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Five reasons why Randy Moss won’t be back with the Patriots 02.13.12 at 4:51 pm ET
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Randy Moss announced Monday morning that he hopes to return to the NFL in 2012. While he will inevitably be linked to the Patriots when it comes to a possible return to the NFL, here are five reasons why Moss won’€™t be walking through that door in Foxboro any time soon:

1. Moss’€™s skills have declined: Moss had a combined 28 catches for the three teams he played for in 2010 (nine for the Patriots, six for Tennessee and 13 for Minnesota). For most receivers in their thirties, that sort of stat line is a red flag, and that was more than a year ago. And history tells us that any time a player on the other side of 30 takes that much time away from the game, the skill set just isn’€™t there when they return. In his prime, Moss was a freakish athlete who did things on a football field that almost no one had ever seen before. (His 2007 season was one of the best of all time.) But the 35-year-old Moss isn’€™t going to be the same guy after a year away. It remains to be seen how he’€™d come to terms with his diminished skills (and role), and whether or not be accept a different job other than designated deep threat.

2. The Patriots offense has changed: When Moss was traded in October 2010 to Minnesota, it was the first step in a complete overhaul of the New England offense. Prior to that, the Patriots passing game could stretch the field and taking their shots deep. Now, the Patriots are more of a horizontal passing game, with slot receiver Wes Welker one of the best in the league when it comes to going over the middle, and tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski now a complementary set of tight ends the likes of which the league has never seen. Deion Branch is not the receiver he once was (he no longer has the kind of wheels that he used to have), but has managed to get by on smarts and dependability. Even if Welker and/or Branch do not return, it seems unlikely the Patriots would try and reintroduce Moss into the offense. Remember — the Patriots had their opportunity to re-sign Moss last year. When they needed another receiver, they went for Tiquan Underwood instead of Moss, which should tell you all you need to know about where they think of Moss’€™ skill set at this point.

3. The Patriots must get younger at wide receiver: New England needs to go in the other direction at the receiver position. Branch (32), Welker (30) and Chad Ochocinco (34) are all closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. While the Patriots are a relatively young bunch at all of the other skill positions, they are starting to show their collective age at wide receiver, and the return of the 35-year-old Moss does nothing to make them younger. The free-agent market for wide receivers also doesn’€™t help Moss — it’€™s a group that includes Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Welker, all of whom are younger than Moss.

4. His return would impede the progress of young pass catchers like Hernandez and Gronkowski: In 2012, the two young tight ends combined to form one of the most dynamic offensive options in the game. With Moss on the scene, that would mean fewer chances in the passing game for both Hernandez and Gronkowski, which would certainly set their development back.

5. The Patriots know that with Moss, you’€™re always living on borrowed time, and most of the time, on his terms: Since the end of the 2007 season, the Patriots knew they were in for a short marriage with Moss, one that ultimately came to an end early in the 2010 season following a much-discussed incident with offensive coordinator Bill O’€™Brien. At some point along the way, Moss transitioned from someone who was clearly interested in putting the team first to someone who was worried about himself and his numbers. (Remember this?) With the Patriots having spent the better part of the last two years meticulously building a positive infrastructure in the locker room, it would be a risk to reintroduce a historically combustible individual like Moss back into that environment.

Moss is still beloved by many in New England. He showed up to owner Robert Kraft‘€™s house as Kraft sat shiva following the death of his wife, and Kevin Faulk told NESN in an interview that Moss was waiting for him in his driveway a week ago when the running back returned from the Super Bowl. In addition, Patriots Bill Belichick — who has had plenty of opportunities to publicly lambaste Moss — continues to have nothing but good things to say about the receiver. Meanwhile, Moss has taken every chance to tell everyone how much he loved his time in New England with Tom Brady and Belichick.

But even with all that, don’€™t look for Moss to rejoin Brady and Belichick. The bottom line is that Moss needs the Patriots more than they need him. And considering the New England passing game has enjoyed unparalleled success since he was shipped out of town 16 months ago, at this point in Moss’€™ career, the risk far outweighs the reward.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Chad Ochocinco
Rating the Roster, Part 2 02.11.12 at 7:50 pm ET
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With the 2011 season in the rear-view mirror ‘€” and the Patriots facing a number of key personnel decisions ‘€” it seems like a good time to break down the current 53-man roster, taking a look at who might be the most valuable members of the franchise.

We arrived at this list by considering a combination of factors, including overall ability, positional versatility, expectations, contract situation and place on the depth chart. We also looked at what might be best described as intangibles ‘€” loosely defined as a mixture of clubhouse character and willingness to work. In all, it helped us determine the overall value of each player within the Patriots system.

A quick note: The 53 players were taken straight from New England’€™s postseason media guide, the most up-to-date listing available. That means injured players such as Andre Carter, Mike Wright, Jermaine Cunningham, Dan Koppen and Ras-I Dowling, as well as practice squadders, are not included for purposes of this exercise.

We started with No. 53 through No. 26. Here’€™s No. 25 through No. 1:

25. Punter Zoltan Mesko: A borderline Pro Bowler, Mesko had an excellent year and was singled out earlier this season by an NFL scout we spoke with who acknowledged his work when it came to helping the Patriots win the battle of field position, especially early in games when New England was struggling to score points. Should be one of the best in the league for years to come.

24. Defensive back Sterling Moore: Released by the Raiders in September, he ended up playing significant minutes down the stretch and into the postseason. He made what was likely the defensive play of the year when he knocked the ball out of the hands of Baltimore’€™s Lee Evans in the AFC championship game. Regardless of what the Patriots do in free agency or the draft, he has played his way into the regular rotation of defensive backs going forward.

23. Tackle Sebastian Vollmer: It was a lost season for the big German, who struggled with back and foot issues for much of the season. Presuming that left tackle Matt Light will return as the starting left tackle in 2012, Vollmer will face a fight for his starting job next year at the right tackle spot with Nate Solder.

22. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski: A very good year for Gostkowski, who remains one of the more steady and consistent kickers in the league.

21. Defensive lineman Kyle Love: Love is likely the best and most consistent young defensive lineman on the roster. He played roughly half the snaps for the Patriots this season at the defensive tackle spot, and gained a wealth of knowledge playing much of the season alongside Vince Wilfork. It will be interesting to watch his progression into 2012, especially with a lockout-free offseason.

20. Wide receiver Deion Branch: He’€™s not the receiver he once was, but he maximizes the tools that are still at his disposal, including his smarts, his knowledge of the game and his relationship with Tom Brady. Prior to a couple of ill-timed drops in the Super Bowl, he still showed a knack for coming up big in big moments. A free agent, he’€™s one of the really intriguing decisions the Patriots face this offseason.

19. Running back Stevan Ridley: An interesting rookie year — he showed genuine flashes of greatness at times, running the ball for 5.1 yards per carry with real explosiveness. But there were a couple of fumbles late in the season, which ultimately meant that an occasionally promising year ended on something of a sour note. With a good offseason (lockout-free), he could push BenJarvus Green-Ellis for the role of lead back in 2012.

18. Defensive end Mark Anderson: One of the pleasant free agent surprises of 2012 (along with Andre Carter and Brian Waters), Anderson saw his role expand over the course of the season from that of a pure third-down pass rusher to a more complete defender. He’€™s not quite a complete three-down player yet in the New England system, but certainly progressed over the course of the season. Like Carter, his better-than-expected performance on a one-year deal will leave the Patriots with a decision to make at the start of free agency.

17. Tackle Nate Solder: The Patriots’€™ Rookie of the Year, he had a very good rookie season, working as a right and left tackle, a part-time tight end as well as getting reps on special teams. (According to Pro Football Focus, he was eighth on the offense in total snaps with 1,044, more than veterans like Dan Connolly, Deion Branch and BenJarvus Green-Ellis.) He struggled in the Super Bowl, but will almost certainly push Vollmer for the starter’s job at right tackle in 2012.

16. Running back Danny Woodhead: An up-and-down season for Woodhead, but when he was on, it was clear he’€™s emerged as a mostly positive heir to Kevin Faulk as the teams’€™ third-down/changeup back. (He’€™s not the blocker Faulk is, but has shown himself to be a statistical equal in several other areas.) Woodhead had a very good Super Bowl, and stands ready to be an integral part of the New England offense going forward.

15. Cornerback Devin McCourty: A mixed bag this season for McCourty, who struggled mightily in coverage over the first half of the season but did show some improvement over the second half, returning to his old physical self. He flashed some versatility late in the regular season and into the playoffs with a move to safety on third down and other passing situations, and he didn’€™t appear overwhelmed when he made the switch. Like Julian Edelman, he’€™ll bear watching in minicamps and other OTA’€™s when it comes to where he lines up. What the Patriots ultimately decide to do with him could have a sizable impact on the rest of the secondary.
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Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Andre Carter, BenJarvus Green Ellis, Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick and Nick Saban hanging at Pebble Beach at 6:29 pm ET
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By Greg Cameron

Just six days removed from last Sunday’€™s Super Bowl loss to the Giants, Patriots coach Bill Belichick hit the links as a part of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as the amateur playing partner of PGA golfer Ricky Barnes. Currently, the pair sits in a tie for seventh place in the tournament heading into Sunday’€™s final round.

After teeing off on the famed course’€™s par-3 17th hole, Belichick and University of Alabama coach Nick Saban, who was playing with former Crimson Tide golf standout Bud Cauley in a foursome with the perpetually hoodie-clad  coach (including during play on Saturday) and Barnes, spoke to CBS Sports’€™s Jim Nantz and Sir Nick Faldo. In addition to being critiqued on the finer points of their golf swings, both coaches, who are long-time friends talked about their time playing together in the tournament and blowing off steam after Super Bowl XLVI.

On what it was like playing together at Pebble Beach:
BB: ‘€œOh it is. It’€™s awesome. It’€™s great to spend time with Nick and the pros here at Pebble Beach. It’€™s a great weekend.’€
NS: ‘€œThis is a fantastic place I’€™ve never been here before. This is my old friend and pal, and one of my real mentors in coaching and it’€™s great to be able to spend time with him as well.’€

On playing so well with Barnes in the tournament despite not playing much golf in recent months:
BB: ‘€œRicky Barnes has been playing great. He’€™s having a great tournament and he’€™s been carrying me the entire time out here. He’€™s going to have a back massage out here tonight.’€

On what it’€™s been like after last week’€™s Super Bowl and the reactions from the gallery:
BB: ‘€œThe reaction out here has been great. The fans have been great and it’€™s fun to be out here. It was a tough loss, a tough couple [of] days. But Pebble Beach is a great spot to take your mind off of some of the other problems we had.’€

On making the cut with Barnes:
BB: ‘€œIt’€™ll be fun. I’€™ve never done that before and played here on Sunday. I’€™m looking forward to that.’€

Belichick is joined in the Pebble Beach field with other entrants with NFL ties including 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, Packers quarterback and newly minted league MVP Aaron Rodgers, former Jets coach and ESPN analyst Herm Edwards, and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who is playing with Tiger Woods this weekend.

Here’s video of Belichick and Saban chatting with the CBS crew after their round Saturday:

Read More: aaron rodgers, Bill Belichick, Bud Cauley, Herm Edwards
Could the Patriots lose tight ends coach Brian Ferentz to Iowa? 02.08.12 at 12:28 am ET
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Bill O’€™Brien might not be the only coach the Patriots lose this offseason. New England tight ends coach Brian Ferentz — the son of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz — could be joining his father’€™s staff as an assistant.

There’€™s been a lot of movement lately on the Hawkeyes coaching staff, where Reese Morgan, Iowa’€™s offensive line coach for the past nine seasons, is moving to defensive line, and according to this ESPN blog post, that would open up a spot on the coaching staff for Brian Ferentz.

The son of Kirk (who worked with Bill Belichick in Cleveland), Brian started with the Patriots as a coaching assistant in 2008, moved to offensive coaching assistant the following year and became an offensive assistant in 2010. He was officially promoted to tight ends coach at the start of this season, and has helped youngsters Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez become two of the best young tight ends in the game.

Ferentz spoke with the TheGazette.com shortly after the Patriots’€™ Super Bowl loss to the Giants, and discussed a handful of topics, including the new openings on the Iowa coaching staff, whether he would be a candidate, as well as Gronkowski’€™s performance in the Super Bowl.

‘€œMy job is the coach of the New England Patriots‘€™ tight ends. I’€™m trying to do that to the best of my ability today,’€ he said. ‘€œWhat happens in the future, whether a year, two years, 10 years from now, I’€™m focused on doing my job.’€

When it came to Gronkowski’€™s performance against the Giants, Ferentz was impressed with what the big tight end could do with a high ankle sprain.

‘€œI’€™m certainly not a doctor, but it was something comparable to what Ricky Stanzi had two years ago,’€ he said.

‘€œI was impressed coaching him in how he showed a lot of mental toughness, a lot of physical toughness. Most importantly, he had the commitment to his teammates to get out on the field and give us whatever he had. I still think he brought a lot to the game with blocking protection in the run game, and he actually performed pretty well. He gave us some spirit, some juice.’€

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Brian Ferentz
Bill Belichick confirms Josh McDaniels will succeed Bill O’Brien as Patriots offensive coordinator 02.06.12 at 4:07 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday at Gillette Stadium that Josh McDaniels will succeed Bill O’Brien as the team’s offensive coordinator. McDaniels, who held the position with the Patriots from 2006-2008, and after stops in Denver and St. Louis, was brought back as an offensive assistant prior to the playoffs, as the Rams did not intend to keep him.

“Josh,” Belichick said when asked about the position.

O’Brien was hired last month as head coach at Penn State. He had been with the Patriots since 2007.

Now 35, McDaniels first came to the Patriots in 2001 as a personnel assistant. He left following the 2008 season to become the head coach of the Broncos, but was fired midway through his second season on the job. He became the Rams’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last season.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Josh McDaniels,
The day after, Tom Coughlin marvels at the consistently close games between the Patriots and Giants at 1:03 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Giants coach Tom Coughlin got a little sleep Sunday night.

‘€œAbout 15 minutes,’€ he said happily at a Monday morning press conference, less than 12 hours after his team beat the Patriots 21-17 to capture Super Bowl XLVI.

While some of the Giants rankled New England with some of their pregame predictions, Coughlin was extremely gracious in victory on Monday, marveling at the consistently close games the Patriots and Giants have played over the last few years.

‘€œThe games are highly competitive. Very, very skilled teams. Outstanding quarterbacks on both teams. Great defense, to be honest with you,’€ Coughlin said. ‘€œThe numbers that you look at throughout the course of the year, the New York Giant and New England Patriot defensive teams that didn’€™t have the numbers, weren’€™t ranked in the upper echelon of the defensive teams in the league, but how both (defenses) have played in the playoffs, and how we played since the Jet game ‘€“ just exceptional defensive play.

‘€œJust highly competitive, highly physical football games that are designed, and established, and work out exactly the way you would want. They are fourth-quarter wins, and both teams are playing exceptionally hard. The New England coaching staff, Bill Belichick, a friend of mine, a guy that I admired for many years, a true Hall-of-Famer, a great football coach. The games are so competitive and so close, and we’€™re just fortunate to have made the necessary plays late in the game to win.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin,
National media reflects on what won, lost Super Bowl XLVI at 12:18 pm ET
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In the immediate aftermath of the Giants‘ 21-17 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI Sunday night, several major national publications and outlets tried to dissect and figure out what happened at Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as the long-lasting effects of this game moving forward.

Sports Illustrated senior NFL writer Peter King, in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback piece, wrote that there is no quarterback he would rather have in the final two minutes with the game on the line than Eli Manning.

Wrote King: I still can’t get over that throw from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham. As much as I respect the catch (it will be the greatest of Manningham’s career, no matter how long he plays), I am in awe of the throw. How did Manning make that throw? Why make that throw? Why did he pick the target of the guy with a corner in coverage and a safety flying over to crush Manningham? The 38-yard throw — which began an 88-yard, Super Bowl-winning touchdown drive that Bill Belichick will see in his nightmares — is just one more reason to never, ever question how good Eli Manning is. He will have some crappy games the rest of his career, because two or three times a year he stinks. But I ask you: What quarterback alive do you want with the ball in his hands in the last two minutes of a big game?

Thought so. Eli Manning.

Despite the three Super Bowl rings and the five Super Bowl appearances that Belichick and Tom Brady have amassed in their time together, Mike Freeman of CBS Sports feels that the legacies of both men will suffer as a result of the Patriots’ second loss to the Giants in a Super Bowl.

Wrote Freeman: This was both Brady’s finest moment and his worst. The same could be said for Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Both are among the best in history. Both have forgotten more about their craft than most will ever know but there is no question about the following: their impressive legacies take a hit. A pretty good sized one, too.

There are some already reassessing the Patriots legacy. Noting that the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl since the Spygate scandal, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison tweeted just minutes after the game: “Told you, cheaters never win!!!!!!!!!”

Brady has been beaten twice now by Eli Manning in the biggest of spots and Belichick has lost to Coughlin the same. That’s not great for legacies. That’s what you call rebuttal material.

With otherwise sterling legacies and reputations now under question, some observers, like Bill Reiter of Fox Sports, wonders whether Sunday night’s loss may have signaled the end of the Patriots’ run as title contenders.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, boomer esiason, Eli Manning, James Harrison
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