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 12/1/1999

Not dead yet...

In NFL terms, 5 weeks left in the season is an eternity. While the loss in Buffalo certainly has the Pats postseason hopes on life support, they are not dead yet. Despite the tough losses the past three weeks, largely attributable to sadly ineffective offense, I see no indication whatsoever that this team has "quit" or that they "aren’t responding" to the head coach. The offense has been in a mind-boggling slump, yes, but has the team quit? I’m not sure that there is any evidence of that, particularly on the defensive side of the ball where they have clearly come to play the last two weeks, but have been victimized by a handful of bad plays.

The Pats offense twice marched into the Red Zone before turning the ball over. Does Drew overthrowing Troy Brown for an interception mean he has given up on the season? Does Kevin Faulk fumbling on the 4-yard line mean he has no desire to play for Pete Carroll? Miami mustered 101 yards on offense in Buffalo just three weeks ago, and were shut out last week in Dallas. Have they quit on Jimmy Johnson? Did the Bills quit on Wade Phillips in the Meadowlands two weeks ago when they had 60 yards rushing in a 17-7 loss to the Jets?

I am as disheartened as anyone that the Pats have gone from 6-2 to 6-5, but to label this team as a bunch of quitters after these tough losses is not fair at all. The last time the Patriots lost back-to-back road games in Miami and Buffalo was 1996. Then too their offense was slumping badly. They had no running game, and Bledsoe was being sacked and knocked down repeatedly as the offense put up a grand total of 20 points in those two crucial division losses. The coach then was Bill Parcells, but no one thought the team was not responding to him. In fact, no one in the media said "boo." That team turned around that 0-2 start by winning 11 of their next 14 games en route to the AFC East title and a spot in Super Bowl XXXI.

Perhaps the likeable Pete Carroll is not the right man for the job, but to think that an Art Shell or Bill Belichick would have won the past 3 games in a row is just wishful thinking. If the Patriots continue to sputter and miss the playoffs, Pete Carroll likely will be replaced, as then too should Bobby Grier. Before you celebrate that decision, however, who the heck replaces Pete Carroll? Who makes up his staff of assistants? Will the new regime be able to compete in the AFC East next year? While it’s very popular these days in the local media and talk radio to call for Carroll’s head, that eventuality does not exactly leave me with great hope for the future.

In 1989, Raymond Berry was replaced after a 5-11 season. The media and fans back then were begging for his release just as ferociously as they are for Carroll’s release today. The complaints were similar in that Berry was not "tough" enough and didn’t have that in-your-face approach that for some reason everyone thinks is a redeeming quality in head coaching. Well, everyone got their wish and the Patriots won a collective 9 games over the next 3 seasons before the Tuna arrived to save the franchise in 1993. For those who say "Fire Carroll! It can’t get any worse!" trust me, it can. It can get much worse.

If you are a Patriots fan, the best thing that can happen is for Pete Carroll to be back next season. That would mean the Patriots finished 11-5 and made the playoffs. If Carroll is not back next year, that likley means the Pats finished 9-7 or worse, and the quest for a championship starts all over again with a completely new cast, who, hopefully, is more effective that the present one. For all the players on the team (Milloy, etc.) who are likely hoping that Carroll will be gone, there is an old saying which applies. Be careful of what you wish for, because you just might get it.

I for one am pulling for Pete Carroll, and I’m far from being off the bandwagon at 6-5 with 5 weeks left to play in the season. I’m not a Pete Carroll supporter, mind you, but if he can figure out what’s wrong and get this team back on track, everyone will benefit including the fans. Carroll certainly does get F’s across the board for the game plans the last few weeks, but let’s see if he can right the ship. When the team came out of the huddle and into the shotgun on 4th and 1 last Sunday, I yelled at the TV so loud I startled my 15-month-old daughter, and that was before the ball was even snapped resulting in a sack. Plays like that really make you wonder what the head coach is thinking.

If Carroll is fired at season’s end, it will be because of plays like that - not because of this crazy notion that the players are not showing up to play. There is too much pride in that locker room for that to happen, no matter what the record or who is in charge. When Tuna left, there were as many players who were glad to see him go as there were those who wished he never left. Remember the players who were so anxious to prove that they deserved the credit for the 1996 season? Those had better not be the same players who today are pointing the fingers at the coaches. Replacing a coach to keep the players happy is the worst reason in the world to do so. You are never going to get 53 players to like your head coach. The best recipe for happiness is winning, and that’s as much the player’s responsibility as the head coach’s.

What they need to do...

Normally, being 6-5 with 5 games to go would have a team right in the thick of things, but unfortunately the Pats play in the best division in all of football. Jacksonville and Tennessee get to play 8 games per year against Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Cincinnatti, so that in effect gives them a bye into the postseason. The Pats next opponent, Dallas, comes into Foxboro with an identical 6-5 record, are 3-3 in their division, and have lost road games to the Eagles, Cardinals and Giants. If the playoffs started today, New England would be out, while Dallas would be in as a wild card team. Dallas still has a shot at a division title and a 1st round bye. Oh, to play ball in the NFC.

The Patriots are currently tied with Kansas City as the 7th seed in the AFC, but will lose any tiebreakers to the Chiefs thanks to a missed 32-yard field goal in week 5. If the Patriots beat Dallas on Sunday, they will trail Buffalo by one full game with 4 to play, and Buffalo will be in town on December 26. Like Kansas City, however, the Patriots also would (currently) lose tiebreakers to the Bills.

Here are the remaining schedules of the teams fighting for the final wild card spot in the AFC:

New England

Buffalo

Kansas City

Cowboys

Bye

@Denver

@Colts

Giants

Minnesota

@Eagles

@Cardinals

Pittsburgh

Bills

@Patriots

@Seattle

Ravens

Colts

Oakland

Clearly, New England has to run the table to finish at 11-5 to have a chance. Kansas City would also have to win all their remaining games in order to apply their tie-breaking advantage. If New England beats Buffalo (which they have to if they’re to finish 11-5), then Buffalo only needs to lose one of it’s other 3 remaining games to finish with 6 losses. If the Patriots lose to either Dallas or Philly and finish 10-6, the Bills must then lose to Indianapolis on the final week of the season. New England would then own the tie-breaking advantage over the Bills. Both teams would be 4-4 in the division with New England holding a 3-1 AFC mark outside the division with Buffalo at 2-2. This is regardless of what Buffalo does against the Giants and Cardinals. At 10-6, however, the Pats would only be in if Kansas City finishes 9-7.

Yes, winning the next 5 games in a row does seem a near impossible task with the way the team has been playing lately. If they were traveling to Indy this week, Pats fans would be thinking blowout loss. Fortunately the Pats are headed home, where there is no better place to heal old wounds. Rather than worry about winning 5 in a row, the Pats should focus 100% of their energy on the Cowboys. If they can get back on track at 7-5, they would at least go into the RCA Dome the following week with renewed confidence, and renewed playoff hopes. If the Pats are able to pull the upset in Indy to get to 8-5, then you really have to like their chances over the final 3 weeks.

As bad as the team looks now, believe me no team will want to see them in the 1st round of the playoffs coming off a 5 game winning streak. If they don’t run the table, no one will want to see Pete Carroll in Foxboro after January 2.

Am I disgusted right now? You bet. My head could not have hung lower exiting Foxboro after the loss to the Jets. I then flew all the way to Miami to watch Bledsoe throw 5 interceptions. My stomach was in knots once again last Sunday watching the season slip further away from the comfort of my family room sofa. Don’t think I’m upset? Ask my wife what I’ve been like since the bye week. Am I still a fan? Do I think the Pats still have a chance?

You bet!

See you next week.