Monthly Archives: February, 2017

Danny Ainge Just Screwed Up Big Time

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The NBA just saw its most one-sided trade since Danny Ainge sold one year of Paul Pierce and two years of Kevin Garnett into three top 5 picks, essentially.  The Celtics had the opportunity to be on the receiving end of this one, as well, but Danny Ainge passed for reasons that will likely remain a mystery forever.

The Sacramento Kings just traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans for Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans, their 1st rounder this season, and Philly’s 2nd rounder this season.

That’s it.

New Orleans just got a 26 year old, 3x All Star for the 10th-15th pick in the draft, a good 2nd rounder, a 23 year old rookie with a 9.97 PER, a 25 year old with an 11.25 PER, and a decent player on an expiring contract.  I just have one question:

HOW THE HELL DID DANNY AINGE NOT BEAT THIS OFFER???

I’ll admit that I’ve been very high, maybe too high, on Boogie for some time now.  Like when I wrote this piece titled “Celtics should go all in for DeMarcus Cousins” 12 months ago, when I said that Celtics should offer 2 of the 3 Brooklyn picks plus Terry Rozier and some other stuff for the big man.  I also said, “The C’s will have to trade at least 1 of the Brooklyn picks without a doubt, but I’d try as I could to not trade Marcus Smart.

Turns out, the price would have been Rozier, Tyler Zeller, a 1st round pick, and either another 1st or one of the Euro guys that Danny stashed last year. (You know Vlade Divac would have loved one of the Euro big men.)

Danny Ainge has always thought in terms of assets, and he has been 100% right to do that.  That’s how he got Isaiah Thomas for a 1st and Jae Crowder and two 1st rounders for half a season of Rajon Rondo.  He HAS to know that DeMarcus Cousins is a much better asset than the pile of garbage the Pelicans sent to NorCal.

Even if DeMarcus Cousins wound up clashing with Stevens and reopening his beef with Isaiah, Ainge could have dealt him during the summer for at least 80% of the same price.  At best, you just got the final piece that takes you over the Cavs and the Warriors by 2018.  (Even with Cousins, a title in 2017 would still be very unlikely.)  At worst, you lose a little bet of your chip count that is still loaded.

I’m still thrilled to have had Danny Ainge leading the Celtics’ front office for the last handful of years, especially during this masterful rebuild.  However, the point of hoarding assets is to be ready to pounce when a superstar becomes available.  If the C’s aren’t huge fans of Boogie, then that’s totally fine.  But when the price for a top 15 player is this low, you have to do it.  Danny Ainge didn’t pull the trigger, and I’m not sure that he’ll get another shot this good for a long time.

Was This the Most Boring Patriots Season Since 2001?

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Let me start by saying that I am in no way complaining.  I’d take a boring 2016 season over a thrilling 2013 or 2015 season any day.  But it’s impossible to argue that this Pats season was an awesome one to witness.

Since Week 17 ended, I’ve been looking for Pats 2016 season highlights everywhere I can find them.  And I’ve watched the NFL highlights of all 18 Pats games this year, which have gotten better since the NFL took out the narration of Rich Eisen and made more room for more plays in the highlight package.  (No offense to Eisen, who’s a beast.)

What I’ve found is there really weren’t any awesome Pats wins this year.  The best game of the year was the Seattle game, which loses a lot of luster as a Pats fan because of the final result.

Every other game that was supposed to be a huge game for the Patriots simply did not live up to the hype.  The Week 15 game in Denver flat out sucked, and in November we were all looking ahead to that game as one of the most important of the season.  Week 7 in Pittsburgh wasn’t great because of Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, and the previous week against the Bengals, Brady’s first home game of the season, didn’t deliver because the Bengals didn’t deliver all year.  Week 3 against the Texans was supposed to be a close game to the point that the Texans were actually favored in Foxboro, but Jacoby Brisset and the Pats didn’t give a shit about your stupid Las Vegas lines.  The Week 14 Monday Night game vs. the Ravens was a decent one, but only because the Pats almost threw the game away.

The Patriots had 5 regular season games against playoff teams this year, and 4 were against the Dolphins, Texans, or Roethlisberger-less Steelers.  And they lost the 5th.  Meanwhile, the Pats played 6 games against the Jets, Browns, Bengals, 49ers, and Rams.

Lastly, the Pats’ duo of playoff games have sucked in terms of entertainment. One of them was supposed to suck, and it did its job of sucking because Brock Osweiler is a joke.  The AFC Championship game, however, wasn’t supposed to be a joke, but the 2nd half of the game was almost as lopsided as the 2nd half against the Colts in the AFCCG two years ago.  If you don’t remember that game, it was the one when the Pats cheated their way with deflated footballs to a 17-7 halftime lead, and then won the 2nd half 28-0 with properly inflated balls. Roger Goodell can go fuck himself.

The most entertaining game of the season for the Pats, surprisingly, was the opening night game in the desert.  The Pats beat the Cardinals on a missed field goal with under a minute to go, and it’s the only game where I feel my heart rate rise a beat or two when watching highlights.  The fact that Al Michaels was calling that game only helps matters.

The Cardinals game featured lead changes, late-game drama, and all around good football.  There are two problems, though.  First, the Cardinals finished 7-8-1 and missed the playoffs, and it’s always more fun in hindsight to look back on games in which the Pats beat a playoff team.  Oh, and the second problem is that there was no Tom Brady.

So there it is: The most entertaining game of the Pats season was in Week 1 against a non-playoff team without Tom Brady.

During the past 7 seasons in which the Pats have earned 1st round byes, 2016 was easily the most boring year.  The 2009 season was infuriating, but it wasn’t boring.  It still featured the awesome comeback win in Week 1 vs. the Bills and the 4th-and-2 game against the Colts, and people forget that, through the first 3 quarters of that game, the Pats were probably the best team in the NFL at 6-2 and on their way to 7-2.

The 2001, 2003, and 2007 seasons were not boring in the slightest, and 2004 had enough drama to beat out 2016.  The 2002 and 2005 seasons weren’t boring at all, as the Pats were defending the first title in ’02 and defending back-to-back titles in ’05, neither of which we had ever happened before in Foxboro.  The 2006 season may have been just as boring when it comes to the regular season, but the Chargers game in the playoffs and the subsequent loss to the Colts ensure that 2006 wasn’t as boring as this year.

That leaves 2008, which takes the cake only because Brady was out the whole year.  Among normal years, though, 2016 was the least entertaining season the Pats have had since they started crushing the league. The good news, though, is that nobody in the 5.5 states of New England will care how boring it was if the Patriots make the Falcons their latest victim.

Comparing 2016 Pats to another Brady-Belichick Super Bowl Team

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First of all, how amazing is it that I can write this type of can column?  Being able to compare your team’s 7 Super Bowl teams within the past 16 seasons is mind-blowing.  Savor these moments.

Anyway, the 2016 Patriots were an interesting team.  During the middle of the season, it looked like the defense just wouldn’t be able to hold up, and you’re lying if you pretend that you weren’t terrified of a playoff upset by Oakland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, or Denver when Gronk went down.  Nonetheless, the Pats won their two playoff games by a combined 37 points, even though we all agree that they kind of sucked in the first one.

Compared to the 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2011, and 2014 teams, the 2016 Patriots are far different from so many of them.  There is one of those AFC Champion teams, however, that is a cousin of this year’s Pats team.

The 2001 Pats is clearly not the one.  Tom Brady has an absurd 99.5 rating on ProFootballFocus this season.  (The ratings are done out of 100, and 90 is considered “elite.”)  He definitely was not elite during first season taking over for Drew Bledsoe.  He wasn’t bad by any means, but that team’s defense and special teams were much better than anything about its offense.  Very different from 2016.

The 2003 and 2004 teams achieved what may be the best two year period of a defense of all time, especially when you factor in the team achievements of a Super Bowl win in both years.  I love Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, and Malcolm Butler.  But they’re not Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, and Ty Law.

The 2007 Patriots are not the 2016 Patriots.  They may both have awesome offenses led by incredible seasons from Tom Brady and better than average defenses, but these Pats just aren’t the 2007 ones.  This year’s team didn’t stomp on the rest of the league during the regular season the same way the record setting Patriots did.

Next, we’re going to skip to the 2014 Patriots, which should tell you who my final answer is.  It’s easy to say that the 2014 Pats were similar to this year’s team, and in many ways, they were.  But that offense also relied much more on Gronk than this year’s team has (obviously due to Gronk’s injuries this season).   We all lived in fear of a Gronk injury during the 2014 season that would have dismantled the year’s campaign.  In the first four games when the Pats gave Gronk a reduced snapcount, Brady and the rest of the offense was lackluster.  When they let him loose in Week 5, the offense was incredible.

This year, we all feared that Gronk injury as well, but with Chris Hogan, Michael Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell, Dion Lewis, and James White replacing Brandon LaFell, Shane Vereen, and Tim Wright, the offense could survive that Gronk injury a lot better.  And it did.  There’s no way that the Patriots win the 2014 Divisional game vs. Baltimore without Gronk’s 7 receptions for 108 yards and 1 TD.

Also, the 2014 defense was better.  New England’s best part of the defense in both years was/is its secondary, but the 2016 team doesn’t have the same firepower.  Malcolm Butler is a beast, but he’s not 2014 Darrellle Revis, and Patrick Chung has taken a step back this year.  The Pats defense has improved massively over the course of the season, but consider this:  The 2014 Pats secondary didn’t allow a pass completion to the Seahawks for the first 1.5 quarters in Super Bowl 49, but Russell Wilson lit them up in their matchup this year.

The answer, of course, is the 2011 Patriots that lost to the Giants in Super Bowl 46.  Both the 2011 and 2016 Patriots teams featured a version of Tom Brady that was incredible that season, and the 2011 team was 3rd in league offense that season on Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings, while this 2016 team was 2nd.  While the 2011 Super Bowl did have Gronk the whole season, they were relying on a crippled version of Gronk in the Super Bowl, which mirrors the 2016 team not having Gronk at all more than it is to the 2014 team using him at full throttle.

The weakest part of the comparison lies with the defenses, as the 2016 defense is much better.  The 2016 team is ranked at 16th on Football Outsiders, and I’d put them higher because of their performance ever since the Seattle game in early November.  The 2011 Pats, meanwhile, look to be nothing similar, as they were ranked 30th.  But I’ve never bought that ranking.  As much as I love Football Outsiders, I’ve always felt that their ranking of the 2011 Pats defense was off.  They gave up more than 27 points only once, and held the Ravens and Giants to 20 and 21 points in the AFCCG and Super Bowl, respectively.  Those weren’t great offenses, and I’m in no means saying that the Pats defense that year was great, but they also weren’t the 3rd worst in the league.  They were at least mediocre and at best decent, which isn’t too far off pace from this year’s team.  Finally, the Pats’ special teams this year was 7th in the league, while in 2011 it was 5th.  Pretty similar.

The biggest similarities may lie in the intangibles.  In both 2011 and 2016, the Pats faced a ton of criticism (some of it legitimate) about getting easy schedules.  Also, the NFL was searching for a truly great team all year, and there was none to be found.  The NFC was better in 2011, especially when Matt Schaub went out for the year.  The NFC was also better in 2016, if you haven’t been reminded enough by 500,000 Patriots haters that you know.  Finally, the Pats got to beat up on horrendous quarterbacks in the Divisional Round of both years.

The biggest difference between the 2011 and 2016 teams will come down to their Super Bowl opponents.  The Falcons are much better on offense and much worse on defense than the 2011 Giants.  Luckily for us, the recipe for beating the Pats every postseason has been applying pressure to Brady, and the Falcons are nowhere near the 2007 Giants, 2011 Giants, or 2015 Broncos in that department.  For that reason, let’s hope tha t2016 turns out differently than 2011.