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 12/12/2000

Rock Bottom...

Can it really get any worse than this? The Patriots didn't just lose to the woeful Bears on Sunday, they were damn near dominated. The Bears lead was 24-10, four minutes into the 4th quarter, before Bledsoe hit Troy Brown on 4th and goal to pull the Pats back to within a touchdown. You would think that left enough time to mount a comeback, but not this team, not this year.

Just how bad is this Bears team? As bad as the Patriots are today, how would they look with Tom Brady at quarterback taking snaps from Grey Ruegamer, throwing the ball out to Tony Simmons and Curtis Jackson? That's the situation the 3-10 Bears are in, with the QB and WR positions down to 3rd string, and the center position down to 2nd string. Add to this the fact that Chicago's offensive coordinator left the team this week to take over the head coaching position at BYU, yet they were still able to rack up 24 points, 21 first downs and 339 yard while controlling the clock for over 37 minutes.

Since being beset by injuries, the Bears' offense had managed just one touchdown in its previous 18 quarters. They were able to reach the end zone three times against the Pats, and none of the scores were of the cheap variety. The suddenly explosive Bears offense scored on 10, 7, and 11 play drives covering 66, 64, and 56 yards respectfully. How much worse can a defense get? I hate to point this out, but aside from the very average Brandon Mitchell, the Patriots are not missing any defensive starters. This is as good as the Pats have to offer folks.

There are way more questions than answers here. How are the Bears able to pluck a running back off of the Eagles practice squad and have more success than any free agent or high draft pick the Patriots can come up with? How is a former UNH running back playing cornerback able to hold the Patriots $50 million receiver in check, while the Patriots $100 million secondary can't contain Eddie Kennison and Kaseem Sinceno? How is a CFL quarterback able to set passing records for a team that's been around since the days of leather helmets?

When the Patriots lost to the Browns in Cleveland, the spin was the "better" team lost. When the same team goes on to squeak by the Bengals at home and get run over by the Bears, you begin to see a clear pattern rather than a bump in the road. Good teams lose to bad teams every season. Only the bad teams, however, lose to bad teams more often than they beat them. One can no longer argue that the Patriots are an unlucky bunch who deserve better than their 4-10 record. This team is every bit a 4-10 team, seemingly content to finish with the worst Patriot record since 1992. Can you honestly say the Patriots are a better team than the Bengals? The Cardinals? The Browns? No way.

So which is it?

Last season the 8-8 Patriots were said to have a coaching problem. There was never a mention that the team did not have the talent to get it done. If you look at the starting 22 players on this team as compared to last year, there is not much drop-off. Troy Brown can't do everything Shawn Jefferson could do last season, but Brown can do things that Jefferson was never able to do. Zefross Moss was clearly a better right tackle than anyone on Belichick's roster, but please don't tell me Pete Carroll had better guards to work with. Yes Ben Coates is gone, but the 2000 Patriots are not minus the 1996 Ben Coates, they're minus the 1999 Ben Coates, so let's not blow this out of proportion.

On defense the Patriots now have Tebucky Jones and Otis Smith where last year there was Chris Carter and Steve Israel. That's pretty close to a wash. The defensive line remains the same, and at linebacker Ted Johnson has been involved in more snaps this year than last. Bottom line is that the staring 22 on this team is no better or worse than the staring 22 from the 1999 team, so why the big drop off? Don't you dare say it's the schedule, because it doesn't get much "easier" in the NFL than visits to Cleveland or Chicago. Let me be clear here. By no means am I saying the 2000 Patriots are a talented bunch, I'm simply saying they are no less talented than the team that went 8-8 last season, and are certainly no less talented that the Browns, Bengals, or Bears.

Why, oh why then does Bill Belichick get away with the talent excuse when Pete Carroll could not? Why are the same fans who wanted Pete Carroll drawn and quartered anxious to see how Belichick can improve the team for 2001? I just don't get it. If Pete Carroll were ever the head coach of this team he'd be crucified. How is it that Pete Carroll did a poor job in going 8-8 while Belichick is on the road to rebuilding when he leads comparable talent to 4-10? Why isn't Belichick to blame for the bickering that goes on on the field and sidelines among his players? Why isn't he accountable for countless stupid mistakes and penalties? Why isn't coaching responsible when awful quarterbacks like Shane Mathews, Scott Mitchell and Doug Pederson have their season-best games against the Patriots?

Have you listened to the quotes from the locker room lately? Players such as Troy Brown and Terry Glenn say this is the worst football they've ever been associated with in their lives. Drew Bledsoe has "no answers". Lawyer Milloy (still a bright spot on this bad team) calls the team "flat," while Ted Johnson says the team has no sense of urgency. Ex-NFL players turned media types continually comment at the lack of emotion and effort on display. Can they all be wrong? Are these types of attitudes going to be corrected in the April draft or through free agency? Isn't this what a head coach is suppose to be for?

I've been getting my share of criticism for being too hard on Belichick in his first year, but I simply see no reason to continue to write otherwise. Bobby Grier and Pete Carroll may have started the erosion process, but Bill Belichick has finished it off. Exactly what has Bill Belichick done for this team that no one else could have? Cutting all of Bobby Grier's draft picks was not exactly a stroke of genius. He clearly has made some astute personnel moves, but you can't give too much credit to a man "smart" enough to run out of a burning building now can you?

Should the Patriots fire Bill Belichick? If I were the owner I would not. As bad as it's been, you simply can't have that type of turnover two seasons in a row. Belichick ought to be given the chance to prove he can do the job, and believe me I hope he does. Will changing coaches again hurt the team's progress? I would argue "what progress?" but I'm not so sure any available head coaching candidate out there today stands out as an upgrade.

Tick, tick, tick...

On their 2nd to last possession of the game, Bledsoe ran up the middle for 7 yards to set up 2nd and 3 at midfield. Three plays later, the Pats turned the ball over on downs at the same spot on the field. Given one last chance with about a minute to play and no timeouts left, Bledsoe and the offense put on a clinic as to how not to manage the clock. I have never seen a prevent-defense work so well. Bledsoe did precisely what the Bears wanted him to do - complete a few passes in bounds to burn the clock. On 3rd and 1 with the clock moving down to 18 seconds, Bledsoe elected to run a play rather than spike the ball to set up 4th and 1 at about the 30-yard line. To complete yet another pass into the middle of the field was asinine. Even had the clock not been whistled dead at 10 seconds and subsequently run down due to an illegal motion penalty, that would have been the last play of the game. Had the refs not thrown the flag, New England still would not have had enough time to run another play.

These are the types of mistakes that undrafted free agents make in the first preseason game, not NFL starters in week 15. This game was littered with stupid errors. Every time you look there's a flag down for offensive procedure (no excuse), or we see Lawyer Milloy barking at his defensive teammates for being out of position yet again. When you're offense can't execute a snap count in week 15 and you're defense doesn't know where to line up or run to after the ball is snapped, there is a very serious problem that has nothing to do with talent.

Searching for meaning...

For Patriots fans looking for something to cheer about next week, you can cheer for the Colts to beat the Dolphins in Miami and for the Jets to beat the Lions at home. Not that I want to the Jets to win, but this would set up a must win game for the Miami Dolphins in Foxboro on December 24. Should the Pats send the Dolphins home at 10-6, Miami would likely still back into the playoffs, but they'd do so as a wild-card entry in week 1 on the road, essentially eliminating any realistic possibility of them playing a game in January.

The Patriots have lost 3 straight games to the Dolphins since Bledsoe's miracle finish on Monday Night football two seasons ago. It would be nice to beat Miami at home to cripple their championship hopes and send Bill Belichick into the offseason with even the smallest bit of momentum in his favor.

See you next week.