Locker Room: Beautiful ‘old school’ football

​       The “Dropkick Murphys” are playing loud tonight, and they play and sing so well. The victory parade was today. Us Irishmen love the “Murphys.” Boston’s own very special group of entertainers.
      In a time when all the rules favor offense, scoring points. In a season that featured the most points ever scored in an NFL season. In a time when most fans enjoy a 54-52 game, we got one for us old-timers. Patriots 13, Rams 3. A wonderful game. Great defense. Every snap was important. New England finally made three or four big offensive plays and you knew Tom Brady would, but it was the defense that held the number two scoring team without a touchdown. I loved it, and it has nothing to do with who won, it was a physical, I’m going to out-tough you football game. A thing of beauty!
       ​Us football purists loved it, but at the same time you have to marvel at the Patriots. That’s six Super Bowl wins, and they’ve played in nine. Brady has been there very time, so has coach Bill Belichick. Tell you what, try to avoid playing Belichick after a two week break. Not a good way to make a living. A superb defensive game plan. It wasn’t that complicated. He said after the game we played their best receiver man up with our best defender, double teamed their second best receiver, and we have really good, big, and athletic linebackers and we used them to pressure. Good plan coach.
       The Patriots are a marvel. A lot of people don’t like them. They win a lot. That’s the reason. They also feed off the knowledge that other than their own fan base they are loathed. But while you may not like them you certainly have to respect them. The NFL is setup for parity. If you have the best record you draft last. If you have the worst record you draft first, in every round. It’s a system that would seem to indicate that nobody totally dominates. But the Patriots do.
      The team is getting older. I didn’t think they would make it back to the Super Bowl this time. Brady is 41! The Patriots are not the most talented team in the league, in fact, there at least a half dozen more talented teams. But what they are is the best team. They pick up players that others can’t win with and win the Super Bowl. The NFL is professional football. The Patriots are the perfect example of what being professional means. New England is professional from the owners office, to the coaches office, and to the players on the field.
     Take a team, any team. Say the Dallas Cowboys. Watch them play a game. A month later watch them play a second time. What do you see that’s different? Nothing is different and you can say that about most of the teams. You wonder if they game plan because they just run the same plays regardless of the opponent.
       The Patriots are a 60s type team, except for Brady of course. Belichick is an old school coach. He game plans differently according to the opponent and if you follow the Patriots you can see it. One game Brady throws 45 passes. The next week against another opponent they run the ball 45 times. One game he is taking all deep snaps. Another game Brady operates exclusively under center. One game he tries to go deep maybe eight to 10 times. The next game it’s quick slants, outs, screens, and he’s always looking for Julian Edelman in the middle of the field. The Pats are never the same. It’s preparation. It’s not talent. Example. New England does not have a wide receiver with enough speed to take the top off a defense. Unless it’s totally due to execution they cannot go downfield because their receiving corps does not have top end straight speed. One of their receivers is a former Penn State lacrosse player, not even drafted. “Gronk” is not a sprinter.
      New England is a “professional” football organization in every respect. It shows on the field, and there’s no way to know when this run will end. Maybe it’s over. The Patriots will be drafting last again and the team will be another year older next season. Maybe it’s done now, but if it is, or not, the Patriots are one of the elite professional sports franchises in history.
     And if you really want to know what is most dominant area of sport in this country rather than just listen to other people tell you their opinion, it’s New England, the area, not just the one team. Since 2001 the Patriots, Red Sox (baseball), and Bruins (hockey) have combined for 10 professional championships.
Cutbacks Continue:
      It’s happening a little quieter, but the latest cutback will surface quickly, especially for NASCAR fans. Over the past three years and a half years, the sports network has cut more than 300 of its live reporters, broadcasters, and studio people. The company owned by Disney continues to lose money. If you just pay the slightest attention you can see cutbacks in the overall programming. The cutbacks are not over, and eventually the world of sports, by that I mean college and professional sport will feel the cuts because ESPN is going to have to offer less for its programming and it appears the other networks are not going to up their investment in programming either. Fox seems to have acquired most of the top end personalities from ESPN, and also the MLB Network which has replaced ESPN at the primary home for baseball coverage.
     The last cut has eliminated NASCAR completely from ESPN’s live coverage. You might see a film clip on a wrapup show, but that’s about it. Bob Pockrass, the live reported at stock car races for years, and Ricky Craven, the studio voice, have both been cut. They were the last two representatives NASCAR had left on the ESPN payroll. The network has even closed down it stock car racing website. Like many others, Pockrass and Craven will now work for Fox.
Hokies Get Big Flip:

    ​As the final day of college football recruiting wound down Virginia Tech, after a couple weeks of nothing but bad news, finally got some really good news. The Hokies were able to take advantage of Urban Meyer’s retirement at Ohio State. Four star offensive lineman, 6-6, 312 Doug Nester out of Spring Valley, West Virginia, west of Huntington, flipped from the Buckeyes to the Hokies and he immediately becomes the outstanding recruit of the 2019 class for Tech. Nester had been ticketed for Ohio State, but after Meyer’s retirement decided to open his recruiting. Tech also inked 6-1, 310 defensive tackle Jaden Cunningham from junior college, and signed three star quarterback Knox Kadum from Georgia. The last second push upped the Hokies to the 25th rated class in the country. A very pleasant turnaround. 

     There as always, was other surprises as recruiting came to a climax. Four star defensive end Charlie Moore flipped from Florida to Auburn, but only after five star wide receiver George Pickens flipped from Auburn to Georgia. Four star d-back Christian Williams flipped from Alabama to Miami, and the Tide lost another commitment when four star defensive end Khris Bogle left Bama for Florida. Nebraska was able to get four star wide receiver Denariyou Houston to back out of his commitment to Texas and sign with the Cornhuskers. Florida State continues to come up short in the quarterback department. Lance Legendre decided to play for Maryland.

      And before you start feeling sorry for Ohio State which few people do, after losing Nester they signed two four star offensive linemen, Enokk Vimahi, 6-4, 283 and Dawand Jones, 6-8, 360. And so it goes. The top 15 classes in the country will be 1- Alabama, 2- Georgia, 3- Texas, 4- LSU, 5- Oklahoma, 6- Texas A&M, 7- Oregon, 8- Clemson, 9- Michigan, 10- Florida, 11- Penn State, 12- Notre Dame 13- FSU, 14- Nebraska, 15- Auburn.

By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot