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 11/18/1999

Kaboom...

Just like that, the Patriots went from AFC contenders to also-rans. It’s amazing what 1/16th of the schedule can do to a team, and the psyche of its fans. At 6-3 the Patriots have indeed won twice as often as they’ve lost, but in the AFC East that’s only good for 4th place, a tenuous position at best when the 5th place team just pushed them around at home in front of a national audience.

While some in the local media have made this out to be another loss to "the mighty Tuna," I have a completely different take. The Jets are not a good football team, and the Patriots choked. Period. Chicago at Minnesota, Cleveland at Pittsburgh, Jets at Patriots. No difference. A bad team came in and beat a better one. If it sells papers to put a soap opera twist on it, then go ahead and spend your 50 cents.

If Tuna, Belichick, Martin, and the Jets defense are as good as they looked on Monday night, why have they only won one home game? If we in fact saw the real Jets in that game, a team that can run and stop the run like the ’85 Bears, then why did it take Tuna until week 10 to bring it out in them? Why have they blown four 4th-quarter leads this season? Folks, the Jets are not a good football team, and if they are, then they don’t have an effective head coach. Ray Lucas is not a good quarterback. Buffalo will reestablish these facts next weekend in the Meadowlands.

Had the Philadelphia Eagles or Cincinnati Bengals come in last Monday Night, they too would have won the game, but no one would be crediting an ingenious game plan by Andy Reid or Bruce Coslet. When the Patriots lost to Kansas City and Miami, did anyone sight the opposing coach as the reason? No. The media around here is so infatuated with the Tuna it’s comical. All you need to do is read the New York Post sports archives over the past 6 weeks to find out what the New York print media thinks of Tuna’s efforts this season. Keyshawn Johnson was talking trash like he was just voted MVP of the Super Bowl. Hey loud mouth - you just won your third game - the Patriots did that on September 26.

Longing for the good ol’ days...

Before the game the team honored Andre Tippett by retiring his number 56 into the Patriots Hall of Fame. At halftime the Patriots honored other alumni as the organization recognized it’s 40th anniversary. I began following the Patriots in 1982, and have attended all but 4 home games since 1986. I have seen many classic division games at home over that time. Whether it be the ’86 Jets, the ’85 Dolphins, or the ’92 Bills, there existed a good old fashion rivalry in those games. There was always a little something extra when one of those teams came to town, year in and year out. Sadly, that rivalry today seemingly only exists with the fans.

1986 doesn’t seem like that long ago to me, but I saw something Monday Night which I had not seen from the stands in over 100 home games and counting. Following a completed pass to Keyshawn Johnson, Ty Law tackled him out of bounds. This was a legal hit, but a good one, and KJ went flying to the turf on the sidelines. The Jets were in the middle of their 11-minute drive at the time, and this was a key reception.

What does the highest paid player in Patriot history do next? He waits until Johnson gets up, and offers him a high five. HUH? Are you KIDDING ME? Was this to apologize for the tackle? Was it to congratulate him on the catch? What? This play happened about 20 yards down the field from where I sit, but it drew the ire of the fans from all around me. The fans directly in front of the play were booing like crazy, with one fan even throwing his blue Patriots hat onto the field in disgust. A fan two rows behind me yelled "Why don’t you kiss him too, Ty, ya Jerk!" At the time, those were my sentiments exactly.

Opposing players convening after a game is over is one thing. To high five an opponent after he makes a play while that opponent is up 21-3 in your house is not sportsmanship, it’s a clear lack of competitiveness and killer instinct. Ty Law is among the best cover corners in the league. I was overjoyed when he inked the richest contract in team history. However, I was less irritated watching Chris Canty dance with a live fumble beside him than I was watching Ty Law palling around with the despicable Keyshawn Johnson.

Could you imagine Steve Grogan high-fiving Joe Klecko after a sack? Could you see John Hannah congratulating Mark Gastineau after the "Hog" was beaten on a running play? Could you see Steve Nelson patting Johnny Hector on the back after being run over into the endzone? Not in your life would you ever see Ray Clayborn, Ronnie Lippett, Fred Marion, or Roland James high-five Wesley Walker after a reception with the Jets up 21-3.

In those days, defenses and offenses on the same team were less chummy when they went head to head in practice than opposing squads are today in live action. Friendly with Keyshawn? That’s fine. Save it for the post game prayer, and grab dinner at the Pro Bowl. For 60 minutes two times a year, he’s your enemy. Push him, hold him, level him, frustrate him, shut him down, shut him out, shut him up. That’s what you are paid $50,000,000 to do. If I didn’t see that with my own two eyes, I would not have believed it. If I’m over-reacting to this, forgive me, but what good are these division "rivalries" if the players we’re watching don’t feel it too?

Time will tell...

Are the Patriots truly a team that went 6-2 over the first half of the season? That record had them in the top 5 or 10 of every major sports Web sites’ "Power Rankings," and penciled in on everyone’s AFC playoff ballot. The team we last saw take the field looked more like the expansion Browns than a playoff contender. The offense was painfully ineffective as Bledsoe had, in my opinion, one the worst 5 performance of his career. Terry Allen and the offensive line were collectively pathetic, and the defensive front 7 were pushed around by a rebuilt Jets offensive line.

As bad as the offense looked, what sickened me was the play of the defense. Any armchair coach in America could have drawn up the defensive game plan: Stop Curtis Martin and take your chances with Ray Lucas. How hard can that be facing a team averaging 15 points per game on the season? Martin is a great back, but you’re telling me you can’t design a defense to stop him? After three Lucas passes to start the game failed to get a first down, the Jets went 13 consecutive plays without throwing a pass over two series. On the next play, Lucas threw incomplete. On the next, Lucas threw an interception. As if we didn’t already know this - Martin can hurt you, Lucas can’t. Why the defense could not stop the obvious was puzzling to say the least. Ray Lucas might have a big smile on his face this week - but after throwing for just 3 more yards than his running back ran for - no one in New England is giving Pete Carroll a hard time for cutting the 27 year old backup.

So did the 6-2 Patriots suffer a single-game meltdown following 15 days off, or is this team headed for disaster as they head out on the road to take on the Dolphins and Bills? A win next week and the Pats are in the thick of it again in the AFC. A loss next week and their post season aspirations will be on life support as they head to Buffalo at 6-4. When the Pats take the field in Foxboro again on December 5 against the Cowboys, we’ll know what kind of team we have here in New England.

If Bledsoe and Ty Law are correct, the Patriots will respond with their backs to the wall, and they’ll take on Dallas in sole possession of first place at 8-3. If Pete Carroll can’t right the ship, the Patriots will be a .500 football team after the Dallas game heading into (gulp) Indianapolis. Should that happen, Pete Carroll is history. Last January I was a big proponent of giving Carroll another shot (with a healthy team) to prove himself. The Pats are healthy this year, and started off 6-2. If this team fails to make the playoffs with a healthy roster, it will be time for a change. I like Pete Carroll and I’m pulling for him and the Pats to bounce back, but even Carroll knows he’s history if this team plays like it did against the Jets over the next few weeks.

It the NFL, it’s very true that a team is never as good as it looks, and never as bad as it looks either. There are infinite examples of teams looking like world beaters one week and doormats the next, and you don’t need to look any further than the AFC East in the present day to prove that. Last Sunday in Buffalo, the Bills looked like the class of the conference while Miami looked like they would not win another game the rest of the season. It was just one-week prior that the Dolphins completely dominated the Titans at home and two weeks prior when the Bills were damn lucky to squeak by the lowly Baltimore Ravens. While it’s true the Patsies laid down and died Monday night, a big win in Miami next week would not surprise me. You just never know. Am I nuts? Maybe, but this line of thinking is all the keeps me going after sitting through a cold New England night to watch the 2-6 Jets carve up the home team.

While I’m literally sick to my stomach over this home loss to the Jets, I am not going to pass final judgment on this team or it’s head coach until the bell rings on January 2 to start the post-season. If I really thought the team was as bad as they looked a few days ago, I would not be flying all the way down to Miami to watch them take on the Dolphins. I’m a fanatic, but I’m not a glutton for punishment. Mike and I will be cheering from the third row on the 15-yard line on the Pats’ sideline – we’ll be in GoPats.com t-shirts!

See you next week.