Week 16 picks: Who Bought These Groceries?
Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
“If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.“
-Bill Parcells, Jan. 31, 1997 announcing his resignation from the New England Patriots
It makes sense. Although my experience in cooking is limited to watching cooking shows with my wife on the Food Network, I have watched many chefs good enough to be on the Food Network shop for/grow/slaughter their own ingredients for cooking a fine meal. After all, you wouldn’t expect frozen vegetables, instant mashed potatoes, or fast food colored meat to be part of a five-star meal. If I were paying a couple of hundred dollars for such a meal, I would send it back.
Despite the applicable, if unfortunate, metaphor of comparing football players to food, Parcells was, and is still, right. If you want a good football team, you have to have good players. If you have good players, then a good coach can get the players to buy into what he is preaching, and the coach/chef can blend the players’ talents/foods into a great team/meal.
On the other hand, another edible metaphor can also apply: One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel. The idea here is that one Terrell Owens or Antonio Brown can ruin a whole team, as it appears to me both players, despite their immense talents, have done in the NFL.
I thought of both old euphemisms as I watched the New England Patriots literally throw away their football game last Sunday, which the Las Vegas Raiders gratefully caught.
How did this play happen to THE New England Patriots? Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Lawyer Milloy, Mike Vrabel, Adam Vinatieri to name just a few of the great names, could NEVER let what happened on the final play of last Sunday’s game happen.
But the Patriots did allow it to happen, and the biggest reason is none of the great players listed above still play for the Patriots. Bill Belichick is still there, but I’ve been watching the Patriots’ run for over 20 years now and I have yet to see Belichick make a single tackle or throw a single block. It’s the players, like the groceries, who make great teams. Conversely, bad players, or players with bad attitudes, make bad teams.
The Patriots have known they don’t have a real outside threat for years. When they had Tom Brady leading a group of players who loved to compete, they were able to compensate. But now they have Mac Jones, who, so far, has fallen far short of Tom Brady. They also have Jakobi Meyers, who is their best receiver, but who is also guilty of the most egregious miscue of all during Sunday’s final play disaster. Meyers himself does not seem to be a bad guy, and you have to respect his NFL journey that began as an undrafted free agent. But how could he do what he did, what was he thinking? And, maybe worse yet for the Pats, he wasn’t alone, at least on that play. Star running back Rhamondre Stevenson, for reasons known only to himself, lateralled the ball to Meyers before Meyers heaved the ball backwards to…the Raiders. So, that play isn’t all Meyers.
But, that play is all the Patriots, at least what they are now. They found a way to out-Lion the Lions. They snatched defeat out of the jaws of…overtime. They had the least when they needed the most. They came up short. They…whatever, they lost.
I would bet my meager pension that no Patriot coach drew up that play on Sunday. In fact, I would be stunned if at least 2 or 3 coaches were not imploring Stevenson to hold onto the ball during the called run play. Yet, Stevenson decided to lateral the ball backwards to Meyers, who was surrounded by Raiders. Maybe Meyers was listening to stadium music instead of his coaches before the play, but should a professional athlete need to be told not to lateral (actually, heave) the ball backwards 30 yards to QB Mac Jones (that speedster) on the final play of regulation in a tie game? What could Jones do if he had caught the ball? There had to be 5 ineligible guys downfield, they were blocking for a running play.
Just like he said in the opening quote of this article, as a coach Bill Parcells always liked to take “his guys” from the Giants to the Pats to the Jets to the Cowboys. Players like Dave Meggett, Myron Guyton, William Roberts, Curtis Martin, Ray Lucas, Keith Byers, Terry Glenn, Richie Anderson, Vinnie Testaverde, Dedric Ward, Aaron Glenn, Jason Ferguson and Drew Bledsoe all played for Parcells for more than one, and some even played for him on three teams. And his guys played well for him, taking Parcells-coached teams to three Super Bowls, winning two. If you know anything about any of these players, you know that they played tough, they never gave the ball to the other team while playing for Parcells, and the other team was forced to “eat wood” to beat them.
I thought Bill Belichick had learned this lesson from his old master, the lesson that you can count on some guys while you need to count other guys out if you want to win. But the last couple of years have proven otherwise. I would have thought the last guy Bill Belichick would want playing quarterback for him would have been Cam Newton, but I saw it two years ago when I watched the disaster that was then the New England Patriots’ offense. You would think at least one speedster would want to play for the Pats, but not lately. And, although some of his assistants have had success with other teams, many have returned to less than stellar reviews. And, if Bill Parcells has a son (or son-in-law) he never coached for him.
No, another old adage, “A coach is only as good as his worst player” has been proven correct again. I think I would add to that, making it read, “A coach is only as good as his worst player or the player with the worst attitude”.
Think if the head coach involved had a name other than Belichick. But as far as the Patriots are concerned this year, their head coach would have to be named Houdini to get them out of this mess. I hope the Patriots somehow make the playoffs because I could then bet against them in the playoffs and make some sure money. But I’ll go out on a limb the size of the Brooklyn Bridge and predict the Pats go nowhere but to the golf course come playoff time.
Last week was another good one for me. Pay attention to those huge point spreads…they are generally not covering. Here’s my picks for this difficult week (holidays, short week, big injuries) Spreads are from sportsline.com on Tuesday, December 20.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+1) at New York Jets: The Jags are hot on offense, and, with Zach Wilson, I don’t think the Jets can keep up.
Chicago Bears (+9) vs Buffalo Bills: The rule I follow with big spreads (more than 7 points in the NFL) is defense covers. The Bears will score.
Cincinnati Bengals (-3 ½) at New England Patriots: Read my article
Detroit Lions (-2 ½) at Carolina Panthers: Go Lions!
SF 49ers (-7) vs Washington Commanders: The 49ers defense qualifies as good.
Philadelphia Eagles (+5 ½) at Dallas Cowboys: Last week, before Jalen Hurts’ injury, I had this game as even. If I was right (or even close) that means maybe even losing one player (albeit the probable NFL MVP) is worth 5 ½ points on the betting line. Too many, especially considering the Eagles are still really good and the Cowboys are really inconsistent.
Miami Dolphins (-4 ½) vs Green Bay Packers: The Dolphins are good at home.
Last week 5-1
Air Force (+3 ½) over Baylor: Maybe it’s because I’ve had such a terrible season, but I just haven’t found many appetizing situations in the bowl games so far. I liked this one much better at the opening line of 6 ½, but that number didn’t last long enough for me to get to it. But if I’m right Air Force wins the game outright, and if I’m wrong, the line change likely doesn’t matter.
Giants (+4) at Vikings: By coming back to beat the Colts last Saturday, the Vikings have now outscored their opponents by two points this season, despite being 11-3. When they win, it always ends up being close.
Bears (+8) over Bills: This one has a high potential for embarrassment, but the Bills are off three straight division wins, with the Bengals and Patriots coming up next. In other words, it’s a potential flat spot. Hopefully Justin Fields can make enough plays to keep it within a touchdown.
Bengals (-3) at Patriots: Hopefully we won’t even need Rhamondre Stevenson and Jakobi Meyers to pull off a repeat of the dumbest play of all time.
Eagles (+5) at Cowboys: Gardner Minshew isn’t Jalen Hurts, but he’s one of the few backup QB’s in the NFL capable of winning a game.