It gives me great pleasure to once again pass along the latest meanderings of Zeus:
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This and That (This Year’s Model)
1. This Year’s Model – I probably couldn’t pick Blake Bortles – the #3 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft – out of a lineup. But pretty much every day, I can turn on the NFL Network and see extensive coverage of the #21 pick – Johnny Manziel – flawlessly executing handoffs without spilling his beer (reassuring his parents that Johnny’s three years at Texas A&M were not a complete waste of his time and someone else’s money). Manziel has officially replaced Tim Tebow as the most overhyped athlete in the football universe and maybe in all of sports.
2. Whatever physical decline Tom Brady may have suffered (and there has to be some) is more than offset by his mental approach, his understanding of football in general and of the Patriots’ offense in particular. There are few QBs in the league that could come close to handling the responsibility that Brady bears for New England. His presence allows the Patriot offense to do things other teams wouldn’t dream of trying.
3. Revis – Most huge long term contracts in professional sports turn out to be mistakes. However, Darrelle Revis is a risk worth taking. I suspect the Patriots will treat this as they always do – they will set a maximum value as a walkaway number. In this particular case, I expect the max value to be quite high, befitting a Hall of Fame talent. New England’s best chance to keep #24 is a Super Bowl run, which might persuade Mr. Revis that being on television playing football in January and February is more enjoyable than wringing the very last dollar out of the free agent market. However, Patriot fans should prepare themselves for the very real possibility that Revis is every bit the mercenary that he has appeared to be so far in his NFL career.
4. Underrated – Old friend Rodney Harrison ruffled a few local feathers recently with his observations about the Patriots’ Super Bowl aspirations past and present. My take is that Rodney was not so much being critical as giving the team and fans a pep talk. For what it’s worth, the numbers suggest that Harrison was underrated as a Patriot. During his tenure in New England (2003-2008), including playoffs, the Patriots were an astounding 63-9 (.875) when Harrison played and a merely very good 26-13 (.667) when he did not. I have long believed the Patriots would have soundly beaten the Colts in the 2006 AFC Championship game were it not for the Bobby Wade/Jeff Fisher cheap shot that knocked Rodney out of the playoffs.
5. Great Expectations – The post-game presser last Thursday was the usual Bill Belichick grumpfest. He sat out eleven of his very best players, pretty much tied the hands of the guys who did play and then offered the usual monologue about the need to play and coach better. I’m not being critical of Bill here – quite the contrary. It’s remarkable that his standards never waver. Bill expects even the scrubeenies to play well and holds them accountable to that. It’s one of the reasons he’s so good at what he does. Everyone is expected to do their job, no matter what.
6. Jumping to Conclusions I – With teams deep in practice mode, The Sporting Press and many diehard fans are in roster assembly/depth chart frenzy. Where’s the fire? With numerous practices and three preseason games to go, it’s time for players to compete and coaches to experiment. As September draws nearer and rosters shrink, the level of play goes up and competition intensifies. The UDFA who looks like a show horse in August all too often comes back to the pack. Let’s not forget the role that injuries play in shaping the final roster. A perceived surplus can quickly vanish into thin air.
7. Jumping to Conclusions II – A week ago, some thought that Jimmy Garappolo didn’t belong in the NFL. The jury is still out on that but Mr. Garappolo’s rapid progress in such a short period of time has given us a sliver of hope for the future. At the same time, many have viewed Ryan Mallet’s performance as lacking. It’s tough to judge a quarterback in preseason. As we saw with Matt Cassel, I don’t think you really know what you’ve got until the player has the benefit of first team reps in practice and a game plan tailored to his strengths and weaknesses. Otherwise, we’re just guessing.
8. Practice? – I was at practice on Tuesday with more than 25,000 other football fans. The bleachers were full, the hill was packed and the stadium ramps to the south end zone were filled to the very top of the building.
Here’s how far the sport of football has come here in New England. In 1990, a December Saturday afternoon home game against Washington was attended by 22,286. (Lacking anything better to do, I was one of the unfortunate attendees.) The 1969 Boston Patriots played their home games at BC’s Alumni Field, which at the time was a glorified high school field, seating just over 25,000. The average attendance was 21,344 and four of the seven home games drew less than 20,000 fans.
9. Public Safety Hazard – The NFL Competition Committee has put my health in jeopardy. I’ve told my wife that if I were to be inflicted with some physical malady during the football season, she should find the most ornery personal injury lawyer in the country and sue Jeff Fisher (lead pipe cinch first ballot Hall of Mediocrity member) for a comfortable living. It’s early yet, but from what little fake football I’ve been able to withstand, this year’s idiotic Point of Emphasis seems intent on eradicating any semblance of pass defense whatsoever. Why bother having defenders at all? In the not too distant future, by rule, defensive backs will be nonagenarians and inanimate objects such as orange safety cones.
10. The more I think about it – **** you, Jeff Fisher.
Thanks once again Zeus, for allowing me to share your unique perspective on the current state of Patriots Nation and of the NFL.
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