Can the New York Jets kick off their post-bye slate on the right note? ESM’s experts of green endeavors share their thoughts.
What: New York Jets (1-4) @ New England Patriots (2-4)
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET
Though one of the quieter games of a relatively sparse NFL Sunday (six teams are taking Week 6 off), Sunday’s AFC East divisional showdown between the Jets and Patriots showcase (an admittedly uglier case of) the unstoppable force meeting an immoveable object trope.
The Jets are coming out of a bye hoping to cling to the momentum of a decent second half against Atlanta in London, one that would’ve been flawless from a defensive perspective if not for a crucial touchdown drive allowed in the dying stages. Their hosts, the developing New England Patriots, have a prime opportunity to feast: they sandwiched an unfashionable win over the lowly Texans with highly respectable losing efforts against the NFC’s finest (Tampa Bay and Dallas). It’s certainly not the heights fans of the Flying Elvises are used to after they were spoiled by Tom Brady and Co. for nearly two decades, but it’s a sign that the franchise is heading in the right direction after last season’s meandering 7-9 effort.
Whether it’s fair or not, both the Jets and Patriots’ progress in their respective rebuilds, embarked upon under the supervision of a Western New York overlord, is going to be judged solely upon the performances of their rookie quarterbacks. Zach Wilson has shown flashes of brilliance but the British-based effort against the Falcons was undoubtedly a step backward. Mac Jones, on the other hand, has steadily improved with each passing (pun intended) week. The results have yet to make themselves known in the win column, but the proof is in the pudding of freshman statistics: the Alabama alum has found familiar footing, as he’s the top-ranked first-year passer in completion rate, yardage, rating, and touchdown passes. Turnovers have been a problem, but the Jets (the only team in the NFL without an interception) have done little to inspire the idea that they’re capable of forcing consistent, momentum-shifting turnovers.
There will be plenty of opportunities for the Jets to grow as they resume play after their week off. But there still isn’t a lot of evidence that they’re ready to compete with the middling Patriots. Despite a resilient defensive effort, they were soundly beaten by three possessions in the MetLife Stadium portion of the yearly series. The Foxboro affair should be closer…surely Wilson can’t throw four first-half interceptions again…but the Patriots have only gotten better since that September showdown.
The Patriots’ stranglehold of supremacy over their rivalry with the Jets is one of the final remnants of their dynasty; as they slowly mount a march toward another, don’t expect that to dissipate.
Patriots 27, Jets 16
This week the Jets travel to New England for their second matchup with the Patriots. The Patriots are coming off a tightly contested battle against the Cowboys this past weekend, one that ended in a heartbreaking overtime defeat. Mac Jones played a good game against America’s team going 15-for-21 for 229 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Jones made some sloppy plays, but that’s to be expected from a rookie thrower. The killer for the Patriots was Bill Belichick getting outcoached by Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys: Belichick was too reluctant to take chances and called too conservative of a game, calls that ultimately cost his team a high-profile win.
Meanwhile, the Jets are coming off a bye and remain 1-4, but the team went into its week off on a sour note: Just when everything was thought to be clicking after Week 4 win over Tennessee, they lost in London to the Falcons.
These are two teams looking to regain some semblance of momentum. In the last meeting, Belichick had Zach Wilson looking like Nathan Peterman. I think Wilson performs better after having extra time to prepare, and the defense likely does well. But the Patriots will likely still force the Jets to shoot themselves in the foot, so I reluctantly go with New England to win this one.
Patriots 23, Jets 10
The Jets have had more than enough time to decompress from their subpar trip to London as they’re coming off of a bye week. They now have to travel to Foxboro to face the Patriots for the second time this season.
This could be a game where both offenses struggle and the defenses prevail. The Patriots don’t have an explosive offense and the Jets offense is…inconsistent, to say the least. To their credit, the unit has been playing somewhat better over their past few games.
If neither offense gets in a groove early, this is going to be a tight, low-scoring game. If that’s the case, homefield will play a large enough role for the Patriots to sweep the season series, no matter how much it pains me to say.
Patriots 17, Jets 14
Best of the Rest
Denver @ Cleveland (Thu.)
Atlanta @ Miami
Carolina @ NY Giants
Cincinnati @ Baltimore
Kansas City @ Tennessee
Washington @ Green Bay
Detroit @ LA Rams
Philadelphia @ Las Vegas
Chicago @ Tampa Bay
Houston @ Arizona
Indianapolis @ San Francisco
New Orleans @ Seattle (Mon.)
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags Dylan Price is on Twitter @dylanprice27 Brendan Carpenter is on Twitter @brendan_carp
Reeling from several injuries from their opener, the road ahead gets no easier for the New York Jets, who face an angry Patriots squad.
What: New England Patriots (0-1) at New York Jets (0-1)
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET
If one were scripting the Robert Saleh era for the big screen, the subplot of his Jets opening up their MetLife Stadium slate and harkening the return of fans against the hated Patriots would likely be rejected for its lack of subtlety. Nonetheless, it’s what the powers-that-be at the NFL asked for.
There would be no better way to welcome supporters back and kick off the Saleh era on the right note than ending several dubious streaks against New England. The Patriots haven’t lost at MetLife Stadium since 2015. Their last regulation loss on Route 3 came in MetLife’s current parking lot, then known as Giants Stadium, in 2009. Overall, the Patriots have won ten straight against the Jets. Even New England’s struggles in year one A.B. (After Brady) weren’t enough for the Jets to steal a victory, though they needed every inch of clock to win the November showing in the Garden State.
One of the attainable goals for the modern Gang Green should be to earn a showcase victory or two, a throat-clearing gesture that would warn the football world that this isn’t your father’s Jets, your older brother’s Jets…heck, your twin brother’s Jets. Finally flipping the script on this one-sided rivalry would certainly be one way to do that, especially with green fans walking through MetLife’s turnstiles for a meaningful game for the first time since December 2019.
But circumstances aren’t tilted in the Jets’ favor: the 2021 NFL season is only a week old, but the Jets have suffered at least a month’s worth of medically-induced calamities, one that that has turned their injury ledger into the top of a depth chart. Everyone knew that Carl Lawson and Jarrad Davis wouldn’t be ready to go for the return to East Rutherford but the kickoff contest in Carolina erased Mekhi Becton, Lamarcus Joyner, and Blake Cashman, each of whom landed on injured reserve. Another fallen starter, linebacker Jamien Sherwood, avoided major catastrophe, but will still miss New England’s visit.
The makeshift Jets deserve a lot of credit for what happened in Carolina, particularly in a second half won by a 14-3 margin. Alas, in what’s set to become a recurring theme in 2021, many of the green victories won’t be seen on the scoreboard. Asking this ragtag group, one that has already had to seek sizable help from abroad, to not only exorcise some bad Boston-based juju but to conquer a Bill Belichick-led team that’s no doubt still peeved over dropping a winnable divisional contest is too much at this point.
Patriots 24, Jets 17
The Jets’ future fell just short to their past Sunday, as Sam Darnold and the Panthers came away victorious in a 19-14 final. While they didn’t get the win, there are some positives to be taken away regarding the offense that should have them excited for the home opener against the Patriots this weekend.
For starters, Zach Wilson looked poised, collected, and exciting. He made those eye-popping throws that fans rave about, most notably ones that were caught by Corey Davis for a touchdown and a potential deep-gain that was dropped by Elijah Moore. The downside of seeing him make those throws? They almost all came after horrible blocking and breakdowns by the offensive line.
The offensive line needs to hold up better against New England, a task made all the more difficult now that Mekhi Becton is out. The offensive line should play better throughout, though, and won’t be the deciding factor: that burden instead falls to the defense.
The young secondary played well in Week 1 and the Patriots’ receivers aren’t as lethal as they were in years past, so that should be encouraging. However, the Jets are going to have to bring more pressure against Mac Jones and make him uncomfortable because if they don’t, he’ll dissect the defense. If that happens, game over.
The biggest thing the Jets’ defense has to do, though, is what they didn’t do against Carolina: they allowed 93 receiving yards to Panther running backs (namely Christian McCaffrey). The Patriots have James White, who had six catches in Week 1’s loss to Miami. Linebackers will need to make watching the running backs, even during passing plays, a priority.
The Jets will have their work cut out for them against a team that has, putting it nicely, had their number for the last decade-plus. With defensive injuries to linebackers Blake Cashman and Jamien Sherwood and safety Lamarcus Joyner, they’re thin. The offense will play better but the defense will seemingly have some difficulty.
Patriots 27, Jets 21
The Jets dropped Sunday’s opener to the Panthers in a 19-14 outing. Gang Green came out of the gates with a first half that could be described as abysmal at best. Blockers failed to protect Zach Wilson, who had little to no time in the pocket. The defense was worn out as the Panthers controlled the time of possession throughout the first half.
In the second half, though, we saw a different team. The offensive line still struggled, but the team finished the game with momentum. Heading into Sunday, the Jets’ two largest challenges will be the offensive line and containing tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. The Jets’ defense should have a chance to capitalize on the inexperienced Mac Jones, especially if the secondary can replicate Sunday’s second half performance. Ultimately, I foresee a tight game that ends with the Patriots narrowly etching out the win.
There would be, perhaps, no better way for the New York Jets to open a new era than by ending their losing streak against the Patriots.
The Opponent: New England Patriots The Dates: Week 2, September 19, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NY)/Week 7, October 24, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NE)* The Series: New England leads 69-54-1 (last meeting: 2020, 28-14 NE)
Year one of the post-Tom Brady era was a merciless kick back to reality for the New England Patriots. Yet, one tradition lingered from Brady’s historic tenure: beating the New York Jets.
For all the Patriots’ faults in 2020, they managed to keep their winning streak against the Jets alive, sweeping the annual pair for a fifth straight season. The Jets haven’t earned a sweep against New England since 2000…one year before Mo Lewis’ hit on Drew Bledsoe inadvertently shifted the course of NFL history. New England’s ten-game winning streak is the longest in the series that dates back to the days of the AFL, breaking a nine-game tally the Jets had between 1966 and 1970.
The Jets came close to ending the streak last season in a Monday night showdown in November at MetLife Stadium. New York, in fact, owned a two-possession lead entering the final quarter, but surrendered 13 points over the final six-plus minutes en route to a 30-27 defeat.
New York and New England also met in the final week of the season. Meaningless finales between the Jets and Patriots have been nothing new since the NFL instituted an all-divisional matchup slate for the last week, as New England would often rest starters going into the playoffs. This time, though, mere pride was on the line and the Patriots sent the Adam Gase era note out on an appropriate thud, topping the Jets 28-14.
The Skinny on the Patriots
Bill Belichick is burdened with a load he hasn’t had to deal with in a long, long time: something to prove.
Few can question the impact and legacy…more a path of destruction…that Belichick has left behind. But last season created the closest thing to a smear one can make on Belichick’s New England ledger: Brady moved on to Tampa Bay and immediately won another Super Bowl with Belichick over 1,300 miles away.
Belichick isn’t like Michael Jordan: he won’t publicly declare that he “took that personally”. But Brady’s instant success in a new locale has to be eating at him a little. Every eye in the football world will turn to Foxboro on October 3, when Brady and the Buccaneers arrive for a Sunday night visit. But the Patriots will have a spotlight on them all season after last season’s flop.
Despite the departure Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and recent retiree Julian Edelman, the Patriots still have leftovers from their most recent glory days. Sony Michel’s third season was cut short by bouts on the COVID-19 list and injured reserve, but he performed well over the final three games of last season (287 yards on 40 touches). Devin McCourty returns for his 12th season, flanked by cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson (the latter earning nine interceptions last season).
What’s New in New England?
Belichick did what any supposed villain would do after getting wronged: he spent a lot of money in an attempt to get revenge.
New England spent over $316 million in free agency endeavors this offseason, a project headlined by swiping the top two available tight ends. The post-Gronkowski situation was even more garish, as Ryan Izzo and Devin Asiasi united for only 238 yards on 15 receptions last year.
New England remedied this issue by brining in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, dedicating over $12 million in 2021 cap space to the former AFC foes. The Patriots have never been hesitant to use two tight ends, routinely pairing Gronkowski with names like Brandon LaFell, Martellus Bennett, and Aaron Hernandez. Expect to see them reemploy more 12 personnel sets with two elite names in tow.
On defense, the Patriots brought in two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Matthew Judon. He’ll join returnees Kyle Van Noy and Donte Hightower will re-don the Flying Elvis after one-year absences. Van Noy returns after one year with divisional rival Miami while Hightower opted out of last season in the midst of the health crisis. Speaking of front seven additions, the Patriots also added former Jet Henry Anderson, who never lived up to the $25 million extension granted to him in 2019.
No discussion about the post-Brady Patriots would be complete without looking at the quarterback situation. Cam Newton got off to a hot start but was never the same after missing an October game in Kansas City on the COVID-19 list. The 32-year-old Newton is projected to be the opening day starter but the Patriots used April’s 15th overall selection on Alabama thrower Mac Jones.
When it comes to the quarterback’s targets, the Patriots appear to be moving on from first-rounder N’Keal Harry. Jakobi Meyers returns for his third season after a breakthrough year in the slot (729 yards), while team added Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor from the west cost.
How to Beat Them
-Wow, What a (Pass) Rush
The home opener against the Patriots will be an early test for the Jets’ revamped pass rush.
Even Brady finds himself flustered by a strong backfield invasion; if not for that of the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, for example, he might have a Super Bowl ring for every finger. The Jets played a rare role in a Brady denial during their most recent playoff triumph: on that magical evening in January 2011, the Jets took down the arguable GOAT five times.
No matter whom the Jets face under center, they have to up the pressure. Newton can still move around as he gets deeper into his 30s…he scored two on the ground in the first meeting last season…but this isn’t the same Newton we saw during his Carolina heyday. New England was 3-6 when teams blitzed on at least 25 percent of Newton’s snaps last season. The pressure situation should only increase with Jones in tow, as there would probably be no better way to welcome the national champion to the NFL than a relentless rush.
The Jets know just how important pressure will be. Their most impactful 2021 contract is Carl Lawson’s three-year, $45 million deal that lured him away from Cincinnati. Enough has been written about how Lawson has made a defensive impact despite pedestrian sack totals. The early showdown with the Patriots will give him a perfect opportunity to back the early praise up.
-Push the Patriots off the Pedestal
The horrors that the Patriots have subjected the Jets to could qualify as the stuff of urban legends at this point. November’s aforementioned Monday night loss, for example, was a positive in mere sense that it was the Jets’ first one-possession loss since the infamous Austin Seferian-Jenkins incident in 2017.
Nothing would symbolize a new era of Jets football better than taking down the hated Patriots. So desperate is the metropolitan area for a sports celebration…the Canyon of Heroes has been vacant to local affairs since the Giants’ parade in 2011 (the United States’ World Cup champion women’s soccer team in 2015 and 2019 notwithstanding)…that plans for a Robert Saleh statue could be submitted if the Jets take that Week 2 tilt. The fact that fans will be welcomed back to MetLife Stadium for an NFL regular season game for the first time since December 2019 only adds to how much the Patriots’ will mean.
But the Jets can’t go in with that mindset. A win is a win, no matter who it comes against. The Patriots are the Patriots…they’re a football team not a boogeyman. New York shouldn’t buy into the increased hype just because it’s been a while since they’ve enjoyed a win over a certain divisional rival.
Saleh walked through MetLife Stadium for the first time in June. Unlike, say, Rex Ryan, the newly minted Jets boss wasn’t looking to create bulletin board material for the New England locker room. Instead, his focus lingered only what a win would mean for the New York area. He hoped to create a similar atmosphere seen during late spring’s postseason endeavors at Madison Square Garden and Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, where he witnessed the respective playoff runs of the New York Knicks and New York Islanders.
“I’m really excited to get it going and get that stadium filled where that thing becomes live again like it’s been in the past,” Saleh said in a report from team writer Eric Allen. “New York fans are extremely passionate. They love their home teams, they’re rabid to a sense and it’s awesome. It comes from just absolute love for their teams. But like everything else in the world, you got to earn it.”
“We’re excited about all the work we’re putting in. We’re excited to get the opportunity to earn the same response at MetLife stadium and let the fans light that place up.”
How important is it for the Jets to end their losing streak against New England? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.
Would the embattled first-round pick from New England fit into the New York Jets’ receiver evolution? ESM investigates.
Could an enemy of the New York Jets’ greatest enemy become their friend?
Wide receiver N’Keal Harry entered the NFL with a fair amount of hype as a 2019 first-round pick (32nd overall) of the New England Patriots. Fresh off three dominant seasons at Arizona State, the 6-foot-4 Harry was set to pick up where the (temporarily) retired Rob Gronkowski left off, serving as a big downfield target for Tom Brady. Alas, injuries ate away at his rookie season and he struggled to find a role in the post-Brady era.
Through two seasons, Harry has tallied 414 yards on 45 receptions, the latter tally being worst amongst first-round skill players. Those are tough numbers for the final pick of the 2019 first round, chosen before second-round standouts like A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf.
It appears that Harry is looking to hit the reset button before his third season gets underway. His agent Jamal Tooson released a statement detailing their desires for a trade.
“Through two seasons, he has 86 targets, which obviously hasn’t met the expectations the Patriots and N’Keal had when they drafted a dominant downfield threat who was virtually unstoppable at the point of attack in college,” Tooson’s statement, released on Tuesday, reads in part, per ESPN. “Following numerous conversations with the Patriots, I believe it’s time for a fresh start and best for both parties if N’Keal moves on before the start of training camp. That is why I have informed the Patriots today I am formally requesting a trade on behalf of my client.”
With Harry on the block, should the New York Jets inquire? ESM investigates…
The Case For Harry
What Harry could use right now is a stable situation where there’s relatively little to lose.
A change of scenery to such a locale helped fellow first-round receiver Sammy Watkins (Buffalo, 2014) reclaim the narrative on his NFL career. Watkins was in a bit of a different situation, as injuries derailed his career in Orchard Park. After a tough third season marred by injury, Watkins was shipped to the Los Angeles Rams and later caught on with the Kansas City Chiefs. Through those destinations, Watkins rediscovered his spark as a supporting piece on a contender. By the 2019-20 postseason, he was a vital contributor to a Super Bowl run. He recently earned himself a new contract in Baltimore (one-year, $6 million)
Alas for fans of green New York football, their “nothing to lose” situation stems from no one expecting anything out of them as they prepare to write the next chapter of their rebuild anthology. But they provide what Harry appears to be looking for: opportunities and relative peace.
The Jets’ offensive revolution this offseason yielded receiving building blocks of both the rookie (Elijah Moore) and veteran (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole) variety. While, on paper, Zach Wilson has a better arsenal to work with than anything granted to Sam Darnold, there is no clear-cut No. 1 receiver in this group yet. Adding Harry, a receiver with something to prove, could intensify an already-firey and potentially high-octane receiver situation in New York.
Additionally, the Jets have some day three draft pieces to work around if they were to inquire about Harry. A deal for the receiver likely wouldn’t cost, say, the 2022 second-rounder gleaned from the Darnold deal with Carolina. The Jets currently own three picks in the next spring’s sixth round, the extra pair stemming from trades of Steve McLendon (from Tampa Bay) and Jordan Willis (San Francisco).
The Case Against Harry
An arsenal of receivers with something to prove sounds delightful in a relative gap year. No one expects the Jets to do much in 2021, but the year can serve as an explosive coming attraction for what’s on the horizon for the Wilson/Robert Saleh era. Davis, Moore, Cole, as well as returnees Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims, have a chance to prove their mettle as top targets.
At what point, however, does one have too much of a good, yet uncertain, thing?
The Jets did a solid job of avoiding co-authorship on redemption stories this offseason. Attempting to ghostwrite such a tome was one (of many) reasons the Le’Veon Bell gambit didn’t work out. Sure, they brought in some potential comeback stories…such as former San Francisco rusher Tevin Coleman…but those are ones they can not only afford (Coleman’s deal is a $2 million single season) but can stage with relatively little fanfare.
The Jets have enough things to worry about as they get to work in trying to snap a playoff drought that’s by far the longest in pro football. Adding a rare Bill Belichick washout just adds unwanted attention to what they’re trying to build.
Trades between the Jets and Patriots are rare, but there is precedent…the recently retired Demaryius Thomas began the final stages of his NFL journey through a 2019 deal and the teams swapped picks during the 2020 proceedings. Those picks have thus far netted James Morgan, Cameron Clark, and current rookie Hamsah Nasirildeen.
That alone should probably scare the Jets off in terms of bartering with New England. But even if you’re not superstitious, the Jets’ receiver room is fine as it is. Sure, if Harry emerged as a superstar in New York…succeeding where the almighty Belichick failed…it’d be fun to leave that lingering over the heads of Patriots fans. But, unlike Jerry Seinfeld, the Jets aren’t in any position to make moves out of spite.
If the Jets were in a further position of need when it came to receiver…i.e. the early stage of last season when Braxton Berrios and Jeff Smith were their top targets…it would’ve been understandable for them to rise to the occasion and send a pick or two over before Harry potentially hit the free agent market after final training camp cuts. But, frankly, Harry isn’t the Patriot they should have their eyes on. If anything, the team would be better served to try and land one of the New England backups (preferably Brian Hoyer) to serve as Wilson’s understudy and/or mentor.
Harry should find some takers, but it doesn’t make sense for the Jets to expedite the process right now.
Should the Jets keep an eye on Harry? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags
The New York Giants have their head coach, and it looks like they’ll be with Joe Judge for a long time, but there was at one point much more intrigue over the coaching job. One name that had a connection to the Giants franchise and would have been a dream hire to bring on back in 2018 was Bill Belichick, but of course, Belichick is still with the Patriots and the idea of him leaving in 2018 would have been called crazy.
However, according to ESPN reporter Seth Wickersham, Belichick did consider other job openings back then and the New York Giants were one of the teams. He spoke about this on the Harrison Vapnek Podcast and claimed that the Patriots ownership forcing a Jimmy Garoppolo trade had a bigger effect on Belichick than many would have thought.
Belichick allegedly spoke to three teams
At the time, I think there was a sense that Brady wasn’t going anywhere and Bill left the impression that he might be open to a move. There were some reports that came out at the time that the Giants were looking at him. I think he talked to the Washington Football Team and the Dolphins about sort of their openings. And it was unclear whether he was interested or not, but he was still talking to them and subsequent reporting has only sort of shown how in that offseason, Brady skipped the offseason program for the first time in his career and he had just kind of had enough.
The Giants, of course, did not end up with Belichick. They ended up with the Pat Shurmur era, which proved to be a disaster. The team didn’t make much progress during that time and fan hopes were pretty low by the time Shurmur was fired.
Belichick hasn’t gone anywhere but interestingly enough, the New York Giants did end up with someone from the Patriots organization in the end. Joe Judge previously worked under Belichick, and his history of working in great organizations like New England and Alabama likely played into the Giants hiring him.
Their choice appears to be paying off in a good way right now, with Judge in position to lead a rising roster forwards at a time when there’s a lot more optimism all around than in 2018.
Here we go, New York Jets fans! The coaching search has begun, and the Jets will look to hire their next head coach. The Adam Gase era is in the past, and the team will now look at guys who can lead the Jets for, hopefully, the next decade. Here are three of the most popular confirmed candidates so far, a summary of their background and how they could impact the team.
Brian Daboll OC Bills
Brian Daboll has an extensive coaching background. He has had the privilege to learn under two of the greatest coaches in all of football history at Alabama with Nick Saban and in New England with Bill Belichick. His history includes multiple roles on both sides of the role, but predominantly as an offensive coach.The 45-year-old has been a coach in football since 1997 and in the pros since 2000. With over 20 years of knowledge, he has hit his stride in Buffalo. Daboll has transformed the Bills offense and completely shaped Josh Allen. When he inherited Allen, he was a raw player who still missed simple throws and needs grooming. Now, Allen looks like a top-five quarterback.
Daboll is a football guy. He is well-liked and well respected, and with the mentors he has had, he obviously knows the game well. Daboll is a hot commodity on the coaching market, and landing him will be tough if he is who the Jets end up liking most. Daboll seems to fit the leadership and culture-changing mold on the surface due to the impact he has had on the Bills offense, but with no past as a head coach, you have to wonder how he will do leading a roster of 53 men. Daboll is likely a front runner for multiple jobs, and it will be interesting to see if the Jets can get him in for at least one interview and potentially make a run at him.
Arthur Smith OC Titans
Arthur Smith did not have to be an NFL coach. The former college guard could have easily taken a role in the family business, FedEx. Smith’s father owns FedEx, but rather than pursue money, Smith pursued a passion and is doing a good job at it. Smith started coaching in 2006 as a grad assistant at his alma mater, UNC. He then carried that into jobs as a defensive assistant for the Washington Football Team and Ole Miss.
Since 2011,Smith has been a coach on the Titans. Despite four regime changes, Smith has been the constant. Smith is highly respected and has taken his time moving up the ranks, learning, and not rushing anything. Then, when he saw Matt LaFleur heading to Green Bay, he jumped on an opportunity and approached Mike Vrabel about a promotion from Tight Ends Coach to Offensive Coordinator. Since then, the Titans offense hasn’t looked back. Ryan Tannehill is playing the best football of his career and has gone from a backup QB to a top 10 one. Not only that, but Derrick Henry is finally being used as the beast he is.
Arthur Smith is a go-getter and someone who is well-liked by his players. He commands respect and is a leader. As a former offensive lineman, he is sure to be someone who clicks with Joe Douglas. Smith has no previous head coaching experience, but his impact has been more apparent than that of Daboll on the offense. Smith is a highly respected coach and has been requested to interview for every opening. If the Jets can get a shot at him and he prefers to come here, I firmly believe he is a favorite to land this gig.
Eric Bieniemy OC Chiefs
Rounding out our list of most popular coaching candidates confirmed for an interview is perhaps the most popular one: Chiefs Offensive Coordinator and Super Bowl Champion coach Eric Bieniemy. Bieniemy has been a coach in the NFL since 2001, after taking two years off. He is a former pro running back and finished third place in the 1990n Heisman race. He has been an offensive coach and coordinator in both the college and pro ranks and has been a fixture on Andy Reid’s staff since 2013. Bieniemy is well-liked by his players and is highly regarded by Andy Reid. Bieniemy has reportedly played a key role in play-calling and in maintaining the offense.
Bieniemy is another real football guy. As another former player, there will be that admiration between him and Douglas. Here is the thing, I think their philosophies will lead to a massive disconnect. Where Smith and Daboll are more traditional football guys (Smith more than Daboll because of his playing days), Bieniemy is more modern. I think that Bieniemy will be a player first coach based on his reputation with the Chiefs and not the leader/CEO type the Jets need.
There are character issues with Bieniemy; he has faced harassment and assault allegations at multiple points in his playing and coaching career. He has also had a few issues driving, including a DUI in 2001. However, this was all 20 years ago, and Bieniemy strikes me as a guy who has turned over a new leaf. Still, there was a reason the Jets didn’t bring him back for a second interview a few years ago, and part of me wonders if it was due to the aforementioned character concerns. Nonetheless, Bieniemy has proved he deserves a shot as a head coach on the field, and if he interviews well and can explain his past, I think he ends up with a head coaching job; I just don’t think it will be for the Jets.
The Buffalo Bills were division champions either way, but a national display of power meant a little more considering who it came against.
Trophies for division titles don’t exist in the NFL. There was no trophy ceremony after the Buffalo Bills won their first AFC East honor last weekend in the Rocky Mountains. Sure, a good portion of Bills Mafia flocked to Buffalo Niagara International Airport to welcome them home, but there was no, say, sword or official championship belt to display upon landing.
But the Bills were more than happy to stage a coronation ceremony in front of a national audience on Monday night.
Granted their fourth consecutive nationally televised contest, the Bills added insult to the New England Patriots’ injury to the tune of a 38-9 shellacking at Gillette Stadium. Buffalo (12-3) dominated every aspect of the victory, outgaining New England 474-201, limiting them to 11 first downs, forcing a quarterback change that signified that the search for Tom Brady’s successor is anything but over, and causing the eternally stoic Belichick to lose his cool on an innocent sideline phone.
The victory is the Patriots’ most one-sided loss of the Belichick era and the worst endured at the modern Foxboro stadium since its 2002 opening.
On paper, the victory over a Patriots team that fell to 6-9 on the season. Buffalo did what they were supposed to do. They did a little thing, thoroughly defeat a squad removed from the playoff picture, extraordinarily well.
But there’s no denying that the opponent played a role in Buffalo’s elation.
“We’re nobody’s little brother. We’re not nobody’s little cousin, little dog,” offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said of the win, per Sean T. McGuire of NESN. “We are here. You’re going to respect us and you’re going to play us hard. You’re going to circle us on your schedule.”
Monday marked the exorcising of horrifying gridiron demons beyond imagination, malevolent football spirits that had haunted Western New York since the turn of the century. The two most dreaded days in Buffalo in recent years…other than opening night of Sabres season…have been the yearly get-togethers with the Patriots. New England entered 2020 with a downright jaw-dropping 35-5 advantage in the new millennium. One of the rare Buffalo victories came when Brady was serving a suspension for his role in the infamous “Deflategate” incident.
But with Brady having absconded to Tampa Bay (and joining the Bills in the NFL playoffs), the Patriots have fallen and the questions have only accumulated. The Bills took a hard-fought 24-21 decision from New England in the Orchard Park portion in November and had a chance to earn their first double against the Patriots since 1999. They entered the game as Foxboro favorites and were in no danger whatsoever of losing their status as division champion.
A nationally televised opportunity to earn that elusive sweep, however, was a perfect chance to stage a changing of the guard through symbolism often found only in storybooks.
The Patriots’ utter dominance in the Buffalo series often served as fuel toward their unprecedented streak of AFC East titles, winning all but three since 2000. Those wins over the Bills (as well as wins over fellow also-rans from East Rutherford and Miam) were unimpressive and easy to dismiss on paper. But New England did those little things extraordinarily well, and did so on a consistent basis. It’s part of the reason why they have, more often than not, been among at least the final four contenders come Super Bowl time.
Buffalo’s synergy in symbolism and the timing of one of their most dominant efforts in recent memory could not have been better. Whereas New England faces indefinite questions about their franchise quarterback slot after Cam Newton was mercifully pulled from the proceedings for Jarrett Stidham, Josh Allen threw four more touchdown passes and strengthened his MVP case. The Patriots’ shortcomings on both the free agent and draft fronts were made all the more apparent through the efforts of Buffalo acquisitions like Stefon Diggs (9 receptions, 145 yards, 3 touchdowns). Shown to be unstoppable to opposing defense over the past few weeks, Allen and Diggs have also laid waste to the Bills’ record books, shattering historic marks left and right en route to AFC East supremacy. Diggs is now the Bills’ single-season leader in receptions and yardage, surpassing campaigns from Eric Moulds, while Allen broke Jim Kelly’s long-standing touchdown pass record.
Elsewhere, day three depth gem Siran Neal, normally a safety, channeled his high school days at Miami Killian and picked up a first down through a fake punt reception from fellow former Cougar Jaquan Johnson…another choice found at the tail-end of the draft.
Those who bore the most brutal form of New England-based punishment played their part in the victory as well. Reserve tight end Lee Smith, used primarily for his blocking talents, scored a four-yard touchdown that permanently shifted momentum after a New England scoring drive…one that proved to be their last thanks to a sterling defensive effort from a Bills defense featuring Jerry Hughes. Smith and Hughes are the lone holdovers from Buffalo’s 17-year playoff drought and the New England nightmares that came with it.
There was no better way for Buffalo to inform New England that there was a new sheriff in town and to warn the rest of the NFL that their Super Bowl dreams are just as legitimate as those conjured in Kansas City.
“We’re going to come out swinging out the gate. That’s just Buffalo Bills football,” Hughes said in a report from Matt Parrino of Syracuse.com. “We find a way to put our backs against the wall, that’s our mentality. Once that kickoff happens, you’re getting us. You’re getting dogs, you’re getting controlled aggression. We’re coming at you.”
“This is an organization, being the Patriots, that (has) given the Bills fits over the years,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said in the postgame, per Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “It’s a win in both games against the Patriots and then to win the way we did tonight, I think it just speaks volumes about our players and coaches and the team that (general manager Brandon Beane) has put on the field.”
Hughes was all too gleeful to add that, after years of enduring New England’s bullying, it was fun to be on the dealing end of it.
“I was telling some of the guys on the sideline, I haven’t had this feeling in Foxborough ever,” Hughes said in the Parrino update. “This was a nice feeling to come back here in this stadium and return a nice punch in the face. It felt good.”
One could write a book about the dubious streaks this magical season has ended. Buffalo knows their most vital streaks…particularly those of postseason futility…loom large.
But this slaying of the metaphorical New England dragon shouldn’t just scare the Patriots’ faithful…but the rest of the league as the playoffs approach.
As a meaningless Week 17 showdown awaits, Bill Belichick had some kind words for the New York Jets and their embattled head coach.
As Adam Gase faces an uncertain future, he’s receiving some encouraging words from an esteemed colleague going into the 2020-21 season finale.
The embattled New York Jets head coach received some compliments from Bill Belichick as the two’s doomed squads are scheduled to do battle in a meaningless Week 17 tilt that will end their respective seasons on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). While the lack of stakes may be a macabre routine for the Jets (2-13), it’s more or less new ground for Belichick’s Patriots. New England (6-9) was eliminated from playoff contention during Week 15 action in Miami and clinched their first losing season in two decades with an embarrassing 38-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Monday.
While Belichick is likely only leaving New England through his own volition, things are much murkier for Gase once the final seconds tick off Gillette Stadium’s scoreboard. The Jets have won two games in a row to avoid imperfect infamy but it hasn’t done much to lower the temperature on the second-year boss’ proverbial seat.
But Belichick had some kind words for Gase in Tuesday’s lead-up to the finale, praising him for the job he’s been able to do with numerous departures through injuries and transactions.
“I think Adam’s done a great job this year of continuing to improve the team with coaching,” Belichick said, per Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “As usual, his excellent game plan and play calling are problems for the defense. This is a team that’s gotten better. How many guys are on some kind of injured list? It must be 20. It’s a long list. They continue to plug guys in there and play very competitively in all three phases of the game.”
Belichick called out the job Gase and his staff has done with their front seven, as well as the progress they made on offense with two quarterbacks (Sam Darnold and Joe Flacco). To his former point, the Jets had have 17 sacks over their past six games after tallying only 11 in their first nine.
“They’ve got a good level of play the second half of the season from a lot of guys, defensively, especially along the front seven,” Belichick said. “They’ve been productive offensively, running the ball, throwing the ball with different quarterbacks with Joe and with Sam. They’ve both played well.”
“His offense is well designed and well called,” he continued. “Fundamentally, you can see the improvements that they are making steadily through the course of the season. Coach Gase and his staff have done an outstanding job. The players have individually gotten better and collectively they’ve performed better. They’ve done a good job there.”
The Jets’ brutal season, featuring their worst loss tally since the 15 in 1996, could be gain a sense of relief if they finish off with a win over New England. New York has not won at Gillette Stadium since their shocking triumph in the 2012 AFC divisional playoff round and hasn’t beaten the Patriots in regulation in the regular season since 2010. They led a majority of their November meeting at MetLife Stadium but were done in by allowing 13 unanswered points in the final quarter, capped off by a 51-yard field goal from Nick Folk.
Belichick has not announced his starting quarterback for the finale against the Jets. Cam Newton’s continuing struggles, leading to his benching against the Bills, have led some to believe that Jarrett Stidham will be granted his first NFL start as the Patriots continue to search for Tom Brady’s successor. Stidham made his NFL debut in a blowout victory against the Jets last season, infamously throwing an interception that was taken back 61 yards for a touchdown by Jamal Adams.
The somewhat reeling Buffalo Bills have a golden opportunity to pass the ultimate test against the New England Patriots.
Wide right. No goal. New England Patriots.
The preceding phrases have struck fear into the heart of Western New York sports fans for years on end. In the case of the first two, the smallest of consolation could be granted through time, as they were single-game incidents that continue to build distance from the next generation of supporters. The latter case, however, is a twice-yearly ordeal, a painful, yet necessary endeavor on par with jury duty or inventory at a retail job.
The Buffalo Bills’ rivalry with New England was even but uneventful in the 20th century (New England led 41-38-1 in a series that dated back to 1960), but the tide turned with the rise of Tom Brady in 2001. Since Brady faced the Bills for the first time, a 21-11 New England triumph at the late Foxboro Stadium (in what became Rob Johnson’s final start as a Bill), the Patriots own a ridiculously one-sided 34-4 advantage in the series.
It’s not enough that the Patriots have straight-up owned this yearly pair, but the way they’ve done it could be constituted as outright bullying. Former Bills (Antowain Smith and Stephon Gilmore among them) have played central roles in the team’s demise. The method of defeat has featured increased creativity. In 2006, a Ty Warren sack of J.P. Losman became a difference-making safety in a 19-17 loss on opening weekend. A 2009 Monday night tilt saw the Bills lose a 24-13 lead over the final three minutes of game time.
There have been several potential “turning point” of the rivalry. A 31-0 Buffalo shellacking in the 2003 season opener threatened to end the New England dynasty before it truly got rolling. One of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s earliest miracles was the erasure of a 21-point deficit in 2011. But, for the most part, even the Buffalo victories were nothing to celebrate. A win in the 2014 season finale came with most New England backups on the field, the starters resting for yet another playoff run. The Bills did the unthinkable with a 16-0 shutout two seasons later, but it included the massive asterisk of having Brady sit out due to his Deflategate-induced suspension.
At long last, the winds of change have finally descended upon the AFC East. The Bills situated themselves perfectly to succeed when New England finally fell, and their efforts have paid off with a 5-2 record that has them destined toward prime playoff positioning in the conference. This season has been the reaping of meticulous planning by the Bills in their attempt to usurp New England’s throne, a quest partially assisted by Brady’s sojourn to Tampa Bay.
Buffalo has accomplished much over the past three seasons. The team has developed a defense to be reckoned with, found a franchise quarterback, and become a destination for big-name talent from elsewhere…salvation after building a playoff drought that nearly became old enough to legally purchase a six-pack of Flying Bison.
Much has been accomplished over the past three seasons, but there are many lofty goals that have proved elusive. A playoff win is one, but they can’t be gained until winter. First thing’s first…beat the Patriots on Sunday afternoon in Orchard Park (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
The turbulent transition of power of the AFC East cannot be completed otherwise.
The ultimate changing of the guard could’ve come last season, when a meeting in the penultimate week of the campaign decided the modern division’s fate. Such a battle had made its way to 21st-century national television…a 56-10 New England win in Buffalo was notably flexed to Sunday night during the former’s undefeated regular season run in 2007…but this game in an unusual timeslot carried enormous importance. Chosen to partake in a Saturday night spot at Gillette Stadium, the winner would have prime position in the chase for the AFC East. The title was routine for New England but could’ve made a return trip to Buffalo for the first time since 1995.
Buffalo had previously played the Patriots well in the first portion of the yearly pair, a 16-10 defeat at what was then New Era Field. It was a game they had to end without the aforementioned star under center, Josh Allen, who was sidelined with an injury. The opportunity to strike was perfect: the Bills had previously succeeded in their first taste of true prime time action, topping the Pittsburgh Steelers in a flexed Sunday night game six days prior. With the Bills at 10-4, their first accumulation of double-digit wins since 1999, and New England reeling from losses to Houston and Kansas City (not to mention dealing with another camera-induced controversy from their win in Cincinnati a week prior), the time to strike seemed perfect.
Inklings of a team of destiny appeared to be on display throughout the evening. The Bills were playing Patriot games to throw New England into a state of chaos. An unusual receiver scored a touchdown, with Dion Dawkins playing the role of Mike Vrabel. The Buffalo offensive charge was led by coordinator Brian Daboll, a former New England tight end coach who oversaw some of Rob Gronkowski’s finest hours. Daboll’s unit oversaw a 53-yard scoring hookup between Allen and John Brown, one that gave Buffalo a 17-13 lead for a good portion of the second half.
Alas for the Bills, further Patriot-induced heartbreak awaited in the game’s latter stages. New England scored the final 11 points of the game, the majority of which were earned on Rex Burkhead’s one-yard score with just over five minutes to go. With the exception of a 30-yard hookup between Brady and Julian Edelman, a major of the drive comprised of short, but methodically effective, rushes spearheaded by Burkhead and Sony Michel. The opposing defense forced Buffalo into a pair of three-and-outs while the deficit was erased, and stopped Allen’s would-be heroics through relentless pressure and a fourth-down spot just 15 yards away from the tying tally. Celebrations of the Patriots’ 11th consecutive division title soon commenced, relegating Buffalo to wild-card purgatory through a 24-17 victory.
Even in defeat, players and analysts saw the Bills’ respectable performance against the team that routinely tormented them as a potential sign of things to come. But Buffalo’s leaders, like Allen and cornerback Jordan Poyer, weren’t interested in making excuses or relishing symbolic wins.
“We knew we had to finish the game,” Poyer said of the honorable defeat, per Nate Mendelson of BuffaloBills.com. “He’s the greatest quarterback to ever play the game and we knew they were going to come back and try and strike. Like I said, they just made more plays than we did today. I’m proud of our guys today, but in the end, there are no moral victories.”
“It’s one of those games you learn from. “If you don’t learn from it, it’s a complete loss,” Allen added, according to Nicole Yang of Boston.com. “It (stinks). Obviously, they’re an AFC East division rival, and that’s their consecutive whatever it is year winning the division. We got to find a way to get over that hump.”
Brady is gone, but the opportunity lingers for the Bills, whose prosperity lies at a crossroads. They got off to a red-hot start at 4-0, but endured consecutive losses to contenders from Tennessee and Kansas City…each in newly customary primetime slots. The Bills got back into the win column last weekend against the New York Jets, but had to rely on six Tyler Bass field goals after failing to reach the end zone. With the winless Jets and the Miami Dolphins more or less focusing on the future with the transition to Tua Tagovailoa, the AFC East appears to be the Bills’ to lose.
It’s great that the Bills sit at 5-2, situating themselves handsomely in terms of the premature AFC playoff picture. They’re taking care of business and ensuring that they don’t have to be scoreboard-watching in December. Yet, as long as items remain unchecked on Buffalo’s to-do list of returning to respectability, questions and doubts will likely follow them. Failing to visit the end zone against the lowly Jets (even if the defense allowed only four green yards in the second half) is only going to raise more quandaries over whether they truly deserve to be counted amongst the NFL’s elite.
“We have to find ways to finish in the end zone,” Allen said, in a report from WBEN-AM. “It has to be better on my part. A couple of penalties pushed us back and put us in a bad position. Shout-out to T-Bass for making those field goals and getting us the win.” In the same statements, running back Devin Singletary mentioned the need to “get back to the drawing board” and described Sunday’s win as “rough”.
There’d be no better way to get back on track than exorcising the New England demon.
The mere thought seems impossible, but the matchup with the Patriots presents rare ground…a trip game. New England enters with a 2-4 record, reeling from the worst kind of uncharted territory in the Bill Belichick era. The Patriots have lost three consecutive games (their first such ledger since 2002) and the most recent defeat was almost Jets-ian in nature. Their 33-6 loss at the hand of the San Francisco 49ers was the worst margin of the Belichick era at Gillette Stadium and provided little if any bright spots in terms of growth and developments. It’s only perhaps added to Brady’s legacy. Whereas the Patriots have faltered under Cam Newton (whose fast start was stifled by a positive COVID-19 diagnosis), Brady has performed well enough in Tampa to warrant the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Month Award.
But the fact of the matter is that Brady isn’t the Bills’ problem anymore, at least not until slated to play the Buccaneers in 2021. In fact, Brady wasn’t even the Bills’ biggest problem during the most recent editions of their yearly pair. Over the last six get-togethers between the divisional rivals…all of which went the Patriots’ way…Brady only broke 300 yards once and threw only four touchdowns in that span. The real enemy has been the defense, which has held Buffalo to no more than 17 points in each of those past six showdowns. Allen has partaken in three of them…and has thrown five interceptions.
Veteran receiver Stefon Diggs, a newcomer to the Bills-Patriots story, but he knows just how important it will be to master the New England defense. He knows what it’s like to be neutralized by the unit, being held to 49 on five receptions (most of it coming on a 24-yard grab in the first half) in the Minnesota Vikings’ 24-10 loss to the Patriots in December 2018.
“They’re fundamentally sound, Diggs said, per Dante Lasting of BuffaloBills.com. “They do a lot of things well on defense, they are active, they have some great players and they’re smart. All the guys play as a unit, everybody’s always on the same page, they are big on communication, and everybody’s in the right spot so it’s definitely a challenge for us. It’s something that I look forward to for our offense to go out there and try to execute at a high level, make some plays, and fly around. It’s more so that we have to execute better than they do. They do a great job, have a great scheme, and have great coaching staff so it’s definitely going be fun.”
Furthermore, the Patriots show no signs of giving up divisional rights with a battle. Enough living, breathing cautionary tales have been written about declaring the Patriots dead in the Belichick era. Sure, a lot of those redemption chapters have been authored by Brady, but nobody needs to prove their mettle less than Belichick. Brady missed almost the entirety of the 2008 campaign, and that still didn’t stop Belichick-supervised destruction with Matt Cassel leading the way under center in a traditional sweep…one of which was a 13-0 shutout to complete an 11-5 ledger in the season finale.
Defensive captain Devin McCourty was blunt yet confident after the San Francisco debacle in analyzing just what the Buffalo game means to the Foxboro dwellers.
“They’re first in the division. We’re 2-4. So I definitely wouldn’t call us the team to beat this year,” McCourty said in a report from Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston. “I know, me personally, I talk about it every year, it doesn’t matter what’s happened here in the past. I’ve always said that when you talk about the Super Bowls won in the early 2000s, that doesn’t have anything to do with us. Super Bowls after 2010, they have nothing to do with us.”
“I would say right now, we’d be crazy to think coming into the game that we’re the team to beat. They’re No. 1. They’re gonna be a huge challenge for us on the road. The top team, we’ve got to really bring our A-game coming off three straight losses. I think, for us, our backs are against the wall. We’ve got to go out there and play well.”
McCourty is right in his analysis; the past means nothing as the Bills-Patriots Rivalry enters its sixth decade. That message apparently has resonated through the New England locker room.
If it hasn’t in Buffalo, the clouds of questions over the Bills’ place in this evolving NFL world will continue to hover over Orchard Park more dangerously than that of any snowstorm.
Could the New York Giants have potentially reunited with Bill Belichick?
Well, according to one rumor, there was at least an inquiry into the position from the legendary Patriots head coach… However, take it with a large grain of salt for a few reasons. Aside from the fact that the nature of the rumor seems like a stretch, the news is being broken late enough to perhaps seem a bit unreliable. Why, after all, would this information sit around for so long if it was true?
However, it still might be worth considering.
As I reported on #ArbellasEarlyEdition Tom Brady and his family are making preparations to move once the school year is over. And Belichick inquired about coaching jobs in Washington and NY after Jimmy G. was traded. @NBCSBoston@NBCSCameraGuys
There’s a lot of talk about the Patriots going into decline after their season ended in loss to the Titans, in a result that not a lot of people expected, and the bonds between Brady, Belichick, and the team’s ownership have been rumored to be strained for some years now. There’s also been fringe theories about how the Giants could benefit from it, if it results in Belichick coming back to New York.
This kind of speculation, however, has been going on for some time and nothing major has come of it yet. Then again, losing to the Titans in the playoffs is new territory for the Patriots, and the differing circumstances could potentially change that existing pattern.
The Giants already have a rookie head coach right now in Joe Judge, so it’s safe to say they won’t make a move anytime soon for Belichick in that area, but it is worth considering the chance that if a comeback did happen, the Patriots coach could end up in the front office.
Dave Gettleman is somewhat expected to retire in the next couple of seasons. Probably as soon as this season if the Giants don’t perform better and pick up more wins. And if or when that does happen, could it potentially be Belichick that takes up the reins?
There’s a chance that it isn’t outside of the realm of possibility – but right now, we don’t have the most reliable sources to go on.