Say this for Jerod Mayo as he and the Patriots continue in their search for a new offensive coordinator: the effort can't be called into question.
The Patriots have been tied to more than a dozen candidates – be that through Zoom meetings, in-person interviews or simply inquiring about potential availability. It's the kind of thorough pursuit that a first-year coach like Mayo should be immersed in, and regardless of the outcome at least he's going through the process of learning as much about potential replacements as possible.
That can only benefit the Patriots down the road as they continue to try to put the pieces together on the rebuilt coaching staff. Reports indicate that DeMarcus Covington will take over as defensive coordinator, but the other side of the ball remains a question mark.
Many of the candidates have some ties to the West Coast offense/the McVay-Shanahan tree. Speaking with and learning from those with experience in such systems can only help Mayo as he begins his task of revamping a broken attack. It's the type of approach I was hoping for with regard to the head coach opening as well as the still vacant general manager position. No harm in gathering as much information as possible.
These opportunities should be viewed as fact-finding missions, and the importance of it on offense can't be overlooked. For two years the Patriots have been operating in a league that has left them behind when it comes to understanding how to move the ball and score points. Whether you adhere to Sean McVay's approach with the Rams or favor Kyle Shanahan's version in San Francisco, most of the teams in the league who boast productive offenses use variations of these two systems. So, it makes sense to learn more about them from someone who has a base knowledge.
Klint Kubiak, the most recent individual reported to have garnered Patriots interest, is perhaps the most intriguing. Kubiak's father, Gary, won a Super Bowl as the Broncos head coach and enjoyed success with the Shanahan scheme while in Houston following a career as John Elway's backup in Denver playing for Mike Shanahan.
Klint Kubiak is the 49ers passing game specialist after serving in that role in Denver in 2022 and as the Vikings offensive coordinator the year prior. He has extensive experience in the West Coast offense, which seems appealing to Mayo and the Patriots. Unlike many of the other candidates, Kubiak has actual experience calling plays, which he did in Minnesota as well as for the latter half of the 2022 season in Denver.
With loads of knowledge in a system that Mayo at the very least seems intrigued by, Kubiak likely represents the best option. Now it's a matter of making it work.
Conference Championship Weekend
After 21 weeks of action we're down to two remaining teams – one many felt would be here and one that somehow surprised a few folks.
Chiefs 17, Ravens 10 – Baltimore had everything working in its favor entering Sunday's conference championship game. The Ravens were the top seed, playing at home, with a mostly healthy roster and going against a Chiefs offense that has been rather average all season long.
None of that mattered.
Kansas City had its championship mettle on display for the second straight road game and did just enough to squeak out of Baltimore with a win, earning its fourth Super Bowl trip in Patrick Mahomes' six years as the Chiefs starter.
Early on it was all Mahomes and the offense and KC marched right down the field on its first two possessions to earn a 14-7 lead. It was nearly 21-7 but a phantom holding call wiped away a 33-yard Rashee Rich touchdown and forced Mahomes to settle for a 17-7 lead at the break.
From there it was all about the Chiefs defense – and the Ravens lack of discipline. Baltimore continuously shot itself in the foot, whether it was careless penalties (Zay Flowers, Kyle Van Noy) or turnovers (Flowers, Lamar Jackson), the Ravens failed to close the gap despite having several chances to do so.
Three trips inside Kansas City's 25 yielded just 3 points, and when Mahomes salted the game with a 32-yard connection with Marquez Valdes-Scantling the game was over. And Jackson was left wondering yet again if all of his considerable talents would ever be enough to get the Ravens over the top.
49ers 34, Lions 31 – For the second straight postseason game the Niners were largely outplayed at home yet found a way to advance anyway.
Detroit bullied San Francisco all over the field in the first half, racking up huge rushing yards between the tackles on the way to taking a 24-7 lead. Then Dan Campbell took a couple of gambles, gave the Niners a couple of short fields and suddenly the game was tied.
By that time momentum had swung in the Niners favor, and leading 27-24 midway through the fourth quarter they came up with a second fourth-down stop and put the game away with a touchdown drive.
Some will remember this game as a dramatic 17-point comeback for the Niners but in reality it came down to a handful of plays the Lions didn't make – most of which had nothing to do with San Francisco. Whether you agree with Campbell's fourth-down decisions or not it's all a moot point if Josh Reynolds catches an easy pass to convert the first down. Detroit led 24-10 at the time and would have had a great opportunity to push the lead to 31-10, which may have ended the game.
Still, the Lions had a chance to regain momentum after Reynolds' drop, only to let it slip away again. Brock Purdy's bomb to Brandon Aiyuk should have been intercepted by Kindle Vildor, but the pass deflected off his facemask and was caught for a 51-yard gain.
Had either Reynolds or Vildor made routine catches the outcome very well might have been different. And Reynolds added to his woes when he dropped an easy third-down conversion later in the game that might have led to a go-ahead drive for the Lions.
So, instead of making their first-ever trip to the Super Bowl, the Lions self-destructed at all levels and handed the game to the Niners, setting up a rematch of Super Bowl LIV.
The Chiefs somewhat improbable return to the Super Bowl has drawn many to compare the run to that of the Patriots in 2018. That team staggered its way to a 9-5 mark after back-to-back losses to Miami and Pittsburgh before rebounding with division wins over the Bills and Jets. Few felt a title run was in the future at that point, especially with a trip to Kansas City for the AFC title game on the horizon. But Tom Brady pulled off the upset in a 37-31 overtime shootout, then capped the run with a win over the Rams for the sixth title.
Kansas City was similarly unimpressive for large chunks of the season, particularly on offense. But road wins in Buffalo and Baltimore showed Mahomes was capable to lifting his team similar to the way Brady once did in New England.
But to me the true comparison between these Chiefs and the Patriots of old is 2006. That season saw Brady consistently make do with less after the Patriots lost receivers Deion Branch and David Givens in the offseason. New England was still formidable enough to win the division and the wild card game at home before traveling to San Diego for a showdown with the top-seeded Chargers. Like the Chiefs, few gave the former champs much of a shot, but Brady made enough plays to lead the Patriots to a 24-21 victory and a trip to the conference title game.
Only a miraculous rally by Hall of Famer Peyton Manning in Indy prevented the Patriots from earning another trip to the Super Bowl in what amounted to a rebuilding year. That's the kind of vibe I get from Kansas City in 2023. Unlike the 2018 Patriots, this isn't the end for a proud championship group but rather a reset. The loss to the Colts set the stage for a massive reload in 2007, with Randy Moss and Wes Welker helping Brady lead the way to a near-perfect season.
The fact that no one was able to catch the Chiefs in a "down year" does not bode well for the rest of the AFC. Something tells me they will add some pieces to a flawed offense, which should augment an already stout defense. Like the mid-2000s Patriots, the Chiefs likely have plenty left in the tank.