Friday Four-Pack 12.15.23
Belichick reporting gets big reaction. Top two candidates for massive radio job. NFL Picks!
This robot did not write today’s Four-Pack.
You can argue a robot would do a better job. That’s fair. Hell, you’ve probably already read some form of AI-generated sports content, even if you don’t know it.
But no, in this case, MutStack is a mess made strictly by human hands.
But we’re not above asking our computer overlords for help.
X.com, formerly Twitter, offers some subscribers an early taste of its own AI in the form of Grok. Grok is an AI created by xAI, which is run by Elon Musk. I won’t pretend to know much more about how it works, other than I’m guessing it scrapes a lot of its info from X.com posts.
First off, you've got a real thing for sports betting, don't you? I bet you're the life of the party when you show up in your lucky shorts and change your shirt to change your "karma." How's that working out for you, Mike? Did you manage to bet on the right horse yet, or are you still riding the losing pony?
And let's not forget about your love for potatoes. Yes, Mike, we all saw your Thanksgiving masterpiece. How about you stick to sports and betting and leave the cooking to the professionals, hmm?
In conclusion, Mike Mutnansky, you're a sports-loving, betting enthusiast with a penchant for potatoes and questionable friendships. Keep on keeping on, Mike, and who knows, maybe one day you'll hit the jackpot. Until then, keep posting those "interesting" thoughts, and we'll be here to roast you for them.
We’re working on a new potato recipe for Christmas, don’t worry.
And since it’s the biggest story in New England, we asked Grok who the next head coach of the Patriots will be.
“It's hard to say for sure who will be the next head coach of the Patriots, but there are a few names being thrown around as potential replacements for Bill Belichick. Some of the top candidates include Mike Vrabel, who has a history with the Patriots and is currently the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, and Jerod Mayo, who is already on the Patriots coaching staff and is seen as a rising star in the coaching world. Other possibilities include Matt Patricia, who was previously the defensive coordinator for the Patriots, and Brian Flores, who was recently the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Ultimately, the decision will come down to who the Patriots ownership and front office feel is the best fit for the team moving forward.
Interesting. Never considered a reunion with Matt Patricia a possibility. Maybe the offense wasn’t his fault? Would certainly be good for sports radio in Boston.
Brian Flores has the Vikings’ defense blitzing at an insane rate. Maybe he’s the guy to turn this thing around.
But Vrabel and Mayo feel like the two most likely candidates. And whether it’s one of them or some longshot, there should be a coaching change in New England after this season.
Two different angles to the Belichick story are part of today’s Friday Four-Pack.
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On the reaction to Tom E Curran’s report on Belichick…
Let’s work backward here.
By now you’ve heard Tom E. Curran on NBC Sports Boston with this nugget.
“When they came out of Germany, conversations I had that week made it very clear that a decision was made,” Curran said on “Arbella Early Edition.” “They were going to play out the string, and at the end of the year, there would be a parting of the ways, for a variety of reasons.”
That sparked pushback from die-hard Patriots fans.
Curran v. Trudell. I’m here for it.
There was more pushback when Curran, in the minds of many fans and observers, hedged his report by suggesting that things could change from what he was told after the Colts game.
Curran recognized the attention this thing was getting and addressed it head-on on his Patriots Talk Podcast with Phil Perry on Thursday.
“Based on the conversation I had, it felt the decision was fairly well-sealed. However, if the Patriots finish with a flourish could things change? I mean, it’s 28-3 right now. And we know that that’s not an insurmountable deficit, but it’s very late in the game.
“It’s the nature of the losses. And the product on the field. And the promises of improvement the Kraft Family made to their season ticket holders that led to that decision at that time….Until it’s done it’s not done. And everyone reserves the right to change their mind. There was no juncture where I said “Final Answer? Is that your final answer?” … because you’re just not in a position to do that as a reporter…so from my vantage point I would say it’s not a final, final decision rendered after the Indianapolis game, but a decision as to which direction they would be going in had been made. And I’m only saying it because I don’t know if there’s a chance that they could change their mind. Maybe there is no chance they could change their minds. I simply don’t know if there’s a chance. But I would feel that it’s unlikely.”
Maybe the aggregation of the story online made it sound like Curran was hedging the report. His podcast response on Thursday tells a different story. There is zero hedging - only allowing for the people making the decision to potentially audible from the plan that was in place after the Colts game.
As someone who admittedly spends way too much time on social media and listening to sports talk radio, it sure does feel like fans are more upset at Curran and the Patriots Media than they are at the team for bottoming out for the second time in four years.
And I get it, to a point. Ron Borges ran with a fake story because he wanted to believe it. Ben Volin rolls with random, non-sourced DMs he gets. Greg Bedard talks down to you like he invented the game of football. Fair to be skeptical. Even annoyed at times.
And look, Curran sure as shit doesn’t need me defending his reporting. He was first in the market when it came to the Brady/Pats breakup, the biggest story of the last few years.
In this case, it’s the Belichick/Pats breakup that has fans upset. They don’t want the Dynasty to be over. They don’t want to see the greatest coach of all time going somewhere else to win, taking the Patriot Way with him. They don’t want their team to be irrelevant. They want to remember the good times. It’s emotional.
But it’s also irrational to be more upset about the reporting on the bad football than the actual PLAY of the bad football team.
Just days after Curran’s report, Dan Graziano of ESPN filed a HUGE story on the Patriots.
Unproductive drafts, questionable staffing decisions and the failure to develop 2021 first-round pick Mac Jones into a franchise quarterback are among the factors that have contributed to the worst Patriots season in more than two decades. And whether it's team owner Robert Kraft's decision to move on, Belichick's decision to step away or a mutual decision between the two parties, there is a growing belief around the NFL that someone besides Belichick will be coaching the team in 2024.
He uses a lot of words to essentially echo Curran, who is putting his journalistic nuts on the line with this report.
And really, none of this should be a surprise if you’ve watched the games post-Brady. Which leads us right into the second part of this.
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On Bill Belichick’s “massive mismanagement of the quarterback position”…
“…With a coach that is probably gone after this season thanks to among other things massive mismanagement of the quarterback position.”
I got a tweet in response, from one of those aforementioned fans who gets more mad at the media than at the team itself, to please explain the massive mismanagement.
How bout’ just this season to start?
In a make-or-break season for Mac Jones, you swap out his best receiver in Jakobi Meyers for a complete wildcard in JuJu Smith-Shuster. That was the offensive “upgrade” for the receiver core. Meyers has 59 catches for 648 yards and 7 TDs for the Raiders. He added a passing touchdown to that stat line in the Raiders humiliation of the Chargers Thursday night. Smith-Shuster has tallied 29-216-1 for the Pats and before injuries in front of him on the depth chart, was basically a non-factor.
Spend more guaranteed money than they ever have on an undrafted free agent, QB/WR Malik Cunningham. Don’t really use him in games. Then go ahead and make him the lone backup to Mac Jones in an actual, important NFL game (v. Raiders). Then this past week, lose Cunningham off the practice squad to the Ravens. The sales pitch to Cunnigham was seemingly “We’ll use you better than the Patriots did.” Yikes.
Oh, before the season starts, actually CUT both Cunningham and fellow backup Bailey Zappe. Exposing them both to waivers. Throughout the season, Matt Corrall, Ian Book and Will Grier are all brought in. To do what exactly, as the three have combined for ZERO career NFL TD passes.
Put starter Mac Jones behind an offensive line ranked in the bottom third of the league by most metrics.
Those are some of the highlights from this season. We can work back over the last few years if you’d like.
Full credit for bringing back Bill O’Brien to run the offense, but before that you stuck Mac with freaking Matt Patricia who had no real experience at all calling an offense. Joe Judge, who was there to oversee Daniel Jones’ downfall in New York, he too was part of the offensive ‘plan,’ if you can call it that.
The team seemed unprepared to deal with the loss of Josh McDaniels. And before that Rob Gronkowski, who decided he didn’t want to play for the team or Belichick anymore.
Bad draft rehashing has been beaten to death, I get it. BUT… the 2022 draft you took a guard (Cole Strange) in Round 1 and WR (Tyquan Thornton) early in Round 2. By all indications, those players were going to be there later. You had a real need to get talent around Mac and failed to do it.
And of course, you have the total cluster that was the exit of the greatest QB of all time.
Post-Brady, it’s been bad. Belichick had his chance to rebuild after the GOAT’s departure. It didn’t work. The team’s quarterback situation is dysfunctional. It’s time to move on.
Comments open below to rip me, Curran, the team or the media. Fire away.
On the latest in the search for Fred Toucher’s co-host…
We’ll get to that in a second.
First, credit to the Boston Herald. Someone over there realized that people are really into the drama of sports media. In this case, Boston sports radio.
There have been multiple headlines and stories like this in the last few weeks.
Earlier this week, the above story was a Top 5 most-read post for the paper’s website. Last week’s story on Kendra Middleton getting an interview just missed getting into the Top 5 most read.
People care about this stuff. And credit to the Herald for following it, even if it’s more recap quotes and less media opinion.
As far as Fred’s next co-host, the betting favorite Rob “Hardy” Poole was in with Fred for the early part of the week. When I listened on Monday and Tuesday, it sounded like two friends doing sports radio.
Fred admitted that Hardy and Middleton were basically “the two people at the station and in the area” that he preferred to work with.
He also suggested in the above clip that the decision on his next co-host is “out of his hands,” insinuating that program director Rick Radzik would make that call.
“When you send me something (about the job opening), I’m not going to respond to you because I don’t even want to get involved.”
That’s hard to believe. That part about how it’s not his decision. I guess he can get away with saying that during the interview process, but he’ll obviously have a major say in making the final call on his next co-host.
And the feeling in the air continues to suggest Hardy will be that next co-host.
98.5 The Sports Hub’s night host Joe Murray was in with Fred on Friday morning. He’s been in as much as anyone during the process, but I don’t believe he’s a candidate to replace Rich Shertenlieb.
On our Week 15 NFL Picks…
Week 10: 0-3
Week 11: 3-0
Week 12: 2-0-1
Week 13 4-0
Week 14 2-1
Tough runout on the Jets/Texans under in Week 14. We were probably due for that after being on the right side of a bunch of what felt like coinflips as of late.
A reminder the NFL has gifted us three Saturday games this week. And all three look pretty good.
A good day to go Christmas shopping and accidentally end up at a restaurant rooting home your bets and fantasy football/best ball playoff teams.
A friend of sports bettors everywhere, the legendary Al Michaels, found out this week he would not be on the call for the NFL Playoffs on NBC. Noah Eagle will get the assignment instead. I am not a fan of this decision, especially if NBC is making this call because of what Michaels said about Taylor Swift.
COLTS -1.5 V. STEELERS (-105, FanDuel).
It took me a long time to land here. The Giants plus the points feels like an okay bet. Why are the Saints favored by six against anyone? The Rams could blow out the Commanders, but they’re tracking to be the most public team of the week. I can’t land there, but the Rams are an awesome teaser piece. Gimme the Colts at home laying less than a field goal. Mitch Tribusky faces a Colts defense that is fourth in INTs and third in sacks. The Steelers’ defense rates well on DVOA, but I watched Bailey Zappe carve them up for thirty minutes last week. And yes, the Steelers vomiting all over themselves is probably affecting my judgment here. They have also been carved up by No. 3 receivers all season. Big Josh Downs day.
TEXANS V. TITANS UNDER 37.5 (-115, FanDuel).
I feel a lot better about this one than the side. The Titans are a super slow team - 31st in DVOA sec/play. The high-powered Texans are going to likely be without C.J. Stroud (concussion). They will definitely be without stud WRs Tank Dell and Nico Collins. So what you get is Davis Mills playing shorthanded against one of the two slowest teams in the NFL. Under.
CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE UNDER 45.5 RUSHING YARDS (-114, FanDuel). For as bad as the season has been for the Patriots, they have the NFL’s No. 1 ranked DVOA run defense. They allow the seventh-fewest rushing yards per game to opposing running backs. Edwards-Heliare split time with Jerrick McKinnon v. the Bills and there’s no evidence to think that won’t happen again this week with Isiah Pacheco out. Certainly a threat the Chiefs blow out the Pats and we lose this in garbage time. But between the Pats defense and the timeshare at RB, I’m okay with the number.
Only a few books have posted a line for this as of Friday morning.
Sunday Morning Edit: This number went up with the official Pacheco news. Saw some 50.5/-115 very playable. Overs on Jerick McKinnon attempts (3.5/-115 or 4.5/+175 ESPN BET) are also playable. He was in there a lot last week and got all the goalline work.
Massive weather concerns in CAR/ATL. Rams in every teaser/parlay. YOLO.
The Al Michaels NBC snub is annoying. So we’ll end with a Zach Bryan banger to put us in a better mood.
Thanks for reading and subscribing. Good luck in the fantasy football playoffs. And with all your bets.