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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 12/28/98

It could be worse...

Rather than start this week’s column off by bashing the Pats and their coaches for the no-show against the Jets, consider the following. What if Pete Carroll, in 1998, had taken over for either Tony Dungy, Jim Fassel, Marty Schottenheimer, Bill Cowher, or Mike Holmgren? He would be in even more hot water with the local fans and press than he is now. All of the above mentioned coaches took their team to the playoffs last year, and each entered the 1998 season seeking to pick up where he left off.

With the exception of Mike Holmgren, none of those coaches even got their teams above .500, let alone to the playoffs. Sure the Packers are 11-5, but they only beat one winning team all season, and were embarrassed in a trio of nationally televised Monday Night debacles. If either of those teams had new coaches this season, it would be all too easy to point the finger. How else could the Steelers and Bucs miss the playoffs? How does one explain perennial AFC power Kansas City finishing with 7 wins? It would have HAD to be the new coaches. Unlike the players in the New England locker room, the players on those teams do not have as convenient an excuse.

Sure the 1996 AFC Champion Patriots are limping into the playoffs at 9-7 on the heels of a butt whipping. But if given the option, I’m sure 4 of the 5 coaches mentioned above would trade places with Carroll in a heartbeat, and have their bags packed for Jacksonville before disgruntled Pats fan could say "Bring back the Tuna!"

The finger pointing and the closet Carroll doubting mentioned in the Monday papers is puzzling. When Tuna bolted for the Jets following the 11-5 Super Bowl season, the "leaders" on the Patriots were very outspoken in their desire to prove that it was the players, and not Bill Parcells, who won all those regular season and playoff games. The fact that both the local and national media were giving the credit to the Tuna became the battle cry for the 1997 Patriots. That team finished 10-6, and was eliminated in week 2 of the playoffs. Just one year later, with the core of the 1996 team still intact (sans Curtis Martin), the Pats were blown out by Atlanta and St. Louis, were swept by Tuna’s Jets, and finished 4th in the division.

It was less than 30 months ago that these players set out to prove to the NFL what they were made of. Now, at 9-7, some are questioning the coaching staff. Pete Carroll may or may not be the answer here in New England, but fellas, you can’t have it both ways. If the dismissal of Pete Carroll is the only difference between 12-4 and 9-7, then Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy had better be just as nervous about their employment status.

And now for the bad news...

What transpired in the Meadowlands last Sunday, and which I had the unfortunate pleasure to witness in person, was easily the Patriots worst performance of the year. This loss ranks right up there with last season’s Tampa Bay game as one of the worst performances in franchise history. I really don’t think the Philadelphia Eagles or Cincinnati Bengals could have presented less of a challenge than the Patriots did, and the Patriots had a home playoff game on the line. The Jets, who had nothing to play for, came out of the shoot with guns blazing, and manhandled the Pats on both sides of the ball. In the blowout loss to Atlanta earlier in the season, one could at least point to turnovers and bad luck. This 31-10 Jets game was much much worse. The margin of victory was earned 100% by the Jets, and the difference of 21 points hardly begins to tell the story.

Four of the Jets first five possessions resulted in 3 touchdowns and a field goal. The average drive was 55 yards, and consumed a total of 21 of the games first 34 minutes. When the score read 17-0, the Pats had run a total of 5 plays, and had negative net yardage. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Jets capped off their scoring with a 96-yard touchdown drive, eating 8:49 of game clock. THAT was not Scott Zolak’s fault. The way the Pats played on Sunday, I doubt that an army of Terry Glenns, Ted Johnsons, or Drew Bledsoes could have made a difference either.

Is this Pete Carroll’s fault? I suppose that if this loss is on him, then he gets 9 wins to his credit as well. Should Pete Carroll be fired? It’s very hard to explain why a team two years removed from the Super Bowl can look so bad so often, but unfortunately, Bill Parcells is under contract elsewhere. Do you really think a Ray Rhodes or Steve Spurrier could come in here and make a difference?

There is one and only one Bill Parcells. After him, there are simply 29 other coaches. That included Jimmy Johnson, who after 3 years takes a 10-6 Dolphins team with no offense into the post season on the heels of a 38-16 trashing at the hands of another team who had NOTHING to play for. Mike Holmgren is over rated, as this season can attest, and even Mike Shanahan could be criticized for letting his team fall apart on national TV in week 16. If you are going to dial up talk radio and ask for Carroll’s head on a platter, I hope you have a replacement candidate in mind. No matter who coaches the Patriots next year, they’ll still be the successor to Bill Parcells, and will have to face him twice a year in what early on looks to be a lopsided rivalry.

Those who want to jump on Dan Shaughnessy’s "Blame Kraft" bandwagon had better think twice. Sure Bob Kraft, in hindsight, should have done whatever it took to keep the Tuna happy and in New England. However, if it weren’t for Bob Kraft, Shaughnessy and the other angered members of Patriot nation would not have a Patriots team to complain about. "Butch from the Cape" would have little interest in who was coaching the St. Louis Pats, and with Tom Finneran in the State House, you could forget about EVER getting an expansion team into Massachusetts to take the Pats place.

Back to the good news...

If the Patriots can pick their chins off the floor in time for next week, I really like their chances in Jacksonville, even if Scott Zolak remains the quarterback. Buffalo’s victory in New Orleans saved the Pats from having to travel to Miami, and instead will face a team to whom they have never lost. Jacksonville is a great team, and they are division champions, but their defense can be had. Eddie George & Co. were able to move the ball in Jacksonville, and it was against the Jaguars when Dan Marino and the Miami offense rose from the ashes in a Monday Night football game. If the Pats can get motivated for this game, be it from Pete Carroll or Shawn Jefferson or the ball boy, there is no doubt in my mind they can recover from the Jets game and pull off an upset.

Even with Mark Brunell in the lineup, the Pats defense has done very well in shutting down the Jaguar attack in their only three meetings. The Pats won in Jacksonville last season in convincing fashion, despite what the final score would indicate. The Pats controlled that game at the line of scrimmage right from the opening kickoff. Aside from Ted Johnson, the Pats defense is healthy, and should be able to cause all sorts of problems for Fred Taylor and the Jacksonville wide receivers. What you saw against the Jets was putrid, but it was an exception rather than the rule. The Jags, mind you, are fresh off a 50-10 loss to the Vikings. The Pats are a better team than what they showed on Sunday, and only then can answer why they decided to leave their "A" game back in New England. Should they do that again next Sunday, we’ll have to wait until next September before the Pats play another meaningful game.

If they can dig down once again, like they have on more than one occasion over the past two seasons, the Pats will be rewarded with an all-expense paid trip to Denver to face the well rested 14-2 Broncos in round 2. Yippee!

Thanks for reading this week!