nickel back. Who at the moment has the better chance to win the job? Or is it unclear and we'll have to wait till training camp?
Not so fast there, Nathan. Otis' release has nothing to do with the starting cornerback job opposite Ty Law. Smith had virtually no shot of winning a starting job in the first place. If the coaches thought he could start, they wouldn't have released him last year, let alone again in 2003. I think Samuel and Poole are the main competitors for the starting spot with Poole likely holding an edge heading into camp as the incumbent. I've said before that I believe Samuel winning the job would be a very good sign for Patriots fans because I think it would give the team some flexibility and leverage with regard to Law at the end of the year. If Samuel proves worthy, I think he'll start ... and that's one of the key battles to keep an eye on this preseason.
Do you think there is any possibility of the Pats signing Jeremiah Trotter to beef up their inside linebacker position?
As I've said before, I've quit saying never when it comes to Belichick. But I'd be a little surprised if Trotter becomes a Patriot. While he is younger than the Patriots inside linebackers (he's 27), his injury history scares me too much. He's a terrific player when healthy but I'm sure his knee problems are the reason he remains unsigned. If he were healthy, he'd likely command a pretty hefty salary. I read where Minnesota was interested in him but I'd pass.
I would like to know do you guys AGREE with me that the PATS will not only get back to the BOWL but they have enough TALENT to go undefeated, I mean they PRACTICALLY play a 5th place SCHEDULE with only 5 of the 16 teams they are PLAYING were in the 2003 NFL Playoffs and Miami was the only above .500 (non-playoff team). This BODES very well for them. I really believe that they LEARNED from the 9-7 season in 2002. What's you take?
Keith D. Rose
East Bradenton, Fla.
Another calm, rational, unbiased Patriots fan who has trouble grasping reality, not to mention the shift key. Let me start by saying I undoubtedly believe the Patriots are in terrific shape heading into the season. I don't see another team right now that should be considered any bigger favorite for the Super Bowl than the Patriots. But to suggest any team will go undefeated is just foolish. I'm not saying it's impossible, but since no team has ever done it since the 16-game schedule was implemented in 1978, the odds are pretty slim. I'm not sure where you're getting the fifth-place schedule from. Only two games are determined as a result of previous years' finish, and since the Pats finished first those two games are against other division winners. You can't determine how tough a schedule is before the season starts. The Pats play five teams against 2003 playoff teams. They played just seven such games last year, and four of those were against the Jets (twice), Cleveland and the Giants, all three of which turned out to be terrible teams. But the Patriots schedule was very difficult last season. Look at all the wins the Patriots had against teams with a winning record. Pittsburgh, for example, was terrible last year. But the Steelers are certainly capable of rebounding and getting back to the playoffs – just like Denver did last year after a mediocre 2002. That game might be tougher than you think, especially on the road. And that's just one example. The NFL is a parity-driven league … just remember how tough the Houston game was last year. Any team on the Patriots schedule is capable of winning – that's why it's so tough to go undefeated.
I'm worried about the schedule for the Pats this year. The bye week is early and they have only seven games at the preferred 1:00 on Sunday. They don't have a 1:00 game from Oct. 17 to Nov. 28. Do you think they will have a problem developing a rhythm with the irregular game dates/times?
I guess David is the opposite extreme from Keith. But in terms of the scheduling concerns, I'd have to lean toward David's side. Road Monday nighters (two), the early bye week (after Week 2) and five 4 o'clock games make for a tough slate no matter the opponent. Players are creatures of habit and disrupting the practice schedule can make it difficult at times. The Patriots have done a good job with short weeks in recent years and Belichick does a great job eliminating any potential distractions. But all things considered I'd bet anything he'd prefer to play all 16 games on Sunday at 1.
If the Patriots went to the SB next year, who do you predict their opponent will be?
I love these extra chances to look like a total buffoon in print. But hey, it won't be the first or last time that happens so I'll take a shot and say the Patriots will play Philadelphia in the Super Bowl.
I was wondering if you thought this years team is better or worse on paper than either of the two championship teams.
Tikrit, wow! I would think you'd have other things on your mind than the Patriots … I guess that says a lot about the Super Bowl champs! Anyway, I believe this team is leaps and bounds better than the 2001 champs on paper. As for last year … I'd say it's about even with perhaps this team, mostly by virtue of replacing Antowain Smith with Corey Dillon, getting a slight edge. The Patriots are much younger and faster than the 2001 team and those who return – most notably Brady – are better players than they were for the most part. It's tough to break down every position from each team but overall I believe this team stronger, especially on offense. Defensively, I felt the 2001 team made a lot of big plays to stymie drives while last year the group was suffocating and dominant. It remains to be seen what this year will bring, but since Ted Washington is basically the only key member missing, my guess is it will be much of the same.
I was wondering of the current Patriot players drafted by New England, which coaches were responsible for drafting them?
San Clemente, Calif.
I'm not going to list every player on the roster the Patriots have drafted, but I'll make it easy for you Derek … the Patriots drafted 33 of their current players. Bill Parcells was coach from 1993-96, meaning he drafted Troy Brown, Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi. Pete Carroll coached from 1997-99 and Kevin Faulk is the only player remaining from his three drafts. Belichick came in 2000 and selected the other 27 in his five drafts, including Tom Brady in his first draft.
I was doing some research because I have no life, and I began to wonder where Michael Bishop ended up going after the Patriots cut him loose. I discovered that he went to Green Bay, then signed with a Canadian football team called The Toronto Argonauts [CFL]. So here's the good old question … who has the rights to Michael Bishop if someone wanted him here in the NFL? Would he still belong to Green Bay and was my research correct/complete? What about J.R. Redmond?
Thanks Ryan … we haven't had any good Michael Bishop talk in a couple of years. But since you asked I guess I'll answer. No one would own his rights if he wanted to return to the NFL. He would be free to sign with any team willing to sign him. The last I heard he was the third-string quarterback in Toronto and then signed to play in the Arena League with Grand Rapids, where I believe he finished the season playing for the Rampage. As for J.R. Redmond, the Raiders picked him up last year and he finished the season with 30 yards on nine carries. He's still listed on Oakland's roster on its website but I read a report from the Contra Costa Times that said he was released in April. So I'm not sure if he's still with the Raiders or if anyone else has picked him up.