Yesterday marked the third time this season Bill Belichick made his assistants Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis available to take to the podium and face the media. Both coordinators present very interesting stories. Crennel, the defensive guru, is expected to be one of the most sought-after candidates to fill whatever NFL head coaching positions open up this offseason, while Weis, Belichick's top offensive man, has already begun his next job as head football coach at The University of Notre Dame.
Weis spoke about how he has handled the difficult double-duty working for both the Pats and the Irish, describing some late-nights as he aims to finish strong for the Patriots before departing permanently for South Bend. Nick Cafardoof The Boston Globe, Michael Felgerof The Boston Herald, Alan Greenbergof The Hartford Courant, and Michael Parenteof The Woonsocket Call report on Weis' press conference.
Crennel spoke about his impending courtships. Many felt he would receive an offer last season, as he interviewed for at least five head coaching positions, but he did not. While it is suggested that his age, 57, may cause some teams to hesitate, there is no denying that Crennel is very deserving of a head coaching opportunity. Cafardo and Karen Guregianof the Herald have the story.
In other news, Ron Borges of the Globe compares the AFC playoff teams to the relatively weak NFC group. Throughout most of the season, Philadelphia was considered the only real championship threat coming from the NFC, and now they have lost their biggest playmaker, Terrell Owens, indefinitely.
Rich Thompson of the Herald discusses the team's preparation for their three potential playoff opponents on January 16th: the Colts, Chargers, or Jets.
Kevin Mannix of the Herald dishes out his grades for Sunday's game against the 49ers. High marks go to the running backs and offensive line, as well as the linebacking corps. Once again, the special teams unit brings up the rear, after having an 86-yard punt return touchdown called back because of a penalty.
In the Call, Parente also gives out his marks. While the two professors see eye-to-eye on the job done in the running game, Parente is not so quick to indict the special teams for their one egregious error. Instead, he gives the unit credit for its kick coverage, as the Pats pinned the 'Niners inside the five on two Josh Miller punts.
In his notebook in the Herald, Felger reports the Cleveland Browns may be looking to raid Belichick's cupboard, as they have their eyes set on both Crennel as a head coach, and Pats VP of Player Personnel Scott Pioli for their general manager position.
In The Providence Journal, Shalize Manza Young looks back at the 2004 season, and notes the Patriots have stepped up in the face of adversity and answered their challenges all season.
In her notebook, Manza Young discusses the arrival of one of Belichick's protégés, Nick Saban, to the AFC East. Saban, who worked under Belichick in Cleveland, has recently agreed to be the new head coach for the Miami Dolphins.
Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News features one of the great surprises of the year, the emergence of undrafted rookie free agent Randall Gay. Gay, who played under Saban at LSU, has taken a remarkable journey to get where he is today, and Reiss tells the tale in his typically skillful fashion. This is a good read.
Russ Charpentier of The Cape Cod Times features defensive veteran Tedy Bruschi, who leads the defensive unit into battle each week.
Michael Cousineau of The Union Leader tells of a unique financial opportunity being offered to customers of Northeast Credit Union. Customers who open an account with the bank can predict which playoff team is going to win the Super Bowl. If the team they select makes the Super Bowl they get an increase in their interest rates, and another if the team is crowned champion. According to the bank's vice-president, the promotion has brought in over $1.5 million in new accounts, and 90% of the new clients have chosen the Patriots to win.