Goodbye Old Friend, Happy Trails

You Will Be Missed.

He utters his boisterous phrase “I’ll go until the wheels come off” until years later he somberly admits, “They’ve finally fallen off.” The seventh round draft pick out of Kent State can no longer lace up the cleats after failing a physical leading to the termination of his contract. A crying shame as another hallmark of the Patriots second dynasty is shown the door.
On the bright side, Edelman won’t lose his entire contract. He’ll still receive $2 million thanks to the injury protection benefit as a part of the leagues collective bargaining agreement. 
I distinctly remember the off-season between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The question of what do we do about star wide receiver Wes Welker dominated the local media. Many assuming Belichick is too cheap to re-sign him and arrogant for believing there was a replacement for him in-house.
Well well well…
To be fair, Danny Amendola also came into town but he cost a pittance compared to what Welker received from Denver. Two-years,$13 million for Welker vs five-years, $31 million for Amendola. 
It’s cliche but Belichick was partaken with the scrappy Edelman while watching his team get decimated by Ohio State 48-3 because despite the lopsided score he hadn’t given up. His high intensity ceased to wane. 
Hard work and determination put Edelman a step below only the great Jerry Rice as a playoff performer. Ranking 2nd in most catches in the playoffs (118). 2nd in most receiving yards in playoff history (1,442). 2nd in most 100-yard receiving games (6). Fifth in most Super Bowl catches (24). Fourth in receiving yards in the Super Bowl (337). 
Put his statistics in January in context vs Rice, Edelman comes out looking even better. Rice played in 29 postseason games, Edelman 19. Both averaged the same amount of catches per game (Rice 5.9 vs Edelman’s 6.2). Finally, of all the Super Bowl MVPs only seven of them had been wide receivers. Lynn Swann, Fred Biletnikoff, Jerry Rice, Deion Branch, Hines Ward, Santino Holmes, and… you guessed it. 
In many ways, Edelman’s departure is a cause of celebration, not grief. He gets to retire with his head held up high, having accomplished so much more than anyone expected of him. From emergency defensive back in the 2011 season to emerging Welker replacement in 2013, and finally Super Bowl MVP in 2018, we may debate whether Edelman is worthy of Canton but there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind he deserves a special place at 2 Patriots Place in Foxboro.

Why Daniel Bryan NEEDS To Win At WrestleMania

This better be the climatic end to an epic triple threat or else it’s another chapter in the utter stupidity of WWE.

French novelist Milan Kundera once said of nostalgia “The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.” 

For years fans older than I have yearned for the time when it used to be “better.” The last time it felt better to them was when the scrappy “B-plus player” Daniel Bryan overcame all the odds, the biases of Vince McMahon and Triple H and won the most prestigious prize in all of wrestling on its grandest stage. 

When the frustrated fans finally reached the illusive levers of power and turned away the corporate approved main event of Batista vs Randy Orton. The returning hero (Batista) taking on the dastardly champion (Orton) who just unified the WWE Championship with the World Heavyweight Championship. Not only to vanquish Orton, but also the recently made authority figure Triple H in a sort of epic clash of the famed stable ‘Evolution.’ 

Fans soundly rejected the premise and the treatment of stars not given their proper due. The sudden departure of the popular C.M Punk only aggravated them further. 

The powers that be will try to spin this as always their intention, but I can assure you their original intentions with WrestleMania XXX was for C.M Punk to face (and likely job to)Triple H; Daniel Bryan to face (and likely job to) Shaemus; and lastly, Batista to face Orton.

With little time to prepare for the sudden departure of one of its highest profile stars, and the main event of its biggest show of the year is at risk of being a historical failure. 

Vince called up Daniel Bryan to save the day. 

Fast forward seven-years later and the wrestling world appears so different, yet is very similar.

A compelling former champion returns to the ring after a decade of being forced away due to injuries. Edge returns holding the fans hearts in his hands. They are well aware of all the pain he’s gone through just to return to the only thing he’s ever wanted to do. 

He enters the Royal Rumble number one and battles 29 other men and comes out on top standing taller than ever. Fans rejoiced. Truly a culmination of all his hard work to return to the ring at the improbable age of forty-seven Edge was well on track to regain the title he never lost. 

He turns heel fifty-days later. Why? Because the WWE can’t book babyfaces to save their damned lives. 

Since winning the Royal Rumble Edge has been whining to anyone within earshot about how unfair it is for Bryan to get a title shot vs Universal Champion Roman Reigns at Fastlane; even if it doesn’t effect Edge in the slightest as is WrestleMania title shot is concrete. Shockingly, this made Edge come off as unlikeable to the fans. 

Yet he persisted and told Bryan to his face before his matchup with Reigns that did nothing to deserve a title shot and needed to step aside (apparently just let the bastard Roman walk into WrestleMania champion is better than having a good guy try and win it beforehand). 

Was he right? Was Daniel Bryan truly undeserving of a title shot at Fastlane? Why let’s see what he’s done as of late:  

  • Lost to Shinsuke Nakamura on January 8 edition of Smackdown and never got his revenge.
  • Lost to Cesaro the following week, didn’t get his revenge.
  • Didn’t win the Royal Rumble
  • Got beat in two-minutes by Roman Reigns at Elimination Chamber.

Doesn’t sound like a deserving candidate to me! But to be fair to Bryan, this isn’t his fault. WWE never had intentions of the thirty-nine year old sneaking into the main event. It was always supposed to be Edge vs Roman Reigns. In the first WWE event with fans in over a year the brass worried that the heel would garner more favorable crowd reaction than the Babyface. 

In comes old goat face again. Now Bryan has a one and three chance of repeating history. In what possibly is his last WrestleMania the stars are aligning in a way where he is the best possible outcome for the main event being him standing tall with the title over the two foes holding him down. After all, Bryan had Reigns tapping in the middle of the ring to the “YES Lock” only for Edge to break it up and assault both him and Reigns.   

So here we are, with two weeks left until WrestleMania Vince is given the option of either Reigns strengthening his stranglehold on the title his held since August 31st, or giving it the man he had to turn heel because they couldn’t get him over as a babyface, or the man that was always over no matter how poorly programmed. 

How do you screw a wonderful, inspirational story like Edge and make him so dreadful? A black mark on the WWE if I’ve ever identified one. In what has become a traditional seemingly is the WWE plans a story for WrestleMania and makes it a complete and utter clusterfuck. The last time the world title matches didn’t have any story to them was ironically last WrestleMania and that was due to the Covid-19 shutting down production of Raw and Smackdown to the point where they were taping the shows in a broom closet otherwise we would have saw Drew McIntyre and Brock Lesnar get involved in all sorts of hijinks! 

How he allowed himself in this position is beyond me. Nonetheless, I do not care that this is my bias talking I am right, Bryan needs to be the winner otherwise this whole journey was not only contrived, confusing and stupid, it also would have been for naught. Edge will can not be a credible champion after all the garbage they’ve made him do. It’ll be a bore to let Roman walk out of ‘Mania still the champion. Doesn’t mean they won’t still do it. But if you really want to create a moment we’ll all remember and essentially forget the slop we’ve been subjected to the last couple months and the injustice you have Reigns or Edge tapping to the “YES Lock” and the closing image being the fans serenading Bryan fireworks color the night sky at Raymond James Stadium. 

The Good News and Only The Good News

You watch how quick the Patriots put ink to paper on the nine players signed in the span of a few hours and tell me tampering is something the NFL cares about corralling with a straight face.

Of course who can blame them? Free agency is the backbone of Twitter’s favorite sport, basketball. I’ve seen a concerted effort on the part of the national and local media in Boston in desperately trying to make free agency as important to the NFL. Huge difference is a basketball team can “win the off-season” and have that lead to actual success. In a player driven league the NBA season is dictated by superstars up and leaving one team they want out of for a variety of reasons and usually wish to team up somewhere. The NBA Finals this year is gonna be between two teams who walked ass backwards into top-10 players despite not being all that well run. Doesn’t matter. The players wanted to go there. Pure and simple. Big markets consume us all. All hail the big markets! Goddamn the winter!

In football you can make a splash signing big names in the off-season and still, for lack of a better word, suck. Which is what makes this event so fascinating as a fan of the Patriots and admirer of Belichick. While he does spend capital more than anyone will give him credit for, I can’t remember a time when the man spent so frivolously.

Don’t get me wrong, “In Bill We Trust.” I will follow that man backwards into Hell without question. If you don’t you’re the insane one. Plus we shouldn’t get enamored with the initially reported price tags. Cam Newton isn’t being paid $14 million. His incentive-laden contract requires him to return to elite form in order to reach his desired benchmark. There are plenty of tricks, to save yourself some wiggle room. 

But why did Belichick spend so much so fast? Did he get the idea after watching his former quarterback win a Super Bowl for another team? Why yes, of course. If you’re a fucking idiot you’d believe this take that is constantly spewed on social media and the bad take men on radio looking for attention. 

The fact of the matter is this is the first year of the NFL’s new cap rule requiring a team to spend 89% of its salary in a four year window and the team was sitting on nearly $60 million in cap space. In 2022 the cap will hopefully grow exponentially with fans certainly returning to the stands. So the Patriots potentially aren’t locking themselves up for as long as we think. We’ll see how that cookie crumbles.

But what about the players they signed? Who are they and why are they here? 

The Patriots roster of 2020 had holes that needed to be addressed. Before you rush to blame bad draft picks and poor player development, I’d like you to let go of the delusion the team that won six Super Bowls would be bad at either of those things. Signing Kyle Van Noy does not mean Bill Belichick does not believe in the young linebacking core. Signing Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne doesn’t mean Belichick has given up on Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry. Just as when they signed Danny Amendola in 2013 did not mean they did not believe in Julian Edelman. Signing Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry does not mean Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene are not long for this earth.

It means the Patriots could not wait around for picks to develop. It means the Patriots have a bunch of money to spend, a league mandate they spend it. What did you want the Patriots to do? I consider myself the biggest N’Keal Harry advocate in the world and while I don’t particularly care about the wide receiver position or believe you need a “Number One” threat to win a championship, I realize the team was very thin heading into the off-season considering Damiere Byrd is likely leaving in free agency. 

So let us run down the list of the newest New England Patriots and what’ll hopefully be the backbone of the Dynasty 3.0:

TE Jonnu Smith – 4 years, $50 millionNT Davon Godchaux – 2 years, $16 millionDB Jalen Mills – 4 years, $24 millions LB Matthew Judon – 4 years, $56 millionWR Nelson Agholor – 2 years, $24 millionWR Kendrick Bourne – 3 years, $15 millionDL Henry Anderson – 2 years, $7 millionTE Hunter Henry – 3 years, $37.5 millionC Ted Karras – 1 year, $4 millionLB Kyle Van Noy – 2 years, $13.2 million DE Montravius Adams – 1 year, $2.5 millionLB Raekwon McMillan – 1 year, $????

Players re-signed:
DE Deatrich Wise Jr. – 4 years, $22 millionQB Cam Newton – 1 year, $14 million DT Carl Davis – TBACB Justin Bethal – 3 years, $6 millionFS Cody Davis – 2 years, $4.3 millionK Nick Folk – 1 year, $1.225 millionC David Andrews – 4 years, $????FB Jakob Johnson – 1 year, $850,000

$297,575,000 spent over the course of a couple days. Half of one percent of the U.S budget of education. Was hoping to make a political statement with these statistics but it didn’t add up. 

Obviously it seems like the Patriots spent like drunken sailers. But let’s not look at the reported numbers and focus on incentives. Performance and in-game bonuses are likely the driver of these giant figures. 

For Smith only $31.25 million is guaranteed. $25 million is guaranteed for Henry. Interestingly enough the tight ends salary for 2021 is a measly $1,000,000 before jumping up to $9 million the next season. $10 million is guaranteed for Wise, who is also getting paid just $1 million for 2021. Judon is also getting paid only $1,000,000 for the season. Kind of amazing how New England spread the money around to minimize potential damages. 

To step away from the accountant side of football, it’s clear the Patriots are moving towards a run-heavy offense, taking advantage of lighter defenses geared towards defending the pass. Smith and Henry are great blockers. Only real blocking tight end they had was Izzo and he was a zero when it came to catching. 

While in the air the Patriots had tons of trouble, the rushing game was elite. Ranking fourth in total yards, third in rushing attempts and sixth in total touchdowns. Between Damian Harris, Cam Newton and Sony Michel the trio gained 1,732 yards on the ground. Though missing most do the season to injury Sony averaged 5.7 yards per attempt. If healthy the duo of Harris and Sony will be lethal.

The little we’ve seen of J.J Taylor was promising. But blocked by Rex Burkhead and James White sidelined 22 year old. With those two likely gone we’ll see a lot more of Taylor. What we lose in the departures of White and Rex is a back that can run and also catch, leading to a loss in diversity in the backfield. In the last game vs the Jets the Patriots targeted Sony for a 33 yard touchdown for his first receiving score of his career. Using recency bias I suppose Belichick will try to make Sony the dual threat back. 

But him and Harris have not caught ten passes in a season and we are unsure of how they’ll perform with the added responsibility.

O the opposite side of the field, good luck gashing this Patriots defense. Third down was their weakest point the previous season. Ranking middle of the pack in getting the last and most crucial stop. Opponents sitting at 40.9% off of 186 attempts. The Patriots even failed to stop teams on fourth down, as opponents had a 56% chance of advancing.

The story last season was the front seven was too old. Veteran Beau Allen was supposed to add something but he found himself on the injury list for all of last season and the team felt his absence. 

The new look like will address this issues. If the offense can avoid going three and out to the extent they did last year they’ll surely improve dramatically. 

The roster at hand looks like an all-timer. Something we’d rave about endlessly if we knew what this team trajectory was. If Brady was still here this would be the best patriots team on paper since 2014. 

Overall, I’m very optimistic in this team. We’re just getting started in the new league calendar year. Too soon to make a huge proclamation. But fans should be overjoyed at the money smartly spent by Bill Belichick and company. 

Cam Is Back. Ho-Hum

All this hysteria for a fifth-fifth highest paid quarterback in the NFL? Cam’s salary, without the bells and whistles, sits at a lowly $5,006,250. $3.5 million is guaranteed. The largest incentive is for $8.5 million for playoffs, being on the original roster of the Pro Bowl, making the All-Pro team, winning the MVP or Super Bowl MVP, etc. Adding up to at maximum $14,000,000. 

So what’s the deal with all the theatrics. Belichick didn’t give Newton the super-max. New England sits prettily at $50,000,000 in cap space and who is to say they are going to settle for Newton as their starter? Newton is being paid less than Chase Daniels and a little more than Jeff Driskel. That doesn’t scream “He’s our guy!” to me. And if it does to you: get help. 

Re-signing Newton is a low risk, high reward proposition. He’ll have a full off-season of OTA, mini-camp, training camp, and pre-season games to get more acclimated to the Patriots offense. To be honest, Newton was the best realistic option for New England. Jimmy Garroppolo and Derek Carr aren’t on the trade block. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jamis Winston and Mitchell Trubisky didn’t intrigue Belichick. The only alternative left was to throw Jarrett Stidham to the wolves and if he couldn’t see the field with Newton playing as poorly as he did at times, then it’s more than likely he isn’t worth the risk. 

Best case scenario is Cam limits the mistakes, takes better care of the ball this season and the Patriots spread the money around to load up at various positions. The defensive line is about to see stalwarts like Adam Butler and Lawerence Guy leave. The secondary is getting slower. At linebacker they are predominately inexperienced. They’ll need to get faster and bigger over the course of the off-season. 

And contrary to popular belief the Patriots did not have a dearth of talent on the offensive side setting up Newton to fail. On the contrary, the much maligned Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry made strides after a sluggish 2019 campaign.  

In 2020 the Patriots passing woes stemmed from Newton’s inability to make good, timely decisions. Most of his misses came from bad reads or over-aggressive passing. He’s too slow when he needs to be lightning quick. He’s too fast when he needs the softer touch. It goes on. 

An indicator of Newton’s woes is the CPOE + EPA Index as that takes into account both a quarterbacks’ completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) and their expected points added (EPA).

Newton ranked 24th in the metric with a poor 0.062 score. Good news for him, it was a slightly better mark than Tom Brady compared to last year after Julian Edelman suffered a severe injury that hampered him for the rest of the season. Brady’s stat was 0.042. 

With a strong rush attack returning, the emergence of Harry and Meyers, and the possibility of Devin Asasi and Dalton Keene playing more the Patriots offense is as a good as ready for 2021. Whether they fail or succeed is anyone’s guess. But I’m not going to advocate wasting money on Kyle Rudolph or paying Harry $700,000 to play for another team because “a change of scenery is needed.” 

The ironic part of the Newton signing is there isn’t much to say besides it doesn’t really matter. If Newton is truly awful this year, throw him out and find a new QB for 2022. If he’s good then you’re a playoff team and if you’re a playoff team in the NFL safe to say anything is possible. 

No. The Celtics Won’t Make a Trade.

Barnes isn’t coming to Boston. Not because the Celtics are run by idiots. But because we’re the only team raked over the coals in trade negotiations

Like many of you I am always online. I have poisoned my brain by reading and re-reading the mind numbing discourse. Not all of it is bad of course. You just have to go on a massive blocking and muting spree to see more of the knowledgeable accounts than the blowhards. 

As the trade deadline nears I don’t enjoy the same comfortability with the Celtics like I do with the Patriots. I don’t blindly trust Danny Ainge like I do Bill Belichick. I’m well aware Ain is fallible. I do also have sympathy for his situation. The MAGA Chud left because he didn’t want to sacrifice two shots per game to win a championship. The Celtics do have a massive $28.5 million trade player exception which we don’t really know what to do with. 

“Just trade for the player that’ll catapult us into the NBA Finals!” Says the average 98.5 listener. After all, it’s only going to cost us end of the bench players like Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford. Right?

Well, no. See, Ainge is a lot of things but he isn’t an idiot. If the Sacramento Kings want to trade Harrison Barnes to Boston for the aforementioned players he’s most definitely packing their backs yesterday. 

Contrary to popular belief the Celtics do have intriguing prospects that can be moved for a player that’ll sufficiently replace the hole Hayward left behind. Standouts like Robert Williams and Payton Pritchard aren’t anything to sneeze at. The Brooklyn Nets would kill for an electrifying offensive threat like Williams. The Clippers desperately need a guard like Pritchard who would self destruct like Lou Williams, Reggie Jackson and Patrick Beverly. 

The question is: is Danny willing to part with either of them to get a player like Barnes?

Besides the outside forces playing large parts in destroying the team, the Celtics do have a massive problem in finding stopgaps for the Jays who are at risk of gassing themselves before the playoffs. Jayson Tatum has voiced his issues breathing properly since returning from his two-week injury stint thanks to a Covid diagnosis. Brad Stevens has responded by upping his minutes per game. Yes, that is unacceptable. But Stevens doesn’t have many options less he risk the offense going into the shitter the few minutes Tatum catches a breather.

So if we add Barnes that’ll fix everything, right? Well, no. See Williams has been a revelation. His rim running and awe inspiring energy gives this doormat squad a much needed B-12 shot. While Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson are solid, their ceiling pales in comparison to what Williams can give the team. 

Three of our best seven players are centers. So Stevens is forced to play two centers at the same time. The Celtics fair much better with Williams next to Theis than Thompson next to Theis. Tristan and Theis played 354 minutes are relatively even in net rating sitting at plus- 0.1. In massive contrast, replacing Thompson with Williams, who has played 66 minutes but their net rating together is a crazy plus -28.5.

Depending where you’re sitting you’re going to look at those numbers and think one of two things:

“This is the perfect time to cash out on Williams who is often injured anyway. We have two centers. Neither of them will stop Embiid or Bam. All we needed last year was a healthy Hayward. Barnes is THE difference maker.”

Or…

“Things have only been bad because Marcus Smart has been missing in action for over a month. The emergence of Williams is the Celtics X-Factor. This team as currently constructed can overcome Toronto, Philadelphia, New York, and any team not in Brooklyn’s.”

Neither is a bad take necessarily. An argument can be made the last thing this team needs is more Thompson. A solid big. But his role needs to be minimized. 

Then there is Pritchard. All the dark energy conjured upon his being drafted transferred into him becoming a positive force. Funny how that works. 

Similar to the Williams conundrum there is a lesser player that’ll see a rise in playing time if Pritchard is shuttled off and his name is Jeff Teague. Yeah, he’s had a strong four games prior to the All-Star Break but I’m not putting any stock into that. You don’t want Teague being your backup point guard. 

If the Celtics do what the Felgers and Mazz’s want them to do and trade players that are more vital to this roster than anyone can really comprehend it’ll likely open up a new set of issues the Celtics don’t have the personnel to deal with.

And so it is, write this in stone… the Boston Celtics will not make a trade this deadline. So calm down, stop speculating and shoe-pissing. 

Yes, I am mostly talking to myself. 

This Season Belongs To The Haters

On my sixth cup of coffee listening to “Here’s That Rainey Day” by Sammy Davis Jr. and Laurindo Almeida. The loses continue to pile up as the injures resist to subside. The resilient bunch I’ve grown to adore have been flattened. Our top-four guys logging a mere 28 minutes of time together. The ever revolving door of cast members causing an already top heavy roster to go into free fall.

Could it be the departure of the often injured Gordon Hayward had more of an impact than I’m willing to admit? If you ask me the way this season is progression the Celtics could have kept him in place and he’d certainly catch coronavirus after a hot start to the season, similar to last year when a Hayward renaissance came to abrupt end due to a broken hand thanks to a hard screen set by LaMarcus Aldridge.

The nerds will never admit it. The media idiots will never admit it. But no matter who Boston brought in the circumstances of this season was going to undo them before they even began. If everyone is playing under the plague you’ll have your benefactors and victims. The Sixers are certainly benefactors. Rarely having to play the opponents best players. The Celtics are the victims. Always missing a key bullet in the chamber.

I am outraged. Not to mention exhausted. What should the Celtics do with the $28 million trade exception? Should they let a season of Tatum and Brown go to waste? Quite possibly it’s already done that. Unless Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have access to those vaccines Governor Andrew Cuomo is literally flushing down the toilet then nothing will change. The effects of this season will be felt for a generation even after Tatum’s career has been said and done.

The Nick Wright and Laker/LeBron cheerleaders will gloat that another year has come and passed and Boston has not won the championship. Tatum will be labeled overrated despite himself being open to the fact his lungs are still damaged as it hampers his stamina. Doesn’t matter. He’s a loser. The ghouls at ESPN, Bleacher Report, FS1 and TNT will dance on his grave. If only the Celtics franchise players could avoid traumatic fates they would have won more than one title since Larry Bird booted the Houston Rockets in ‘86. 

Len Bias. Reggie Lewis. Gordon Hayward. And now Jayson Tatum. Life isn’t fair. 

The narrative will be a cash-strapped Ainge should have worked some magic and landed a star to compliment Jaylen and Jayson. The Myles Turner/Gordon Hayward negotiations will go down as misappropriated criticism of Ainge as people will happily omit the fact regardless if the two parties came to an agreement the moratorium period still left Hayward as a free agent. Michael Jordan is still calling and offering him more money than the Pacers could have given.

I am no fan of Brad Stevens. I find his choice of rotations and passive manner rather vexing. However, the man isn’t operating with a full deck this season. A closer than it should have been contest vs Detroit last week ended in defeat when the already shorthanded Celtics missing Kemba and Smart couldn’t even keep Semi Ojeleye in the final period thanks to a leg injury.  

Meanwhile Grant Williams is running at least one fast brea for us a game. What are we doing here? This isn’t fair. The utter Hell that is the real world has infected our fairytale that is professional sports. 

For all intents and purposes the Celtics this season are done. It brings me no joy to say this. Only tears. I need my escapism. I want it. A las, I will not receive what I desperately desire. 

The blowhards will bust at our downfall. For it is their world we’re living in. 

The Celtics winning anything at this point is what I’d consider a political statement. One against the cold nature posters search for clout. A Celtics win is a victory for hope. A strike against the evil NBA front office shuttling players into Covid hot-spots around the country for escrow. A victory over the bourgeoisie NBAPA designed only so players like Chris Paul can get himself the supermax while being cavalier in their indifference towards their teammates catching a life threatening illness. 

Adam Silver is evil. All sports is evil. Everyone who covers it for a living is evil. Cold. Lacking empathy. Wannabe Ben Shapiros. (I know he calls himself a Celtics fan. That man has never watched a game in his life.)

They dance on our graves every day on social media and on our TV screens. How I loathe  them. 

What Have We Learned?

Kemba from a long time ago. But I just like the Yankees cap

Remember when I said the Celtics have weathered the storm after an 8-3 start and looked forward to Kemba Walker’s return? Could we go back to that time. When the sky was the limit. As opposed to now when it’s falling. 

Granted it’s falling for reasons out of the teams control. Injuries, coronavirus and a horrible schedule filled with back to backs to maximize profits and get the NBA back on the normal full 82-game October to April timeline. Yes, every team has dealt with these same issues but somebody had to benefit from the chaos. (Cc: Lakers, Sixers, Utah)

From the cream of the crop the Celtics have fallen to the middle of the pack losing 11 of their last seventeen games. Is that bad? Yes. Oh, God yes! Is there context? Certainly. Kemba, Jaylen and Jayson haven’t played much at all together. The glue to the whole foundation, Marcus Smart, tore his calf vs Los Angeles weeks ago. Players have shuffled in and out of lineups and it doesn’t help that Walker cannot play on back to backs and the schedule is filled with those.

On the bright side, the role players we’ve complained about in the past have bared fruit. Semi Ojeleye this season is almost a complete different player in every sense of the word from last season. He is no longer a liability on the offensive end and can hold his own. Shooting a nice 37% from three on 3.3 attempts. Grant Williams rebounded from a sluggish start clearly needing reps to get his groove back. Since the start of February Grant’s short 41% from deep on 2.7 attempts. If the Celtics can get healthy they’ll likely find themselves in round three with a more experienced bench and that is the difference between being conference runner-ups and NBA Finalist. 

While the loses piled up pundits pointed to the acquisitions of Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague as the reasons for the teams follies. While Teague is horrendous to the point I cannot keep up the irony driven facade, I do not understand the anger towards Thompson. Last season Daniel Theis served as Boston’s lone reliable big. The alternative being Enes Kanter. Robert Williams spent much of 2019-20 injured and didn’t show up until the postseason. He did show flashes, but a guard like Goran Dragic running a pick-and-roll cooked the spry young center like nothing.

People complain Thompson doesn’t fit and Serge Ibaka should have been on Danny’s radar instead. Except Ibaka likely did not want to come here. Having spent years in Toronto Ibaka likely wanted to head somewhere warm. That’s free agency in basketball for you. If you’re not a big market you can get fucked. 

Thompson perhaps is too traditional for the Celtics system. Watching him grab a rebound only to pogo stick it up can grow tiresome. For once I’d like to see him kick it out. Instead of pushing off with his elbow and tossing a miserable hook shot.

That being said, he is still pretty good and while a step below Clint Capela, Tristan can still rebound and set screens. In his last nine-games Thompson’s shot 59% from the field and simply played better than when he began the season. If the Celtics crater it won’t be because of a guy they signed to play backup center.

Lastly, there is the matter of how is Kemba fairing since his return. He’s been rather sluggish to start so naturally we all declared him finished and the Celtics must Trade him. I mean, this is your max guy and he can’t score! What in the… what’s that? You’re telling me in the last four games he’s played the Celtics have won 3 of them and has averaged 22 points on 48 percent shooting? 

And who would have thunk it, The Jays play great when they aren’t the sole sources for points and the offense isn’t so suffocating. But by all means, crown the Sixers. 

So what have we learned? That this is a marathon and not a sprint. There are still plenty of bad times ahead of us but we also have seen this team shown signs that they are far better than this and deserve the “wait and see” treatment. 

Now, does this mean Ainge should use that $28.5 million TPE nobody will shut up about? Are you kidding? Of course not. There’s no guarantee our players will avoid catching coronavirus. Tatum recently said he still cannot breathe properly and gets fatigued faster than before. This’ll hurt to say but we have to let this season go. We don’t know if we’re playing with a full deck. No one player will fix all of our complex woes.

That TPE expires in November by the way. So the Celtics could hold on to it until the off-season when, hopefully, this mess is all over and the world returns to some form of normalcy. 

What-If The Patriots Won Super Bowl XXXI?

We Had Curtis Martin. Then Lost Him In Free Agency. Doesn’t That Make You Mad?

The confetti flew down the Louisiana Superdome, the painter on AstroTurf field plastered with green and white pieces of shredded up paper. Bret Farve and the tight ship ran Green Bay Packers achieved football immortality while the bonkers New England Patriots walked into uncertainty. Their head coach, their guarding spirit and protector Bill Parcells did not mince words about his displeasure working for owner Robert Kraft. 

It’s been talked to death that Kraft did not let Parcells “buy the grocers” while people don’t know much about the situation beyond him not wanting to draft Terry Glenn. A talented wide receiver “Big Tuna” casually derided by referring to him as “She.” 

Parcells original plan for the 1996 draft was to select defensive back Tony Brackens with the seventh pick and receiver Mushin Muhammad 36th. Instead the Patriots got Glenn and strong safety Lawyer Milloy.

Glenn had four seasons catching passes for over a thousand yards and made the Patriots All-Decade Team for the 1990s. Milloy made four Pro Bowls and of course was a gigantic reason they won the Super Bowl on 2001. 

The year before despite a strong rushing game and featuring the pre-cursor to Gronkowski in Ben Coates, and Shawn Jefferson the Patriots couldn’t score in the red zone. Bledsoe ranked in the bottom tier of QBs in completion percentage in the red zone (34.65) and touchdowns (8). All timers Stan Humphries and Gus Freotte were superior than the QB taken no. 1 overall.

The implementation of Glenn opened up avenues for the stagnant offense. Bledsoe went from one of the worse QBs in the red zone to one of the best. His mark of 20 touchdowns only paled to Farve’s 24. His 54 completion percentage was a gigantic step forward. 

Glenn’s 4.29 speed and huge hands no doubt played a role in alternating the complexion of the offense. Kraft picked some mighty fine groceries even if Parcells thought otherwise. 

Of course, Parcells grips about not bolstering the defense is understandable. The 1995 season was mired by ineptitude on both sides of the ball. Defensively the Patriots gave up 360.3 yards a game, a mark worthy of bottom of the league status. Bill Belichick was brought aboard after the Cleveland Browns franchise moved to Baltimore and did not retain him as head coach to fix these holes.

In a year’s span the Patriots defense improved from allowing 23.6 points a game to 19.6 winning one more game to cultivate a record of 11-5. A big reason for this was Belichick scrapping the 3-4 defensive scheme which one him two championships while serving as the defensive coordinator for Parcell’s Giants. The 4-3 alignment was to compliment third-year linebacker Willie McGinest by moving him up to defensive end. Linebacker Ted Johnson succeeded team caption Vincent Brown when he had to undergo double knee surgery. The second year player stepped up in a major way.

Regardless of the behind the scenes dysfunction ultimately made public by a scorned coach plotting his departure, the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl. By no means a small accomplishment. Drew Bledsoe was a lot Jimmy Garoppolo. A high volume passer prone to throwing interceptions mixed with beautiful bombs to the end zone. If you’re asking him to bail you out you have the wrong quarterback. Saddle him with a fantastic running game and you’re on to something.

Enter Curtis Martin. The New York Jet great cut his teeth as a Patriot. In his first two seasons the Pittsburgh product rushed for 2,639 yards and 28 touchdowns. Making two All-Pro teams and utterly dominated the elite rushing defense of the Steelers in the playoffs scoring 3 touchdowns and 166 yards.  

Entering Super Bowl XXXI the league’s second best offense were fourteen point underdogs to the leagues best defense. 

The contest opened up in style. Farve got the Patriots on the canvas early with a 54-yard bomb to Andre Rison in the Packers second offensive snap. The ensuing Patriots drive ended abruptly when Packers defensive back Doug Evans intercepted a Bledsoe pass. But the Patriots D stood firm (PHRASING) and held the Pack to a field goal. 10-0 and the fans barley had a chance to get drunk. 

Perhaps the outside noise was too much?

But wait. The Patriots did no go quietly into the night. Back-to-back touchdown drives led by the shaky Bledsoe. Catches by fullback Keith Byers and tight end Coates roared the Patriots into the lead 14-10. In the previous 30 Super Bowls no team scored 14 points in the opening quarter and loss the game. Surely fate would not be cruel in making the once lowly Patriots be the first sacrificial lamb?

Well shit. The mad bomber known as Farve connected on an 81-yard bomb to Antonio Freeman, and the next Packers drive Chris Jackie hit his second field goal of the night. Pack back in the lead. But only by six. With little under eight-minutes remaining in the half the Patriots appeared to be driving down to at least get three points before the first half expires. 

Bledsoe hit Coates for 19-yards to get the Patriots to the 44-yard line. So far, Bledsoe has done himself fair. 10-19, 150 yards and 2 touchdowns. What follows is his utter implosion. A long pass intended for Jefferson landed in the arms of Packers d-back Mike Prior. Bledsoe would finish the game not throwing another touchdown, and throwing 4 interceptions, getting sacked 5 times. 

The Packers went down and scored again. Now up 13 as the gun sounded signifying the end of first half play. Not only did New England squander an opportunity to retake control, they dug themselves a bigger hole. 

Ah, but the Football Gods would have one last tease for the Patriots. Taking advantage of excellent field position, the Patriots began their drive at their own 47-yard line. It took a meager seven plays to drive the rest of the way culminating in an 18-yard rush by the aforementioned Martin. Holy shit! They aren’t dead. Reggie White is gasping for air on the sidelines. The Packers offense won’t score again on us. The Patriots are going to win…

Wait… why is Adam Vinatieri kicking it to Desmond Howard. No. Wait! Don’t do that. 

Welp. He scored. We lost. We’re done for. Ever stopped and pondered if the Packers retained their returning ace Farve would have won that Super Bowl vs Denver the following year?

Anyways, New England lost. Closing the door on the four seasons of the Parcell’s era where he brought the team back to respectability after a dismissal period between 1987 and ‘92.

Lost in the defeat was the fact the defense cleaned up Bledsoe’s messes. If he could have thrown just one fewer interception and if future hero Vinatieri did not kick it to Howard the Patriots probably win that contest 27-21 with the former being the MVP. 

Could you imagine Super Bowl champion and MVP Drew Bledsoe? It’s more unbelievable than a Donald Trump presidency. That’s not a joke. In hindsight Bledsoe wasn’t a hard working QB despite his skills. 

But this article is about what-if the improbable happened? What if the Patriots pulled off a similar feat of that the 1977 New York Yankees? What-if Foxboro Was Burning?

For starters, it’s likely Kraft hires Belichick as Parcell’s replacement from the jump as opposed to taking that detour with Pete Carroll. 

I don’t know how Belichick drafts or molds the roster. But the Carroll and Bobby Grier era was defined by a mismanagement of the salary cap sending the Patriots to cap jail. Coates and center Bruce Armstrong saw the chopping block the first year Belichick assumed general manager duties in 2000. Coates had a cap hit of $3.46 million entering 2000 and his 1999 campaign was mired by injures and a sharp decline in productivity. Armstrong had been a Patriot since 1987 and while also at the end of his rope Belichick did try to keep him aboard as a veteran presence. Asking him to shave off $1.5 million off his $3.5 figure. Armstrong refused and his career was called. 

The money saved in these cost cutting measures allowed the Patriots to retain Milloy on what was the highest paid contract for a safety. Seven-years, $35 million. 

Carroll and Grier were guilty of getting complacent and being antipodal to hard-liners like Parcells. You get what you’re worth and not a penny more. It sucks being a curmudgeon is what it takes to win championships in football, but it is what it is. The players assumed control and ran roughshod over management. In a short span of time the overachieving Patriots of 1996 became underachievers in 1997 and 1998 until falling back into obscurity in 1999. 

If the Patriots changed Super Bowl’s 31 L into a W the dynasty probably dates back five-years sooner than it does in our timeline. Maybe they make it to an extra Super Bowl in the Bledsoe era? Does the additional success make Belichick reconsider scrapping Bledsoe for Brady? While Bledsoe did sign a 10-year contract prior to the 2001 season the move translates to more of a Kraft decision than a Belichick one. He never seemed that eager to give the reigns back to the quarterback or more pedigree than the 199th overall pick.

Calm Down, Life Is Meaningless After All

Win. Lose. Who Cares? Nick Wright Still Gets His Damn Check In The Mail

Seventeen games in and already I am emotionally exhausted. The wins are nice, the loses are merely a nuisance. Running the gauntlet beginning when we waited for Kemba to return, then Jayson Tatum caught coronavirus and the Celtics fell from first place to middle of the pact after losing four of their last six games. 

Now the Philadelphia 76ers are the toast of the town. Suddenly it doesn’t matter your number one pick can’t rise above his rookie averages. The Lakers are lauded for their ability to win on the road despite arenas not having any fans in the building. The discourse is toxic and as always downright idiotic.

Years of every defeat being the end of the world and our short term memories. Maybe these loses are indicative of the bigger flaws that’ll ultimately hold this team back. Or maybe a loss is simply a loss. I don’t know and to be honest fans shouldn’t care. What is in it for you to freak out constantly? You’re never going to be in a position of power to make the decisions you meticulously analyze. Nor are you going to get the satisfaction of your least favorite pundits eating crow if the day you’ve spent years dreaming of finally happens.

No sir. We are living the life of futility. Where are moods hinge on whether strangers wearing our uniforms perform adequately enough to secure a victory in a very long season where seeding is almost pointless given the aforementioned fact fans are not permitted into the arenas due to a plague currently ravaging the United States in horrific ways thanks to the failures of free market capitalism. 

If you ask me Brad Stevens should simply limit Tristan Thompson’s minutes time below fifteen, enhance Daniel Theis and Robert Williams’ roles on the team and we’ll all be better off for it. 

The Celtics Have Weathered The Storm

Life Is Easy When You Have Two MVP Candidates On Your Team

Heading into this season pessimism defined the mood of Celtics fans. Some of the reasons for it was understandable: the absence of Kemba Walker to begin the season and the critics poo-pooing Ainge’s drafting order Payton Pritchard, many believed the Celtics wouldn’t even be in the top-six in the eastern conference. 

Yes, really. People are this stupid. Personally, I feel it was a combination of pundits not watching basketball, taking their cues from Twitter and getting distracted by the new shiny objects as the league once again reshuffled its deck while the Celtics returned largely the same as the previous season. Their lone acquisition of consequence in free agency was Tristan Thompson. 

The departure of Gordon Hayward in rather abrupt fashion, pulling the rug out from not only the Celtics who hoped to trade the often injured star, but also their trad partner the Indiana Pacers. To put it bluntly, the Celtics not trading for Myles Turner because Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan is an impulsive maniac is why this team is destined to suck. 

While nobody in Boston adores the two big man lineup of Daniel Theis playing power forward while the embodiment of toxic masculinity Tristan Thompson mans the center position, as individuals they’ve done similarly to Turner in the aggregate. 

When Thompson is the lone big his net rating is a healthy plus-17.5 in the little over hundred minutes he’s logged in. When together Theis and Thompson share a putrid negative-19.4 net rating. Keeping current with this trend when Theis is the lone big his net rating an even zero. Which is kind of a big jump given how he’s played the majority of the season out of position. 

The reasoning behind the double big lineups is solely so Stevens can fit all his productive players in their respective roles and maximize the time they’ll see the floor. The logic is sound, then you constantly see teams rain threes over our bigs and dig us into early holes. 

For years Boston fans vexed at the constant issues of not having enough bigs. Now they have three thanks to the emergence of Robert Williams and his unlikely alley-op partner in crime Payton “The Piss Man” Pritchard. 

The once maligned first round pick has acted as a savior for the Celtics. Yes, I understand this team fields two MVP candidates but the donut hole left by Kemba would have been felt if Pritchard wasn’t around. His shooting, his creation for himself and others have been a needed breath of fresh air. Since Jeff Teague has not worked out as of yet, Pritchard has been the difference maker for the Celts being atop of the East. 

Another unexpected bright spot has been the emergence of Semi Ojeleye as a respectable three-and-D off the bench threat is… shocking. Just from the basic stats Ojeleye’s jump caused me to do a double take. Last season he hit only rim, compiling 40/37/87 splits. This season, given a bigger role thanks to the departure of Hayward he’s excelled! 46/42/61. Now his free throw shooting has gone into the toilet, but the story is Semi is one of the reasons the Celtics didn’t beat the Heat last season and now he’s better. 

And lastly: Kemba Walker is back. Potentially tomorrow vs the New York Knicks. For all intents and purposes the Celtics have survived the storm. They are a deeper team than before and possess the tools necessary to better their roster. 

Yes, the Nets are insanely talented and scary, but I implore fans to just be happy and enjoy the ride. Leave the pessimism and hysterics to me.