|Which Patriots should expect a call from the Hall?||08.03.13 at 11:10 pm ET|
The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted the class of 2013 on Saturday night, with Bill Parcells, Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Dave Robinson, Warren Sapp and Curley Culp honored in Canton. The most recent round of inductions got us wondering: What members of the Patriots over the last decade-plus could eventually end up being fitted for a yellow jacket? Here are 13 possibilities, with their Patriots careers in parentheses.
Bill Belichick (head coach, 2000-present): Regardless of how his career ends, whenever Belichick decides to retire the hoodie, five rings (three as head coach, two as a coordinator) are certainly enough to land a spot.
Tom Brady (2000-present): At the age of 36, with three Super Bowl titles and two MVPs, Brady is already a no-brainer. Can’t imagine that there would be much debate over his candidacy.
Wes Welker (2007-2012): We wrote this column at the end of the 2012 season, and stand by it: Welker needs another 100 catches and another 1,000 receiving yards, and if he gets it, he’ll be at the center of a great debate when he does decide to hang them up. That would give him almost 900 career receptions and close to 10,000 career receiving yards, which would put him in the heart of a discussion that once included Carter (1,101 catches, 13,899 receiving yards and 130 touchdowns, inducted this year) and now will focus on Andre Reed (951 catches and 13,198 receiving yards and 87 touchdowns, not in) and Tim Brown (1,094 catches, 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns, not in). One thing that would help his candidacy would be at least one ring.
Randy Moss (2007-2010): Moss drew some flak this past January when he said he was the “greatest receiver ever to play,” But he’s not too far off. Moss’s 156 receiving touchdowns are second only to Rice’s 197, and his 15,292 yards are third behind Rice’s 22,895 and Terrell Owens’ 15,934. (For what it’s worth, if Moss could have hitched his wagon to Brady for more than three-plus seasons, he might have been able to catch Rice.) Like many of the guys on this list, his candidacy would be considered truly ironclad if he came away with a ring, and I’m not sure if that’s possible at this stage of his career. But his stats should be more than enough to get him to the Hall. That induction speech will be an all timer.
|Adam Vinatieri on getting booed: ‘I appreciate it’||11.18.12 at 9:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO — This wasn’t Adam Vinatieri’s first trip back to Gillette Stadium as a member of the visiting team. But the boos in this visit were louder than ever for the former Patriots kicker, famous for sending two Super Bowl-winning kicks through the uprights for New England.
Less than five minutes into the game, Vinatieri made his way onto the field for an extra-point try after a Delone Carter touchdown — the first score of the game. And fans at Gillette Stadium made their displeasure for the Colts kicker heard.
Vinatieri, who departed from New England after the 2005 season, is in his seventh year with the Colts, and he has made the trip back to Foxboro four times as a member of the opposition. So he’s used to the hostility. But he said after the Colts’ 59-24 loss on Sunday that some of the fans who were booing him during the game also said that they still appreciate the most storied kicker in Patriots franchise history.
“Some ones that were booing at the very end were saying, ‘Yeah, we still love you man,’ ” said Vinatieri, who spent 10 years in New England. “So it’s all good. It’s gamesmanship, or whatever you want to call it, so I respect that. Most of the people, if I acknowledge them, they go, ‘Hey, it’s all good.’ So it’s all good, though, and I understand the deal. That’s home-field advantage. That’s what you’re supposed to do — get loud and get rowdy and try to make it hard on the other team. You just put your blinders on and just keep going forward.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Bill Belichick asks: ‘What more could [Adam Vinatieri] do’ to get into the Hall of Fame?||11.16.12 at 2:33 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Leave it to Bill Belichick to answer a highly-debated question with several of his own. Such was the case Friday when he was asked if Adam Vinatieri – and all of his huge kicks – deserves a bust in Canton when he finally hangs up the cleats.
“He’s certainly one of the greatest kickers I’ve ever seen since I’ve been in the league – the longevity, the production, the performance in championships and big games,” Belichick said. “What more could he do? Go out there and play wide receiver and catch a bunch of passes? Is that what he needs to do? I don’t know. What more could he do? I don’t know what more Dave Jennings could have done at his position or Ray Guy or guys like that. What else would they have had to do? Get a bunch of interceptions? We don’t judge quarterbacks on their rushing yardage.
“We don’t judge them on how many tackles they made. I don’t know if we even judge them on how many games they win. We judge them on a lot of their quarterback rating and stats and running backs on rushing yardage. What does a guy have to do if he excels at his position? Is that good enough? I don’t know. Like I said, you’d have to ask somebody that knows a lot more about it than I do because I don’t understand what the criteria is.”
He left after the 2005 season and has been in Indianapolis ever since.
“I know it’s been a while,” Belichick said. “I’ve been fortunate to have two good kickers here, two real good kickers.”
Vinatieri is still making big kicks, including a game-winning 50-yarder with eight seconds left in regulation against Minnesota on Sept. 16 in a 23-20 Colts win.
“That was a big kick Adam made in overtime at the end of the [Minnesota] game, the 50-yarder,” Belichick said. “That was a big kick. I’ve seen him make a lot of those.”
At this point, only Jan Stenerud is the only “pure” placekicker in the Hall of Fame. George Blanda made it but he was a quarterback for the great Raiders teams of the 60s and early 70s. Lou Groza is in but he was also an offensive tackle. And perhaps most egregious, Ray Guy does not have a bust in Canton.
So, with what Vinatieri has accomplished, he’s a slam dunk to become the second place-kicker in the Hall, right?
“I think that’s a good question,” Belichick began. “I don’t know what Hall of Fame means. There are guys who have great, long careers. There are other guys with very short careers in the Hall of Fame; from championship teams, there are guys that never or hardly ever played on winning teams. There are guys with personal stats, there are guys with I’d say less personal stats but maybe more championships or more longevity. I don’t know what the criteria is for the Hall of Fame, I’m not in any position to be honest with you. That’s something you’d have to ask the Hall of Fame committee or voters or something like that, because I don’t really know what the criteria is. I don’t know if it’s ever been defined. I don’t know if it’s a popularity contest or if it’s a political thing. I don’t know what it is. It’s hard for me to believe that. as great as this game is, that there are no punters and one kicker in the Hall of Fame. Read the rest of this entry »
|NFL Films producer Greg Cosell talks about Tom Brady, Joe Flacco and Tim Tebow and what it means to be a ‘winner’||05.30.12 at 1:26 pm ET|
We’ve already made it clear that we have a great level of respect for NFL Films producer Greg Cosell, having spoken with him on a number of topics regarding the Patriots, as well as the rest of the league. And in his latest blog post, he talks about the label of “winner” and what it means in today’s NFL.
Cosell looks at the case of New England quarterback Tom Brady. While acknowledging the greatness of Brady, Cosell wonders what his legacy would be if kicker Adam Vinatieri missed kicks at the end of Super Bowl XXXVI and XXXVIII and the Patriots ended up losing those games. “Would Brady’s performance have been any less impressive in those games? Obviously not,” writes Cosell. “What would be different is our collective perception of his performance. He would not have been acclaimed a ‘winner.’”
He also looks at applying the same idea to the careers of Joe Flacco (with a focus on the end of last season’s AFC championship loss to the Patriots), Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow and what the phrase “winner” has meant in relation to them over the last few seasons. In all, it’s a fascinating read.
|Analysis: What it means for Wes Welker to get the franchise tag||03.05.12 at 3:26 pm ET|
A decade or so ago, when the Patriots hit a guy with the franchise tag, it was usually the first step in the eventual dissolution of the relationship — like one person telling the other: “We have to talk.” Tebucky Jones, Adam Vinatieri (the second time around), Asante Samuel and Matt Cassel all weren’t around Foxboro soon after they were hit with the franchise tag. In the case of Vinatieri and Samuel, they eventual left via free agency, or as a trade chip like Jones and Cassel.
But when the last two players — Vince Wilfork (in 2010) and Logan Mankins (in 2011) — were hit with the franchise tag, it was seen as part of the negotiation process. Neither individual was particularly happy about it, but it was done as a way of extending the negotiating window between the player and the team. And in both cases, despite some early acrimony, both players ended up signing big new deals with the Patriots.
When it comes to Welker, early indications are that his situation is a lot closer to the latter than the former. The wide receiver, who is expected to receive a roughly $9.4 million contract as the result of the tag (the league has yet to officially announce the tag numbers), has a very good working relationship with the franchise since he signed a five-year, $18 million deal prior to the start of the 2007 season. That was reflected in the overall optimistic tone of the statement issued by the franchise shortly after the news became official: “Wes Welker is a remarkable football player for our team and has been a vital component to our offense and special teams since we traded for him in 2007. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal. Wes remains a contractual priority and we are hopeful that he will remain a Patriot for years to come.”
When it comes to Welker, despite the fact that he’s been wildly underpaid when compared to his output against other receivers (no one has caught more passes over the last five seasons), he has never publicly feuded with management. In addition, his representation (Athletes First) has had a very good working relationship with the Patriots: This was the agency that helped make Drew Bledsoe the richest player in the history of the league with a 2001 contract. They also represent several current members of the roster, including tight end Aaron Hernandez, running back Shane Vereen, offensive lineman Nate Solder and punter Zoltan Mesko.
So if/when Welker and the team can reach a long-term deal, what sort of numbers are we talking about? Reports indicate that the two sides have been working together to find some common ground for some time — a Boston Globe report says the Patriots offered Welker a two-year, fully-guaranteed contract for $16 million during the 2011 season, which was declined. Now, if the team did decide to franchise him for back-to-back seasons, he would get the equivalent of a two-year deal worth roughly $20 million.
Ultimately, early indications certainly appear that a four-year deal worth $8 million to $9.5 million annually would be about right, especially when you consider the market and Welker’s production. One analyst offered this as a model, which seems to make a lot of sense.
|Adam Vinatieri on The Big Show: ‘I couldn’t wish for anything more’ with career||02.03.12 at 6:57 pm ET|
With the Super Bowl just two days away for the Patriots, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who was a part of all three Patriots Super Bowl-winning teams, joined The Big Show Friday afternoon to talk about his career, the role kicking will play Sunday and the future of the Colts franchise.
Having made game-winning field goals in both Super Bowl XXXVI and Super Bowl XXXIII for the Patriots in wins over the Rams and Panthers, respectively, Vinatieri is all-too-familiar with the game’s biggest moments and is thankful he was able to be a part of NFL history on so many different occasions.
“You’ve got really good kickers across the league that never got opportunities that I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of,” Vinatieri said. “I’m very, very fortunate not only to have a nice long career that I’ve had up to this point, but to be able to be placed in key positions and been fortunate to make most of those kicks that helped our team win championships and Super Bowls.
“Having guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, you’re going to have opportunities to win games,” he added. “You just never know when your time is going to be called and hopefully you’re ready and prepared for it when it happens.”
With the Super Bowl taking place in climate-controlled Lucas Oil Stadium, Vinatieri noted that coaches will plan accordingly for a game with very favorable kicking conditions.
“They absolutely should make decisions differently — it’s going to be 75 and sunny on Sunday, if you know what I mean,” Vinatieri said. “There’s going to be no wind, no rain, field conditions are going to be perfect. The kickers should be able to perform well, they should be able to kick longer than they normally would.
“If they were in New England and it’s 32 degrees, your range isn’t as far,” he added. “It’s going to be a good place to kick – get the ball on line and it’s going to go where you’ve kicked it.”
Already immortalized as one of the great clutch kickers in NFL history, Vinatieri is content with the way his career has played out and is grateful to even be in the discussion for a place in the Hall of Fame.
“To have people even mention me in those kinds of talks is a tremendous honor for me, but I try not to think about it at all,” Vinatieri said. “If I’m fortunate enough to have that happen, that would be unbelievable, and if it never happens, I still feel honored to be in those conversations. For me, having those rings, to have the career that I’ve been blessed with, I couldn’t wish for anything more.”
|Bill Belichick: Lots of ‘fond memories’ but no time for 10th anniversary of ‘Snow Bowl’||01.19.12 at 5:13 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It was arguably one of the most important games in NFL history and certainly the turning point for the Patriots franchise.
The snow began falling late in the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 19, 2002. It didn’t stop until well after Adam Vinatieri‘s third field goal of the night split the uprights on New England’s first possession of overtime, sending the Patriots onto Pittsburgh and the AFC championship in Pittsburgh the next week.
That was 10 years ago and Thursday marked the 10th anniversary of the game that propelled Bill Belichick and Tom Brady on their way to careers that will someday be recognized with busts in Canton.
But on Thursday morning, when Belichick was asked about one of the most important games of his career, he just stopped briefly to recognize it before insisting all of the team’s focus is on making sure they’re prepared to capture the franchise’s seventh AFC championship.
“It was a great game, it was a great night and of course a lot of fond memories but [we’re] really just trying to get on to Baltimore,” Belichick said. “We’ve had a lot of big wins in the past, we’ve had a lot of great games, we’ve lost games. Right now none of those really I think have too much impact on what’s going on this week. We’re really trying to keep our sights focused on Sunday’s game. It’s a one-game season, we’ve worked all year for that. We’ve worked hard for the last six months to put ourselves in that position and now it’s time for us to go out there and do our best with it. With all due respect to other games, other teams, other situations, it’s really not the forefront now.”
So, it came as no surprise earlier when Belichick was asked by an out-of-town reporter whether offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien‘s role has changed this week and whether he’ll make a good head coach at Penn State.
“We’re definitely all focused on the game with Baltimore and that’s what our team is preparing for,” Belichick said. “He’s done what we’ve asked him to do last week and this week and hopefully we’ll be able to play well on Sunday.”
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