When the news came out that Tom Brady was going to be taking his football talents elsewhere, it was important for me not to overreact. For the past twenty years, I was able to watch my favorite athlete of all time play on my favorite franchise of all time. Unfortunately, that will all come to an end and Brady will have to finish his golden years in red and white (like, seriously?). There are so many different facets to this move and I am going to try and hit on all of my thoughts as cohesively as possible, so apologies for the length of this one.
First and foremost, thank you, Tom Brady. He was the greatest there was and the greatest there ever will be. I have seen a good amount of fans bashing Brady, saying he is just chasing the money or wants to pad his stats at the end of his career. Even if both of those are true, Brady has earned the right to pretty much do whatever he wants. Six championships in twenty seasons is something that will most certainly never be replicated.
Brady's story is something that almost everyone can relate to, which is why he was so loved in New England. He was constantly taken for granted and his former teams, which now includes the Patriots, always thought there was something better out there. He fought in college to get the starting position, he fought to get drafted by the Patriots, he busted his behind to keep the starting position from Drew Bledsoe, and he has been as methodical as possible to navigate Father Time and the increasing doubt that has entered Bill Belichick's mind about him.
Speaking of Belichick, how did this all happen? How did one of the greatest players of all time lose the respect of being able to retire with the team that initially took a chance on him? Unfortunately, this really shouldn't come as a surprise to many of us. If you look at the greatest players to ever lace them up across all major sports, most were not allowed to finish their careers where they started. Joe Montana had to continue slinging it in the 1993 and 1994 seasons in an awkward Kansas City Chiefs uniform. Although Michael Jordan retired and was severely out of shape following his bizarre antics in the late 1990s, he had to finish his career with the Washington Wizards. One of the greatest hitters to ever live in Hank Aaron had to go back to Milwaukee (I guess if I can even say that?) to finish his final two seasons.
In the end, it was clear that Belichick wanted to move on from Brady. Belichick wants to prove that he can win with another quarterback. This is just me speaking here, but I will always be #TeamBrady and believe that Brady is the reason Belichick is still coaching, not the other way around. Without Brady, there is a chance that Belichick is fired following Bledsoe's injury if there was any prolonged losing. Can Belichick find the next guy? Maybe, but I am not holding my breath.
Excuse my tangent here, but lets also quickly touch upon the reports that surfaced that Brady went to Robert Kraft's house to talk about a new contract as well. Do you know Brady did that? It was because Belichick never even offered him a contract! Thats right, the greatest quarterback of all time that had been with his team for twenty seasons had to go to the owner's house Monday night before the start of the new league year on Wednesday in order to attempt to get a contract offer. Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston reported that there was no real effort by the Patriots to keep Brady. They did not even have the respect or decency to offer him a new contract. Moving forward, this will be another notch in Brady's belt to further his lust for dominance and the thought that nobody wants him.
Shame on the Patriots.
We will never hear an epic Brady rant in the locker room firing up his team. We will never see Brady lose his mind on the sidelines because a player ran a route that was less than perfect. We will never see Brady hoist another Lombardi Trophy in a Patriots uniform. We will never see Brady run out of the tunnel to Public Service Announcement by Jay Z.....
For the past twenty seasons, we have taken the greatest quarterback of all time for granted. We have assumed that winning 12 games, locking up the division in October, and steamrolling their way to the AFC Championship Game every year was the norm, not the incredible.
So, we have talked about why this happened, but how does it impact the Patriots moving forward? To be honest, not very well. If Brady was at the helm of New England going into next season, the Patriots could have easily trade for a top wide receiver (Deandre Hopkins or Stefon Diggs, who they were apparently both in on), sign a veteran receiver like Emmanuel Sanders, get a viable option at tight end, like Eric Ebron, and probably make it to the Super Bowl, or, at the very least, in position to host the AFC Championship Game yet again. I will go to my grave saying this; the Patriots were not that far off from the Kansas City Chiefs. Even last season, if the Patriots were able to get a better option at the deadline than Mohamed Sanu, I believe Brady could have willed his way at least past the Tennessee Titans.
Unfortunately, at this point the future is extremely cloudy in Foxborough. The Patriots are in salary cap jail, they have no real plan at quarterback, and most of their top players have left for greener pastures. I do not think Belichick would stick around for a full-blown rebuild, but what other options are out there? Cam Newton? Andy Dalton? While those players would make the Patriots somewhat more competitive next season, they still aren't anywhere close to winning another Lombardi Trophy. and building another sustained culture of winning into the 2020s.
As for what the future holds for Brady? He will put up All-Pro numbers in an absolutely loaded Buccaneers offense that could get even stronger if the team trades for Julian Edelman or signs Antonio Brown to play in the slot. They could go 12-4 just like the Patriots did for twenty years and make it to the NFC Championship Game. I know Patriots fans are going to dig into their bunkers and try to throw "In Bill We Trust" in everyone's faces, but they just flat out got this one wrong. Brady gives them the best chance to win right now and I believe he could have played at a Pro Bowl level for the next three seasons, which gives the Patriots enough time to draft and develop the heir apparent.
Oh, do you want to get hyped up for the Tampa Bay Bucs next season? I do....
Cheers to the greatest quarterback of all time and for the day where he signs a one day contract to retire a Patriot.
By Peter Packowski
It seems so long ago that the Patriots were simply worrying about the team on the field and winning football games. This offseason has been a rollercoaster of emotions, as fans wrestle with the prospect of Tom Brady playing in a different uniform come next season. Rumors have been running rampant, connecting Tom Brady to the Titans, 49ers, Raiders, Chargers and more. Nevertheless, the Patriots will need to put together a team for next season. At this point, I still believe Brady will be back and will operate under that assumption until he signs on the dotted line with another team. With that being said, here are my top Patriots targets heading into free agency and trade season.
There are a plethora of good options for the Patriots in free agency. While they do not have a ton of cap space, they can easily restructure some deals and create the necessary room to get a few options on offense.
Amari Cooper, Free Agent, WR
79 receptions, 1,189 yards, 8 touchdowns
Amari Cooper is the best wide receiver on the free agent market. Now, for the Patriots to sign Cooper, they would have to shake up their current roster with a combination of restructuring Dont'a Hightower, while also letting Devin McCourty and Kyle Van Noy walk. Last season made it apparent that the Patriots need more balance on both sides of the football, but I do not think they should blow up the entire team in order to sign a top wide receiver.
AJ Green, Free Agent, WR
46 receptions, 694 yards, 6 touchdowns
This is a tricky one for the Patriots. Yes, he is an other-worldly talent when healthy, but he never is. Additionally, he was recently franchise tagged by the Bengals, meaning the Patriots would need to trade for him under a big contract, unless he is restructured and extended. This could be a low-risk, high-reward option for the Patriots, but I do not believe he is going to leave Cincinnati and is probably not the best fit for the Patriots.
Austin Hooper, Free Agent, TE
75 Receptions, 787 yards, 6 touchdowns
Hooper is the best tight end on the market. Out of every position on the field last season, the Patriots' weakest link was at tight end. After losing Rob Gronkowski to retirement, it became quite apparent that this Patriots offense needs a viable option at tight end in order to operate to its fullest. Will the Patriots empty their pockets for Hooper, Hunter Henry, or Eric Ebron? Perhaps, but regardless of who they sign, they need a better option than Ben Watson or Matt LaCosse. This may be a position the Patriots address more deeply in the draft, as there are a few options that have already been linked to the team.
Melvin Gordon, Free Agent, RB
612 rushing yards, 3.8 yards per carry, 8 touchdowns, 42 receptions
Gordon was one of the top running backs in the league before his fiasco of a 2019 season. He may be looking to cash in, but I am not entirely sure there is a team that will throw a boatload of money at him just because of his past seasons of success. At only 26 years old, the Patriots could improve their depth at the position. Could the Patriots give Brady an elite running back to lighten the load and cut a player like Rex Burkhead?
Emmanuel Sanders, Free Agent, WR
66 receptions, 869 yards, 5 touchdowns
This is my top and most feasible option for the Patriots. At 32 years old, Sanders is starting to slow down but could still be a fantastic option for the Patriots, who were chasing him this past trade deadline. The Patriots could easily pick up Sanders and still have enough assets/cap space to get another wide receiver and re-sign key players on defense. This option would make TB12 very happy.....
This could be the more likely route for the Patriots if they are looking to acquire elite talent. The Patriots are always able to manipulate their assets to maximize their return. Again, we are almost exclusively looking at offensive weapons at this point. The Patriots do not need to do much of anything on defense if they can re-sign their key guys.
Trent Williams, Redskins, LT
Perhaps one of the best tackles in football is available. According to multiple reports, the Redskins are allowing Williams to explore trade options. The Patriots had issues with their offensive line last season and Williams would help protect their aging and immobile quarterback. As for what it would take to get Williams? Maybe a fourth round pick. Get it done. With Joe Thuney slated for free agency and looking to cash in, the Patriots need to solidify the offensive line.
Jarvis Landry, Browns, WR
83 receptions, 1,174 yards, 6 touchdowns
I am in love with this player. Next to Sanders, I think he would have the greatest impact on this team at the wide receiver position. He is young enough to be the heir apparent to Edelman in the slot but can also play outside now and make an immediate impact. The Browns are an absolute mess right now and are trying to figure out if they are going to keep Odell Beckham Jr. While they are best friends, perhaps the Browns try to shake things up to right the ship in Cleveland (or in a dream scenario, trade them both to the Patriots).
Odell Beckham Jr., Browns, WR
74 receptions, 1,035 yards, 4 touchdowns
This name has been most connected to the Patriots over the past couple of seasons and would more than satisfy Brady's lust to play with elite talent. Does it make the most sense for the Patriots at this point? Debatable, but there is no denying Beckham's sheer talent. People speak about how he had a down year in Cleveland, but he still had over 1000 yards in a reduced role. Perhaps a change of scenery will bring Beckham back into the discussion as one of the best players in all of football.
By Peter Packowski
Late last week, it appeared that the Boston Red Sox had successfully completed a three-team trade to send Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Red Sox would be receiving outfielder Alex Verdugo and Minnesota Twins pitcher Brusdar Graterol. The deal seemed to be in place, but after receiving the medicals for both players, the Red Sox got cold feet when realizing Graterol projected to be more of a reliever than starting pitcher.
Now, to the naked eye, a young 20-something-year-old that can throw 101 MPH and weighs close to 300 pounds should raise some red flags, but in typical Red Sox fashion, don't ask questions and let the baseball guys be baseball guys (right?). Fast forward a few days, and it appears the Red Sox are getting cold feet. According to multiple reports, the Red Sox are looking to restructure the deal to either include more prospects, eat more of Price's horrific contract, or tear it all up and start over again.
In recent days, the Red Sox were hoping to renegotiate the deal, asking for another top 10 prospect from the Twins in addition to Graterol. In the past 24 hours, I think it is fair to say the entire baseball world really has no idea what is going on. It was first being reported that the Twins were completely out of the trade, leaving the Red Sox and Dodgers to figure things out for themselves. However, recent reports suggested that the Twins are not officially out, but will more than likely bow out of negotiations quickly unless the original deal is accepted.
What does this mean for the Red Sox, Dodgers, and the fate of Betts? Could he end up in a Red Sox uniform come opening day?
Well, not so fast.
If the trade somehow falls through and the rest of the baseball world does not jump on the opportunity to trade for Betts, I believe the idea that not only himself, but Price, hop on a flight to Fort Meyers and report to Spring Training like nothing happened is absolutely ridiculous. The Red Sox made it abundantly clear their future plans do not include Betts, so it is up to Chaim Bloom, who is losing my trust by the second, to pick up the pieces and maximize the return that he gets from this trade, whether it be with the Dodgers or another team.
At this point, it is kind of sad that four World Series victories are almost completely overshadowed by the mess that is Red Sox ownership. Whether it be dumping Terry Francona in horrific fashion, signing Bobby Valentine, Pablo Sandoval, Carl Crawford, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, or David Price (shall I go on?) to massive, underperforming contracts, or committing then quickly firing Alex Cora, I think it is safe to say that the Red Sox are in shambles.
How can one of the most lucrative and successful professional teams in North American sports be so inept?
Again, this is just my opinion, but I believe it starts at the top. After their second World Series championship, I think it became pretty clear that John Henry and company shifted their attention from their baseball team to, lets just say, other ventures. Winning and strategy became less of a priority, as the Red Sox would throw massive amounts of money at sexy names, hoping they could solve their problems quickly.
That brings us to the Betts trade. How can ownership let one of their best homegrown talents leave simply because they do not want to pay him? Whether you think Betts is overrated (I tend to lean this way) or not, if a player can be argued as the second best in the game, they deserve to never hit free agency. Now, I fully recognize that Betts has always stated he wants to hit the open market. However, if reports are true and he offered the Red Sox a deal to lock him up long term, whether it be realistic or not, then it was at least showing he was ready to play ball. Rather than negotiate, the Red Sox balked and decided just to trade him. How?
As I sit here, I am realizing that this ownership group, and this team in general, need a reality shock. Maybe a 100-loss season or an ownership change is exactly what the doctor ordered. All I know is what the Red Sox are doing now is not working. Their mindset and philosophy are alienating fans and it is quickly becoming apparent that perhaps those World Series trophies are more so from deep pockets rather than knowing what they are doing.
By Peter Packowski
With the regular season in the rearview mirror and the Patriots set for a wildcard collision course come Saturday night, I thought it may be a good time to reflect on a crazy 2019 season. There were many lows, some highs, and a whole lot of questions left unanswered as Bill Belichick and company try to pull off one of their greatest Houdini acts yet again this year. This question was recently posed by NBC Sports Boston on their Patriots pregame coverage and I find it quite interesting: What was the biggest mistake made by the Patriots this year?
As we all know, there has been quite a few of them, despite their 12-4 record. At the start of the season, people were proclaiming this to be the greatest Patriots team of all time, with an undefeated season more than on the table. Fast forward a few months, the Patriots have the #3 seed and most believe they have an early playoff exit in their foreseeable future. However, what takes the cake? Lets examine a few posed on pregame coverage and deliver our verdict. For the sake of clarity, we will start in chronological order and make our way throughout the season.
Signing and Releasing Antonio Brown
Tale as old as time, True as it can be, Barely even friends, Then somebody bends. Unexpectedly.....
Are you asking yourself if Pete just used Beauty and the Beast lyrics in one of his first articles in months? The answer is yes. After being released by the Oakland Raiders, the Patriots swooped in and signed the troubled, yet talented former Pittsburgh receiver in September to a one-year contract worth up to $15 million with a $9 million signing bonus. From almost the moment he signed in New England, there was drama. Rumors of sexual assault started to surface and the Patriots felt the need to cut the 31-year-old.
In his only game for the Patriots, Brown hauled in four receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown in a 43-0 blowout in Miami against the Dolphins. He showed flashes of brilliance and chemistry with Tom Brady almost instantly. Fast forward to the end of the season and the Patriots are struggling to move the ball with any type of regularity. I'm not sayin'...but I'm just sayin'....
This is still somewhat under investigation, but we can still talk about the general premise of sending a video crew to Cincinnati to film the Bengals a week before the Patriots play them. Regardless of what the Patriots were actually doing there, that is next-level stupid. Given the Patriots' history and the national obsession with the success of this team, Belichick and the coaching staff have to be smarter than this. There is nothing that goes on down in Foxboro that Belichick does not know about, including this. The video crew was reportedly filming what an advanced scout's schedule was like the week before having a new opponent, but they were caught filming the sideline of the Bengals for an extended amount of time. While it was just the Bengals, many, myself included, have suggested that if the Patriots were doing it against this team, chances are they have done it against most, if not all, the teams they have played this season. The Patriots were simply caught this time. Some have said this is no big deal, others are furious. We will wait to see how this plays out, but this was another massive mistake made by the Patriots.
Brady's Appearance on Netflix's "Living With Yourself"
In February of 2019, Robert Kraft faced prostitution charges following a human trafficking sweep in Jupiter, Florida. Kraft was recorded in Orchids of Asia Day Spa, where he allegedly "received sexual acts." (ew.) Fast forward a few months and one Tom Brady appears coming out of Top Happy Spa in Netflix's "Living With Yourself." Is it a big deal? No, not really. But the timing could not have been worse for the Patriots. The scene was reportedly written and filmed before Kraft's allegations surfaced, but the setting of these events puts Brady against Kraft and the Patriots, furthering the speculation that TB12 could leave at season's end.
Without a doubt, I believe the biggest mistake of the Patriots' 2019 season was releasing Antonio Brown. Is he an absolute head case? Yes. Is he a liability on social media and, at times, off the field? Yes. However, when he is on the field, he is the best wide receiver in all of professional football. Even in the short amount of time here, we saw how he shined with Brady.
Specifically in regard to his demeanor off the field, there is no denying that he is not a good person. However, that is very different than being a criminal. The allegations that were against him have quieted down to a mere whisper since he was released by the Patriots. Do we really believe that is a coincidence? There were rumblings that he was going to be placed on the Commissioner's Exempt list, but given the amount of money that he was being paid, the Patriots should have at least kept him on the roster to see how things played out. After all, the Patriots kept Aaron Hernandez on their roster for a longer amount of time. There was a deep connection between Brady, Belichick, and Brown that I believe could have blossomed into something special on the field.
Time will tell, but there is no denying the void the Patriots have at wide receiver because of the Brown fiasco. Diving into this even deeper, the Patriots traded away Demaryius Thomas when they were able to acquire Brown on the free agent market. I am not implying that Thomas would have been a 1000 yard receiver, but he was able to put up nearly 500 yards with the New York Jets of all teams. Thomas clearly has something left in the tank and wanted to be in New England, re-signing with the team after they released him. No matter how you cut it, this was not a good look.
The Patriots went from having Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, James White, and the aforementioned Brown and Thomas, to having a gimpy Edelman and a non-existent White. Rumors surfaced that the Patriots were interested in re-signing Brown later in the season, but it appears that Kraft again shot these down, after Brown's comments about Kraft and his allegations. In this scenario, I believe that Kraft's ego got in the way and, quite possibly, cost the Patriots a chance at yet another Super Bowl.
By Peter Packowski
NASCAR is unlike any other professional sport in that it's the only one where upsets are really unexpected. There's an old saying in Major League Baseball that says even the worst teams managed to win 60 games. And even the worst NFL teams can win 2 or 3 games every year. (Well, most of the time. Here's to you, Buccaneers, Lions, and Browns.) NASCAR's upsets are few and far between. Let's take a look at the greatest upsets in NASCAR history.
5. Jamie McMurray, 2002 UAW-GM 500
The story of Jamie Mac that night in Charlotte begins with another driver: Sterling Marlin. Marlin was having a career year in 2002. In fact, with only ten races left in the season, Marlin led future Hall of Famers Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Rusty Wallace, and Bill Elliott in the point standings. His season would end prematurely following a neck injury during a wreck at Kansas later that season. In comes the 26 year old Jamie McMurray to replace him. Following a 26th place finish at Talladega, McMurray shocked the NASCAR world by leading 96 laps at Charlotte and getting the win in only his second start. Jamie Mac would go on to win six more Cup races in his career, including a Daytona 500. Today, he's a NASCAR analyst on Fox.
4. Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500
Bayne flashed a little potential before running a majority of his Cup races. In his 2010 Nationwide Series season, he won three poles, recorded six Top 5s and 11 Top 10s with a highest finish of third, which he did twice. Wood Brothers Racing tapped him to drive the legendary #21 car in the Great American Race, and the rest, as they say, is history. Bayne would become the youngest Daytona 500 winner at only 20 years old.
That would be it for a long time.
While he was solid in Nationwide races, Cup success past that win eluded him. He couldn't finish higher than 8th until the 2016. He would be released from Wood Brothers, and he'd end up with Roush. He'd post 13 top 10s and four top 5s in his three full seasons in the 6. He'd be demoted then released in 2018, and today he is no longer in the sport.
3. Justin Haley, 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400
The most recent one on this list, Haley's career is just getting started. He's only 20, and he's been racing in NASCAR since he was only 15. When he was 16, he posted 13 top 5s, 14 top 10s, and he also won two races in the K&N Pro Series West. That same year he'd run part-time in Trucks, and when he turned 19, he'd put up 18 top 10s, nine top 5s, and three wins, at Gateway, Canadian Tire, and the fall race at Texas. This season he's competing full-time in the Xfinity Series, posting 12 top 10s and two top 5s so far. However, his upset came in Cup. He's only made three Cup starts so far, running part time in the Spire Motorsports #77 car, finishing outside the top 30 at both Talladega and Sonoma. Of course, he closed the book on a part of NASCAR history: winning the final 4th of July weekend race at Daytona. How did he do this? He was just able to avoid The Big One that took out 18 cars with only 40 laps to go. That put him in third as the yellow flag waved. Kurt Busch and Landon Cassill, both believing the race would go back to green, pitted to hand the lead to Haley. He'd lead one lap, the only lap led off his Cup Series career, before the race was red flagged due to lightning. After over two hours, NASCAR called the race, giving Haley the win.
2. David Gilliland, 2006 Meijer 300 Presented By Oreo
The only non-Cup Series race on this list, it was such a big upset it had to be included. Gilliland was a late bloomer in NASCAR. He didn't make his NASCAR debut until he was 21, in the K&N Pro Series West. That's not too out of the ordinary, but he wouldn't run a full season in that series until he was 28. While most drivers were well into their national series career, Gilliland's regional career was just starting. He'd make his Trucks debut the next year, and in 2005, he'd begin running part-time in the Busch Series with Clay Andrews Racing. In 2006, he attempted to qualify for nine races, missing two. His equipment just wasn't up to par, only finishing top 30 once in his first four races that season. Then he shocked everyone. The Busch Series back then was dominated by Cup drivers, even worse than today. Gilliland became the first Busch Series regular to win in the 2006 season with his win at Kentucky. He couldn't back it up, being unable to finish higher than 26th the rest of the season. Clay Andrews would close its doors before the end of the season, and Gilliland would move up to Cup in 2007, where he would race until 2018. Today, he owns a Truck Series team named DGR-Crosley, where he still races on a part-time basis.
1. Alan Kulwicki, 1992 Cup Series Championship
Imagine you and a few of your buddies decide to start your own football team. You're athletic enough and you understand the intricacies of the sport, so why not, right? You pay for a lot of it out of pocket and then, somehow, you manage to beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl. This actually happened in NASCAR, and it was done by Alan Kulwicki. Kulwicki was a genius. I'm not just saying that, he legitimately was. He had an engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee under his belt. He used this to build the fastest racecars he could at the cheapest cost he could. And he had talent. He won the Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 1986. Four years later, he'd be offered a top tier Cup ride by the best owner in the garage, Junior Johnson. Kulwicki turned him down. So Johnson replaced him with one of the best drivers available: Awesome Bill From Dawsonville, Bill Elliott. Heading into the last race of the season, it was a three man contest for the Championship. Both Kulwicki and Elliott entered this race at Atlanta Motor Speedway trailing Davey Allison in points.
What happened next was the greatest race in the history of NASCAR.
It was Richard Petty's last race. It was Jeff Gordon's first. All Kulwicki had to do to clinch the Championship was go stride for stride with two Hall of Famers.
Davey Allison had a bad wreck on lap 254. It effectively eliminated him from Championship contention. Kulwicki needed to finish with the most laps led for bonus points, and he had to finish at least third. On lap 310, he clinched the most laps led with 103. Bill Elliott led every lap from there on out, finishing with 102 laps led. Elliott ended up winning the race. Kulwicki ran second, the Cup Series Champion.
Unfortunately, not even six months after his Championship, Kulwicki would lose his life in a plane crash. He was 38. He left behind a legacy beyond his years. Five wins, a Championship, the iconic Polish Victory Lap, and, of course, the greatest upset in NASCAR history.