Should Patriots fans be a little frustrated with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski?

Let me preface this by saying I obviously love Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski as much as anyone. I will be devastated the day Tom retires. If Gronk isn’t wearing a Pats jersey on week 1 next season, I will be absolutely crushed. Bill better not pull a fast one, by trying to trade him at the draft.

With that said, I have to be honest – I’m starting to get a little frustrated with TB12 and Gronk’s actions this off-season. Hot take I know – to personally call out everybody’s favorite 2 players on the Pats. I make it a point to stay level headed and non-biased on SportsChatterMJD.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to Tom and Gronk this offseason, let me get you up to date.  Both have been extremely active on social media. It’s at the point where it seems that they’re almost taking subtle shots at head coach Bill Belichick.

It all started in February, two days after the Super Bowl, when Malcolm Butler posted a long Instagram defending himself for inaccurate reports about why he didn’t play in the game. He also thanked the Patriots organization. Tom was quick to comment saying, “Love you Malcolm. You are an incredible player and a teammate and friend. Always!!!!!”. Surely Bill couldn’t have been too happy that Tom was quick to chime in on Malcolm’s post. Tom could have just texted or called Butler … if he hadn’t already talked to him. I wasn’t too irked by Tom commenting on the post though, because I think it was genuine.

Gronkowski has taken his jabs at Bill as well. For example, he posted the Instagram below for Danny Amendola. He put an emphasis on “Be FREE and Be HAPPY”.

Gronk Amendola

I don’t think it was a coincidence that he put such an emphasis on “Be FREE and Be HAPPY”.  Multiple reports this off-season indicate that Tom and Gronk are not exactly HAPPY playing under Bill. It seems as if his demanding coaching style has started to take a toll on them.

Tom Brady commented on the Instagram as well saying “well said Gronk!!!!”

It also became clear that Danny Amendola didn’t love Bill by the end of his tenure with the Pats, per this very eye-opening interview with Mike Reiss that was released over the weekend. I strongly recommend checking it out if you haven’t yet.

Yet another Gronk social media statement was made the other day when retweeted a Deion Sanders tweet…

dion sanders

Is Gronk implying that his “contemplating if he’s going to retire” is more of a power play to try and get a new contract? Gronk wanting a new contract is 100% understandable and warranted. He was only the 4th highest paid tight end last year. Everyone knows he’s the best tight end in the league. He should easily be the highest paid player at his position.

The issue is there were reports over the weekend stating that Gronk is skipping the start of the Patriots off-season program (OTAs) because he’s still considering whether to retire before the upcoming 2018 season.

If Gronk does indeed retire, it would be catastrophic to the team. If he’s really serious about it, then I hope he’s been extremely transparent with the team because the upcoming NFL Draft on April 26th-28th is probably one of the most critical for the organization in a long time. They need to once again find their QB of the future, a new left tackle, and fill many holes on defense.

Losing Gronk to retirement would prioritize the tight end position as one of the top needs for the team. With 5 picks in the top 95, the Pats would have a good chance to address this need if Gronk was indeed retiring. This is why it is imperative that he’s being very transparent about his plans with the team. It’ll be very interesting to see if they use a high pick on a tight end next week.

Let’s get back to Brady now because I think he’s the bigger story. ESPN recently reported that TB12 will not be a “regular participant” in the team’s offseason program, even after he returns from his trip to Qatar. The trip was for the “Best Buddies” charity and was his stated reason for originally missing the first few days of OTAs. We know now he’ll be skipping out on the entire first phase. This will be the first time in 8 years Tom is missing the program. He last missed it back in 2008, 2009, and 2010, when he lived in LA.

It sounds like there are 2 big reasons he’ll be missing the entirety of the first phase of OTAs. The first is Tom wants to spend more time with his family. We all saw in Tom vs. Time, that his family is an extremely important priority. He seemed pretty beat up in the final episode and Giselle said, “He just wants to go to work and feel appreciated and have fun”. If you’re connecting the dots, this would seem to correlate with a lot of reports over the last few months indicating that Tom felt underappreciated by Bill and is feeling worn out by him.

The second reason is that this phase of OTAs is led by the strength and conditioning coaches. Tom will instead workout with none other than his own trainer Alex Guerrero. Everyone knows by now that Guerrero has been the source of the Belichick and Brady tension.

It’s not exactly comforting to know that the team’s two best and most important players are going to miss out on the first round of the teams off-season program. I really wonder if Jimmy G was still around, would Tom skip any time? It’s something to ponder… my gut tells me no way. It’s evident that Tom felt threatened by Jimmy G.

The other eye-opening statement in the report from ESPN was the following quote from Jeff Darlington… “I would call it unlikely, at this point, that he is a part of any of the voluntary programs this offseason,” the reporter said Monday. “How far he extends that is a major question, one that I don’t know that even Brady has the answer to.” Some people think he’s implying that Tom won’t be joining the Pats in May and June for the later phases in OTAs. I don’t want to read too much into the statement because I’m not sure Darlington truly knew how that came off to people. If Brady skips out on phase 2 or 3, which are on-field workouts, it’ll be a major red flag with respect to the Brady vs. Bill relationship.

Last month, Gotham Chopra the director of Tom vs. Time, who spent a great deal of time with Tom over the last year, went on record saying the following about Tom…  “This idea that he’s going to play for four or five more seasons … I mean, this is just me, the guy who’s been around him for a while now. I just have a hard time envisioning that,” Chopra said. “But we’ll see. I do think that these next few weeks and months are a critical time for him.”

Tom has gone on record multiple times over the last 2 years saying he’ll play into his mid 40’s… and maybe even as much as 10 years. If Tom does indeed retire in the next year or so it makes you wonder why he was so adamant about playing for several more years. As a Patriots fan you have to hope that Tom has been transparent as well with Kraft and Bill, telling them how much longer he really has left, so they can continue to plan for the future.

Unfortunately I don’t think the drama in the Patriots offseason is over yet. I’m sure we’ll hear more stories and reports in the coming weeks/months. The bottom line is that the Patriots will need their 2 best players to get on the same page as Bill Belichick, sooner rather than later, so they can finally begin to put all this drama behind them.

 

The curious case of Malcolm Butler

There’s a lot to talk about today after last night’s loss, but nothing more noteworthy than the absence of one Malcolm Butler.

Malcolm played 98% of the defensive snaps in the first 18 games of this season. Last night he played zero. He did play one snap on special teams.

So the question is… why didn’t Butler play?  There’s been a few theories on this.

The first is taking Belichick for his word that Butler’s benching wasn’t a disciplinary reason. When asked about it after the game Bill said “We put the best players out there and the game plan out there because we thought it’d be the best to win.”

Personally, I think this is complete BS. I don’t think there’s a single Pats fan who felt this was “the best decision for the team.” It’s also clear that some Patriot players feel that the benching of Butler did not put the team in the best position to win.

Former Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner put up numerous Instagram posts during the game which displayed how he was highly critical of Bill’s decision to bench Malcolm. One of them which can be seen below, was liked by defensive captain and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. It’s pretty eye opening to see a leader on the team like an Instagram post critical of his own coach (his username is boomtower). I can’t imagine Bill is too happy about this.

The other theory is that Belichick lied to everyone and the benching WAS disciplinary related. I think this was more likely. There’s already been some whispers that he missed curfew one night last week and got caught with weed when he came back late to the hotel. There haven’t been any Patriots insiders to report this yet so nothing is official on this front.

The argument against this would be then why didn’t Malcolm come out after the game and say this or hint it in his post-game comments. He knew it was the last time he’d be in the Pats locker room and he won’t be back with the team.

Instead when asked was he given a reason on why he didn’t play, Malcolm said “No.” He also said, “They gave up on me. F*** It is what it is”. He clearly was very emotional and it is interesting looking back at it that he didn’t give the media anything and basically said he doesn’t know why he was benched.

If he was indeed benched for disciplinary reasons and something to do with weed or being intoxicated, then why dress him at all for the game? Why let him play a snap on special teams? Bill should of just sent him home and put him on the inactive list for the game if he really wanted to prove a point. They had 2 corners on their practice squad they could of activated for the game.

I reserve the right to change my opinion on the following take if we get more information that Butler really crossed the line, but if he was benched because Bill really thought the combination of Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi, and Jordan Richards were better… or he was benched the entire game because he missed curfew and got caught with some weed, then you could make the argument Bill potentially cost them a Super Bowl victory. Of course he’s still the best coach in NFL history and I want him to come back next year, but this is something I know I won’t ever forget when looking back at this Patriots run/game and I would assume a lot of other people would agree with me as well.

I think we all know Malcolm Butler will never play another down for the Patriots and although he had a down year by his standards, I’ll miss the guy a lot. Nobody will ever forget the interception he made to win Super Bowl 49 but his legacy is more than that in my opinion.

We all know its been a rocky year for him on and off the field but for the majority of his time with the Pats, he had been the ultimate example of the “Patriot way.”

He made the roster as an undrafted free agent. He’s never been the most athletic player, or the fastest (ran a 4.62 at the NFL Combine)… but this guy competed his ass off as much as any corner in the NFL. He became so easy to root for the last few years because of how hard he played, how well he played despite being grossly underpaid, and becoming one of the better cornerbacks in the league as an undrafted free agent.

It definitely hurts to see Malcolm’s career with the Patriots to come to an end like this. I hope he finds a way to get paid this off-season and success with his next team. In the meantime, I’ll try and hold back my tears as well Malcolm.

Malcolm Butler.gif

Dear Patriots Fans

Every Patriots Super Bowl article/ memory is better with NFL Films Music… Play while reading if you please.

Dear Patriots Fans,

While I don’t think this will be the Patriots’ final playoff appearance with Bill and TB12, there’s no denying the fact that the iconic duo is nearing the end of their record run. Nothing lasts forever and with Brady now 40 and Belichick 65, you have to think they only have a few years left together.

As we gear up to watch our favorite team play in their 8th Super Bowl this century, take a step back for a minute, take it all in and don’t take a second of it for granted.  Honestly, it’s almost easier said than done sometimes. The last time the team played on wildcard weekend was way back in the 2009 season, with a 33-14 home loss to Baltimore. The last time they missed the playoffs was in 2008, when TB12 tore his ACL in week one of the regular season against the Chiefs. The Pats still finished 11-5 and became the first team to have 11 wins and miss the playoffs. The last time they failed to reach double digit wins was 2002. I was 9 years old… today I’m 25. As Patriots fans, we’ve been spoiled to the max by this organization over the last 17 years….17 YEARS!

This isn’t supposed to happen in the NFL. It can maybe happen in the NBA where it’s easy for superstars to team up in free agency, or the MLB where there’s no salary cap and a team like the Yankees or Red Sox can quickly rebuild with their superior financial resources , But this isn’t supposed to happen in the NFL, the ultimate team sport. The salary cap era was supposed to prevent dynasties. Also, injuries occur frequently in the NFL and can catastrophically derail your favorite teams season. The Patriots have defied all those theories – year, after year, after year.

If you’re my age and reading this, talk to your parents about the team before B.B. and TB12 joined the organization. They’ll tell you about how bad the organization was for so many years. They’ll tell you just how much it meant to them to even make the Super Bowl back in 1997 against the Packers, even though they would fall 35-21.

That game was my first sports memory. I remember watching with my dad back when I lived right around the corner from the old Foxboro Stadium in Sharon, Mass. He was getting so angry and intense as he began to watch the game slip away from the Pats.

Now we watch as Patriots fans and expect to be in the Super Bowl and win every year.  Now we watch and a game that would be “slipping away” for the 31 other NFL teams, just feels like another chance for the organization to add to their prestigious history. As fans, we all know the game is far from over and we EXPECT them to pull off a comeback and win.

I remember watching a game against the Redskins during my freshman year of college back in 2011. Brady threw for 350 yards and 3 TDs and the Pats won by 7. This was back when he “only” had 3 Super Bowl ring’s but I recall thinking to myself, “Wow this isn’t going to last forever. This man is absolutely amazing. I need to make sure I appreciate every damn time Tom takes the field and tries to pave his way to become the best QB ever.” Fast forward a little over 7 years later and there’s no longer any doubt on who’s the best QB in NFL history. He’s playing in his 4th Super Bowl since that day and going for his 3rd ring in the last 4 years. Everything he and Bill have accomplished in their careers, remains unfathomable to me.

As fans, we no longer concern ourselves with the naysayers who call the team cheaters, or the Patriots haters who come up with any and every BS excuse on why we win/ why they hate us. At this point, the legacy of B.B., TB12, RKK (Robert Kenneth Kraft), and the entire organization is firmly cemented.  Now they get another chance to add to the accolades and history… and B.B. and Tom get another chance to display why they’re not only the best coach and QB in NFL history – but maybe the best coach and athlete in sports history.

Sincerely,

An extremely fortunate and grateful Patriots fan

The 2 most frustrating teams in the NFL

For those of you that don’t know me, let me preface this by saying I’m a die hard Patriots fan. Like most people though, I also follow the rest of the landscape of the NFL. When your favorite team in the league has won 5 Super Bowls since the start of the 2001 season, you gain an appreciation for great coaching. For the last year or two I’ve been persistent that the problem isn’t that there aren’t enough good QB’s in the NFL like a lot of people argue… It’s that the coaching flat out SUCKS!

Let’s get to the 2 teams that really are the driving force behind my thoughts and frustrations in this blog. The Pittsburgh Steelers ended up being the same damn old story this year. They’re led by who I consider the most overrated coach in the NFL, Mike Tomlin. When I look at the Steelers roster top to bottom I think they may have the most talented roster in the NFL. With them it’s always a matter of focus. Take for example this interview with Tony Dungy back in November https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zyv1-xEEj4 Start at 18:00 and listen to what Mike Tomlin says about the Steelers game with the Patriots in a few weeks down the road. It’s clear he’s overlooking his upcoming schedule.

Now in fairness the Steelers would go on to win their next 3 games after this interview before the showdown against the Pats. Let’s be honest though… the Packers with Brett Hundley going into Heinz Field had no right hanging around and almost stealing that Sunday night game from the Steelers. The typical Steelers who are notoriously known for playing down to their competition, slept walk their way through the first half of that game, only to come roaring back in the end and get a 3 point win… despite being huge 14 point favorites. The next week was a lot of the same story. The Steelers traveled to Cincinnati to take on a Bengals team whose season had come undone. Once again the Steelers slept walk their way through the first half, woke up in the second half and stole the game from the Bengals. This has been the problem with Pittsburgh for years. They continuously play down to their competition. They always illustrate a lack of focus throughout points of the season, which starts with the coach.

Now let’s talk about the Patriots game. I was extremely impressed with the Steelers back on that Sunday in mid-December. It’s clear they were ready to play and had a good game plan. But as you all know they crapped their pants on the fake spike play. As bad of a decision it was by Big Ben to throw the ball, what I couldn’t get over was the fact the Steelers didn’t have 2 or 3 plays ready to go after the Jesse James TD was overturned and ruled incomplete. Instead Ben got up to the line of scrimmage after a short completion to JuJu Smith Schuster, and didn’t have a play ready to run on 3rd down. He then ended up making the costly decision to cost the Steelers the game. For me it still goes back to coaching though. Tomlin (and offensive coordinator Todd Haley) had a few minutes during the Jesse James review to have a few plays ready for Ben.  Instead it was obvious they didn’t plan to have a few plays ready during the review and the disastrous interception then occurred.  The picture below illustrates just how confused everyone on the field was for the Steelers during that play.

Image result

I’m not going to go in depth with my analysis on Pittsburgh’s and Tomlin’s performance yesterday. They’re catching a lot of grief for the onside kick, 4th down and 1 calls, and vanilla zone defensive gameplan. My bigger issue is that it was so evident they overlooked the Jaguars and were focused on the Patriots and a rematch based on comments made the last month or so and even this past week. Why they would overlook a team that humiliated them 30-9 a few months earlier is beyond me. They gave up 45 points to Blake Bortles and the Jags… let that sink in for a second.. FORTY-FIVE POINTS TO BLAKE BORTLES. That is unforgivable in my opinion. To me it’s a lack of readiness and preparation by the players, organization, and once again…coaching staff. At the end of the day if anyone told you Big Ben would throw for 5 TDs and almost 500 yards against the Jags, you would have said “wow the Steelers won that game.” If you picked the Jaguars to win the game, it was because you thought their defense was elite and would shut the Steelers down… not because you thought the offense would explode for 45 points. There’s just no excuse for the Steelers to lose a playoff game at home as 7 point favorites and scoring 42 points against the best defense in this league. This coach and organization is so damn dumb!

Alright… now for the Atlanta Falcons. Just another team that I do not understand. By now we all know about “28-3.” Listen, let’s call a spade a spade. The Falcons puked all over themselves and should of won the Super Bowl last year. I won’t sit here and critique all the play calling almost a year later. The one thing that needs to be said though is their head coach Dan Quinn has never got enough blame for that loss. As the head coach, you should always have the last call on the headset. He should of jumped in and told Kyle Shannahan “do not throw the ball here Kyle.. run the ball.” He didn’t and the rest is now history.

Let’s talk about the Falcons this season a little. Through the first 3 games of the season, they had looked like the same powerhouse they were in the 2016-2017 season. They rolled through the Bears, Packers, and Lions scoring an average of almost 30 points a game and a 3-0 start. After that, they had 2 of the more pathetic losses you’ll see. They lost back to back games at home to Tyrod Taylor’s Buffalo Bills and Jay Cutler’s Miami Dolphins. As a Patriots fan all I can do is laugh about those 2 losses considering the ass whooping the Pats have put on those 2 teams the last 17 years. As an NFL fan. all I can say is “what the fu**!? Tyrod bleeping Taylor and Jay Smokin Cutler!?”

Much like the Steelers, the Falcons have one of the most talented rosters top to bottom, yet they largely underachieved this year.  I was fortunate enough to attend the Falcons vs. Patriots Sunday Night game back on October 22nd. I watched the Falcons make head scratching decision after head scratching decision. Whether it was going for it on 4th down multiple times on their own side of the field in the first half, running Jet Sweeps to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel on 4th and goal plays, or taking both stud running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field on plays in the red zone. I was so god damn perplexed by this team that I called Boston Sports talk radio on the ride home from the game and sat on hold for an hour just to rip the Falcons to pieces on the lack of passion and dumb decisions I’ve seen out of this team for over a year now.

The Falcons should be one of the best teams in the NFL for the next 5 years with that up and coming young defense, a potential Hall of Fame quarterback to wide receiver duo, and maybe the best running back situation in the league. Instead I’m sitting here today writing about another heartbreaking playoff loss in the last two years. Except unlike advancing to the Super Bowl last year, they couldn’t even host a damn playoff game this year as they finished with the 6th seed in the NFC.

Once again people in the sports media are talking about the pathetic play calling this team had in the 4th quarter of a playoff game. Why you call a QB rollout to one side of the field on 4th and goal… totally shrinking how much of the field you can use in the red zone and essentially making it a one man route (Julio ran it) is just BEYOND DUMB!!! A lot of people will blame former Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shannahan for the play calling last year in the Super Bowl and new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian for his play selection this past Saturday… and for good reason. At the end of the day though, if these things were happening for the Patriots it all falls on the head coach for me and I’d be criticizing Bill.

If you don’t know me, you might think I’m trolling. How easy is it to sit here in Boston and write a blog about the Steelers and Falcons demons after both had heartbreaking losses this past weekend in the playoffs? On the other hand, if you know me well, I’ve been ripping the Steelers, Falcons, Tomlin, and Dan Quinn for months. My overall point here is that the coaching in the NFL is a major problem. I’ll leave you with this question to ponder. Who the hell is the second best coach in the league after Bill Belichick?