On Fox25’s Sports Sunday, the opening focus was on the disappointing performance of the Patriots after a fast start. The first main story was the Peter Gammons story on ESPN.com about the 11:00 Press Conference tomorrow announcing Theo Epstein as Red Sox GM. Butch was understandably pleased by this and reminded us that he first reported this two weeks ago. Way to go, Butch. Patriots and NFL highlights followed.
The next segment included Levan Reid weighing on the Patriots. He is finding it hard to get a handle on this team. A win is a win though. They didn’t “go for the jugular” and “put the nail in the coffin”. The Vikings changed to the no huddle and the Patriots defense didn’t react quickly enough. Leading up to this piece, Stearns said repeatedly that Reid “wasn’t impressed” with the Patriots. After watching the segment I didn’t get that impression at all. Sometimes I think Stearns tries too hard to create controversy, or stir things up. But, he was right on the Epstein thing, so we’ll cut him some slack.
A clip was shown of the Vikings’ Chris Hovan saying that the Patriots quit during the fourth quarter, and were just trying to get through the game. Kevin Mannix came on with Stearns at this point and talked about the lack of a “killer instinct” on the Patriots. He did praise Phifer, Brady and Seymour as having big games. Phifer has been around all season, but hasn’t been noticed as much. Back to the killer instinct…it needs to be there. Dolphins looked really good today, now we need Drew to knock them off next week. Thursday at Detroit, Patriots need to show up with a total effort. Two years ago they went in there on Thanksgiving and the Lions killed them.
A nice segment with the creator of “Pat Patriot”, Phil Bissell was up next. The history of the logo, and its continued popularity was discussed, and the fact that he hasn’t made money off his creation. When asked about the new logo, in use since ’93, Bissell jokingly stuck his finger in his mouth in a gagging gesture. He said that Pat would easily beat the flying Elvis in a fight… Stearns finished the show lauding the hiring of Theo Epstein, who is young, but not immature.
WHDH’s Sports Xtra with Gene Lavanchy had the usual twosome of Fred Smerlas and Tim Fox (wearing his Ohio State cap) in to discuss the game this afternoon. A few instances of the play calling were discussed such as going for on 4th down, and how that may have giving momentum to the Vikings. Fox was impressed however, with how the team came out strong and really played well to start the game. Smerlas noted that perhaps after going up 21-0 there may have been a letdown.
A talk with Mike O’Connell was up next, discussing the fast start of the Bruins. He really likes the chemistry of this group of guys. As for Kyle McLaren, he doesn’t feel any pressure to make a move, given the early success. Had the team struggled, he might have been forced to make a move by now.
Back to Smerlas and Fox, the team has their own destiny in their hands. It has been a long while since they had such a big lead early, so perhaps they didn’t know what to do with it. They were focused on Randy Moss, and Fox compared the coverage on Moss to a box and one in basketball. They discussed his not running on the last play of the game, with Lavanchy calling him “Manny Ramirez with a football helmet.” The Patriots integrated the run a little bit more today and also used the tight ends more. The Thanksgiving game was talked about, how will the short turnaround affect the team? Smerlas said that teams hate to practice anyway, they won’t hit in practice, so it will be lighter than usual, and then you have extra time off afterwards. Fox says he’s sick of hearing how tough Detroit is on Thanksgiving. They’ll have the same three days to practice, they’re not a very good team, and the Patriots should be able to handle them.
Jackie MacMullen and Michael Holley were in next, first to talk about Holley’s book on the 2002 Patriots. (He’s sworn to secrecy) The topic then moved to the Epstein hiring. Is this a wise move? MacMullan refuses to knock him just because he’s 28. She’s met him a couple times, he’s very bright, committed. Holley is glad to have a GM he can call “kid”. He added about the game is changing, this is a risk, but not a huge one, more and more teams are hiring young GM’s. The Sox also have a 28 year old farm director. They are somewhat visionaries in this aspect. The Lucchino factor was discussed, Holley says Theo will not be a “yes man”. As for handling the media, Holley just feels he shouldn’t have a problem, all this talk about Boston being a tough media town, to him this is a very predictable media town, when things are good they gush, when they go bad….MacMullan didn’t like how Mike Port was treated, Holley says we don’t know exactly what he did during the season, how involved was he in the trades they made. Who really ran the show behind the scenes? Holley again said this is a trend, teams hiring young GM’s.
On WBZ’s Sports Final, Bob Lobel started the show wearing Brady’s gloves. The very crowded AFC standings were shown. Steve Burton did the game story, and called Randy Moss on the last play “absolutely pathetic”. Christian Fauria and Marc Edwards were in studio, Burton told the guys he was going to take a shot at them and said that the offense went on sabbatical in the second half. Edwards said that after the quick start, they missed some opportunities. Fauria says he’s happy they won, but he knows that they can do better, he said it is frustrating to start quick and then see guys not giving their best, many things to still work on. Edwards says every week it is a dogfight. The Jets go from an awful start to 6-5 now, things just crazy. Burton asked if this year feels like last year. Edwards talked about last year being one game at a time, and all of a sudden they’re champs. This year could be similar, but it’s hard to tell. They need to have the same attitude. Lobel asked about the quick turnaround, Fauria joked that they were going to look at Detroit gamefilm at halftime today. But there is no time to enjoy this win, they need to get ready right away. They talked some about the running game, the tight end and fullback’s roles in it, even as receivers in the short passes that sometimes replace the run. The defense stepped up and made some big plays, was able to stop the Vikings’ running game. This brought the conversation back to the running game, they need to be able to control the ball at the end of the game. Burton asked them about Brady now that Bledsoe is gone, Edwards says that he is now the man, he did rely on Drew’s input last year alot, and now Huard fills some of that role. He’s become a leader, sometimes at points this year he’s tried to take on too much on the field and the other players haven’t helped him out enough.
Scott Zolak and Steve DeOssie were up next, they talked about the Thanksgiving game. If Detroit or Dallas has the same players for a number of years, many of them get used to it, that might be an advantage. The short turnaround really hurts teams with injuries, the Patriots are pretty healthy so that is a plus. Zolak talked about what the preparation this week will be, preparation wise. A look at the AFC East, the Dolphins have gotten a couple big wins, but everyone is counting on them to fade in December. They then looked at the Patriots remaining schedule, There are at least 4 winnable games in the last five, they do that, they’re in the playoffs. Lobel asked if the team is getting better…DeOssie said he saw improvement by Seymour and the defensive line. Zolak said guys are getting healthy again, that will help them too. The health of the offensive line will be a key to the stretch drive.
In to talk about Theo Epstein were Nick Cafardo, Gordon Edes and Dan Shaughnessy. Nick has a problem with the hiring because he hasn’t paid his dues yet. Edes says the key is how much support he has from the people around him. Shaughnessy recalled a 19 year old coming up to him 9 years ago at Harvard/Yale game, a “Gammons youth” kid, talking to him. Edes brought up the huge decisions coming up for the Red Sox, Pedro, Nomar contracts, etc. Edes talked about the youth movement in management around baseball. Shaughnessy said Lucchino will be making the big decisions. Cafardo wonders how he’s going to work with Mike Port. Edes says Port will go back to the role he had under Duquette at which he’s extremely competent, and there will be Lee Thomas and they will hire another assistant GM to help out. Cafardo talked about the organizational structure changing, going to more a farm developmental role. Epstein could come under critism if the club struggles while they make this transition. They talked about Theo’s relatives, how his grandfather won an Oscar for co-writing “Casablanca” with his twin brother. Lobel asked what advice would these guys tell him….Shaughnessy had nothing, said Theo knows what he’s in for with the media, he grew up around here…Edes said to tell him that his youth is over, and Cafardo would tell him to be more like Lou Gorman instead of Dan Duquette.
The last segment was the Coors Light twins, who sung the National Anthem at the Patriots game today. They said they were “made” to wear the Brady jerseys while singing it. Lobel talked about hearing their interview on WEEI with Dale and Neumy. They talked about going through the audition process for the Coors Light commercials. It’s changed their life. They’re flying out to L.A. tomorrow to work on a “secret” TV show, the have a dance album coming out. They are Patriots fans, and want them to get back to the Super Bowl.
Michael Felger and Michael Smith were up next. Felger wants everyone to stop comparing things to last year. He hears people saying that last year at this time, they had it going strong, but in reality, they had some shaky wins last year after this point, against Buffalo, Cleveland and the Jets. Smith said this team is really a week to week proposition. You just don’t know what you’re going to get. Felger says it’s just to early to tell on this team. They brought up the schedule again, they’re almost all scary Dolphins and Jets playing so well. Felger says that if they’re serious about winning it all, they need to win them all. They really need that first round bye. The easiest way to get to the playoffs is to win out and win the division. Burton asked if the Jets are the Patriots from last year. Felger says they could be, Pennington looks like Brady, Smith says Curtis Martin is better than Antowain Smith, they have good receivers, they could be serious contenders.
Ron Borges was in to talk about the Ward/Gatti fight. It was a pure fight. Borges likes both of these guys, footage of the fight was shown, with Ward still swinging when going down, when he had nothing left. Borges says boxing at its purest level, like this fight, has all the human elements. These men are able to control their emotions, their pain. Promoters and ratings agencies have ruined boxing. Neither of these guys has gotten huge paydays over the years, but their fight was like something out of the 1940’s. Borges says boxing will never go away though. At schoolyards, the biggest crowds are around the two kids fighting, people always want to see these battles. He things there will be a third fight between these two. I have to admit that this was the most interested I’ve even been in what Borges had to say. No theatrics, but you could clearly tell his passion for the subject. Football seems like a distant second interest to him.