|Magnificent 7: On Hall of Fame weekend, these current and former Patriots deserve consideration for Canton||08.07.16 at 6:37 pm ET|
On Hall of Fame weekend, here are seven current and former Patriots who deserve to be a part of the conversation when it comes to Canton.
Bill Belichick: There will be some critics who don’t agree, but as his boat reminds us, Belichick has won four titles as a head coach and two as an assistant. That’s six rings. SIX. That should be enough to gain entry on the first ballot, critics be damned.
Tom Brady: There will inevitably be some Deflategate drama when his name is raised, but four Super Bowl wins and a pair of MVPs should be enough to get him through on the first ballot.
Ty Law: I wasn’t a big believer in the possibility of a Law candidacy for the Hall. But a closer look at the numbers over the last few seasons reveals the fact that he’s at least worthy of a debate. His resume is pretty impressive, especially when stacked against others in Canton: Three Super Bowl rings, two All-Pro nods and 53 career picks, which puts him 24th on the all-time list. He was a semifinalist last year, but might need an advocate — like Ron Borges, who worked hard to get Andre Tippett in — if he wants to make it.
Adam Vinatieri: The automatic default is to reject the idea of a kicker in the Hall of Fame. But when it comes to Vinatieri, it’s hard to go against him. The best big game kicker of his generation, Vinatieri has played in five Super Bowls and won four rings. Two Super Bowl titles were ultimately decided on the strength of his right leg. When all is said and done, he should become the second pure kicker to reach the Hall. (Jan Stenrud is the only pure placekicker in the Hall of Fame. George Blanda and Lou Groza are also in Canton, but also did other things in addition to their work as kickers.)
Randy Moss: If Moss doesn’t get in, they should shut the place down. He’s second all-time in receiving touchdowns with 156 (trailing only Jerry Rice), third in all-time receiving yards (behind Rice and Terrell Owens) and 11th on the list of all-time catches (982). He’s got his detractors — he doesn’t have a signature moment, which many Hall voters require when it comes to wide receiver — but come on. He was an absolutely transformative presence for a decade.
Vince Wilfork: We’ve been on this for a while now, but it’s worth reiterating that because of his longevity and his track record as an absolutely vital part of a consistently good-to-great team over the course of a decade, he deserves a spot in the discussion when his time comes. The voters aren’t crazy about interior defensive linemen who don’t pile up sack numbers — most of the linemen who have gotten a spot have either been big sack guys or other defensive ends — and so he’s probably a long shot. (Nose tackles are few and far between.) As a result, Like Law, Wilfork probably needs to have someone advocating for him in the room when he comes up for discussion.
Gino Cappelletti: One of the best players of his era, Cappelletti played wide receiver and kicker for the Patriots for 10 years, and led the American Football League in scoring five times. (He retired as the AFL’s all-time leading scorer with 1,130 points.) The 1964 AFL Most Valuable Player played receiver and kicker, he was the face of the franchise throughout the 1960s, and had one of the most memorable careers of any of the old AFL stars.
Also worthy of consideration but failed to make the cut here for various reasons: Rob Gronkowski (who could be on the list sooner rather than later if he continues on his current path for another couple of years), Willie McGinest, Wes Welker, Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour.
|Per Mike Francesa, Adam Vinatieri was almost released by Bill Parcells in 1996||05.18.16 at 2:32 pm ET|
Adam Vinatieri’s career with the Patriots was defined by a series of clutch kicks which allowed him to grab the mantle of best big-game kicker of his generation.
But his time in New England was almost over before it began. In an interview with Bill Simmons earlier this week, Mike Francesa, a longtime friend of former Patriots’ coach Bill Parcells, said that Parcells came close to releasing the kicker when he was a rookie in 1996.
In a 17-10 loss to Buffalo in Week 2, Vinatieri missed three field goals (45, 25 and 46 yards). The following week against Arizona, he missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter, as well as an extra point. Late in that game with the Patriots leading 28-0, Parcells sent Vinatieri back onto the field for a 31-yard field goal attempt. According to Francesa — who told the story on his radio show — Vinatieri’s job was at stake when he returned to the field.
“I’ve had it with that kicker,” Parcells said, according to Francesa. “If he had missed it, I would have cut him.
“I told him, ‘You better make this kick’ before I sent him out there. And he made the kick, and he gained confidence little by little. And look who he became.”
Vinatieri eventually became a key part of three Super Bowl teams with the Patriots, and another with the Colts. At 43, he’s currently the oldest player in the league.
|When was the last time Patriots special teams had an afternoon as bad as it did on Sunday?||12.08.15 at 8:30 am ET|
Over the last several years, the Patriots special teams has become an absolutely integral part of the success of the franchise. Dating back to the early days of Bill Belichick, there was an emphasis on special teams, and the work of specialists like Troy Brown and Adam Vinatieri made a sizable difference in the success of the franchise. Going forward, those names became part of a strong lineage that continues to this day with the likes of Stephen Gostkowski, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater.
That’s why the moments of unquestioned failure on the part of the Patriots’ special teams are few and far between. That was one of the reasons why their performance against the Eagles in defeat Sunday was so surprising. New England was unable to execute on two of three onsides kicks (that included an odd-drop kick by Nate Ebner), had one punt blocked and had a punt returned 83 yards for a touchdown by Philly’s Darren Sproles.
“It was very disappointing. We have a lot of guys who take a lot of pride in that phase of the game,” Slater said after the loss. “Obviously, tonight was unacceptable.”
On the heels of the muffed punt from Chris Harper the week before that played a part in the loss to the Broncos, it was a tough pill to swallow for a team that takes such pride in its special teams play. But it got us wondering: When was the last time New England’s special teams had such an unfortunate turn of events in one afternoon? We had to go back more than five years to find the game: Nov. 7. 2010 against the Browns in Cleveland.
That game was a poor one all around for the Patriots, who managed just a pair of touchdowns while Cleveland’s Peyton Hillis ran for an astounding 184 yards on 29 carries in the 34-14 for the Browns. And while there were several notable takeaways from the game, including the fact that Eric Mangini claimed victory over Bill Belichick, the fact that there were a few special teams breakdowns played a role in the defeat.
|Record-setting Stephen Gostkowski doing everything he can ‘to stay in the groove and keep rolling’||10.30.15 at 9:18 am ET|
FOXBORO — The time is quickly approaching to consider Stephen Gostkowski as one of the best kickers in NFL history.
On Thursday night, he connected on his 25th and 26th consecutive field goals, dating back to last season in the Patriots’ 36-7 romp over the Dolphins as wind-blown Gillette Stadium. In the process, he set a new franchise record for most consecutive field goals, passing Adam Vinatieri‘s 25 in a row in 1996-97.
Gostkowski has been flat out perfect this season, converting all 28 extra points and nailing all 17 field goals, including a remarkable 52-yarder Thursday in which he played the wind like a PGA Tour pro, drawing it 10 yards from right to left through the uprights in the first half.
“That was into the wind, and it was blowing straight to the left and it was super windy,” Gostkowski said of the 15 MPH crosswinds kicking into the north end of the stadium. “Kicking into that open end is really tough. Sometimes you’re at the mercy of when the wind’s blowing. I probably aimed it out more than I wanted to but you’ve just got to trust that you know that the wind’s blowing enough to pull it back. Right when I hit it, I felt like it had a really good chance.
“It’s kind of funny one of the [Dolphins] was like, ‘He missed it! He missed it!’ Then all our guys [yelled back], ‘Nah, he didn’t!’ So it was pretty cool. That’s about as tough a kick as you’re going to get out here, when the wind is gusting like that in the open end. There’s just nothing knocking the wind down so it affects the ball a lot more.”
His coach was impressed.
|5 things you have to know about Colts: Indy a massive underdog against Patriots||10.12.15 at 12:59 pm ET|
Five things you have to know about the Colts, who host the Patriots on Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The 40-year-old Hasselbeck, who took over after Luck went down with a shoulder issue, has started the last two games and has done a good job managing to wring just enough out of the offense to allow the Colts to escape with a pair of wins. In his two starts, Hasselbeck is 48-for-76 (63 percent completion rate) for 495 yards and three touchdowns, with no picks and a passer rating of 95.0. (Through the first three games, Luck was 65-for-116 for a 56 percent completion rate, with 753 yards, five touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 65.1.) It has to be taken with a grain of salt because the wins were relatively narrow victories over Jacksonville and Houston, but Hasselbeck’s steadiness and consistent play the last two weeks has allowed Indy to climb just over .500 entering this game. It’s likely that the Colts will do whatever they can to keep the Patriots guessing this week when it comes to who will be under center at the start of Sunday’s contest, but Hasselbeck might be the first Indy backup quarterback in 20 years to show that he can do more than just hold a clipboard. (For what it’s worth, Indy released quarterback Josh Johnson on Monday, which likely is a sign that one or both of the Luck/Hasselbeck combo is feeling better.)
2. Hasselbeck isn’t the only veteran who has helped the Colts offense through a rough patch.
In his first season with Indy, 32-year-old running back Frank Gore (76 carries, 325 yards, 3 TDs) has provided the bulk of the yardage on the ground. Meanwhile, 34-year-old receiver Andre Johnson (13 catches, 128 yards, 2 TDs), also in his initial season with the Colts, has also seen action as a complementary pass catcher, augmenting the work of youngsters like the speedy T.Y. Hilton (a team-high 27 catches, 382 yards) and Donte Moncrief (24 catches, 278 yards, 3 TDs). The positional grouping won’t remind anyone of Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison, but it’s provided just enough offense over the last few weeks to lift the Colts to three consecutive victories. (One more quick note on the Indy offense: the Colts are 31st in the league in giveaways with seven interceptions and five fumbles. In all, Indy is 31st when it comes to turnover ratio at minus-7. Not a good sign when you are facing a New England team that’s tied for fifth overall at plus-5.)
|Why Patriots reportedly extended kicker Stephen Gostkowski when they did||07.15.15 at 3:45 pm ET|
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski signed a franchise tender on March 6, paying him $4.59 million for the 2015 season, which would have been the second-highest salary for a kicker all-time.
After Wednesday, the Patriots and Gostkowski could not negotiate a new contract during the season and he would become a free agent after next season.
With the 31-year-old being one of the better kickers in the game — connecting on 35 of his 37 field goal attempts for a career-high 94.6 percent mark, leading to his third Pro Bowl selection and a second-team All-Pro honor last season — he would seemingly get heavy interest from other teams next offseason for top dollar.
With that in mind, the Patriots reportedly extended Gostkowski with a four-year deal worth about $17 million on Wednesday.
Gostkowski will be paid in the ballpark of $4.25 million each of the next four years (according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss), which is still the highest in the league, but it could have been even more if the Patriots didn’t extend him now. The team will save at least $314,000 this year with his new deal and if they were to have franchised him again next season, that number would jump 20 percent and would have been $5.33 million.
It’s also worth noting, extra points will be moved back to the 15-yard-line, so having a kicker as dependable as Gostkowski is, will be even more important than ever.
Many will point out the Patriots moved on from Adam Vinatieri at similar point in his career, but they aren’t the same situation. Vinatieri wasn’t brought back after his age 33 season and things were different then because the Patriots likely had Gostkowski on their radar via the draft and also Vinatieri was two years older than what Gostkowski is now.
While the Patriots are paying their kicker a fairly expensive amount, long-term it will likely turn out to be a financially smart move with kickers’ value expected to rise with the new rule changes.
|Some history behind Patriots and franchise tag||03.02.15 at 1:30 pm ET|
A few notes as we all wait for the 4 p.m. deadline on the franchise tag:
On four of the eight occasions the Patriots hit someone with the franchise tag, they did it on the last day of the window: Wes Welker (2012), Adam Vinatieri (2005), Tebucky Jones (2003) and Vinatieri (2002). The Welker announcement came just prior to the deadline.
Three of the eight tags ultimately led to contract extensions with the Patriots: Logan Mankins (2011), Vince Wilfork (2010) and Vinatieri (2002). Wilfork’s offseason came at the end of the tumultuous few months for the defensive lineman, who was strongly against the idea of being tagged. He eventually acquiesced, and that set the stage for a new five-year deal that made him the highest-paid nose tackle in the league.
In addition, on three occasions, a player played that year under the franchise tag, and then departed as a free agent the following year: Welker (2012), Asante Samuel (2007) and Vinatieri (2005). In retrospect, it was clear that few players wanted to get out of town faster than Samuel. He held out for most of the offseason and into the summer, eventually signing his tender on Aug, 27. He left as a free agent the following offseason – he was in Philly at a press conference announcing his signing with the Eagles less than 18 hours following the start of free agency the next year.
And two players were tagged and then traded: Matt Cassel (2009) to the Chiefs and Jones (2003) to the Saints. While a few different scenarios could play out between now and the end of the offseason if one of the Patriots is tagged between now and the deadline, this is probably not one of them.
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