Clint's Corner Archive

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The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.

For 4/20/2000

Where do I start?

My last update to this column was back on January 8. Even with this being the "offseason," a lot has happened and I have lots of catching up to do.

Back in early January I wrote that although Bill Belichick was my first choice to succeed Pete Carroll, I did not feel he was worth surrendering a #1 choice when it became apparent that Tom Donahoe and Dom Capers could have been had for free. Just when it appeared as though Donahoe was a done deal (following what reportedly was a very impressive interview with the Kraft’s in downtown Boston), it was announced that Belichick was heading to New England for his press conference.

The Pats had surrendered the #16 overall pick in the draft, which was more pricey than any single pick the Jets had sent to New England as compensation for Bill Parcells or Curtis Martin. The deal also included the swapping of some "day two" draft choices over the next two years, but that’s irrelevant. To surrender the #16 pick in the draft for Bill Belichick is something that only one team of 31 in the NFL would have done, and that team is the Patriots. What makes this more painful today is knowing that Alabama RB Shaun Alexander and Oklahoma OT Stockar McDougle were still on the board at #16.

This is nothing against Bill Belichick. I do feel he is better than what his record in Cleveland has shown, and he will surely bring much needed toughness and discipline to the locker room. He has already shown capability of making the tough decisions necessary to get this team back on the winning track. The cutting of popular veterans Ben Coates and Bruce Armstrong did not sit well with many Pats fans, but it is no coincidence that both of those players are still looking for work today. Ditto for OT Zefross Moss, who was jettisoned to make room for the resigning of Tedi Bruschi. The team decided to part ways with veteran WR Shawn Jefferson but has wisely retained the services of Lawyer Milloy, Tedi Bruschi, and Troy Brown.

Bob Kraft’s "win now" edict also fits well with this hiring. Clearly a division rival has been weakened by the loss of one of the (if not the) best defensive coordinator in the NFL. Despite the Jets 8-8 record last season, they were 5-3 in the AFC East, sweeping the Dolphins and winning two division road games. After the Patriots defeated the Jets on opening day in the Meadowlands last season, the Jets completed their home divisional slate a perfect 3-0.

In his three seasons with the Jets, Belichick was able to consistently shut down the AFC East’s high powered offenses without the benefit of a lot of talent to work with. On paper, the Jets were only more talented on defense than the Colts, yet they consistently played the best defense in the division and were among the league leaders in fewest points allowed. There was no other coach available as familiar with the teams in this division, and certainly none as adept at scheming to shut those teams down. The Pats were 2-6 in the AFC East last season, losing 3 of 4 games in Foxboro Stadium. Getting swept by the Dolphins and Bills was inexcusable. The hiring of Belichick goes a long way towards solving this problem. Not lost in this equation is the hiring of former Jets offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss. Belichick has not left Weiss much to work with, but you can bet your bottom dollar the offense will be more productive than it was last year after Halloween under Ernie Zampese.

The thought of losing out on Shaun Alexander remains troubling given what is currently on the offensive roster, but by season’s end perhaps having Bill Belichick and J.R. Redmond will prove to be the wiser first round selection. Only time will tell.

Looking back, I for one can only conclude that the Jets paid far too high a price for Bill Parcells. Three years removed from that soap opera, the Jets won exactly one playoff game and missed the playoffs twice. Yes the Jets were vastly improved over their 1-15 season of 1996, but where are they today? Al Groh is their head coach, and Mike Nolan is the new defensive coordinator after being fired by Norv Turner in Washington. Curtis Martin, Vinny Testaverde, and Ray Mickens are half the team’s cap figure, and Keyshawn Johnson, the Michael Jordan of receivers, is playing for Tampa Bay. New England did lose 4 of 6 games to the Jets over that span, but they did win a division title and qualified for the playoffs twice. Andy Katzenmoyer and Tony Simmons remain on the Patriots roster, and aren’t going anywhere soon. Tuna is certainly the greatest coach of the modern era, but in hindsight, are the Jets really better off heading into the year 2000 than they would have been with those 4 draft picks on the roster? I’m sure Jets fans have a much different perspective.

The Draft...

The Jets used New England’s #16 pick along with their own 2nd round selection to move up 4 spots in the draft to select DE Shaun Ellis, projected by many to be a late 1st or early 2nd round selection. The Jets made this trade with the 49ers to select WR Plaxico Burress, only to see him go #8 overall to the Steelers. Instead they settled for a DE who Mel Kiper rated as the 30th best player available in the draft, and are still without a #1 receiver to replace the departed Keyshawn Johnson. Trading the NFL’s best receiver for Ellis and a rookie TE? I guess you can’t pick the right groceries all the time after all. Let the record show that for letting Belichick and a few other coaches bolt for the Pats, the Jets received 75% of whatever Shaun Ellis develops into.

Without a #1 pick for the first time since 1974, I was as disinterested in the first round of the draft as I have even been before. When I heard that the Pats had selected OT Adrian Klemm in the 2nd round while Travis Prentice and J.R. Redmond were still on the board, I was shocked and pleased. The Pats had not panicked as they had in years past and selected the "best available" running back early in the draft, and instead went with what they considered to be the best overall value available. Despite being tabbed as a talented but raw work in progress, it is not at all a stretch to pencil in Klemm as a starter either at tackle or guard on opening day. I immediately began to ponder life with Raymont Harris as the feature back, but all that changed when Arizona’s J.R. Redmond fell to the Pats with the 76th overall pick in round 3. It also was surprising to see the Pats hold fast at #76 after Travis Prentice went to the Browns at #63. Last year, if you recall, the Pats packaged a 3rd round pick to move up in the 2nd round to select Kevin Faulk. In 2000, patience indeed proved to be a virtue.

While tabbed by some as a 3rd down back, at 215 pounds and just shy of 6 feet tall, Redmond is clearly more of a feature back than Kevin Faulk. The Pats did not manage to land one of the draft’s elite backs such as Thomas Jones, Jamal Lewis, Shaun Alexander, or Ron Dayne, but like Klemm, Redmond is among the best at the 2nd tier available at his position. Redmond will very likely join Klemm in the starting lineup before we fans are wearing sweatshirts to the home games. This has more to do with what the Patriots don’t have than what they just drafted, but any time your 2nd and 3rd round picks project as starters you have to be pleased.

The Pats in the 5th round tabbed TE David Stachelski, the 3rd highest rated TE in the draft behind Bubba Franks and Anthony Becht. After the Jets selected Becht late in round #1, only 1 other TE was chosen prior to the Pats selection in the 5th round with Florida’s Erron Kinny going to the Titans in round 3. For what it’s worth, Mel Kiper had Becht rated as the 39th best player in the draft, with Stachelski also making the top 100 at #52. To have these two players drafted 114 selections apart is puzzling to say the least. Klemm was rated at #41, with Redmond at #36. Mel Kiper’s 2000 draft report is just one man’s opinion, and camp is a long way off, but you’d have to grade the Pats’ draft out fairly high if they wind up with three starters without the benefit of a #1 pick.

The Patriots other selections are hardly worth mentioning, for at this point their 4th round selection could be beaten out in camp by a soon to be signed undrafted rookie free agent. The Pats certainly added some large bodies to the line of scrimmage with OL Greg Robinson-Randall (333 lbs.), and DT’s Jeff Marriott (293 lbs.) and Dave Nugent (305 lbs.), but who’s to say if any of them is better than what the Patriots already have on the roster? Seventh round LB Casey Tisdale was not even on anyone’s draft radar screen, and fellow 7th rounder RB Patrick Pass is another mysterious selection, pegged by Mel Kiper to go undrafted.

The Pats made some waves in the 6th round with the selection of Michigan QB Tom Brady. Projected by many as a 3rd rounder, the Pats argued that they could not pass him up in the 6th round due to his "value." The last thing the Pats needed on draft day was a 4th quarterback, but perhaps this pick is not as senseless as it first seemed. Brady does not possess the raw physical tools of a Chad Pennington, Tim Couch, or Peyton Manning, but he has shown a knack for leadership and getting the job done in the big games. Playing with all the pressures associated with a big time program, Brady came up huge last season against Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Alabama going a combined 115 of 165. In the Alabama game alone Brady was 34 of 46 for 369 yards and 4 TD’s. He has also shown proficiency in running the hurry up offense. Should this guy be ahead of Frieze and Bishop on the depth chart? No. Should the Pats carry 4 quarterbacks? No. If Brady can stick on the practice squad and perhaps spend a season in Europe, he could emerge as a solid backup behind Bledsoe after Frieze is gone and Bishop is off playing AA baseball someday. With this pick coming in the 6th round, it can hardly be considered a risky one.

Look for my next column after the June 1 roster deadline passes. By then the first mini camp will have taken place, and the training camp roster will begin to take shape. Ground breaking ceremonies for the new stadium should also be in the works. You can check our schedule section for the dates and times of all 21 Pats games this season, and if you get a chance, check out Patriots.com for a look at the features of the new Foxboro Stadium.

Thanks for reading.