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 5/1/1999

It’s not about the money...

With each passing season in professional sports, it unfortunately becomes more and more clear that it is "about the money." When we listen to Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn tell us how much they want to stay in Boston, then turn down millions for more millions, it’s all too obvious where their priorities lie. Clemens left a contender for the then division cellar dweller, while Maurice Vaughn had no problem moving 3,000 miles away from "home," turning down over $11 million annually to remain with the Sox. Twenty-two year old Antoine Walker was a "victim" of the recent NBA labor strife, being forced to settle for over $70 million over 6 years. Patriots DB Ty Law will be a free agent at the end of next season, and he told a national TV audience as a guest on "The Last Word" that he would sign with whoever offered him the most money. At least Ty Law is honest.

It’s not just the players. Coaches like Jimmy Johnson, Mike Holmgren, and Bill Parcells all left winning organizations they helped to build for more power, more control, and yes, much, much more money. Even the immortal Vince Lombardi left the Packers for greener pastures with the Washington Redskins.

As bad as the players and coaches have become, the owners aren’t any better. What kind of man uproots one of the most devoutly followed and history laded NFL franchises of all time and moves them to Baltimore? You’ll have to ask Art Modell. Following the Browns were the Oilers and Rams, moving from major TV markets for the promise of a fatter paycheck. Where is the justice when the owner of the Florida Marlins has to intentionally lose millions and millions of dollars to field a competitive team? As you know, the fire sale began shortly after the 1997 World Series.

For years, and perhaps decades, the sports world has been in search of someone, anyone, who truly was not about the money. There are a few out there, such as Raymond Bourque of the Bruins, but what Robert Kraft did on Saturday by turning down a reported $1 Billion dollar pact is unprecedented in all of professional sports. In a day and age when players turn in their team colors and move thousands of miles away for $13 million over $12 million, Bob Kraft’s decision is nothing short of remarkable.

Local press and leadership seem to agree. Here is sample reaction from around the Boston area:

Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough -

"How many people can walk away from the richest deal offered by a state to an owner in the history of sports? That's what Bob Kraft did yesterday, and he deserves all of the credit in the world for doing it. No deal anywhere, in any sport, was more lucrative than the one Rowland put on the line. But at the end of the day, Kraft stayed here for short money. The Massachusetts deal is just about the worst any owner has had to accept to stay put in the National Football League. Now that Kraft has proven for the second time that it is not about the money, it is time for the state to act as expeditiously as possible to move this project forward."

Patrick Sullivan, son of New England Patriot founder William H. Sullivan -

"The Krafts have been great owners of the team. Bob and Myra Kraft are two of the most generous people you'll ever find in the Boston area. They have done so much good for so many people. And now Bob has stepped up and turned down a lot of money to keep the team where he feels it belongs. That's great. It really shows his commitment to the people of this area and I think dad had that commitment as well."

House Speaker Thomas Finneran -

"I think Mr. Kraft deserves an awful lot of credit for making the decision that he made."

Senate President Thomas Birmingham -

"He clearly was willing to sacrifice more advantageous terms in other jurisdictions because he wanted to keep the team in Massachusetts."

Political Consultant Charles Manning -

"By taking less money to keep the team here, he is making a contribution to the community unlike any we have seen in a long time. I think he will be seen as a public hero."

The X’s and O’s...

Lest I seem too mushy about Bob Kraft’s decision, let me point out that it’s not like the Patriots will lose money in a newly-constructed, privately financed Foxboro Stadium. With the help of $70 Million in taxpayer funded infrastructure improvements, Kraft will now set out to build his own $250 Million stadium on land he already owns. The NFL, in a resolution that Kraft himself helped to draft, will chip in nearly half the cost of construction in the form of a low interest loan. Over the next 10 years, Kraft will pay about $5 Million per year on that note. If the Kraft family still owns the team when those 10 years are up, the remaining principal will be forgiven.

Kraft will still have to come up with hundreds of millions of his own money, and also pay the state $1.4 Million per year for consideration of public money being spent on private property. However, no matter the monthly payments, Kraft will own the stadium, not lease it. Hartford was going to let the Patriots play rent free in their new $374 Million facility, but throughout and at the end of the lease, the stadium would belong to the (insane) taxpayers of the Nutmeg State. With the Washington Redskins recently selling for a reported $800 Million, what will the Patriots be worth when they open play in their own new stadium in 2001? The numbers are simply staggering.

As lucrative as the team will be in their new Foxboro facility, the Krafts would have, at a minimum, quintupled their revenues had they stuck to the sweat heart deal passed by the Connecticut Legislature. With revenue guarantees and stadium maintenance, the total value of the package was said to exceed $1 Billion over the life of the deal. Even to a multi-millionaire like Kraft, that’s a lot to turn your back on, and for that he deserves to be commended.

I attended my first Patriots home game in 1984, and have been sitting in the same seat in section 108 since 1986, missing less than 10 games over the past 13 seasons. As outdated, uncomfortable, and inconvenient as Foxboro stadium is, I for one will miss ‘er when she’s torn down. However, being a new father, I can now look very much forward to taking my daughter Alyson (and God willing another child or two) to see the Patriots play at home right here in Massachusetts, just as my Dad did for me. If Art Modell, Bud Adams, Mo Vaughn, or Roger Clemens owned the Patriots, that would not be possible.

Just as in 1993, Bob Kraft has once again saved the Patriots.

Back to football...

Ok, ok, lets wipe away the tears of joy here and get back to the game on the field. I know it’s been a while since my last column, and the draft is old news, but I’d still like to throw in my two cents.

Going into the draft, I personally felt the Patriots greatest needs were in four areas: 1) offensive line, 2) offensive line, 3) running back, 4) offensive line. Given that order, I was pleased that the Patriots used their #1 overall selection to bolster the front line. Did the Patriots give up to much to move from #20 to #17? Yes. Do I care? No. After drafting Damien Woody, the Patriots still made 7 more selections. Getting 8 players into camp, with 4 being in the top 100 chosen, will keep Andy Wasynczuk busy. Handing him 11 players would have been a lot to ask, and that’s also a lot of cap room and signing bonuses to give 11 players trying to make a 53-man roster. The Pats gave up a #3 and a #6 to move up, but still had a pick remaining in each of those rounds. If this helps matters, think of the deal as a #3 and Lovett Purnell.

In Woody (6-3, 328, 5.1), the Pats get one of the more dominating college centers in recent memory. This is not a guard-to-center project. Woody started at center day 1 for Boston College, and was the leader and anchor of one of the best lines in all of college football. If Woody gets into camp on time, participates in the off season conditioning program, and takes the playbook to bed with him at night, he’s your starting center September 12th in the Meadowlands, and for many, many years to come. In a sense, the Pats get two players in one pick. Heath "cap friendly" Irwin is now the #1 ranked contender to supplant either Rucci or Lane at guard.

When the Patriots used their final Bill Parcells compensation pick on MLB Andy Katzenmoyer, my original reaction was "why?" Yeah, this guy is good. Yeah, he should not have been on the board at #28, but the Pats still needed more help on the line, not to mention a running back. At the time, I felt the Pats could have traded down and gotten some quality picks in the 2nd round. Since the selection, however, I have grown to become enamored of this "sicko" football machine from Ohio State. As one friend of mine put it, "this guy is Ted Johnson with an ice pick in his head."

At 6-2, 260, the Big Kat still runs a 4.5 40. That alone could spell trouble for Chris Canty at the corner spot. There are some criticisms of his game, in that he can be blocked straight on and he regressed his junior year, but all the draft guides I read had this guy going between #10 and #20 in the 1st round. He was the standout of the rookie mini-camp, even impressing many of the veterans, who usually don’t even give rookies a second glance.

Like or hate him as a head coach, Carroll is a great defensive mind. I’m sure Coach Pete is already drooling at the prospect of an opening day linebacking trio of Slade, Johnson, and Katzenmoyer. Rest assured that Carroll knows exactly how to use this guy effectively to wreak havoc in the opponents backfield.

In drafting Kevin Faulk #46 overall in the 2nd round, the Patriots got the running back they desperately needed, but have in no way replaced Robert Edwards. In 1998, Edwards proved more than worthy of the 18th overall selection, carrying the ball 291 times for 1,115 yards and 9 scores. Edwards was also a weapon in the passing game, collecting 35 receptions and 3 scoring passes. Edwards faded a bit down the stretch, but he showed more than enough to believe the Pats had their 215 lb. workhorse of the future.

Faulk is a very talented football player, but you’re not likely to see too many 27 carry 125 yard games from the 5-7, 200lb back from LSU. From war room to war room, most scouts had Faulk tabbed as a 3rd down back and a kick returner. The Pats were wise not to take a RB at #28, as there wasn’t one worth taking that high. By waiting until the 2nd round, the Pats tabbed a talented burner without over paying. As the roster stands now, either Faulk, Lamont Warren, or Harold Shaw will get the 1st carry of the 1999 season. Neither is what at this time you would call an every down back. Unless one of those three proves everyone wrong, the Pats will miss Robert Edwards a lot more than they missed Curtis Martin, who because of Edwards was really not missed at all.

The Pats followed by selecting S Tony George (5-10, 198, 4.5) of Florida. He is not likely to supplant Milloy or Clay as a starter, but he’ll certainly upgrade the nickel and dime, which was the Achilles heel of the Pats defense last season. Sixth-round CB Marcus Washington (6-1, 219, 4.5) is also a good shot to make the team in the dime package. Both of these guys are gifted athletes who will be given the chance to develop behind the current starters. At the very least, these guys will be excellent performers on special teams, particularly the hard-hitting George. T. Jones may not have contributed much last season in the secondary, but people forget what a monster he was on kick coverage. That contribution is not to be overlooked.

Fifth-rounder Derrick Fletcher (6-6, 374) is the sleeper of the Pats draft. Some think he’s a work in progress on his way to being a dominant NFL guard, while some camps thought he was too fat and out of shape to even be included on their draft board. Time will tell, but in the 5th round, you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain taking a player of size with a tremendous upside.

QB Michael Bishop (6-0, 205, 4.7), the Heisman trophy runner-up, was the Pats first selection in the 7th round, followed by Brown WR Sean Morey (5-10, 188, 4.6). Bishop will make the team as the #3 signal caller behind Bledsoe and the newly signed John Friesz. Morey will have a tough time cracking a talent laden New England receiver core. If (and that’s a huge if) they’re healthy, the foursome of Glenn, Jefferson, Brown, and Simmons gives the Pats a very deep group of dangerous weapons. With Vincent Brisby the current #5, it’s hard to see where Morey would fit in barring an unbelievable camp and preseason.

Overall, I think the Pats did well in the 1st three rounds, and the jury is very much out on how they did after that. If their first three selections are all starters on opening day, you’d have a tough time finding too much fault with Bobby Grier in 1999. If Fletcher or George are able to contribute this season, that would be a pleasant surprise and a huge plus. With Sedrick Shaw gone and Chris Canty on borrowed time, it appears as though the Pats had no where to go but up.

It’s still 3 full months until camp opens, and 4 full months until the season starts. It is then that the class of 1999 will truly begin to be evaluated. I’m not sure how much they are all looking forward to that, but I for one can’t wait until Tuna Bowl V on September 12.

Thanks for reading!