Picking up the pieces after Super Bowl LIII …
1. To be as malleable as the Patriots are, it takes a certain kind of player with a certain kind of work ethic and football IQ to fit in with the team. When they’ve won in the past, the guys in charge have had no problem conceding how hard it is to be in their program, and last night was no exception.
“Look, it’s no secret we work hard in this program, we demand a lot from the players, but they give us a lot in return and they left everything out on the field,” VP of player personnel Nick Caserio told me from the field, minutes after Patriots secured their sixth Super Bowl title. “Every week was different, every game was different. I’m sure if you looked at this game and thought that this was how it was going to go, no one would have thought that. So you take each game as it comes, you take each play, and our guys have that mentality. They work so hard and they work for one another which is really, I mean, it’s a credit to them.”
2. And maybe that’s what Kyle Van Noy meant last night, when he explained to me what his view of the Patriots roster is: “We don’t got stars here, we’ve got elite football players and that’s what I keep telling everybody. We’ve got elite football players. If you watch that game, you’re gonna see high-level, elite football players.”
The difference between stars and elite football players? “They go to work, they don’t talk, they’re about that action, and they’re about winning,” Van Noy said. “And they play. Their stats and all that stuff is to the side, and they worry about winning.” It wasn’t hard to see the buy-in that Van Noy is referencing in how Patriots played to their coaching on Sunday.
3. Patriots pass rusher Trey Flowers—who rapped with Meek Mill on stage at the Super Bowl postgame party—made himself a bunch of money over the last three weeks as a constant presence in the faces of quarterbacks. Over three playoff games, he had two sacks and six quarterback hits. And he could be the beneficiary of pending free agents—like Dee Ford, Frank Clark and Jadeveon Clowney—getting franchised. Plenty of teams have been gearing up to pay for pass-rushers this offseason, with a bumper crop of free agents expected. If a bunch of those guys come off the market, supply and demand will tilt in Flowers’s favor.
4. When Tom Brady does decide to walk away from the NFL, one thing that will make it very difficult for him will be finding something to replace football in his life. I don’t believe finding a happy ending, like last night could framed, will have anything to do with it. I think he plays because he loves every part of it, even the Monday-to-Saturday part that drives most players away as they age. And most of all, I think he loves the competition. Eventually, not having that will leave a hole in who he is. How he thinks he can fill it will be, I think, a factor whenever he actually seriously considers walking.
5. One man’s opinion: Seeing him in person, Todd Gurley didn’t look quite as explosive or agile as usual. And it’s hard to believe he’s not fighting something with his knee. I’ve been told that nothing worsened during the playoffs, so it was status quo through the Rams’ last three games. But maybe it was status quo at a level a good chunk short of 100%.
6. I’m told that Patriots receiver coach Chad O’Shea is expected to travel to South Florida this week, maybe after New England’s Tuesday parade, to finalize a deal to become Dolphins offensive coordinator under Brian Flores. O’Shea, of course, is the position coach who took Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman from college quarterback to NFL receiver over the last 10 years.
7. There is more coaching movement coming with Flores off to Miami and Rams QBs coach Zac Taylor going to Cincinnati, with those guys plucking others off staffs elsewhere to fill out their own staffs. One such name on the move is Raiders quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan, set to be Taylor’s OC with the Bengals. My understanding is the Raiders are considering just having OC Greg Olson take on Callahan’s responsibility and serve in a dual role.
8. The bigger question is still who’ll run the Bengals defense under Taylor. The new head coach is pursuing the Rams model—looking for his own Wade Phillips, an experienced hand to run the other side of the ball. He’s kicked tires on Jack Del Rio, John Fox and Mike Nolan, and I’d probably see those three ranking just like that, in terms of their chances at the job.
9. Eagles QB Carson Wentz sat down with a handful of local reporters, including Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, to clear the air after a Philly Voice story called into question his character and place in the locker room—and I like the self-awareness in how he came off. “I realize I have my shortcomings,” Wentz told the group. “Yes, I can be selfish. I think we all have selfishness inside of us. There’s human elements to that, that I really look at and say, ‘Well, I can get better.’”
Wentz is intense, and that rubs some the wrong way, but he’s also not the first quarterback to not be universally loved in his locker room. The nice thing here, for the Eagles, is that he’s at the very least cognizant of it, and wants to work on it.
10. Adrian Peterson told TMZ he wants to play “maybe two or three more years”, and I’m done doubting that he can do these things. As is the case with Brady, the normal rules don’t apply to him—which is something the Redskins saw last year from the moment they brought him in for a workout, and Jay Gruden failed in his effort to test Peterson’s stamina by trying to wear the 32-year-old down. Just doesn’t seem smart to bet against Peterson doing something else ridiculous next year or even the year after that.
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