Friday Four-Pack 1.19.24
Belichick blame. And Belichick indifference. Full-Throttle Failures. NFL Picks!
I understand it’s a huge story.
The greatest coach of all time is looking for this final coaching destination.
I just….don’t really care where he ends up.
I cared immensely about where Tom Brady landed after the team decided he was no longer worth the money. ‘Brady Bucs’ games became like Patriots games in our house. He was easy to root for against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
Shit, we flew to Charlotte on Christmas Day to see Brady that weekend when the Bucs played the Panthers.
I don’t have the same passion for following Belichick to Atlanta. At least in the immediate aftermath of the breakup.
Fair or not, I still view Belichick as the main reason Brady didn’t get a chance to finish his career in New England. Bob Kraft signed off on the move, I get it. But if Belichick pushed for him, they would have paid Brady and he would have stayed.
Seth Wickersham attributed this quote to Kraft in his eye-opening piece last week.
"Bill had told me he couldn't play anymore," Kraft said privately afterward, "and then he goes out and wins the f---ing Super Bowl."
It’s probably not that cut-and-dried, but there is more blame on Bill than Kraft for the way the thing ended in New England.
Brady was also still one of the best in the league when he left New England. Is Belichick?
A Fox Sports poll in November had him ranked as the #10 coach in the NFL. That’s a little low. A little. I’d take him over Doug Pederson and Pete Carroll, for sure. Probably Nick Siriani, too. So #6? But his unwillingness to modernize the team’s offense stands out as either stubborn or just out of touch. Maybe a little of both.
In 2023, they built the team around the running game and special teams. How do you explain that???
Either way, Brady left New England closer to the top of his position than Belichick does.
Atlanta is a good spot for Bill. No stud QB in the division. No great coach. He needs 15 more wins to pass Don Shula for the most overall coaching wins in NFL history. In that division, with an upgrade at QB, he’ll likely break the record in November or December of 2025.
But when he does, I don’t think I’ll be as emotionally invested as I was in seeing Brady win that last one with Tampa.
Maybe it’s just me. Vote in the poll above or leave a comment below.
Meanwhile, it’s the best football weekend of the year. The MutStack Picks are on fire. The Red Sox are a mess. And the aforementioned Patriots seem very happy to be moving on from Belichick.
All part of today’s Four-Pack.
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On a dreadful week for Red Sox Fans…
“The whole Red Sox thing is f***ing miserable.”
Those the words of DraftKings/MLB Network star Jarred Carrabis Thursday on the Kirk Minihane Show.
Safe to say Carrabis, as usual, speaks for a large majority of Sox fans.
It was always kind of a stupid thing to say. Turns out it wasn’t even true.
On November 2, the Red Sox introduced Craig Beslow as their new chief baseball officer.
And owner Tom Werner laid down the gauntlet.
“We know that we have to be competitive next year,” said Werner. “So we’re going to be competitive next year. We’re going to have to be full-throttle in every possible way.”
And ‘full-thottle’ became the mantra for the Sox on social media. Until reality set in and fans realized the team had no plans to actually go “full-throttle.” Then it became a punchline to what has been a bad joke of an offseason.
On Tuesday, Werner finally backtracked and admitted that full-throttle was never really full-throttle. From Sean McAdam at MassLive-
“Maybe that wasn’t the most artful way of saying what I wanted to say,” Werner told MassLive, “which is that we’re going to be pressing all levers to improve the team. In the end, nobody’s happy with our performance the last few years. Some years, we go after somebody who is about to be a free agent, or was a free agent, as it pertains to Trevor Story or Raffy Devers.
“We felt very strongly that we were going to compete for (Japanese free agent Yoshinobu) Yamamoto’s services. But in the end, he went to another team. But we felt were in the mix and we were going to be competitive. We certainly aren’t happy with the current roster as it was at the end of last year, so if I was going to say it again, I would say that we’re going to be pressing all levers and weren’t going to be happy with just one (method) — that includes free agency, trades or talent from Triple and Double A. I think that’s really what I meant.“
“In the end, we don’t have a line in terms of our payroll that we look at as much as trusting that Craig (Breslow) is going to deliver on his assurance that we’re going to be competitive.”
Pressing all the levers. Catchy.
Full-throttle, levers, whatever. This is what the Red Sox front office and ownership have done for years now - say the thing that will appease the fans at the time but in reality, means nothing.
Werner. Sam Kennedy on NESN/WEEI. Just meaningless bowls of word soup.
In this case, it made Breslow look bad. It built unfair expectations for the new guy on the job. And before Werner’s backtrack this week, Breslow admitted to the Boston Globe this rebuild was not going to be a quick one. He was asked if ownership was still committed to building a contender and would spend what it took to reach that goal.
“That’s a fair question,” Breslow said. “As I’ve gotten to know this organization better through the conversations I’ve had with ownership, they absolutely are still supportive of assembling a World Series team as quickly as we possibly can.
“But I think the reality is that it’s going to require a step forward from the young position players. It’s going to require the build-out of a talent pipeline of arms that we can acquire, we draft, and we can develop internally.
“And it’s going to require aggressive player development in the minor leagues and the major leagues so guys that we think are the next wave — Mayer and Anthony and Teel, that group — are not just big leaguers but impact big leaguers.
“The convergence of all those pieces is the fastest path to a World Series team . . . We want to build this thing in a way that there’s not just quality once in a while but there’s quality paired with consistency.”
More word soup, yes, but at least he’s being honest.
With the team’s Winter Weekend Fan Fest taking place at MGM Springfield, it has historically been a big couple of days for the club and its fans. When held at Foxwoods, this event was huge. Big crowds, big stars. We’d broadcast live on WEEI for hours in the main ballroom. It was a big deal.
Now? No John Henry. No Rafael Devers. No huge stars. And no Q and A with the fans, after ownership and the front office were heckled at the event last year.
Fans should have plenty of questions, starting with why the team is worried about shedding even more payroll before spring training when they’re already $40 million under the first CBT threshold.
But they won’t get the chance to ask them.
Because the team is worried they might get heckled.
It’s probably a good thing they’re not talking directly to fans this weekend. They’d probably just have to backtrack down the road about another empty promise of the team doing everything it can to win in 2024.
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On the Patriots blaming it all on Belichick…
“I needed a break from Belichick.”
It was a seemingly throwaway line from Jerod Mayo on Wednesday afternoon at his introductory press conference. He was talking about leaving football and going to work at Optum for a few years, before ultimately coming back to football.
Haha. Bill’s a tough coach. Funny one-liner.
But the entire last week? Hasn’t it felt like that’s what the entire organization is saying? We needed a break from Belichick.
You had both sides in Belichick v. The Krafts air their dirty laundry in the extensive ESPN piece from Seth Wickersham.
Since then you have reports of the team willing to hold on to many front office types and coaches - the idea being that Bill held these folks back. That even after a 4-13 season Belichick, not the program, was the issue.
And then you had Mayo on Wednesday, taking what felt like indirect shots at Belichick and the way he ran the Patriots. Just a couple of examples that stood out.
“We have a good foundation, and my thing here over the next few weeks is to rebuild some relationships, knock down silos, and collaborate. That's what I'm focused on.”
“One thing you'll notice about me in our interaction as we continue to go, is I don't like echo chambers. I want people around me that are going to question my ideas or yes question the way we have done things in the past because realistically this game is a lot different than when I was drafted in 2008.”
The problem with pinning this all on Belichick is of course, if things don’t well and Bill’s not here to blame it on, well….
The idea of a collaboration in the front office feels destined to fail. Have you ever tried to pick a restaurant among a group of friends? It sucks. One person has to make the call. The “collaborative” idea sounds terrible - especially when you consider that the “collaborative” might have had a say in drafting Cole Strange in the first round or Tyquan Thornton in the 2nd.
And Mayo’s answer to his offensive philosophy - how it starts in the weight room - was not great. The team has to bring in a real offensive mind to develop the more important side of the ball.
DeMeco Ryans in Houston is proof you can win with a defensive-minded coach, but you better have a really good QB (CJ Stroud) and a sharp OC (Bobby Slowik). There is no guarantee Mayo has either of those at this point.
Those of us looking for a complete offensive overhaul got good news Thursday night, with the report Bill O’Brien is heading to Ohio State. Hopefully, that means a fresh face coming aboard to remodel the team’s bland offensive approach. Nick Caley, Zac Robinson, even Kellen Moore, sure.
No thanks on a third go-around with Josh McDaniels.
Mayo made it clear Wednesday that he’s not Bill Belichick. Let’s hope the team is now focused on looking forward rather than worrying about pinning all their recent failures on the former coach.
On our NFL Divisional Round Picks…
2023 Regular Season: 33-22-1
2023 Playoffs 3-0
Strong start to the playoffs. In addition to our picks here, we’re also making picks every gameday on X.com with our friends at Mad Props. On those picks Wild Card Weekend, a strong 5-1 start. More picks there thus weekend.
Mad Props is a GREAT way to bet with your friends during the playoffs. Check them out here.
Like last weekend, will update this below Saturday/Sunday for props, bets, etc.
BILLS -2.5 VS CHIEFS (-115, Fanatics) I get it. This number is probably right. Mahomes is great. But hear me out.
The Taylor Swift/Travis Kelce sideshow has overshadowed the Chiefs’ biggest weakness - they can’t stop the run. #27 DVOA - better than just Panthers, Chargers, Giants, Bengals and Cardinals on the season. The Bills (#7 DVOA rush offense) are built to take advantage with Josh Allen, James Cook and home-field advantage. Patrick Mahomes has been free money as an underdog in his career (8-1-1 ATS!!!) but this will be his first true road playoff game. And this might be a little thin but a quick look at the Chiefs schedule shows they beat one playoff team this season (Dolphins 2x). Big Josh Allen running game here.
A note on the line. As of Friday morning, we have a bunch of 2.5 at -120 and a few -3 +100. I’m getting the 2.5, even at -120, while it’s still available.
49ERS -9.5 VS GREEN BAY (-110, BetMGM)
I can’t find a total I want to bet this week. I don’t want to handicap something I might not bet. I will be betting SF -9.5. Not only a great spot for SF (home, bye, healthy) but an even better spot to bet AGAINST GB. Yes, they dominated Dallas. But they benefitted from TWO Picks 6s and a terrible Cowboys game plan that had them running way too much early on. SF won’t do that. The Niners defense tortured opposing QBs this year, leading the NFL with 22 INTs.
Packers were 7.5-point dogs in Dallas, but now just 9.5 at SF? Happy to play the best team in the NFL at this price.
Good note from PJ Glasser on You Better, You Bet this week- Not counting Week 18 when they rested everyone, the 49ers played 10 games against the NFC this year. They won nine of those by 10+ points. In the other game, they won by 7 because the Rams kicked a meaningless field goal in the final seconds. Just dominant.
AARON JONES UNDER 70.5 RUSH YARDS (-120, Fanatics)
If you think the 49ers command this game from the opening kick, this makes sense. Jones has been awesome the last four games- all big wins for Green Bay. He played in five losses for the Packers this season and averaged just 9.2 carries for just 34 yards/game in those five. They want to run the ball, but they’ve also gotten away from it quickly when they’re trailing. SF is a much better team at home catching a Packers defense that has been flat-out bad this year. It says here they take a nice lead, GB has to bail out of the run game and we cash the unders. Easy game.
On your Winter Weekend leftovers…
This weekend marks Kentucky Derby Future Pool #3 and the first Futures Pool of 2024. You’ll be able to bet it at most ADWs…but should you? I asked my friend and FanDuel TV’s Matt Bernier if he liked anything in Pool 3, but even one of the best handicappers in the country is not locked into the Derby contenders yet. “Aside from Shug’s horse, I don’t have much interest. He’s the only one who interests me at all and I have a bad feeling he's going to take way too much money off his maiden win last weekend.” Shug’s horse is listed at #9 in this pool, Conquest Warrior. He’s 40-1 before betting opens later on Friday. I’ll have a small bet on #36 Timberlake if he’s close to his listed 25-1 on Sunday night when the pool closes. Matt is great at finding fun-priced horses in these pools, and we’ll have a deeper look at Future Pool #4 next month. And as we get into Derby Prep season, a return to our Saturday previews, as well.
As a guest and listener, I will miss producer Andrew Augustus on The Kirk Minihane Show. Gus is a good dude. His replacement, Justin Trudell, famously sewered my dead Godmother’s potatoes.
Massachusetts handled a record $658 million in legal sports bets in December, making it over $5 billion!!! bet over the last 11 months in the Bay State. After needlessly fighting against legal sports betting for years, the state is set to collect about $100 million in tax revenue. That’s well above the projected $60 million.
Let the final tally show that Bill Belichick's Patriots teams finished 214-162-11 against the spread in the regular season, a 56.7% cover percentage.
I think we’ve said it all.
Good luck with all your bets. And thanks for reading.