Tagged with "Patriots"
Does It Matter Anymore?
Category: FEATURED
Tags: Patriots Spurs Red Sox Red Wings teamwork

 

How do you run a sports franchise in this day and age? You have problems no one dealt with decades ago, unions, CBAs, absurd payrolls, lawyers and their incessant liability suits, salary caps and player attrition just to name a few. It's a hard question to answer. But some have succeeded even in this millenium. How'd they do it?

The Red Sox have been a model of success in baseball, but their methodology hasn't been consistent. It's been modeled to fit necessity.

In the early part of the 2000s things were as they always had been. The Yankees had more money than anybody and, not coincidentally, the best teams and a seemingly unceasing dynasty. Not that it's over. But throwing money at a problem is the obvious solution. Boston began to mimic the strategy early on, though not at the same scale. Their 2004 team wasn't perhaps the strongest in baseball, and their miracle comeback against New York wasn't something you can buy. Maybe it was the Law of Averages.

Their 2007 win was more in line with Yankee strategy. The star-studded team with the astronomical payroll was hardly an underdog. True, they still had to overcome teams (like the monster in their own division) that spent as much or more. But they had clearly become identifiable with the penthouse set.

That all came apart famously in 2011. For 2013 Boston came up with a new manager, several midprice free agents, some holdovers and a ton of kids from their fruitful farm system. And a lot of beards. The results were beyond anyone's expectations, including theirs. It didn't seem to be the model that had worked before. Maybe the disarray of the clean-shaven leviathan in New York made it possible. Whatever --- it worked.

But those other two winners, the 2004 'Idiots' and the 2007 all-stars, both had something in common with the latest edition. They had harmony and team spirit. Regardless of payroll status, those factors proved to be the overwhelming strength. That's hard to do these days.

Note: This past week the Marlins' owner was reportedly furious at Boston for bringing a squad of AAA players to his field. He ranted that his fans (who paid through the nose for tickets) were being robbed. Robbed in preseason by a still-rebuilding team using the opportunity to evaluate potential roster additions? In one long breath, he demonstrated one difference between a loser and a contender.

Side note: When the game was called after 8 innings due to a thunderstorm, the game was tied 0-0 and Boston's AAA squad had 7 hits to Miami's 2.

How about the NBA? The current edition is a joke, of course, with players grouping to whatever warm, glamorous site they choose to form superteams. The Lakers had it all until recently, but who doesn't want to play in the glitz capital? Maybe it's the Clippers' turn. Oh, I hear it's warm in Miami too.

The one fly in that ointment has been San Antonio. Multiple champions, their supposedly crumbling dynasty remains competitive. How, when everyone keeps waiting for the dust pile to settle?

Aging stars like Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are a large part of it, forming a consistent core for the peripheral players to fit into. Sheer pride, class and effort make up no small part. Teamwork is a given with them. Maybe they don't have enough endurance for the long haul anymore, but that they should be where they are this very day is a testament to their success.

That all reflects strongly on Pops. Clearly the best coach of the past decade and more, he has kept his teams in the running consistently, all the while keeping the face of the franchise classy, avoiding the trashy image put forth by recent editions of the Lakers and others. Having class helps in a league where it's become a rare commodity. Class precludes selfishness too.

Football? Since nearly the turn of the millenium one franchise has dominated the success meter. No, they haven't won the big one in years, but their record of success is unmatched in the Cap Era and goes toe to toe with success stories from more manageable times. That franchise is of course New England. How do they do it?

Notably, its not by throwing money at problems --- well, not by pro sports standards. Quite the opposite. The Patriots have become the league's most notorious cheapskates. Pundits blame them incessantly for not 'going the extra mile' to get that one perceived piece that could have put them over the top in so many recent seasons.

But pundits aren't paid to think, they're paid to talk. One might better ask how the Patriots keep coming so close so often to put themselves in such a position.

There are two schools of thought on that. One is that they have Belichick and Brady. No one will argue that they help (a lot), but there's still that other 95% or so of the team on the field to deal with. And more than most franchises (far more than some), the Patriots want business-first players who fit their system. And they insist on 'value'. They've cut more Pro Bowlers than a bad razor. They treat it like a business, trying to maximize their resources. Really? How shocking.

Does that mean they never bring in a bad seed? Anyone who's watched the news over the past years knows they are just as susceptible to bad character as anyone. But it's hard to name a team that hasn't been. And it's not the 'character' issue anyway. That's for the pundits to hash over. It's all about whether they can fit in. In other words, T-E-A-M, the overriding factor in most sports. This alone makes New England a savory success story for an age in sports beset by me-me-me celebrity. And the league is responding, not only by coveting every water boy on Belichick's sideline, but by trying to structure their own teams in similar fashion, much like the NBA of the '80s went at once from dunkarama to teamwork with the advent of Bird and Johnson. They had to if they wanted to compete.

Last we have the most difficult league of all to analyze. The NHL isn't the most highly-paid, though no one can possibly cry poverty. It doesn't have near the revenue of the other sports, being regional in nature. Not coincidentally, stories of slackers do not abound. Here, players don't make it because they're not good enough. Anyone who doesn't try as hard as possible finds himself elsewhere even if he's a can't-miss draft pick like Tyler Seguin. All this makes the NHL the best all-around example of the way a league should be --- if only on the field (or ice).

Gone are the dynasties of privilege. Montreal no longer gets a special shot at the French skaters. The flood of Soviet players into Detroit (whose uniforms were a dead ringer for the Central Army's and whose name waxed patriotic to said players) that put the Wings on the map again was a one-shot deal. Nowadays it's about drafting and acquiring players wisely, managing the pocketbook, and fostering strong teamwork. Some do it better than others. But everybody does it, at least to a strong degree. Money isn't a huge factor. If it were, the Rangers would have won a ton of Cups.

Yet even if the NHL is harder to pigeonhole it terms of its success secrets, it shares the big one with the rest --- team spirit, and its offspring teamwork. Even in baseball, it matters as Boston showed the world last season. The Cardinals, the NL's most successful franchise of the millenium, have been showing that for years now. If it didn't matter in the NFL, New England wouldn't be what it has become, and Peyton Manning would have a ring instead of Russell Wilson. The NBA may be dominated by all-star squads, but the elite tier at large still has more strong examples of teamwork than of anything else.

It will be a sad day in sports --- and it may be coming --- when that doesn't matter anymore.

Sunday Musings #135
Category: User Showcase
Tags: HighSchoolBasketball BostonRedSox BostonCeltics NewEnglandPatriots CollegeBasketball Olympics BostonCollegeEaglesBasketball CollegeFootball

While planning my travels for next week's high school basketball tournament games...

And don't forget, I'm on Twitter now: @TheOneTrueJay

YOUTH SPORTS
 
Big Mack and Darrin's Lynx team was in the youth league championship game today. It was the fourth straight title game appearance for the coaches. And after three losses, their team brought it home. The Lynx defeated the Fire 28-22. So a hearty congratulations goes out to two very deserving coaches!
 
There were two players on the team that I care about despite not being a coach anymore. The first was Emma. I coached her older sister Megan a number of years ago and have remained friends with their mom Michelle. This was her third appearance in a title game, but her first win. So Emma (pictured below) and her sister are now on equal footing as far as championship bragging rights! Congrats Emma!
 
 
As for Gabby, what can I say? She's a favorite of mine so I make it a point to go to some of her games to root her on, though not the youth league ones. She played JV for Wareham High this season as an 8th grader and adjusted rather well, scoring 177 points during that team's season.
 
But Gabby (pictured below) wanted a youth league title in the worst way. She'd never won before and this was her last chance. And what a way to go out. Though there was no official award, she was the game's MVP. She dominated the game and willed her team to the win scoring 24 of the 28 points. This was her "in the zone" moment!
 
I'm so extremely proud of her and glad that while I couldn't see her play today, that I have four more years to watch her be great in high school.
 
Her trophy moment (she's on the far right):
 
 
And here's a look at the Champion Lynx team in full.
 
(photos by Michelle F. (Emma's proud as punch mom), used by permission)

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

Some quick notes:

Wareham Girls Track - The winter track season came to an end for Paige in the MIAA Division 4 Championships. Paige (pictured below in blue, photos by Wareham Courier's Adam Ellis)has battled a knee injury through most of the season and it made this winter season a bit of a tough road to hoe. She finished 20th in the 1000 meters with a time of 3:21.86.

Miscellaneous - There was an article in yesterday's paper on the shrinking attendance numbers at the area high school basketball games. It mostly focused on the boys games but there was a brief mention of one of the girls programs as well. I'd hazard a guess that the girls got short shrift in the article because their attendance figures are almost uniformly awful to begin with. You can check out the article here (and a photo of my ex-player Latroy from earlier in the season is below): http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140221/SPORTS02/402210335

Don't forget to check out my most recent Talking High School Hoops blog entry here: http://www.t-s-b-n.com/pt/Talking-High-School-Hoops-2013-2014-Part-21.2-20-2014/blog.htm

Bristol-Plymouth Girls Varsity Basketball - On Senior Night, the B-P girls managed just 1 point in the fourth quarter and lost to Middleboro 34-21. The more interesting part of the whole game was when the lead ref threatened to toss out the crowd for the last 6 minutes of the game. And it was a well earned threat because the fans were an embarrassment.

You know that saying "Better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt"? Well, some of the B-P "fans" removed the doubt and showed a stunning lack of the basic understanding of what is and is not a foul. Did the refs miss some calls...sure. But the ones that brought the loudest and most ignorant catcalls from the morons in the stands, the refs actually got right.

Savahna saw some time in the game but not as much as when I saw her play on the road at Upper Cape. She forced a jump ball but otherwise didn't make a dent in the stat line. And she did a rather remarkable job singing the national anthem before the game. The girl has got a voice.

Upper Cape Girls Varsity Basketball - As you may have read in my blog post from Friday night, the UCT girls pulled off a stunner when they upset #1 seeded and previously undefeated Blue Hills to win the State Vocational school championship. My former player Michaela (who was part of all three girls teams I coached that won titles) played a huge role in the game, scoring 9 points, as the Lady Rams won 55-49. You can read all about The Big Damn Heroes here: http://www.t-s-b-n.com/pt/THE-BIG-DAMN-HEROES.2-21-2014/blog.htm

(photos by Wareham Courier's Adam Ellis)

As for the "regular" state tournament, five of the basketball teams I follow made the cut. The brackets were released yesterday afternoon so here's a rundown of where they'll be.

ORR Boys - Thanks to winning a coin flip, the Bulldogs are the #1 seed in Division 3 South. They get a first round bye. Their second round game will be at home against the winner of the GNB Voc-Tech/Burke game this coming Thursday. And if the unlikely but possible were to happen, ORR would face off with Wareham in the South Sectional final should both teams get that far.

Wareham Boys - Wareham got the #6 seed in Division 3 South and will play at home this coming Tuesday against East Bridgewater.

Upper Cape Boys - In Division 4 South, the Rams are the 11th seed. They will go on the road this coming Tuesday for their first round game against Bristol-Plymouth, a team they've already lost to twice.

Wareham Girls - The girls picked up the #7 seed in Division 3 South. They will play at home on Wednesday against Ursuline, who beat them last year in the playoffs. If they win that game, they'd go on the road to face the 19-3 Abington team who got a first round bye.

Upper Cape Girls - The Lady Rams are the #3 seed in Division 4 South. They get a first round bye (Division 4 features less teams, so more get those technical first round byes). They will play the winner of Nantucket/Sacred Heart on Friday February 28th.

Their potential second round matchup would be against West Bridgewater. That's assuming (and you know what that usually means) the 20-0 West Bridgewater team beats their second round opponent (Bristol Aggie or Westport).

BOSTON RED SOX

With spring training underway, there's been a marked increase in the news coming out of the Red Sox clubhouse these days.

The first story was pitcher Ryan Dempster announcing he is taking the year off. He's played for 16 years and this could likely be the end for him. He's giving up 13 million bucks in doing so. And thankfully, he's doing things in a manner that will not remind people of how former Boston Bruin Tim Thomas went about taking time off. You can read the article here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20140216/ryan-dempster-will-not-pitch-in-2014-boston-red-sox.ap/

Also, Jon Lester again let everyone know that he's perfectly willing to take the "hometown discount" to sign a contract with the Red Sox that would keep him in Boston for the rest of his career.

And while most people are sick of hearing David Ortiz complain about his contract, Big Papi is tired of hearing people complain about him wanting to have a contract. And he's made some good points while doing so. It is a little tiring for this contract thing to be a yearly event, but he's backed up things by earning what he's been paid all the time. And by baseball economics, he's been wildly underpaid while doing so.

Something to remember about this latest round is that Ortiz answered a direct question when asked about his contract status. You can read more here: http://tracking.si.com/2014/02/18/red-sox-david-ortiz-rips-critics/

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

If it is true that cats have nine lives, how many do football front office guys have? The Patriots officially announced the hiring of Michael Lombardi as "assistant to the coaching staff".

Not a bad landing for a guy who was essentially fired as GM of the Cleveland Browns after only a year on the job. Now, given that Cleveland is a cesspool of incompetence from the ownership on down, getting out of town quickly may not be a bad thing.

Still, going from Cleveland to New England must be like a dream for Lombardi. When Belichick was the Browns head coach years ago, Lombardi was there.

I read Lombardi's articles when he was writing for the National Football Post website and he seemed to be pretty knowledgeable about what he wrote, but putting that knowledge to practice hasn't been all that great for him as of late.

His exact duties are unclear but I would hope that he can indeed be a positive to the organization.

MISCELLANEOUS SPORTS ARTICLES

Baseball - Dusty Baker is out of the game for now and SI.com had a good article on what he's doing now that he's out of uniform. I like the guy, he was one of my favorite players back in the day so I'd love to see him get another shot at managing. You can check out the article here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20140218/dusty-baker-reds-managing/index.html

College Basketball - As the college season winds down, firings are getting underway. After making a brief NCAA tournament appearance two years ago, the Lamar University men's team led by Pat Knight has fallen completely off the radar. The school had seen enough and fired Knight this past week with Lamar at 3-22 overall. You can read more here: http://tracking.si.com/2014/02/16/pat-knight-fired-by-lamar-university/

And for those following former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit that could fundamentally change the landscape of college sports, the news this week was the judge in the case allowing the suit to proceed to trial. Details: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-football/news/20140220/ed-obannon-lawsuit-proceeds-to-trial/

College Football - Wyoming isn't exactly what you call "big-time" football, but with the hiring of new coach Craig Bohl (from FCS school North Dakota State, where he won three straight titles), the Cowboys are looking to make a move towards national prominence. Sports Illustrated's Lindsay Schnell (who has written some good pieces in the last couple of weeks) gives a look at the beginnings of Bohl's new job here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-football/news/20140220/craig-bohl-wyoming-cowboys/index.html

BOSTON CELTICS

After the break due to the All-Star Game, the Celtics got back in action on Wednesday night. They ended up dropping a game to the Phoenix Suns 100-94. Brandon Bass had 18 points and 8 boards in the game while Rajon Rondo had 18 points and 10 assists.

Jeff Green scored 17 points and Jared Sullinger added 11 points and 8 boards.

More important to the team and its followers was the NBA's trade deadline. The Celtics were thought to be a player in the market but it turns out that GM Danny Ainge ended up sitting this one out. While Bass, Green and Rondo figured prominently in the myriad of swirling trade rumors, the Celtics ended up not making a move of any kind.

Whether there wasn't a satisfactory deal out there that Ainge wanted to pull the trigger on or perhaps as some have suggest online that Ainge priced himself out of trades, the roster the Celtics had for the Phoenix game is the roster they have now.

For those of us who aren't in favor of losing on purpose no matter how covertly you try to do it, I guess this could be seen as a good thing. That the Celtics will actually try to win games. They may not end up doing so, but the effort will be there at least.

For those who want to lose to get Jabari Parker, they are probably sticking pins in a Danny Ainge voodoo doll about now.

The challenge now for Ainge will be to figure out how to work with the roster he has, still be bad and then work some magic before draft day to unload a mixture of players and some of the bevy of draft picks he has to play with and get that top pick.

As for on the court results, the Celtics faced off with the Lakers last night and dropped to 19-37 with their 101-92 loss.

Jeff Green scored 21 points to lead the Celtics while Brandon Bass put up 20 points and 8 rebounds. Sullinger had a double double with 12 points and 12 boards. Gerald Wallace also poured in a dozen points while Rondo dished out 11 assists.

It's always tough to swallow a loss, but at least you know the team is actually busting their butts under coach Brad Stevens. He won't win it, but despite a losing record, what he's done so far with Boston under less than ideal circumstances and a roster that could change at any minute, I would think he has to be a candidate for NBA coach of the year. I don't think anyone expected to see the Celtics with 19 wins at the end of the season, much less right now.

WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Tennesee - The Lady Vols got stunned by #18 Kentucky to start their week. The Wildcats knocked off Tennessee in Knoxville 75-71. 22 turnovers by the Lady Vols didn't help as Kentucky won for the first time in Knoxville since 1985.

Bashaara Graves had 20 points and 7 boards to lead Tennessee while Isabelle Harrison (pictured below) scored 20 points of her own to go with 16 boards. Meighan Simmons finished with 13 points.

Tennessee rebounded quickly though and crushed Auburn 93-63. Simmons (pictured below) had 26 points in the game. Cierra Burdick added 17 points and 9 boards and Andraya Carter scored 12 points. Isabelle Harrison had another double double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Hartford - The Hawks ended up losing to New Hampshire to start their week. The 76-71 overtime loss saw Amber Bepko and Morgan Lumb lead the team with 16 points apiece. Milana Gilbert had 11 points and Cherelle Moore scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Hartford went on to beat UMass-Lowell 80-64. Bepko again led the way, scoring 18 points and grabbing 7 rebounds.

Rebounding was a big key to the win as the Hawks had a 54-36 edge in that statistical department.

Alyssa Englert added 14 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists while both Shanise Bultron and Morgan Lumb scored 11 points. Alyssa Reaves had 10 points and 8 boards. And Cherelle Moore led the team with 9 boards (to go with 5 points and 6 assists.)

You can see highlights and the post game press conference below.

On Saturday, the Hawks cruised to an 80-64 win over UMBC. They hit a school record 16 three pointers and Amber Bepko (pictured below) was the star of the game. She hit an individual school record 7 three pointers on the way to a career high 25 points.
 
The Hawks improved to 11-16 (8-6 in the America East Conference) with help from Shanise Bultron (18 points), Morgan Lumb (12 points), Cherelle Moore (10 points, 8 boards) and Alyssa Reaves (6 points, 11 boards).
 

Missouri State - It was a tough week for the Lady Bears. They lost to Drake 79-69 despite a combined 36 points and 13 rebounds from Tyonna and Bry Snow. MSU had no answer to stopping Drake's Kyndal Clark who finished with 38 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

It got worse on Friday night as Indiana State's defense just suffocated the Bears offense and crushed Missouri State 73-37. Tyonna Snow led the team with just 8 points as the Bears were held to season lows in nearly every statistical category.

They are now 12-13 on the season with a 7-7 conference record (4th place).

By the way, you can learn more about the Snow sisters via the following article: http://www.news-leader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014302210059&gcheck=1&nclick_check=1

BOSTON COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Men - It has been a long tough road for the Eagles this season and it continued earlier in the week as they lost another close game to Notre Dame last Sunday night. The 73-69 loss saw Olivier Hanlan score 18 points and Joe Rahon add 13. Ryan Anderson had 11 points and 11 boards.

Earlier in the day, the women's team paid tribute to the passing of longtime BC assistant sports information director Dick Kelley. The men's team did so as well.

They also went to the funeral on Tuesday and it was a pretty emotional time for all who knew the beloved Kelley.

And perhaps as it was played up, his death inspired the Eagles. But whatever it was, the Eagles soared when they went into their game against #1 ranked and undefeated Syracuse.

They had no chance in the game, they stunk and Syracuse was awesome. Or so that's how the script was supposed to go. Instead, led by 20 points from Olivier Hanlan (pictured below), the script got a dramatic rewrite and the Eagles stunned EVERYONE and knocked off Syracuse in overtime 62-59! HELL YEAH!

Lonnie Jackson scored 10 points and Ryan Anderson added 9 points and 14 rebounds to get the celebration (pictured below) underway.

He's been embattled because the Eagles haven't really risen to the occasion for most of his tenure but for one night at least, coach Steve Donahue (pictured below) was the man of the figurative hour.

Of course on Saturday, the hangover effect kicked in with a major beatdown for the Eagles at the hands of Miami. Patrick Heckmann scored 15 points for Boston College but it was the Hurricanes day as they rolled to a 69-42 victory.
 
Olivier Hanlan was the only other Eagle in double figures as they dropped to 7-20 (3-11 ACC).

Women - Last Sunday, I attended the BC women's game vs. Syracuse. And it was ugly. Despite a career high 13 points from Emilee Daley (pictured below), Syracuse annihilated BC. You can read my game report here: http://www.t-s-b-n.com/pt/Boston-College-Womens-Basketball-Game-Report-2-16-14/blog.htm

(photo by BC photographer John Quackenbos)

You can see the postgame press conference with coach Erik Johnson below.

On Thursday, the women's team traveled to play Clemson. Kristen Doherty was back in the lineup after missing a number of games due to injury but her return didn't change the final result as the Eagles lost 72-67. They are now 12-16 with a 3-11 ACC mark.

Nicole Boudreau (pictured below) had a career high 25 points to lead BC, including a career high 7 three pointers. Katie Zenevitch added 19 points and 10 rebounds.

By the way, don't forget to check out this week's ACC Women's Basketball Digest: http://www.accwbbdigest.com/1314/1402201-digest-feb-20-2014-vol3-no15.php

OLYMPICS
 
As I've said to others, the main interest for me in the winter Olympics has been the hockey. And the US teams were doing amazing in the early games.
 
The U.S. women made it to the gold medal game and were 3:36 away from capturing gold when they fell apart giving up 2 goals to arch rival Canada and then getting beaten in OT.
 
But blowing a game like they did is a bit easier to take because they were playing hard. Sure you wonder how they could give the game away so quickly like they did, but these things happen.
 
But after a semifinal defeat to Canada, the US men have no such excuse for their disgustingly bad effort against Finland in the bronze medal game. I can't say it any better than Yahoo! Sports writer Greg Wyshynski did, so you can check out his recap of the game here: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/team-usa-humiliated-in-bronze-medal-game--shut-out-by-finland-172551889.html

MISCELLANEOUS

Movies - The first official trailer for the Guardians of the Galaxy movie was premiered on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show this past week. You can check it out below.

And if you wanted to know what the movie Pompeii was like, you can check out my buddy J.D.'s review here: http://www.pop-topia.com/pompeii-delivers-end-world-action/

 

And you can check out this rather hilarious "Honest Trailer" for the movie Gravity.

TV - HBO has released the second promo trailer for the upcoming season of Game of Thrones.

Music - I picked up the new Adrenaline Mob CD Men of Honor and will hopefully, eventually get around to doing a review of it.

And when I went to pick up that CD, I ended up finding a surprise in the newly released Lone Justice CD This Is Lone Justice - The Vaught Tapes, 1983.
 
I'm a huge fan of the band, and singer Maria McKee in particular and this release captures (via recorded direct to 2-track tape with no overdubs) the set list that Lone Justice was packing L.A. Clubs with in 1983. Nine of the tracks are previously unissued.
 
See why I love going to record stores? I would never have known this CD was out if not for actually going to buy my music in the old fashioned brick and mortar storefront!
 

Books - Want a good police procedural book to read? Check out the Joe Gunther series by Archer Mayor. I'm just about done with his latest Three Can Keep A Secret and it has been yet another fantastic read by an author who I've met and does a marvelous job keeping me entertained throughout his books. Check him out at http://www.archermayor.com

I also picked up a couple of new books this week. There was a new Star Trek novel published. It is set during the Original Series time but author Greg Cox features a time travel crossover that has Seven of Nine from the Voyager series going back in time and meeting up with Captain Kirk. The book is called No Time Like The Past. I don't usually get the Original Series novels, but this one looked too good that I just couldn't pass it up.
 
The other novel is the new Tiger & Del book by fantasy author Jennifer Roberson. Set years after the original series run, Sword-Bound finds enemies from the past tracking down the pair for past transgressions. The original books were simply outstanding and when I saw that Roberson was doing another book (one more is planned as well), I knew I had to pick it up.
 
 

Other writing - My buddy J.D. has another in his "The Variety Pack" series of food and drink reviews. You can check it out here: http://www.pop-topia.com/variety-pack-02-chocolate-overload/

 

Smartest Girl Scout Ever? - You see them selling those precious boxes of Thin Mints and the other flavors everywhere these days. But one enterprising girl really understands the mantra of "Location Location Location". She took her cookies to the best place to market them. A pot clinic! Read the story here: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_25191695/savvy-girl-scout-is-selling-cookies-at-cannabis

O H Thursday
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL Broncos Patriots Seahawks Pete Carroll QB's

    

OH Thursday

Hey Gabbers welcome back to Thursday.

Did you ever hear of snow snow beautiful snow? It’s beautiful in pictures but when you have to move it and remove it the beauty fades

I am officially tired of snow and Winter

 

Oh Spring, where fore art thou?

 

The SB was not the best SB ever unless you like great defense, like the Seattle Seahawks or dislike Peyton Manning or just like a good old fashion butt kicking.

The Seahawks were the best team in the NFL for the 2013 season and they

deserved the prestigious Lombardi Trophy.

 

I am not going to jump on Peyton Manning and his 11-12 post season record or his 1-2 SB record or the fact that he has thrown a pick six in each of his last two SB performances. Peyton will go down in history as one of the best QB’s in NFL history.

He will retire with the most regular season TD’s and passing yards.

He will retire with the record for most single season TD’s and passing yards.

One of the best ever.

The debate will go on forever on who is the best QB of all time. Old timers would tell you it was Slinging Sammy Baugh or Otto Graham, others would say it was Bart Starr. Some would make an argument for Roger Staubach, my Dad would tell you it was Vito Babe Parilli of the old Boston Patriots.

The best QB will always be tied to the team(s) they played for and the Head Coach and his successes. As we have seen in recent history the best QB’s don’t always look great when the come up against great defenses or great defensive game plans.

Kurt Warner was a great QB but ran into a good defense with a great game plan in SB 36.

Tom Brady ran into a great defensive game plan in the Patriots two loses to the Giants in ’07 and ’11.

Peyton Manning never got going against the historically good Seattle defense.

On the local radio stations in the Boston area I heard countless folks saying the Patriots would have put up a better fight with Brady…I’m not so sure it would have been any less a blow out. Ok maybe they don’t surrender a safety on the first play and maybe Brady doesn’t throw 2 ints so take away 12 points from the Seahawks if you want…even give the Pats an additional TD from Legarrett Blount and it’s still a 31-14 game.

No team from the AFC would have stood a chance.

Best ever???      I tried to do a top five which turned into a top seven and ended with…

My top THIRTEEN or 14 QB’s.

 I take in to account the years in which they played with regards to the defensive rules of covering receivers and hitting QB’s in the legs and head…way back before it was illegal to say bad things to guys like Manning, Brady, Manning, Rodgers and Brees

.The OH ranking takes both regular season and post season records and stats into account.

If it was based strictly on how many regular season MVP’s a player won the list would reflect that.

Post season records are important as that’s when you play the best opponents in typically the worst conditions with the most pressure.

 Supah Bowl wins are very important.

No NFL player plays to be anything short of the SB Champion.

How many times do we hear about the SB loser being satisfied? Never.

This is about the best of the best.

It’s extremely hard to get to the SB and even harder to win it…just ask any of these guys.

                                                                                                                 

                         SB rings          Post season           Reg Season          Post season   overall

                                                  TD/ Yds               TD/ Yds                      W/L          W/ L

1. Joe Montana          4              45 /   5772          273 /     40,551       16-7        133- 54

2. Terry Bradshaw    4               30 /   3833          212 /     27989          14-5        121- 56

3. Tom Brady            3               43 /   6424          359 /     49149        18-8        166- 51

4. Dan Marino           0              32 /   4510            420 /     61361        8-10        155- 103

5. Peyton Manning   1               37 /   6589           491 /     64964        11-12      178- 85

6. Drew Brees           1               24 /   3539           363 /     51081         6-5         117- 80

7. Curt Warner          1              31 /   3952            208 /     32344         9-4          76- 53

tie   Otto Graham                                                   174 /     23584       9-3          66- 16

 

8. Steve Young                3*      21 /   3326           232 /     33124           8-6        102- 55

9. Troy Aikman               3        23 /   3849           165 /     32942         11-4       106- 75

10. Aaron Rodgers          1        19 /   2489           188 /     24197            5-4          63- 33

11. John Elway                2         27 /   4964        300 /    51475          14-7          162 - 89       

12. Brett Farve                 1         44 /   5845         508 /    71838          13-11     186- 112

13. Jim Kelly                   0          21 /  3863            237 /    35467           9-8      110- 67

 

* Steve Young was Joe Montana’s back up in SB XXIII and XXIV

That’s my OH QB rankings, feel free to debate my order listing or make a case for Unitas, Stabler, Moon, Rivers, Fouts, Tarkington, Krieg or Eli, Trent or Todd Blacklege or maybe Hugh Millen... go ahead and state your claim…bring numbers please.

 

Only about a week until pitchers and catchers report!

Irish corner:

A Swiss man visiting Dublin on holiday was looking for someone to direct him to his hotel. While standing outside Murphy’s Pub he approached two young men.

He asked “ Entchuldigung, koen Sie Deutch sprechen?’

The two lads looked at each other blankly and stared back at him.

Excusez-moi, parlez yous Francais?’ he tried…

‘Parlare Italino?’

Still nothing but blank stares from the Irish lads…

‘Hablan ustedes Espanol?’ and the Lads just shake their heads in silence.

The Swiss guy walked off disappointed that he had been totally misunderstood despite his several attempts to communicate.

One of the Lads looked at the other and said “y’know, maybe we should learn a foreign language” the other said “ and why would we waste the time, that guy knew 4 languages and what the hell good did it do him”!

I'm looking forward to starting my new job on Monday and looking forward to the time when

I can get the grill uncovered and toss some venison and home grown veggies on it

 

thanks for stopping by and don't forget to check out Lanz right next door

 

 

 

 

Sunday Musings #131
Category: User Showcase
Tags: BostonCeltics BaseballHallOfFame BostonRedSox NewEnglandPatriots CollegeBasketball BostonCollegeAthletics HighSchoolBasketball
 
While pondering this quote by philosopher Arnold Schopenhauer as paraphrased by the late great Warren Zevon: "We buy books because we believe we are buying the time to read them"...
 
BOSTON CELTICS
 
The Celtics had a busy week with four games on the schedule. There was a nice moment of sunshine in the overcast look to the season, but it was fleeting.
 
The week started off with a 93-91 loss to the Orlando Magic. I saw the second half of this game and as you might expect by the slim final margin, the Celtics were in the game until the very end. But with one last chance to tie or win the game, the team just couldn't get the shot they were looking for and went down in flames. Jeff Green had 22 points, Kris Humphries had 18 points and 12 boards and Avery Bradley had 18 points.
 
Five players hit double figures when Boston faced off with the Miami Heat but it wasn't enough as Miami took the game 93-86. It was Brandon Bass leading the way with 15 points. Kris Humphries was once again a big factor with 14 points and 13 board. Jared Sullinger had 12 points and 11 boards. Green had 12 points and Chris Johnson added 11 points.
 
Gerald Wallace hit the game winning layup with 2.5 seconds left in overtime to life the Celtics to a 113-111 victory over the Washington Wizards in the team's third game of the week. Wallace finished the game with 9 points and 9 assists.
 
Jeff Green exploded for 39 points and 9 boards while Phil Pressey scored 20 points. It wasn't all hearts and flowers for Pressey though. He had 6 turnovers and fouled out of the game. Sullinger finished with 14 points and 11 boards.
 
On Friday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder played their first game since moving to OKC where neither Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant were in uniform. I know OKC is a good team, but I thought that with both of those players out of action the Celtics could do a good thing and pull off an upset. Silly Me!
 
The Thunder rolled to a 101-83 victory. Green had 16 points, Wallace added 13 points and Bass finished with 11 points. Rajon Rondo (who was a DNP-CD for one game this past week in order to rest) had 8 assists in the game.
 
The Celtics are 15-30 on the season. They are a bad team but in the minds of many I'm sure, not bad enough.
 
Julian Edlow of Celticslife.com had a piece this week on Jeff Green. He called him the biggest tease in the NBA. This would be in reference to the up and down nature of Green's scoring prowess.
 
His article was a good read and I responded that it is frustrating that Green can't be more of a consistent double figures scorer night in and night out. But I also said to imagine how bad the team would be without him in the lineup.
 
I wrote in an previous Sunday Musings entry that after Green had two sub-double figure nights, he then went for a long period of games where he hit double figures each game. I think getting rid of Green would accomplish the goal of tanking the season official.
 
I wish that his numbers wouldn't vary quite so much for his scoring totals but I also don't believe that Green has to be the main scorer every single night. They've got guys on the team that can all get nights where they put a ton of points on the board.
 
It would be nice if it was Green all the time and the Celtics were winning but I do agree with Edlow that the ship on Green's year to year growth as a player has probably sailed. But I just can't see dumping him in order to be that much worse of a team.
 
 
BASEBALL HALL OF FAME VOTING SCANDAL & MORE
 
ESPN's ombudsman Robert Lipsyte has weighed in on the Dan Le Batard Baseball Hall of Fame voting scandal. While I kind of wish that he'd been more in line with my opinion about Le Batard, his piece was a fairly down the middle read looking at both sides of the issue with a critical eye. You can check out the article here: http://espn.go.com/blog/ombudsman/post/_/id/286/lessons-learned-from-dan-le-batard-caper
 
It was revealed this week that two of this year's inductees will go in with no team logo on their plaque. Greg Maddux couldn't decide between the Cubs and Braves and Tony LaRussa couldn't decide between the White Sox, A's or Cardinals.
 
I can sort of see LaRussa's point because he was so successful with the A's and Cardinals (sorry White Sox fans) but with Maddux saying that the length of time he spent with each club was a major factor for his indecision, I call BS. He was far more successful with the Braves and at least to my mind, going into the Hall with a Braves logo on his hat should've been a no-brainer.
 
BOSTON RED SOX
 
I picked up the NESN DVD Band of Bearded Brothers yesterday. It's their version of the World Series celebratory DVD.
 
This week saw the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner and Awards ceremony. One of the news bits out of the dinner was that the beards that played such a big role in last year's title team will be a thing of the past when the Red Sox take the field this year.
 
The other tidbit of info came courtesy of pitcher Jon Lester. He's going to be a free agent after the 2014 season and he made it clear that he wanted to stay with the Red Sox and would be willing to take the hometown discount in order to accomplish that goal. You can read more here: http://tracking.si.com/2014/01/23/jon-lester-free-agent-red-sox-contract-resign/
 
Two-time All-Star Jon Lester has spent his entire eight-year career with the Red Sox. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images
 
You can count me in as one who wants to see the two sides come to an agreement and keep Lester in a Red Sox uniform.
 
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
 
After the debacle that was the AFC Championship game last Sunday I'm over the NFL season. I know that as a football fan I'm still supposed to be supercharged to watch the Super Bowl, but given that I really have no rooting interest in either team, I don't know if I'll even catch any of the game.
 
As for the Patriots loss, there's really nothing to say in defense of how ill suited they seemed to be to play against the Broncos. I listened to the first half of the game on the way home from the BC women's basketball game. If their lack of quality play wasn't bad enough, the Patriots radio announcers are two of the worst I've ever heard. They made the game that much more painful. Once I got home, the game didn't really get much better when I could visually witness what was going on out in Denver.
 
There was no running game, the passing game was sub-par at best and the defense could do nothing to stop a slight breeze much less the Broncos offense.
 
As much as I would've loved to see the Patriots make and win the Super Bowl, the plain truth is that they went about as far as their talent (or what was left of it after the parade of injuries) would let them.
 
The offseason news surrounding the Patriots started with the news of the coaching staff departures. Pepper Johnson quit to find a new job. There's no confirmation but reports I saw in the Boston Herald that said he was unhappy after getting passed over for the defensive coordinator job last year in favor of Matt Patricia. Johnson did release a classy statement with the news of his leavetaking.
 
The bigger surprise was the retirement of Dante Scarnecchia. He'd been an assistant with the Patriots for 30 years through 6 different head coaches. He's been the one constant for the team during all that time and his position and institutional memory are going be tough to replace.
 
I don't know what the Patriots will do this offseason, but they really have to upgrade the talent on the team and figure out a way to keep their players HEALTHY. They need to better their passing game attack by getting receivers who can stretch the field from Day 1. And they need to better their secondary.
 
HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
 
You can check out what I had to say in my recaps about the various high school basketball teams I follow in the two links below.
 
 
 
(photo by the Wareham Courier's Adam Ellis)
 
WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL
 
Hartford - The Hawks saw their season fortunes turn around a bit this week. They've won three straight games. While the record improves to just 7-13, when you are doing that bad you take what positives you can get.
 
Amber Bepko (pictured below) scored 19 points to lead Hartford in their 80-76 win over UMass-Lowell. Deanna Mayza and Cherelle Moore each finished with 19 points. Alyssa Englert had a solid game with 6 points, 7 assists and 8 boards.
 
 
The Hawks got a 66-42 victory over Binghamton with Alyssa Reaves and Mayza scoring 12 points. Reaves had 8 boards in the game as well. You can see highlights and the post game press conference below.
 

Yesterday afternoon saw the Hawks knock off UMBC 65-55. Cherelle Moore scored 16 points off the bench to lead the offense. Mayza had 11 points. Bepko, Englert and Reaves each scored 10 points in the game. Reaves also had 7 boards.
 
Tennessee - On Monday, the Lady Vols led by as many as 12 points but ended up losing to Notre Dame 86-70. Meighan Simmons (pictured below first) led Tennessee with 23 points (but had 7 turnovers), Ariel Massengale added 14 points and Isabelle Harrison (pictured below 2nd) finished with 13 points and 16 boards.
 
 
The loss stung to be sure, but Coach Warlick's team rebounded with their 89-69 win over Florida later in the week. Simmons led five players in double figures for the Lady Vols with 21 points. Bashaara Graves (pictured below) had 17 points and 8 boards. Andraya Carter scored 14 points and dished out 8 assists. Jasmine Jones chipped in 13 points and 6 boards while Harrison hit for 12 points.
 
Tennessee is now 15-4 with a 4-2 conference record.
 
 
Missouri State - Bry Snow scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds but the Bears came up on the short end of the scoreboard in their 68-60  loss to Northern Iowa early in the week.
 
Before they squared off with Indiana State on Saturday afternoon, there was an article in one of the local Missouri papers on how coach Kellie Harper is adjusting to her now dual roles as coach and new mom. You can check that out here: http://www.news-leader.com/article/20140120/SPORTS0401/301200055?source=nletter-top5&sf21850299=1&gcheck=1&nclick_check=1
 
The Harper family:
 
 
As for the game against Indiana State, the Bears ended up losing 74-57. They committed 24 turnovers in the game and shot just 36.4 percent from the floor. Tyonna Snow had 15 points to lead Missouri State. Katie Palmer finished with 12 points and Bry Snow had 10 points. The team is now 7-10 overall with a 2-4 conference record.
 
BOSTON COLLEGE ATHLETICS
 
Football - The 2014 football schedule for the Eagles has been released.
 
 
I'm not one for sitting outside in the cold so it isn't like I would be going to any of the late season games, but in all honesty there is no team coming to Alumni Stadium that makes me want to attend a game.
 
Men's Basketball - Before the team headed into an 8 day layoff, they got knocked off by Georgia Tech 68-60. Olivier Hanlan had 19 points and Lonnie Jackson added 14 points.
 
With the fan talk swirling about a coaching change, there was an article I read that suggested Bruce Pearl (ex-Tennessee) as a possible candidate. But he put the kibosh on that rumor.
 
I was talking to a friend of mind and mentioned that the fanbase was unhappy with how the team is progressing under Steve Donahue. He said a name that might be an intriguing hire would be current Minnesota coach Richard Pitino.
 
Women's Basketball - In case you missed my separate blog report about the BC women's basketball game that I attended last Sunday against North Carolina, you can check out what I had to say here: http://www.t-s-b-n.com/pt/BOSTON-COLLEGE-WOMENS-BASKETBALL-GAME-REPORT-1192013/blog.htm
 
(Kristen Doherty)
 
(Nicole Boudreau)
 
(Kelly Hughes)
 
(Katie Zenevitch)
 
There was also a brief weekly press conference with coach Erik Johnson.
 
 
Things didn't get any better for the Eagles when they went on the road to play NC State on Thursday night. The Wolfpack went out 9-0 to start the game and that margin ended up being the final margin of victory as the Eagles fell 85-76.
 
The loss was their fifth in a row against a ranked opponent. They are 11-9 with a 2-4 ACC record going into today's game against Wake Forest. It is also serving as Alumni Day at Conte Forum.
 
Kat Cooper was out for the game which leads me to believe her injury was worse than they thought against UNC. This despite me getting a response from whomever runs the BC women's basketball Facebook page saying she was fine when I asked how she was doing right after the UNC game.
 
In place of Cooper, freshman Kelly Hughes got her first career start and made the most of it. She hit 6 out of 10 three point attempts and finished with a career high 23 points. Katie Zenevitch had 19 points and Kristen Doherty added 10 points and 6 boards.
 
You can check out a game recap and extensive photo gallery of the game from the ACC Women's Basketball Digest here: http://www.accwbbdigest.com/1314/1401232-ncsu-85-boston-college-76.php
 
(Nicole Boudreau hitting from downtown!)
 
You can see the post game press conference below.
 
 
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of BC's Conte Forum, they've been talking to a variety of former players about their best memory of their time at the school and in the venue. This week they had a brief piece with former BC women's basketball player Carolyn Swords. You can check that out here: http://www.bceagles.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/012414aaa.html
 
And finally, there was a short video piece by WCVB Channel 5 in Boston on two of the BC women's basketball teammates who were bitter rivals in their high school days. You can see that clip here: http://www.wcvb.com/news/sports/Former-rivals-now-BC-basketball-powerhouses/-/9848968/24091758/-/oy7utlz/-/index.html
 
MISCELLANEOUS
 
First off, for those that don't waste enough time on the Internet already, I potentially have another little stop you can make on your surfing time.
 
It seems that someone read that article I wrote a couple weeks back about my favorite mysteries/thrillers of 2013. It prompted them to try and get in touch with me. But as I was later told I am a hard guy to get in touch with.
 
The guy got in touch with my buddy J.D. who forwarded me the email he sent. Seems he wanted to send me a copy of a new spy novel that is coming out in May for review. Who is this guy? He's the director of publicity for Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. For those in the know about the book publishing business, S&S isn't exactly a small press publisher.
 
So that was pretty sweet news. But not being able to get in touch with me seems to be an issue these days. So after a long time of "badgering" by J.D. and this latest development, I have reluctantly given in and created a Twitter account. You can find me @TheOneTrueJay
 
Other Writing - You can check out J.D.'s article on the Philadelphia location of Luke's Lobster here: http://www.pop-topia.com/lukes-lobster-welcome-philly/
 
Luke’s Lobster, Welcome to Philly!
 
Food - Speaking of good eats, I read a review of a restaurant this week. Actually, it's technically a pub. Flynn's Irish Pub to be exact. The review was intriguing and made me want to check the place out. And then I read the menu at the pub's website and think I'll have to hook myself up to a cardiac monitor to try any of their 21 different burgers. You can check it out for yourself at http://www.gotoflynns.com
 
TV - I'm happy to report that I am now a very happy NYPD Blue fan. After years of waiting since the release of Season 4, I've now got my hands on Season 5. It was released this week and I immediately bought it. Now I'm in the midst of watching it and grooving to the rewatch of the adventures of the 15th Precinct.
 
 
Oh, and while I have to catch the first episode on On Demand, the Starz original series Black Sails debuted last night. It's a pirate drama and looking at the previews this isn't your usual Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum look at the life of a pirate. I'm optimistic about this series and hope that once I do watch the first episode, I don't feel let down. You can check out the trailer below.
 
 
Books - It's been a busy work week so I haven't finished any books this week. But I did pick up a new one. It's the Iris Johansen thriller Silencing Eve. It is the third book in a trilogy story featuring her Eve Duncan forensic sculptor character.
 
 
Music - I picked up the debut solo album from Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles this week. It's called That Girl. I've given it one listen thus far, but have to play it again before I'll feel comfortable reviewing it.
 
You can check out the video for the title track below.
 
 
 
You can check out the video for the Red Dragon Cartel song "Deceived" below. I've got the album on order and a review of it will be forthcoming.
 
 
And this week was a sort of sad week for me musically. This past Friday would've been the 67th birthday of Warren Zevon. Sadly he passed away in 2003 but his music remains as important today to me as ever it was. You can check out the http://www.warrenzevon.com website. There's a Facebook page dedicated to getting him inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and you can always go on Youtube to check out his incredible music.

Or go really crazy and buy his CDs! You probably know his biggest song "Werewolves of London" so I'm going to skip that one and instead you can check out a couple of different songs below.
 
 
There's a lot more to discover from raucous rockers to beautiful love songs and everything in between. And my love for all things Zevon extends to my choice in avatars that I use online. See that cigarette smoking skull next to my name? That's Zevon's Ol' Velvet Nose that was used on his backstage passes among other things.
 
Warren Zevon...music legend...still missed to this day.
Never Happen
Category: FEATURED
Tags: Brady Patriots

 

How distinctly I remember, and it wasn't in the bleak December, it was probably early June of 1987. The Boston Celtics had lost to the Lakers because their superteam from 1986 had lost its second-greatest asset --- its depth. Len Bias had died, Bill Walton, Jerry Sichting and Scott Wedman all went down with injuries... and KC Jones wanted the best record so badly (he didn't get it) that he had worn his veteran starters down to the bone, literally. 

Dennis Johnson was plodding like he had aged 10 years. Robert Parish had two total mush ankles and could hardly walk, much less run or jump. Kevin McHale had a stress fracture in his foot. And Larry Bird gamely tried to hide his back and leg injuries, but fooled no one. After the series, Jabbar would comment "Bird was hurt, and we knew he was hurt because he kept getting caught out of position." None of them would ever be the same.

It was clear that Boston would never win with this core of players again. They had been worn out. What Indiana would have given for Bird. A year later, what Charlotte would have given for Parish. And a year after that, Minnesota for McHale. Damaged goods or not, they would have filled seats in droves.

But Red Auerbach, the greatest NBA coach/GM of all time, held to his principles in the face of a league that had gone, with the rest of sports, into the age of mercenary free agency. He exhibited loyalty to his team. And true to the obvious, Boston would never win again with that team, though they would contend at least in the East.

Did Red do the right thing? Jan Volk had taken over as GM by that point, but he did what Auerbach told him to do. Clearly the answer in retrospect was no, unless you wanted Bird and the others to forever be Celtics for some reason. Bird, it is noted, ended up in Indiana, McHale in Minnesota and Parish in Charlotte anyway, in one capacity or another.

Today the new order has been around too long for such misguided loyalties to exist. The NBA has become a revolving door joke. Did Wayne Gretzky stay in Edmonton? Roger Clemens or Wade Boggs in Boston? Did the Niners hang onto Joe Montana? Did the Colts keep Peyton Manning? That phase of history is, for better or worse, over now.

Or is it? 

Flash to Foxboro. The Patriots, fresh off contending for the umpteenth year and going to their 3rd consecutive conference championship game, are again watching from the living room. Their record of success is unmatched in this millenium, and maybe ever, unless all you count are rings.

It's a naive way to look at things in an era where all major sports are played in 30-odd team venues. Most franchises would kill to have what New England has had since it last won a Super Bowl in early 2005. But for most it's not enough in this age of no ring, bad year mentality.

Which raises a question about the Patriots moving forward. Do you want to contend every year or do you want to shoot for the big one every so often and suffer the uncertain consequences of starting over?

Note that it's probably a miracle that the Patriots got as far as they did, missing a host of starting players, many Pro Bowlers. By the time Talib went down in the Conference game they were missing him, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Tommy Kelly on defense --- among others. They had lost Rob Gronkowski and Sebastian Vollmer on offense, not to mention the departed Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. A year that looked like a run to New Jersey suddenly became an instant rebuild. And rebuild they did, to the tune of a highly successful season by mortal standards.

Is it safe to assume that with the return of at least some of the core of IR veterans the team will be back in form for 2014? Maybe not.

Who's gonna catch the ball? None of New England's rookie receivers stepped up strongly enough to be considered a shoo-in. Julian Edelman became a star, but considering the value the Patriots place on slot men, could wind up elsewhere. Rob Gronkowski? How long will he play before he goes down again? He is a fragile player in a physical position.

Run the ball? The Patriots appear to have a good stable of backs, but parts of the line are getting long in the tooth and, worst of all, Dante Scarnecchia, the guy who held it all together for 30 years, is retiring.

Then there's the $64,000 question of Tom Brady. His production has steadily dropped over the past several seasons. Is that Belichick trying to balance the offense? Is it a lack of receiving talent? Could be this year, but last year? And no one who watched him in Denver and elsewhere this year could have missed the fact that he has begun missing open receivers with disturbing frequency. Is age catching up in subtle ways with the eternally young quarterback?

Why ask? It seems clear that without Brady the Patriots would be in for a difficult 2014. He is master of the complex system on which they will depend and likely thrive as long as Belichick is coach. And BB keeps losing assistants to higher jobs. That doesn't happen with coaches who are on the brink of retirement in a winning organization.

But blowing up a team isn't unheard of elsewhere. What did the Colts do? They practically jettisoned a wing of the Hall of Fame to tank and rebuild. So far, it's showing promise. The Red Sox blew it up. Look where they wound up. The Celtics are busy blowing it up right now.

Of course, some teams with eternally high draft standing retain that standing because they get stuck in the mud and go nowhere. There's no guarantee blowing things up will work.

Still, the question is valid for one reason --- Tom Brady will never be worth more than he is now. He's an underpaid (by NFL standards) all-time immortal, clearly with football left in him --- probably more than Joe Montana had when he left for Kansas City. What the Patriots could get for him in the draft is left to the imagination.

Of course it will never happen. The Patriots have either let walk or simply cut players far more frequently than they've traded anyone. Their trades have been jokes. Cassel and Vrabel for the draft pick that landed Patrick Chung? It was a baby step from a release. For whatever reason, they don't work that way. And it's hard to argue with their success, recent ring or no recent ring.

Still... what would you do?

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