Clint's Corner Archive
Clint's Corner Archive
The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.
As John Madden so mentioned during the Super Bowl broadcast, unfortunately for the loser, there is no greater disparity in all of sports than between the winner and loser of the Super Bowl. The winner goes home the champs, and goes down in NFL history. The loser always gets lumped in with the other 29 teams who didn't win. That list includes the likes of the Falcons and Jets, but it also includes the Broncos, 49ers, Steelers, and Cowboys. If you think you are disappointed as a Pats fan, how about Dallas? They are easily the best team in the league, but beat themselves up all year long (I'm not heart broken about that mind you). How about Denver? Everyone in Colorado had plane and hotel reservations to New Orleans, and they didn't even win a single playoff game.
The Pats played a great Super Bowl. It was the closest and most entertaining game since the Giants 1991 1 point victory over the Bills. Martin's 18 yard TD run in the 3rd quarter had the Pats within 6 with over 18:27 minutes to play. Green Bay's offense was held scoreless after taking a 27-13 lead into the half, and Green Bay's final score of that half was questionable at best. Except for the three times the Pats went to sleep (two long TD passes and the Howard runback), the Pats gave the Pack all they could handle and then some. When it was 10-0, who on the planet thought the Pats would ever fight back to take the lead? I'm not taking anything away from Green Bay here, they are a great team and deserve to be congratulated. The final score, however, was not indicative of the competitive nature of the game.
It's been a month since Super Sunday, and I'll admit the sting of leaving that Stadium after the loss hasn't quite left, but If I need to cheer myself up I just pop in my tape of the Pittsburgh playoff game. In my 11 years as a season ticket holder (not enough to get Super Bowl seats from the Pats, but that's another story) I have never seen such an excited crowd. The electricity in that stadium could have powered downtown Detroit and New York all night long. At the time, that game alone made the suffering of the past 11 seasons all worth it. The AFC Championship victory the following week was great, but it didn't compare to the Pittsburgh game.
The Vince Lombardi Trophy would have been nice, but winning the AFC East and two home playoff games made for the best season to date in the history if the Patriots franchise. For that alone the team deserves our thanks for an exciting ride. With only 31 Super Bowls gone, the Pats still can go another 47 years without a Championship before they equal the current drought of the Red Sox. Suffice it to say I will be renewing my season tickets next year.
My column would not be my column if I did not whine about something, so let's cut to the chase here. Desmond Howard's Super Bowl record 99 yard back-breaking kickoff return in the 3rd quarter was made possible by an obvious, but missed, holding penalty. Kicker Adam Vinatieri was set up in front of the oncoming Howard, forcing Desmond to put on a move. Desmond faked right and went left, and when Vinatieri tried to go to his right to cut him off, it was as if his jersey were caught on a barbed wire fence. Desmond was just out of reach, and the rest was history. Before you say something dumb like "The kicker could not have made that tackle!", consider that Vinatieri chased down Herschel Walker in Dallas in a dead sprint down the sidelines and made a TD saving tackle. Not a bump out of bounds, but a tackle. At the very least, he could have slowed Desmond down enough for someone else to move in.
Alas, the call was missed by the refs, the Pats never recovered, and Howard was voted the MVP. To be fair, bad or missed calls are a part of the game, and great teams need to recover from them. On November 3rd, a critical Karim Abdul-Jabbar "fumble" turned momentum to the Patriots side and the Dolphins never recovered en route to a Pat's 42-23 blowout. A 21-0 deficit was erased at the Meadowlands against the Jets the following week in what would have been a huge loss at the time. The game was ultimately decided on a 4th and 2 from around mid field late in the 4th quarter. Bledsoe hit Coates for at most a 1-yard advance, but a generous spot gave the Pats a 1st down and the Jets were history 31-27. Referees blow calls all the time, they are human. Brett Favre's "TD Run" in the second quarter was no exception.
This is my story and I'm sticking to it, for I feel it to be true...
First and foremost, I would like to thank Bill Parcells for his part in what has been a 179 degree turnaround from when he took over the team in 1993. He took over the worst team in the league. Jeff Carlson finished the season at QB, and Hugh Millen was to be next season's starter following surgery on his separated shoulder. That team was far worse than the '96 Jets. The '92 Pats were often out the game by half-time. Like today's Bruins, things were bad and they seemed to just be getting worse. 4 years later, the Pats were 3 plays away from being World Champions.
When Parcells mentioned the words "Championship" at his introductory press conference in 1993, we fans wanted to believe him, but could not even in our wildest dreams imagine such a thing. The Tuna brought instant respect to what was a rapidly sinking ship. He had his ups and downs himself, finishing his 4 year stint at a rather modest 32-32, but the 1996 season was a huge success.
Despite all that success, Parcells left town in a rather Clemensesque fashion. The man who helped bring the Pats to Super Bowl XXXI is now public enemy #1 on the list of many Pats fans. The feeling is mutual. When asked by a New York reporter if Parcells would miss "Kraft, the fans, the region, anything?", Parcells lone response was that "I will miss some of the players". Wellington Mara and George Young must be saying "I told you so".
Will "Jesus Christ" McDonough gave his gospel, I mean view, of the rift between Kraft and Parcells which ultimately lead to the Tuna's departure in a Feb 16th article in the Boston Will, I mean Globe. He laid out the whole story, a lot of which we were all previously unaware of, but his presentation was clearly Tuna tainted. Kraft mentioned in his rebuttal that McDonough said he intended to "annihilate" Kraft in Boston. Why doesn't McDonough go sit on Al Davis' lap and write for the Oakland Newspapers? This guy was even hated by the Sullivans, who brought football to New England to begin with. At any rate, here is my take...
We all know that when Parcells arrived here, he was "the Man". James Orthwein was actively trying to sell the team, and he could care less about who Parcells drafted or signed as a free agent. The Tuna could have drafted a kicker from Holy Cross with the #1 pick and Orthwein would not have said a word. He was only concerned about getting the team to St. Louis.
His hiring of Parcells immediately increased the value of the franchise, and by the time the 1993 season was over, he had hoped to be out of the picture. In the 1 year he owned the team, the beer man made a financial killing. That's all that mattered. When Parcells was 1-11, did you see Orthwein complaining? When Bledsoe went deep to Timpson in OT to win the final game of the '93 season, it eliminated the Dolphins from the playoffs, and capped a 4 game winning streak to finish out the season at 5-11. (One fewer win than McPherson's 1991 squad). The fans went wild as the teams left the field. Had we seen the last of the New England Patriots? As we exited the stadium that cold December day, we wondered if we would ever be back.
A few months later, a long time Patriots fan and season ticket holder, who also happened to be multimillionaire, bought the team from Orthwein and literally "saved" the Patriots. The care-less owner was replaced by a guy who wanted to win and wanted to win now. At the price he paid for the team, he knew it would be tough to turn a profit, but he still opened up his checkbook to Parcells and stepped back. Like us fans, Kraft may not be a "student" of the game, but he'd seen and been to enough games since '72 to know the difference between a Bruce Smith and a Tim Roberts.
When Kraft saw his millions go to waste in the wake of an extremely disappointing 1995 season which saw the team drop to 6-10, he decided to restructure the football operations of the Patriots. Parcells the living legend would be the coach, long time college scout (and Parcells confidant) Bobby Grier would be in charge of personnel, and Andy Wasynczuk would crunch the numbers for the cap and player contracts. Each of these team members would have input into the makeup of the team, and together they would make collective, "organizational" decisions regarding personnel matters.
Parcells was no longer "the Man," and he didn't like it one bit. Bob Kraft was stealing some of his thunder, and the fact that Kraft was merely a wealthy fan, and not a true "football man" such as himself further irritated the Tuna. He liked it better when he had an owner who would throw him a checkbook and never give it a second thought (entrance Leon Hess, stage right). Granted Kraft doesn't know much more about football than the average sports columnist of rabid fan, but he does know a thing or two about how to run a successful organization. The Patriots franchise is just a blip on his map of wealth. It is also obvious that Kraft has a Tuna-sized ego as well, but at the NFL minimum salary, WR Troy Brown at least made money in 1995. You would think Kraft is entitled to the same, and is also entitled to a little say-so.
The relationship began to deteriorate, and after getting rid of Michael Timpson, Kevin Turner, Tim Goad, and signing Tim Roberts, Reggie White, and Jeff Dellenbach, the Pats fell to 6-10 and Parcells wanted out of football. The problem was that his original contract with Orthwein called for a $1.2 million penalty if Parcells did not coach the full five years. He asked Kraft to lift that obligation, and Kraft did so. The new clause, however, stated that should Parcells wish to coach in 1997, he could only do so for the Patriots, and at the $1.2 million salary of the original contract. Parcells knew in December of 1995 that 1996 would be his last year with the Pats, but he just didn't come out and say it. He (and Kraft) instead chose to play games right up until the kickoff of the Super Bowl.
If the Tuna's mind wasn't made up in December, it certainly was in April when, according to McDonough's article, Kraft deliberately humiliated Parcells in public with the selection of Terry Glenn in the draft. Parcells wanted defense, and didn't get it. Parcells was furious. So too was Will McDonough. After all, as a stud reporter for the Globe, he deserved to be told the day before the draft who Kraft intended to select. As the editor and chief of Clint's Corner, I too am outraged that Kraft did not phone me and make me aware of his draft day intentions.
By the way, Terry Glenn is the new NFL rookie leader in pass receptions, and he missed opening day with a bad hamstring pull. People argue, and they are probably right, that the Pats would not have gone to the Super Bowl without the Tuna at the helm. The same, however, can undoubtedly be said about Terry Glenn. The Pats may not have even made the playoffs without that pick.
Rumors swirled throughout the season as to what Parcells' future would hold. As the playoffs approached, the national spotlight heightened the speculation. On the day of the AFC Championship game, Kevin Mannix of the Herald made us all aware of the clause in the new contract which bound the Tuna to the Pats in 1997 if he wanted to continue coaching. Visions of the Jets' #1 pick began to dance in our heads. We were all bummed out that Parcells would probably not be around, but the fact that we could get draft picks for him seemed to shift the sentiment. Mannix did not mention the source of this information.
Again, according to McDonough, Parcells was furious. He felt the story was leaked by Kraft (Kraft denies this), and that that information would seriously inhibit his chances to hook on with another club. Will McDonough arranged a face to face meeting just hours before the game, and it is stated that in that meeting Parcells asked Kraft to fax a memo to the NFL commissioner which stated the he (Parcells) was free to coach anywhere he wanted to in 1997 without due compensation. In return, Parcells would leave the club without badmouthing the owner. Kraft refused to do this (Duh! Of course!), and McDonough warned Kraft that "things would get messy and very bloody" if he didn't do as Parcells asked. McDonough was then asked to leave the room. What the Hell was he doing in there in the first place?
At this point it was clear that Parcells would not be around. Parcells' agent, Bill Fraley, claims that he tried get together with Kraft to work out a new deal for Parcells to stay on with the Pats, but that Kraft refused. Who out there actually believes that Parcells would stay on without total control? Anyone? Anyone? Hello? Give it a rest Bill Fraley. Kraft knew Parcells was gone, Fraley knew Parcells was gone, and Parcells knew that Parcells was gone. The fans didn't know it, and neither for sure did the players. Let's fast forward to the Monday before the Super Bowl.
Will McDonough phoned Parcells and asked about his plans after the Super Bowl. He said to call Fraley, "Whatever he says is OK with me." It is also known at this point that Parcells had already contacted the NFL commissioner and asked him to review his contract amendment with the Patriots. Meanwhile, the Jets had now been without a head coach for over 5 weeks, and they had yet to interview any candidates. Hmmmm. Maybe Parcells was building that house in New Jersey so he could go coach the Oakland Raiders?
As we picked our morning Globes off the front steps that Monday morning, McDonough had laid it all out for us in black and white. It was 6 days 'till kickoff of the biggest game of the year, and McDonough had announced to the world, with Parcells' approval, the coach's intentions not to return to the Patriots in 1997. We all "knew" that anyway, but that article ended all hope, for us as well as the many players who respected him.
That article was totally uncalled for. Parcells, McDonough, and Fraley should all be ashamed of themselves. They took the thunder out of 36 years of waiting for many Patriots fans, not to mention the players. A lot of NFL players never play in a Super Bowl, let alone more than one. This was to be the players day, the fans day, for Green Bay as well as New England. Will McDonough thought his "scoop" was more important.
We all know what happened next. Parcells did not even accompany his team back to Foxboro, and he announced a few days later (following the commissioner's ruling in Kraft's favor) that he would not be back to coach in 1997. A few days after that, he was the new "consultant" for the New York Jets, and would take over the whole show in February of 1998. Kraft called foul and wanted the #1 pick, and the Jets wouldn't budge.
Again Paul Tagliabue stepped in and made a ruling. Both teams had agreed previous to his ruling to abide by it. The Jets got Parcells as a head coach now (instead of 1998), and in return the Pats get the Jet's 3rd and 4th picks this year, their 2nd pick in 1998, and their #1 pick in 1999. Fans in New England and New York each claimed victory. To me this is puzzling. What had the Patriots given up? Even if we had gotten the Jets 8th round pick in 1999, it is still something for nothing. I see this as a huge win for the Pats. Those are 4 good picks. Even IF the Jets have a fantastic 1998, the Pats still get a second pick in the 1st round, even if it is near the bottom (that is a HUGE if by the way).
This article is getting way too long. Congratulations if you're still with me. Thanks Bill Parcells for helping turn this team around. You helped establish a championship caliber team, and you leave behind you a solid well-coached foundation for the future. Your circus during Super Bowl week with McDonough is inexcusable, however, so good-bye, and good riddance. Jets suck (and so still do the Yankees). By the way, "Hello" Pete Carroll, and welcome to New England. I hope you enjoy your stay.
My next article will focus in on Carroll and the new staff, as well as preview the Pats draft and free agent needs. I promise not to mention Bill Parcells again. I know a lot of you are sick of hearing this already, but I had to get it off my chest.
Thanks for reading.