WWBD? What will Bill do?
Tuesday is the heaviest day for workouts around the league, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Patriots have a bunch of people at their Foxboro facility for Bill Belichick and VP Scott Pioli to inspect. Already, according to Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe, they have worked out six defensive backs, including Andre Dyson and Torry Holt's brother, Terrence. We'll see if today brings a quarterback in camp.
[5:30 p.m. Editor's Update: According to someone with access to the daily NFL workout information, New England did not work out a quarterback today.]
In the wake of the 38-13 lathering put upon New England Sunday, and the anemic performance of quarterback Matt Cassel, and the Patriots being in their bye week, you have to wonder what's going on in the team's laboratory. Two weeks ago, when word leaked of their prospective workouts of Chris Simms and Tim Rattay, the Patriots canceled them. Not a good idea for agents to play Woodward and Bernstein with the Patriots.
New England has one of the most inexperienced quarterback situations in football right now (Baltimore and Green Bay are close), with rookie Kevin O'Connell and neophyte Matt Gutierrez backing up Cassel, who hadn't started a game since high school before facing the Jets in Week 2. Belichick always believes in stirring up the roster because he knows backups often have to win games in December and January. There's no question he's thinking how he could improve his quarterback situation right now. He's sure to be thinking of the following avenues:
Veterans who'd be insurance policies in case Cassel flops
1. Vinny Testaverde, retired. He's 44, and he told me two weeks ago he was secure in his retirement. He might pull a calf in his first sprint out of the pocket. But he's got to be crossing Belichick's mind.
2. Damon Huard, backup, Kansas City. Biggest problem: He doesn't have the downfield arm to get the ball to Randy Moss. And I doubt Kansas City would want to deal a good game-manager who could get the Chiefs through games with Tyler Thigpen struggling as badly as he is. But he was Tom Brady's backup when Brady was a kid in this offense in New England, so he could be game-ready in days, not weeks. Cost? Maybe a fifth-round 2009 pick, going higher based on success if he plays.
3. Jon Kitna, starter, Detroit. Would Detroit want to go with Drew Stanton and tank an already hopeless season? Maybe. Would the Pats want to deal a third-round pick (my guess) for a guy likely to be productive in their offense, but also a guy likely to make a big mistake in January if they get there? I doubt it.
4. Tim Rattay, unemployed. Chad Pennington-type. Very smart, but with a below-average arm. Wouldn't surprise me if he gets brought in. Quietly this time.
5. Brad Johnson, backup, Dallas. Same problem with arm strength, though slightly better than Rattay. Big question here would be whether Dallas would be willing to have Brooks Bollinger one play away from making a Super Bowl run. My guess is Dallas won't trade Johnson unless it's for something really good, like a third-rounder.
6. Daunte Culpepper, retired. If they haven't called him by now, I doubt they will. "He's playing in cement shoes,'' said one personnel man I spoke with, concerned the two-and-a-half-year-old knee surgery is still plaguing Culpepper.
Younger guys New England would have to trade a late-round pick to get
1. Luke McCown, backup, Tampa Bay. The Bucs have four quarterbacks, which would seem to make this an easy deal. Two problems. Trading with Tampa Bay GM Bruce Allen is Herculean. Second, McCown is Tampa Bay's No. 2 in Jon Gruden's mind right now, ahead of Jeff Garcia and, of course, rookie Josh Johnson. Knowing how quick a hook Gruden has, the Pats would probably have to trade something significant for McCown -- say, a fifth-rounder that could rise to a three with playing time. Probably too high a price for someone this unproven.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick, third quarterback, Cincinnati. Belichick loves Mike Martz, and Martz had an interesting run with Fitzpatrick in St. Louis in 2005, starting this Harvardian three times and watching him torch Houston for 310 yards in an overtime win. Smart guy, not overwhelmed by playing in the league.
Intriguing guys with experience I'd really try to get if I were the Patriots
1. A.J. Feeley, third quarterback, Philadelphia. He's played in some big games -- he nearly beat the Patriots at New England last year when Donovan McNabb was hurt -- and the Eagles would be willing to talk about him because of their comfort level at backup quarterback with Kevin Kolb. He's somewhere between Clint Longley and Jim Plunkett in terms of a guy who might have a chance to play effectively with a good team around him. He's the guy I'd try to deal for, but remember one thing: The Eagles always try to beat teams into submission on trades; anything more than a fifth-round pick in 2009 would be too much.
2. Andrew Walter, backup, Oakland. Hey, Randy Moss loved him out there. (Uh, just kidding.) But he's got a good arm and could be had, I would think. Big question is accuracy, or lack thereof; he completed 53 percent in his half-season run in the Raiders' horrible 2006 season. He'd be an interesting prospect because he can get the ball downfield and he'd be better-protected in New England than he ever was in Oakland.
Finally, there are the Colts' summer rejects, Jared Lorenzen and Quinn Gray, who are on the street. Lorenzen has a good arm with zero mobility. Gray always seems to make the big mistake when he played. Watch one of those guys end up in Patriots camp Wednesday.
Now onto your e-mail:
• THE BROWNS STINK. From Clarence Meriweather, of Cleveland: "I am so tired of the Browns losing and just not getting better. I am physically ill of the lack of discipline, lack of talent and perpetually getting our butts kicked up and down the field, especially when a play or two could mean the difference between a close win and a blowout loss. Do these guys even care about the tradition that used to be here?
My question is what do you think the possibility is that Bill Cowher would come back to his old team and give us a personality and winning punch-you-in-the mouth swagger so desperately needed?''
Intriguing thought. My guess is the owner, Randy Lerner, who has left the care and feeding of the football side of this team solely to Phil Savage, will side with Savage if this is a lost season, and allow him to change coaches while keeping his job. From there, I assume Savage would at least call Cowher. The question is: Will Cowher, who has a comfortable life now and still makes what I'd guess is about $2 million a year from TV and other ventures, want to get back into the grind-it-out football world again? If so, Cleveland is the kind of franchise I'm sure would interest him.
• YOU'RE PREACHING TO THE CHOIR. From John Newman, of Northglenn, Colo.: "What does Antoine Winfield have to do to get any props? The guy is 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, but one of the hardest hitting, most physical cornerbacks in the league. Last week he sacked Jake Delhomme, forced a fumble, picked it up and took it to the house to make it a 10-10 game going into the half. The Vikes come out in the second half, go 80 yards in five plays and never look back. One play totally changed the complexion of that game, and one of the biggest impact players on defense in the league made that play.''
I had him as the 25th-best player in football on my top 50 players in the league in the SI preseason issue. He and Darren Sproles are the best small players in football.
• RANK THE RAVENS HIGHER. From Mary Ellyn Rozell, of Roxana, Del.: "Not feeling any love for the Ravens, Peter? Why so low on your 'Fine Fifteen' list? They are undefeated and you have teams above them with 1-2 records. What's up with that?''
I also had Minnesota and San Diego below them. This happens every year. I don't do the Fine Fifteen based solely on records, or else why do it? I do it based on this premise: If Team 11 played Team 12 on a neutral field in Wichita, I think Team 11 would win ... today. And if I did the Fine Fifteen this morning, based on what I saw last night, 1-2 San Diego would move up to about No. 6.
• RANK THE 49ERS, PERIOD. From Luke, of Visalia, Calif.: "Why no love for the 49ers? They are 2-1 despite being incessantly mocked for their quarterbacking situation, and J.T. O'Sullivan merely goes out and plays like a top-10 quarterback over the past two weeks. And they don't even deserve a mention in your article? Please give them some love for what they've accomplished so far!''
OK. Here is the love. You've given it. I'm still skeptical. Let's see what happens with this upcoming stretch starting Sunday: at New Orleans, New England, Philly, at the Giants. (As an aside: Love your email address, Luke.)
• MEA CULPA, MEA CULPA. From Nick, of Amherst, N.Y.: "Another 5,000 character column that is sans mention of the 3-0 Buffalo Bills. What does a team have to do to get into your column, Mr. King? Blowout a playoff team? Check. Survive a road game against a playoff team? Check. Beat a tough team playing for the head coach's job? Check. It would be nice if a talented writer like yourself noticed it?''
You are right, Nick. Absolutely right. I have been irresponsible not noting the triumphs of the Bills, even after having a nice post-game chat with Trent Edwards Sunday. I will repair that in Monday's column, win or lose. Promise. (Editor's Note: In the meantime, Bills fans can check out Don Banks' column.)
Speaking of overdue topics, Monday I noted I would write about the Seattle wideout situation today. What I would prefer to do is save it for Monday's column. I want to get into it in longer form than this column allows. I hope you don't mind, but I will use a good chunk of Monday's column to flesh out the incredible story of the Seattle receivers through the first three games, with the Seahawks on the bye this week.