PIcked-up pieces en route to Exit 16W, somewhere in the swamps of Jersey …
▪ It’s hard to believe, but here we are: It’s Week 3 of the NFL season and Bill Belichick’s once-mighty Patriots face a must-win game against the hated New York Jets.
Week 3. How did it ever come to this?
The bad news is that the Patriots are 0-2 for the first time since 2001 and have yet to hold a lead for a single minute. They have turned the ball over and fallen behind (16-0, then 10-0) against their first two opponents, both at Gillette Stadium. They have played good defense and put themselves in position to win games, but failed at the finish. Third-year quarterback Mac Jones has run a popgun offense and failed to rally the Patriots for game-winning or game-tying touchdowns in the final minutes.
There is no margin for error. A loss Sunday in the Meadowlands means the Patriots season will be effectively over one week before the train-wreck Red Sox season officially ends.
The good news is the Patriots are playing the Clown Car Jets. The team of Crazy-Eyes Gase, Fredo Mangini, Rex Ryan, and the Butt Fumble. The team that stole Curtis Martin and tried to take Belichick. The team Bill Parcells joined when he got in his big fight with Bob Kraft during Super Bowl week in 1997.
Even in bad times, the Patriots are the Jets’ daddies. The Patriots are 25-28 (including playoffs) since Tom Brady left, but Bradylessness has had zero impact on the Jets’ status as New England doormats. The Patriots have beaten them 14 consecutive times since December 2015, when Ryan Fitzpatrick completed a pass to Eric Decker for a 26-20 OT win.
The Patriots’ dominance was supposed to dissolve this season, but that was predicated on the presence of Aaron Rodgers. In typical Jets fashion, Rodgers lasted only four plays before tearing an Achilles’ tendon, and now the Jets are back to Zach Wilson, who has thrown seven interceptions and has a 50.6 passer rating in four career games against Belichick.
Wilson spit the bit against the Patriots last year (9 for 22, 77 yards), took zero responsibility, and was subsequently benched and had to apologize to his teammates.
Now Zach is back. Just in time to save the Patriots season.
In this century, 100 NFL teams have started 0-3, and only one (2018 Texans) made the playoffs.
The Patriots have to win.
Or we’re on to the Celtics and Bruins.
▪ Quiz: Excluding active pitchers, name five multiple Cy Young Award winners who are not in the Hall of Fame (answer below).
▪ Happy to hear the news on Brad “I am the captain now” Marchand.
▪ From Thursday’s New York Times: Under the headline “The Red Sox Need to Spend Something,” The Athletic’s Keith Law wrote, “Bad pitching is rooted to the regime before [Chaim] Bloom, and to the Red Sox owners’ sudden conversion to the religion of crying poor.”
Law also wrote that the Sox steering clear of big-name free agents “contradicts the way that John Henry & Co. have run the Red Sox since they first acquired the team 20 years ago … They’re the Boston Red Sox. And it’s time they start acting like it again.”
▪ We’ll learn a lot about the Sox when they announce their replacement for Bloom. Will the next baseball boss be empowered to run the team with an open checkbook and freedom to trade prospects (the way Dave Dombrowski was)? Or will he/she be a puppet, beholden to the owners, the 59 vice presidents, and the raft of assistant general managers that populate the Sox masthead?
Some readers were confused when Sox president Sam Kennedy said, “There’s a lot that has to improve, and that includes our on-field staff, so the baseball operations leadership will come in with a mandate to run the department. All aspects of the department.”
We hope this means they go back to acquiring stars. The Red Sox badly need stars. Seen anyone wearing a “Refsnyder” or “Wong” shirt around Fenway?
▪ After Bloom was fired, Red Sox sources seemed newly comfortable leaking reports about trades Bloom supposedly rejected over the years. Where were these stories when Chaim was still on the job? Now that he’s gone, we hear about Chaim turning down a big offer for Chris Sale in the summer of 2022 and various other blunders. Not fair.
▪ In all seriousness, the Red Sox should have a conversation with Dan Duquette while they are figuring out how to proceed with their big hire. Duquette is still on top of his game, had a lot to do with the Oriole wagon that’s qualified for the playoffs, and would be an asset to any front office.
▪ Best of luck to Boston’s new team in the NWSL, scheduled to start competing in 2026. Any initiative that includes a $30 million renovation of White Stadium is a good thing for Boston. It’s great to hear that public school teams will reap the benefits of a refurbished stadium. Plans call for a grass playing field, which will be tough to maintain but is a much better surface for soccer.
▪ Where’s the Bill O’Brien benefit? Last year, the Patriots scored 21.5 points per game, and this year it’s down to 18.5. Last year they averaged 6.2 yards per completed pass and this year it’s 5.3. The Patriots averaged 4.1 yards per play against the Dolphins, lowest in the NFL. Bring back Matt Patricia?
▪ Benching Pop Douglas because he was stripped of the ball — then making him sit on the pine with a football cradled in his arm the rest of the game — is something that works great in high school. It’s also OK if you are in the Super Bowl every other year. But when you are 25-28 since Brady left, you just look out of touch, stuck in the 1980s. I am as old and out of touch as Belichick, but I question the wisdom of teaching a kid a lesson when you desperately need to win games.
▪ Tony Clark, executive director of the MLB Players Association, says, “I applaud the Dartmouth basketball team’s courageous efforts to organize … These young men and women, on whose backs billion-dollar industries have been built, are ready to take a seat at the table.’’
▪ Sorry to see that HBO’s 1980s Lakers series “Winning Time” was canceled after two seasons. It had many flaws, exaggerations, and outright fabrications, but it was entertaining. Oddly, the LA narrative ends with the Celtics’ humiliation of Magic’s Lakers in the 1984 Finals. HBO never got a chance to show the Lakers coming back to beat Boston in 1985 and ‘87.
▪ A USA Today columnist called Deion Sanders “the most famous person ever to coach college football.” Really? More famous than Bear Bryant? Woody Hayes? Knute Rockne?
Maybe so, but Coach Prime remains an odious self-promoter who ran a bunch of kids out of Colorado to push his sons up the NFL draft ladder while bringing naked professionalism into college sports.
Prime is no doubt good television, and he has quality athletes on his Colorado team. He has the Buffaloes nationally ranked. Swell. Now look up the spectacular collapse of fraud Deion’s Prime Prep Academy in Texas in 2016.
▪ The undefeated Ravens believe they have the first all-Black quarterback room in NFL history. The group includes starter Lamar Jackson, backups Tyler Huntley and Josh Johnson, assistant QBs coach Kerry Dixon, and QBs coach Tee Martin.
▪ The Tampa Bay Rays announced plans for a 30,000-seat ballpark they hope would be ready for the 2028 season. This gives you only four more years to get down to the sacred space that is the Trop Dome.
▪ The fall of Giancarlo Stanton, a former MVP who once hit 59 homers in a season, is staggering. Stanton is only 33 years old but looks 73 when he’s facing big league pitching.
▪ Under new coach Rick Pitino, St. John’s has eight games scheduled at Madison Square Garden in 2023-24.
▪ After reading about Larry Bird’s Indiana State coach (Bill Hodges) coaching a high school team near Fort Myers, a reader emailed to mention that Boston sports fan Stephen King has a prominent character named Bill Hodges in his “Mr. Mercedes” trilogy.
▪ Bet Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto winds up with the Yankees. The Sox should bid for him but … well, why compete for top talent when fans are happy to sing “Sweet Caroline”?
▪ Real estate news: The Wall Street Journal reports that Gisele Bundchen paid $9.1 million for a South Florida home that has two equestrian rings and a soccer field. Meanwhile, Derek Lowe’s ex-wife is selling the family mansion in South Fort Myers for $6,850,000.
▪ Former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan will speak at a SABR meeting at Springfield College at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30, in the Learning Commons, Room 201. The Sox skipper, now 92, is a wildly entertaining storyteller.
▪ Quiz answer: Denny McLain, Bret Saberhagen, Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, Roger Clemens.