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The divisional round of the NFL playoffs are over. In many ways the legacy of Bill Belichick was on display. The Patriots, led by Belichick took their division and won a bye week yet again, for a long streak of dominance among a division filled with the futility of other teams leading to frequent turnover. Once again the Patriots are in the AFC championship game. Either they are the Steelers will go to a record 9th Super Bowl.

The team the Patriots beat, the Texans, has a coaching staff stacked with former Patriots’ coaches and players (O’Brien, Crennel, Larry Izzo, and Mike Vrabel). The team the Steelers beat, the Chiefs, had former Patriots’ Director of Player Personnel Scott Pioli as their GM for 4 years. While the Chiefs struggled during his tenure, many of the key players for this team were acquired by Pioli.

Pioli is currently the assistant GM for the Atlanta Falcons who also won their division, got a bye week and defeated the Seahawks to advance to the NFC conference championship against the Packers. The Falcons’ GM is Pioli’s old friend from the Browns and Patriots (both under Belichick), Tom Dimitroff.

Half of the teams in the divisional round came from the same organizational roots!

This organization is the subject of Michael Holley’s book War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team. Holley spent a year with the team researching his earlier book, Patriot Reign. He wanted that book to be about Belichick. It has paid off for a growing number of books. Contrary to common opinion, Belichick isn’t self-absorbed and keeps wanting Holley to write not about him but about the organization.

In this book, Holley focuses on Belichick, Pioli and Dimitroff. He provides some biographical information, particularly as he introduces Piolo and Dimitroff, and traces their relationships, how they achieved great success together, and how they’ve been building teams since (when this was written, Pioli was still with the Chiefs).

There is plenty of interesting information about football as Holley retells how some key seasons unfolded. It covers some key drafts as well, bringing you into the process to better understand it. It isn’t just about successes. You see that in drafting disappointments Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson, Belichick tuned out the scouts who were raising red flags. You discover Belichick is not the man you see or typically hear about, but that is rather is “stage personae”. Behind the scenes and to his friends he is seen as having a great sense of humor and caring about the people he works with, often providing them with advice.

Reading this book you get a better sense of why so many organizations flounder, or lack consistency. Their organizational games of musical chairs, approach to scouting, focus on the short-term instead of the long -term too, are here to see.

I think this book extends beyond football. There are some principles to appropriate for other organizations. While it is about football, it is about more than football. Success begins with people, identifying people with both skills and character. This is not simply players but the whole organization. Belichick, for instance, hired Pioli to a low level position and watched. He saw a guy driven to know more, do more. Pioli quickly rose as Belichick tested him and he passed those tests. Belichick largely develops staff from within instead of importing people from elsewhere. This way you know if they can actually do the job, not just interview well (a problem not just in football but in most organizations). Evaluating players is not just about skill, but character (the flaw in the Maroney and Jackson picks for instance). Players are not evaluated in the abstract, but in comparison to current members of the team. The idea is whether or not they make the team better in both the short-term and long-term.  The focus is not on “stars” but depth, spending your money so you can survive the attrition of an NFL season instead of floundering because a few key guys are hurt.

I don’t want to give it all away. I want you to read the book. It is interesting as well as informative. There is more here than just the “inside story” on some draft picks (though that is interesting too). There is organizational wisdom for those with ears to hear.

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For most of my life the New England Patriots just weren’t very good. They somehow managed to get to two Superbowls but I never expected them to win either of those games.  They showed promise in the late 70’s but Oakland and a few horrible calls took care of that.

For the last fifteen years they have been most successful team, making the playoffs every year but two, six Superbowl appearances and 4 Superbowl victories.

Some people want to “blame” it all on cheating, but that is too easy. In the book Patriot Reign, Michael Holley looks at how this franchise that only frustrated its fans became one that frustrated the rest of the league. He wanted to do a book on Bill Belichick, but at his request it also became about the other coaches, players and the owners who built a champion.

After their first Superbowl victory, Holley decided to write the book and took a year shadowing the team. He sat in meetings and was given pretty much unlimited access (they also did not edit the material). He was disappointed when they failed to defend their title, but the returned to championship form the next year. This was a great “plot” twist and added more material as he could examine how Belichick “rebuilt” the Patriots.

Holley begins his account with Belichick. He offers you the side you don’t see. He doesn’t make him out to be a saint, but simply another side. He does have a sense of humor. He considers press conferences as part of the game plan and prepares for them- what he will and will not say.

“Let’s put it this way: when you’re the head coach, you’re the head coach twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. No matter what happens, it’s on your watch and, to a degree, it’s your problem.”

Belichick’s development as a coach took time. In 1989 when he interviewed for the position as Arizona’s head coach he didn’t quite understand all that it took. He learned from his mistakes in Cleveland, and what kind of owner he wanted to work for if he got the chance again. That is why he picked New England over the Jets (and to get out from Parcells shadow). During his time there under Parcells he would talk with Kraft about any number of subjects (something Parcells didn’t do with Kraft). He knew the man he was, and Kraft knew the man he was. He almost offered the job to Bill instead of Carroll when Parcells left. He faxed the request to talk with Belichick to Parcells before Carroll even had his press conference after his last game as head coach. They have successfully collaborated ever since.

Holley then moved into the reconstruction of the Patriots, including the drafting of Tom Brady. The Patriots were a mess: over the cap, filled with fiefdoms in the locker room and offices. They were like the Red Sox under prior owners. The players were spoiled and didn’t know it.

“Rehbein described him as a winner, a leader with a good attitude. The quarterbacks coach told Belichick that if a decision had to be made between the two, he would give the edge to Brady. Belichick had studied the tapes and felt the same way.”

That first draft was key. But since Holley wasn’t hanging out with them then, he focuses on one player. They were looking for a back up for Drew Bledsoe. Bill and Ernie Adams had listed the characteristics of what they considered the perfect quarterback. They had narrowed the search down to two prospects; Tim Rattay and Tom Brady. So Belichick dispatched his QB coach to work them both out. During the 6th round the draft they saw that Brady’s name was still there. “Brady shouldn’t be there. He’s too good.” They didn’t think Brady would be a starter, much less a superstar when they pulled the trigger on pick number 199. Brady fit the characteristics they listed months earlier.

Soon it was a repeat of his years in Cleveland. The established and (sort of) loved starter was being surpassed by the understudy. In Cleveland it was part of  Belichick’s undoing. In New England circumstances forced his hand so that people weren’t enraged. Bledsoe had the big arm, and big contract, but he was making costly errors- something Bill can’t stand.

“Under Belichick, all Patriot jobs could be classified as temporary. They were earned and held by performance, not status or longevity. Belichick didn’t go out of his way to antagonize stars, nor did he do anything special to accommodate them.”

While externally it was an “easy” transition. The fans were not clamoring for Bledsoe because the team just kept winning. Internally it was a different story as Bledsoe was not a happy camper. Since Rehbein had died the previous summer, Bill was serving as the QB coach. Those were often tense meetings.

“I never want to be on that crawl at the bottom of the screen: ‘Patriots quarterback Tom Brady arrested…’ I never want to look like an ass who let down my family, my teammates, and my organization.”

As an aside, the above quote is part of why I don’t believe Brady would cheat, or ask anyone else to cheat. A fierce, driven competitor to be sure, but one who is also driven by honor. Cheating would make him look like an ass, and that just isn’t an acceptable outcome for him.

Holley takes us to the Superbowl against the Rams. He discusses how the coaching staff dissected their offense. They saw how deception functioned in the offense. Belichick identified their 5 passing concepts, and that Faulk was the most important player out there- no Warner. He boiled it down to applicable concepts for the players. In the midst of this Holley briefly discusses the mysterious Ernie Adams, with whom Belichick went to college.

After the victory against the Rams, Holley became a frequent sight in the complex. As a result, he begins to write about how they evaluate the team, players, free agents and draft picks. This is the real strength of the book. Particularly after the 2002-3 season. In some ways they were drunk on success, thinking they could just turn it on again but they couldn’t because they were too old and too slow. They needed to reload one year after winning it all.

“The essence of Belichick is that he is a problem solver.”

In all of this there are small sections on players like Vinatieri and Fauria, and key figures like Pioli. He talks about the Lawyer Milloy situation which led to the silent feud with Tom Jackson.

All in all this is a very interesting read. You can learn, not only about the Patriots, but football through the anecdotes. You find overall commitments to process that work more often than they don’t. I enjoy learning how people approach their work. That is what make the recent Parcells biography so interesting. I am eager to read Holley’s 2012 follow up, War Room, as a result.

This isn’t a book for children. Unless you are Tony Dungy, football culture is quite colorful and crass. As a result there are more than a few curse words, and slang for sexual acts. This is unfortunate. While it adds to the realism, I wouldn’t want to give it to my son for quite some time.

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Yes, we’ve been inundated with information and reports about Deflategate since the day after the AFC Championship game. Many or most people jumped to rapid conclusions, often in accordance with their team loyalties. Patriots’ fans have by and large defended Tom Brady. The rest of the universe seemed to pile on because obviously every Patriot is a cheater. And only Patriots it would seem.

17 The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him. Proverbs 18

I’ve talked with some people and what is clear is that people’s presuppositions control how they view the evidence.

What is also clear to me is that the NFL has largely controlled the PR/media war on this issue. This is because they had and controlled information (thankfully there is a growing number of sports and legal writers around the country beginning to question the NFL and its narrative). Sadly this has included leaking false information, and knowingly giving the Patriots false information that prejudiced the public and was intended to intimidate the Patriots and Tom Brady. The Commish seems to have forgotten that the Code of Conduct applies to all NFL personnel, including his office. As the recently released e-mails reveal, the General Counsel of the NFL refused to correct information that unduly tarnished the reputation of a member club. As a result this has the feel of Kafka’s existential novel The Trial with Brady cast as the clueless accused man who dies but never knows the charges against him.

This “scandal” never should have gotten to this point. It should have been treated as an equipment violation and a fine in keeping with the rules. Done. It also should have prompted the NFL to improve their procedures (or more truthfully to actually have policies and procedures).  One thing the released testimony reveals is that they, like Brady, really didn’t care much about PSI, and they only selectively care about it now (they didn’t ask any questions of Adrian Rogers).

10 Unequal weights and unequal measures
    are both alike an abomination to the Lord. Proverbs 20

Let’s looks at the testimony.

Brady

I think generally Brady comes off well. He is consistent in denying any knowledge or intent. The one thing that really doesn’t look good is the phone. Not so much that he had it “destroyed” (which is never really defined). The timing looks bad. The fact that he was able to produce an earlier phone looks bad. BUT, they have the logs of texts and emails from that phone. We don’t have the content, but we would have the corresponding side of the pertinent conversations from Jasremski (a fact seemingly overlooked by just about everyone wanting to string Brady up). Brady was genuinely surprised when he learned of the matter during his weekly interview with WEEI. Yes, he subsequently was in contact with Jastremski. This is for two reasons, as Brady related, which are not as nefarious as the haters want to make them. First, they were going to the Super Bowl! This was the first time that Jastremski had this position when the Patriots have gone to the Super Bowl (he has worked for them for about 12 years in other positions). The Super Bowl is a whole different enchilada. You have to prepare about 100 new balls (because the league wants to auction them off). Additionally, Brady wants to see if he is distracted by the news as they head into the biggest game in years. There is no need to import evil intentions here, unless you are already biased.

Brady did not seem to care about PSI until the Jets game when they were over-inflated by the refs (this is not the scandal you are looking for…). The NFL simply refuses to accept his repeated assertion that after that game he insisted they be at 12.5 in accordance with the rules. They aren’t the only ones as I’ve interacted with people who ignore this in the Wells’ Report as assume this means he REALLY wants them lower (biased much?).

By the way, now some of what Brady feared by giving them the phone and/or records has happened, as it did in the case of Jastremski and McNally. Irrelevant emails have been released that make him look bad. That is the kind of stuff ordinary people have to hide on their phones- snarky comments about others. In this case some comments about Peyton Manning.

Edward Snyder

He is a statistician, not a scientist. He purpose was not to question the science of Exponent, but the process of Exponent. They did have a flawed process in their experiments to attempt to replicate the events to see if the ideal gas law fully explains the deflation of the ball. They did not include time, particularly time back in the officials room. The longer they would be there, the less deflation would be registered (which explains why the Colts’ balls lost less). Since their process was flawed, their findings are not reliable. I think he’s right. This case assumes tampering with the balls, but the deflation seems to be within expectations (depending on the gauge used- more on that in a moment). The NFL has disregarded the truly independent reports that state this and seems to double down on Exponent unwisely and unfairly.

Troy Vincent

Troy’s testimony makes him, and the league office, look utterly incompetent and corrupt. What becomes clear is there was no process in place, period. No pregame recordings and notice of the the gauge used. There was not process for recording the results at halftime, and confusion about gauges. Vincent has NO explanation for why Gardi used incorrect information when contacting the Patriots about the investigation. Not one ball registered at the exceedingly low level mentioned. Kessler had him but didn’t press about whether he saw it and sought to correct it. However, it would seem like such a notice would be given to superiors and Vincent should have gotten a copy. If not, how incompetent are these people? This could explain the Ray Rice tape fiasco (cover-up? Goodell handed in his league owned phone, but not his personal phone in that investigation. Hmmmm.)

In discussing the information conveyed to the Patriots about the Colts’ balls, it is clear that the NFL is quite comfortable with using the results of one gauge to put the Colts in a good light, and the other to put the Patriots in a bad light. That is corruption, people. That is using two different standards. Additionally, they did not take weather conditions into consideration (to be fair the rules as stated make no mention of this reality either).

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20

Vincent also looks bad for basing his recommendations on the Wells’ Report which had been edited by Pash. It was not based on the full testimony of all parties involved. Once again, an improper process on the part of the league officials.

Kessler also brought to light that in the past “integrity of the game” issues were not concerning players but team employees. This would be a change in policy without notice to players. Once again, unfair procedure.

I will give Vincent the benefit of the doubt, that he misunderstood the question about when he became aware of the situation. What many people are thinking about is the memo from the Colts. The Ravens denied any responsibility in warning the Colts about “deflated balls”. Technically they are right. However, their kicking consultant Randy Brown did contact Colts coach Pagano (who used to work for the Ravens) about kicking balls being rotated in properly. They did contact them and about balls. But the Colts’ memo alleges that the Patriots have been known to deflate balls. There is question about how they realized the ball was allegedly deflated. The player who intercepted the pass denies noticing or saying anything. Which means the Colts equipment guy had a gauge and tested it. All questionable, but not addressed. Unfortunately.

The Allegedly Independent Ted Wells

Nash invoked client-attorney privilege when Wells was asked about Pash’s role in the final product. So, was he independent or an attorney hired by the league? Wells then testified he was hired as an attorney with the NFL as his client. Reisner, who represented the league in cross examining Brady, wrote the first draft of the Wells’ Report. Wells and the NFL have therefore consistently misrepresented this.

Kessler gets him to admit that he interprets comments regarding the Jets game and over-inflated balls to refer to deflating. Just how does that work? This is the whole problem- Wells (and those biased people) take these comments in the worst light which is actually contrary to what they actually mean. How can we have reasonable discussions when we do this?

A faithful witness does not lie,
    but a false witness breathes out lies. Proverbs 14

He also takes an email from McNally to Panda where McNally says the balls should have been 13 psi instead of 16 (referring to the Jets game) and then Jastremski and gets Wells to admit they were being truthful. So, where is the scheme? He admits they wanted them within the league-mandated range.

He also admitted there was no data regarding time and temperature. How then, can there be any actual evidence that someone deflated the balls. It is a supposition based on total conjecture that cost the Patriots $1 million and a 1st round pick, and may cost Brady 4 games but certainly cost him his reputation. Nice….

He presents Anderson as utterly trustworthy and reliable. Anderson says he used the logo gauge, but could be mistaken. Okay. That means we can’t be sure which gauge was used. But Wells decides Anderson was mistaken, and goes with the gauge that produced the lower readings. Reasonable, right? No, it isn’t. Perhaps I’m an idiot but I can’t understand the rationale he, and Exponent, used to claim with certainty that the non-Logo gauge was used.

He also admitted that he didn’t find Brady credible because of the phone, a phone he legally didn’t have to provide. (Reminder, Goodell never provided HIS personal phone in the Ray Rice investigation but didn’t consider that refusal to cooperate and actions detrimental to the league.) A phone his counsel advised him not to provide. A phone his union advised him not to provide. A phone which if provided would most likely have meant the release of lots of irrelevant and damaging information. Failing to exercise rights means a lack of credibility. So much for the presumption of innocence. Wells basically rejected everyone’s testimony, even the security guard who said that McNally brought the balls to the field, alone, about half the time (contrary to Mr. Anderson’s claim).

Despite there being leaks, and statements made by league officials that may indicate prejudice, Wells did not investigate anyone but Brady and Patriots’ personnel. No one else’s texts or emails. This despite the request of the Patriots’ organization. A truly independent investigator would have investigated league involvement and missteps in this process. Nothing about what happened after the league received the pre-game report from the Colts complaining about balls.

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13

Wells admits that the league didn’t measure the Patriots’ balls after the game to see if there were any changes. This may have shown the deflation was naturally occurring and not “man-made.”

He admits that Gostkowski refused to provide his phone. But that was no big deal since they decided he wasn’t central to the investigation. No accusation of lack of cooperation.

The NFL called 3 different people from Exponent for some highly technical testimony in which they basically say they are the only ones that got the testing right, and it proves natural causes alone are not responsible. They did admit that there were too many variables to replicate in tests. Therefore the results are questionable and there is sufficient doubt, or should be . Goodell focuses, in his judgment on the phone.and suddenly seems to ignore the “science.” The bottom line is that just like global warming or any other scientific question, there are legitimate differences of opinion instead of rock solid veracity.

Jastremski & McNally

Didn’t testify. Not sure why, meaning I can’t recall who didn’t want them testifying. Since their testimony was not present in the Wells’ Report it probably is the league, not the NFLPA.

Mr. Anderson

The full-time dentist and part-time official didn’t testify. As a result there was no opportunity to discover more about normal policies and practices. For instance, do they listen to the ball guy about QB requests within the legal boundaries or not. If I’m the NFLPA I’m calling them. Did the league block this too?

Roger “the Dodger” Goodell

He didn’t testify. But he asked some questions. Some of them sound like he wasn’t really paying attention. The reality is that this makes the Commish look BAD. We get to see how he statements (and other NFL statements) have manipulated and withheld testimony to support judgments. In other words- they lied. Repeatedly. These transcripts reveal that. And they manipulated testimony to make Brady look bad, to look guilty.

If you look at the transcripts you will see that after break Kessler wants transparency. He wants them released. The NFL did NOT want them released in any way, shape or form. Why? Because they can no longer control the flow of information and therefore manipulate the outcome and cover up the pattern of deceit and corruption.

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
    and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6

It may not matter. Many people’s minds were won by the fallacious and malicious PR campaign by the NFL. No one looks good in this mess: Brady, the league, Goodell, the Colts and Ravens, Chris Mortensen … Nobody.

I’m not saying this proves Brady didn’t do anything, or that McNally did nothing (he may have acted on the demand of Brady to circumvent officials who ignore the request). But the supposedly “circumstantial” evidence begins to evaporate. There is evidence of wrong-doing on the part of the NFL. Will people ignore that? Will they shift their outrage to the people who we know who did wrong? Probably not. And the sad part is this destroyed a man’s reputation over what may have simply just an act of nature.

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Parcells: A Football Life is an apt title. His life was wrapped up in football such that in a sense if there is no football there isn’t much Bill Parcells. His life also intersected with many people, and the book gives some brief background on men like Curtis Martin, Drew Bledsoe and so many others.

This is a quite interesting read to be sure. It isn’t just about what happened, but gives much insight into the “whys”. You read about how he learned about scouting and rating players from Bucko Kilroy, the beginning of the 3-4 defense and other interesting aspects of football. You soon begin to think that most football executives should read this.

While the book is authored by Parcells and Nunyo DeMasio it is written in the third person. There are numerous quotes from interviews of the many people in Parcells’ life. This helps balance Parcells’ perspective in many ways.

In many ways the portrait that emerges is not surprising. He is a driven man. As he noted in his Hall of Fame induction he was also married to football. Just as you can’t serve two masters, you can’t serve to “wives.” His passion for football eventually cost him his marriage, and nearly cost him his daughters. But the man who didn’t parent his daughters essentially parented many young men. That is the odd, bitter irony of Bill Parcells’ life. Football gave him nearly everything he has, but it also took so much from him.

He also emerges as a man torn by indecision apart from football strategy. He could be quite indecisive, seemingly changing his mind at very inopportune moments. As a result there was also a trail of fractured relationships with GMs and owners that paralleled his long-term relationships. So strong and decisive in some areas and so unstable in others. In other words, a real human being.

As a life long Patriots’ fan, I was most interested in his time with the Patriots and his relationship with Bill Belichik. Little Bill, in many ways, is his most successful disciple. You understand Little Bill when you understand Big Bill. Much of what he learned about how to run an organization, deal with the press, draft players etc. were learned from Parcells.

Parcells did not simply emerge. His father was a great collegiate athlete. Bill loves sports growing up. For a time he lived down the street from Vince Lombardi, and played with his son. Bill worked hard, very hard and studied the greatest coaches. He developed friendships with many legendary coaches. He felt the obligation to pass what he learned on to the next generation of coaches. He did well since so far his coaching tree has won 6 Super Bowls. He soaked up all he could but he also freely helped those who sought his help and advice.

It was those relationships on the way that got him started. He first coaching job was under his college coach who took a new job. In this way Parcells by-passed coaching in high school. He ended up working at West Point after his high school basketball coach recommended him to his high school football coach who was the new head coach for Army. Football is the only world dominated by “who you know.” It is well illustrated in Parcells’ life but this is often how the world works.

DeMasio helps Parcells’ story be told in an interesting and informative fashion. In some ways it reminds me of The Perfect Storm because it will go off on those tangents (though not nearly as long). It is a captivating story about many captivating men centered on one captivating man.

[I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review.]

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I guess it was the Super Bowl that reminded me of a gift I once got for Christmas. It was a Patriots’ uniform, with pads, helmet, jersey and pants. It wasn’t really designed for a real game. But in my young mind I looked cool. I would put it on and play in our finished basement. I would toss a football to myself, trying not to skid it off the suspension ceiling. I imagined playing in the big game (at this point in time the Patriots hadn’t even been to a Super Bowl, much less won one). In my fantasy, I never failed.

It was the same when practicing baseball or basketball. I always caught the final out. If I missed the jump shot, miraculously there were another few seconds to hit the game winner. I suspect I was no different than any other kid growing up. That is the nature of fantasy- you always win the game. As we grow up the fantasy changes- you always get the girl or the really cool job.

But real life was different. When you were playing for real you were afraid you would strike out, miss the shot, or drop the ball. Not all of us are as crippled by that fear as one of the kids in the movie Parenthood. Steve Martin’s character was vexed by his son’s struggles, probably because he didn’t want his son to grow up like him- living in fear of failure and settling for a life of minimal risk.

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I have a few free minutes, here are a few thoughts:

  • Some media members are wondering why the Cardinals have a new manager already and the Red Sox don’t. When you lose your GM in the middle of things, it slows down the process a wee bit.
  • You mean his mouth closes?

    Who should be the new manager of the Red Sox? They had each candidate do interviews. In a market like Boston, known for aggressive media, this is an important consideration. Mackanin came off like Robert California from the Office. His playing both sides approach sounded to me like smoke and mirrors. Lovullo came across as the most secure and relaxed of the bunch. I was greatly disappointed when he left for Toronto with Farrell.  I would welcome him back, but I don’t think it will go that way. Sandy Alomar Jr. will probably become a very good manager one day- I just don’t think it will be in Boston.  Reading about Sveum, I think he should be the choice.  I don’t hold the whole 3rd base coach thing against him. Send ’em In Kim would be a different story. But I appreciated his approach, including defensive positioning. I see that as one of the things Tampa does really well. Their defenders are seldom out of position.  The last 2 years the Red Sox have not seemed in position very often except for Pedroia. He understand what each coach should do, since he’s done it all. He coached guys well. I share the hunch that he’ll be the guy unless the Cubs strike first. If so, Lovullo would probably make a great choice.

  • (more…)

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Some people seem to make a big deal about preseason football records.  Some people are concerned about the Patriots’ record in the preseason. The purpose of preseason games is not to win games (sorry Herm Edwards).  So why, besides making money, do they play those games that don’t count.

Exposure to the speed of the game.  Practice is important, but it is not the same as playing the game.  Players need to get used to the rhythm of the game.  You build endurance as well.  Deion Branch doesn’t need to catch passes in preseason.  It is Ochocinco that needs experience in the system.  He needs to be targeted.  Practice only gets you so far- you have to be able to execute the new system in game speed.  This is where Ochocinco is struggling, but hopefully he’ll get it down soon.

Work on situational football.  You tinker with what you do in situational football- red zone plays, 2 minute offense, special teams.  You want to get most of the kinks out before the games matter.  That’s why a guy like Woodhead or Welker would be out there risking injury late in a game.

Both of these mean there often isn’t a game plan to preseason games.  I was listening to a recent interview, I can remember who was talking, that mentioned Frank Reich.  It was amusing because a few days earlier I had used his record playoff comeback as a sermon illustration.  The former player commented that Reich was horrible in preseason because there was no game plan.  But the coaches weren’t evaluating Frank, they were just getting him used to the speed and rhythm of the game.  This brings us up to the another reason for preseason football.

With kick returns a thing of the past, so is Tate

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