Clint's Corner Archive

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The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.

For 9/20/2000

Now or Never...

If the Patriots hope to salvage the 2000 season, they must begin this week with a win in Miami. This is something the Patriots have not done since 1997 when they clinched the AFC Eastern division with a 14-12 victory in the season finale of Monday Night Football. It's unfortunate that the season has come down to a "must win" game in September on the road against one of the AFC's best defenses, but when you start 0-3, you can't exactly cry "no fair."

If there's any good news at all in the Patriots 3 losses, it's that 2 have come against NFC opponents, which in the end don't hurt as much as losses in the AFC when post-season tiebreakers are applied. It's getting a bit ahead of myself to be talking about the playoffs when the team has yet to win a single game, but if I don't talk about it now, I may have to wait until fall 2001 for my next opportunity to do so.

Last season, the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks were two very overrated 9-7 wildcard teams who faced each other in round 1. A team therefore doesn't need to be a good team to make the playoffs, they just need to win 9 games and have a few tie-breaking advantages swing their way. Of the Patriots remaining 13 games, 11 are against the AFC, with 6 of those coming at home.

To get to 9-7, the Patriots must win their remaining home games over the Colts, Jets, Bills, Bengals, Chiefs and Dolphins. They then must win 3 of their remaining 7 road games against the Dolphins, Broncos, Colts, Browns, Lions, Bears and Bills. If you had to pick the "most winable" remaining road game, you'd obviously have to go with Cleveland. Surveying the other 6 road contests to find two more potential wins is tough. The Patriots will never win in Denver, so that's out. Beating the Lions on the road in their annual Thanksgiving game is also probably too much to ask of the 2000 Patriots. Can the Patriots beat an NFC Central team on the road in cold weather? That probably rules out Chicago. Now we're left with Miami, Indy and Buffalo, and you've got to think that Miami is the weakest overall team among those three.

So there you have it. The road to the 2000 playoffs for New England begins in Miami. If the Pats are able to pull the upset (a huge upset if you ask me), then it's OK if they get smoked in Denver the following week. If the Pats return home at 1-4 with a road victory over a division opponent, then there will still be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Am I on drugs for going through all this? No, but I'm not the 1998 Fan of the Year based on my good looks, so what do you expect? I'm just not ready to write this season off just yet.

Get real...

The realist in me sees a team on it's way to 0-5, and 1-7 or at best 2-6 at their bye week. Even with an "easier" 2nd half after the bye week, it won't matter. The Patriots will be playing out the string. Even if they managed to go 6-2 over the 2nd half, they'd still miss the playoffs. What do I honestly think at this point? I think the Patriots have a good team, but will probably end up no better than 7-9. I thought they were an 8-8 team heading into this season, but I was counting on them beating the Vikings at home (I'm still trying to figure out how the defense failed to show up in the 1st half).

In Bledsoe's rookie year of 1993, the Patriots were 1-11 after 12 games. They were the "worst team in the league that nobody wanted to play." Of their 11 losses, 8 were by less than a touchdown, with 6 of those being by 3 points or less. Much like the first three games of this season, the Patriots were almost always competitive, but rarely won. Their 11th loss that season was in Pittsburgh against the eventual AFC Central Champion Steelers. With just a few seconds left on the clock, the Patriots were on the Pittsburgh 1-inch line down 17-14. Rather than kick the "sure" field goal to force overtime, Bill Parcells called for a QB sneak to win the game and Bledsoe was stopped just a fraction short of victory.

Everyone knew the Patriots were better than 1-11, but they were still 1-11. The Patriots went on to win the final 4 games that year, closing out at home with a 38-0 win over the Colts and eliminating Miami from playoff contention 23-17 in overtime. Should the Patriots be merely playing out the string after their bye week, circle December 24th as a possible deja-vu game at home against Miami to close out the 2000 season.

You get what you pay for...

Robert Kraft has been praised for his financial commitment to winning. Following his 1st year as owner, he shelled out a then record breaking signing bonus and contract to a 22-year old 2nd year quarterback. Since that time, Kraft has continued to commit to what he terms the "core players" of the organization. The only problem is that none of those players are playing offense today. Troy Brown was resigned this offseason, but at a bargain for a veteran starting wide receiver. On the other side of the ball, huge deals have been awarded to Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, and Ted Johnson. Cashing in to a lesser extent in the Bob Kraft era are Tedy Bruschi and Chris Slade.

That's fine if you want to build a solid defense, but it's no damn wonder why the Patriots haven't scored more than 20 points in a game since I was trick-or-treating with my then 13-month old daughter and a hand held color television. Has it really been that long? When the Patriots defeated the Cardinals in Arizona last season 27-3, I never figured I'd be thinking about what my now 2-year old daughter and her new 7-month old sister would be wearing this Halloween before the Patriots saw the better side of 20 points again. That dismal streak spans 11 games in which the Patriots are 2-9. When you don't spend any money on offense outside of your quarterback, it's no surprise that said quarterback will struggle, and your starting guards in week 3 weren't even with the team in week 1.

While everyone has been blaming the offense, and more specifically the offensive line for the 0-3 start, you can't say those problems weren't anticipated. Bill Belichick was brought in with his "defensive genius" to turn the millionaire-laden Patriot defense into a monster that could carry the team into the playoffs. So far this season, all the "genius" and the big signing bonuses have brought little more to the defense than a bargain basement offensive line and running back corps have brought to the offense. The defense to date has been as bad, if not worse than the offense.

So far this season, the Patriots opponents have yet to even send their field goal kicker onto the field other than for extra points or kickoffs. That's because the Patriots defense has in effect moved the goal line 20 yards up the field. Tampa Bay was a perfect 3 for 3, and the Jets and Vikings a perfect 2 for 2 in converting red zone offense into touchdowns. That's a collective 0 for 7 for the defense in preventing touchdowns when your opponent crosses the 20-yard line. Bring back Pete Carroll, get rid of Milloy, Law, McGinest, Johnson, Slade, and Bruschi, and a defense could not do worse than an "0-for" in the red zone.

The defense has looked outstanding for stretches in all three games, but overall they have not lived up to their contracts or the "bring in Belichick and we'll win" hype. At the preseason Charitable Foundation dinner, Willie McGinest in his address referred to Belichick as the "Missing Link." Many of the same players who cried "outcoached" in 1999 overwhelmingly supported the hiring of Bill Belichick to succeed Pete Carroll. Now that the team is 0-3, what's the reason? The coach? The players? What? It's not so easy when you don't have Pete Carroll around to blame any more is it?

Flip Flop...

A year ago this time the Patriots were 3-0 and the Jets 0-3 with the Patriots owning a victory in the Meadowlands against the Jets. This year it's the 3-0 Jets who early on notched a victory over the 0-3 Patriots. Over the next 5 weeks, the Patriots improved to 6-2 while the Jets dropped to 2-6. However, when it was all said and done, the Jets finished in 4th place in the AFC East ahead of the 5th place Patriots.

I for one am very interested in this Sunday's 4:00 p.m. contest in Tampa Bay between the Bucs and Jets. We were quick to criticize the Patriots offense in week 1 against Tampa Bay for managing only a touchdown and field goal, but since then the Bucs have obliterated the Bears and Lions a collective 72-10, amassing 12 more sacks in those 2 games. Yeah the Patriots are 0-3 and the Jets are 3-0, but I don't think the teams are as far apart as the records would seem to indicate, as evidenced by their week 2 game in the Meadowlands.

I can't wait to see how the "1st place" Jets, ranked 4th in ESPN's "Power Rankings" handle the Tampa Bay defense. Not that the Patriots will do any better in Miami, but it's always fun to watch the Jets get pounded regardless of where New England's season is headed.

See you next week.