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Ask PFW: Picking up the pieces

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I was brainstorming/daydreaming. With Romeo Crennel currently out of football and Charlie Weis' dismissal from Notre Dame what do you think of the possibility of Bill Belichick hiring one or both of them again? We enjoyed our best success when the three of them were together and having one or both back as a coordinator or assistant coach would be awesome. I know the fans would love it, I'm sure the players would love to see it, what are your thoughts of the band possibly getting back together?Bob Stuart

The rumors of a possible return have been out there from the moment Notre Dame lost to Stanford to close out its regular season. Several NFL "insiders" have reported that Weis has been contacted by several teams (as many as six) and the Patriots are believed to be one of them. It would obviously make sense for him to return, perhaps even before the 2009 season is complete. It's hard to know exactly what that would take, however, since Weis is owed a great deal of money from the Irish and it's unclear how a return to coaching would affect that. I could see Weis returning, probably next season, as assistant head coach/offense but we'll have to wait and see. As for Crennel, I'm not sure he's looking to get back into it at this point. I know he said after last season that he was looking forward to taking the year off and then planned to re-evaluate his situation. Again, if he wants to return it would make sense for him to do so in New England. Overall, while I believe both Weis and Crennel are excellent coaches, I'm not sure their returns are necessary for the Patriots to succeed. I think Bill O'Brien is an excellent coach in his own right and the offense certainly hasn't been the team's problem since Weis left. Dean Pees also has shown the ability to get the job done and as long as Belichick is here the defense will be well coached. I'd love to see the Patriots band get Back together, as you said, but I don't think it's a necessity.
Paul Perillo

When the Patriots were on the top of their game over the last decade, the really big plays often came in the second half and even the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. Recently, the lead has been either cut or given up as the game progressed. In the past when they needed to step it up a notch we would often see the hurry up offense. Now it seams we rarely see it and the end of the games where we once excelled, we now are just average at best. What gives and why is nobody talking about it?
Dan Stolts

I don't have any official numbers to trot out here but I believe the reason nobody is talking about a lack of the hurry-up offense is due to the fact that the Patriots use it quite often. It's not always done at the end of games or halves but Tom Brady frequently uses the no huddle and hurry up during the course of the game. Sometimes it's more prevalent than others but it's almost always on display for at least a series or two. While I do agree with your overall point 100 percent – the second half performance needs to improve – I don't think it's due to any lack of a hurry-up attack. In general I don't feel offense has been the problem too often. Certainly you'd like to see more second-half production, particularly in the games the team has lost, but overall the unit has put up plenty of points this season.
Paul Perillo

I'm wondering how many "Will the Pats bring back Charlie Weis now that he is unemployed" e-mails have been sent since the press release of his demise in South Bend?
Todd

So far the total is at 11 (including the one above) … but the week ain't over yet!
Paul Perillo

I don't know who you could bring in that would do a better job, but it is now clear that Belichick needs to go. Two out of three weeks NE has been EMBARASSED by good teams and looked completely confused, unprepared and scared in the process. I don't know what has changed, but this is not the team from the first half of the decade, which played hard on every down with players nobody had ever heard of before. We have now completed our transition into being the Colts of the early 2000s - potent with big names on offense but unable to adapt when played aggressively, with a terrible defense that cannot stop anybody good - while the Colts have become the Patriots of the early 2000s - staying in games with their defense until the offense pulls out wins late. Again, I don't know what has changed for BB (desire, fear of losing, Brady having changed from a hard-working, football-first guy to a cover model with a family who seems disinterested at times), but clearly something has changed, and he is too comfortable now in NE. When a team is so predictable that even a guy signed off the street can come in and jump routes on them the next day, it is time to shake things up. Maybe bring in Weis and RAC to coach through the end of the year and see what happens? The season is still salvageable if the massive rut they are lost in can be gotten out of with a massive shock to the system.Nate Stafford

I normally delete these posts, not because I don't post the negative one but rather as an attempt not to embarrass emotional fans. But I'm tired of doing that because every time the Patriots lose we get at least for or five posts just like this one calling for Belichick to be fired. At some point you guys have to be held accountable for this lunacy and I'm posting it for that reason. I'm not responsible for the beating you're going to take from the rest of Patriots Nation next week.
Paul Perillo

It is all pretty obvious: we don't have enough weapons on offense and playmakers on defense. We may need only a couple more playmakers on each side of the ball to be a true Super Bowl contender. The question is will we get them in the next offseason with our value strategy?Ted Kerkoff

I don't see where any "value strategy" has anything to do with acquiring talent. The Patriots have spent good money through free agency to pick up players like Adalius Thomas, Shawn Springs, Randy Moss (re-signed) and Joey Galloway and they've traded for Greg Lewis, Alex Smith, Michael Matthews and Derrick Burgess. The problem with these moves has nothing to do with value but rather many of them did not pan out. If Burgess and/or Thomas had double-digit sacks right now that would go a long way toward solving the playmaker problem on defense. Neither has made much of an impact, but it hasn't been due to any lack of financial commitment. Where I do agree with you is in the draft where we have developed a trend of trading down. While the current class appears to be promising I'd rather see Belichick take a crack at picking up a playmaker as early as possible. He'll get that chance again in April with a boatload of picks in the first couple of rounds.
Paul Perillo

Jonathan Wilhite seems to have a tremendous problem covering receivers. I know that a consistent pass rush is essential to helping the secondary, however, Wilhite seems to be a liability. He seemed to be a target in the Colts and Saints games. Do you think its time for the Pats to sit him down and play Shawn Springs more?
Mel Buford

Wilhite has definitely struggled lately. He's generally been in position to make the play, especially against Reggie Wayne in Indy, but hasn't made them. While I do believe the lack of pass rush has been a big part of the struggles, I also agree that it may make some sense to make a change. Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston just made the same suggestion to me about Springs. The veteran was a healthy scratch for three straight games and his experience could help out the secondary. I also believe things will improve considering the pedestrian passing games the Patriots will face for the most part down the stretch. I think Wilhite is still a promising corner but perhaps limiting his role a bit might be beneficial for him in the long run.
Paul Perillo

After seeing the Saints demolish us on all phases of the game it's hard to say we're an elite team anymore. On defense they allowed big hits down the field and let the saints march down the field easily, sometimes making it look like the Pats only had eight players on the field. On offense we couldn't move the ball other than the two touchdown drives. Do you think the season is over for them if/when the Pats get into the playoffs and have to play great teams on the road?James Davis

James, I'm going to consider your post the point to Pascal's upcoming counterpoint. While I tend to agree with you with regard to the Patriots status as an "elite" team, I don't think life is over as we know it the way you described. The Patriots have some warts to be sure – the lack of playmakers on defense has affected the pass rush and ability to cover, and offensively they are far too reliant on Moss and Welker. However, I still feel the team is capable of beating pretty much anyone in a one-game setting. While I wouldn't exactly be filled with confidence should New England have to go on the road to beat Indy or San Diego in the playoffs I wouldn't feel the situation were hopeless, either. Right now the Patriots are probably in a group of teams a notch below the elite – Indy, New Orleans, Minnesota – and bunched with the likes of Cincinnati, Denver, Pittsburgh, Dallas and San Diego. I think the Patriots have the ability to compete with anyone; now they have to show they can beat them.
Paul Perillo

Wow Scalavino, by your analysis, the Pats should just pack up and start planning for next year. Yeah, it was a horrible game in New Orleans, in pretty much all 3 phases, but this team is one fourth-and-two or Laurence Maroney touchdown away from beating the best team in the AFC. They're not elite because N.O. whooped them in N.O.? In 2007, were they no longer elite because a supposedly not elite Giants beat them in the SB? One game is one game, the 'Aints played well, but at the same time, the Pats played badly, which allowed the Saints to look even better. Change your panties, and calm down. P.S. four losses to four undefeated teams all on the road is nothing to be ashamed of.Pascal Rawls-Philippe

Now it's Pascal's turn and as you all can see he doesn't exactly agree with James … or me for that matter. First I will say this … your PS is absurd – the Patriots lost to two undefeated teams on the road, not four. The Jets actually took a losing record into Week 13 and the fact that they were 1-0 at the time the Patriots lost to them doesn't make it a quality loss. The Broncos lost four in a row after winning six straight. Elite teams don't lose four straight games very often. And even if I were to agree with your misleading premise of losing to four unbeaten teams on the road, how exactly would I not consider that an indictment of the team? It's the very reason why James and many others no longer believe New England is among the best in the league. The best teams beat other good teams once in a while. And you can't blow off losses with a simple "the Pats played badly" like somehow that means everything is fine. There's a reason the Patriots played badly in New Orleans and that was largely because of the Saints. Like I said in James' post, all is not lost and there's still time to get things going, but based on 11 games the Patriots are a good, not great, team. At this point, they'd need to pull off an upset or two to get where they want to go. Considering there are many teams in the playoff hunt that would have to say the same thing, that probably isn't so bad.
Paul Perillo

We certainly couldn't have used Richard Seymour last night, a big tall All-Pro defensive end to take away passing lanes and pressure the QB wouldn't have helped at all. Trying to move on, but having trouble. Are we rebuilding? Why would Belichick trade away the best defensive player on the roster for a draft pick in 2011? Certainly not because of quality depth, the only thing I can come up with is that he considers this a rebuilding year, say it ain't so.
RL Flamisch

I don't think Belichick considered the 2009 season a rebuilding year but he did recognize that Seymour would be a free agent at the end of the season and would be very tough to re-sign. Rather than risk losing him for nothing he made a trade that he felt was in the best interests of the football team. When it happened most people, myself included, thought it was a good deal but would leave a void in the here and now. Seymour would unquestionably make the 2009 defense better. For all the criticism he's received since he left (isn't that always the way?) he was still an excellent fit in the Patriots 3-4 and did create his share of havoc around the passer. It wasn't always with sacks, although he did have 8.5 last year, but with pressure and his size. He could have made a difference in some of the tight losses this season, but not so in New Orleans when the Patriots were outclassed. I still like the trade and believe it will be beneficial down the road. And I also find it interesting that we haven't had too many "Where's Seymour" posts during the course of the season.
Paul Perillo

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