Patriots, Not Jets, ‘Lacked Stability’ Before Bill Parcells Joined New England and 19 Other NFL Thoughts


April 20, 2011

Patriots, Not Jets, 'Lacked Stability' Before Bill Parcells Joined New England and 19 Other NFL Thoughts This is a jam-packed edition of the Two-Minute Drill, which touches upon seven draft prospects, the NFL's 100 best players, three finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame and zero notes about the lockout.

Who said there's no football to discuss right now?

1. On the field, I think UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers has the capability of being a very productive player, and I had him as a draft candidate for the Patriots for nearly three months. Last week, though, I heard some unsettling stuff about him off the field, and I can't imagine the Patriots would be too interested, since they've more than likely heard the same things.

2. I had more fun watching Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley last season than any defensive player in the country, and he has the physical tools to be great. However, I really disagree with the notion that he could be a Pro Bowler in New England.

3. Fairley will be at his best as a 3-technique defensive tackle (lining up between the guard and tackle) on a four-man front, which will allow him to rush the passer at will. That's simply not what the Patriots ask out of their defensive linemen.

4. Fairley would play at defensive end in New England's 3-4 scheme, and I don't see him as a guy who would be thrilled about containing blocks and freeing up space. It just doesn't suit his style or play to his strengths.

5. So, unless Bill Belichick is planning to overhaul his defensive philosophy, there's no chance of him targeting Fairley in the draft.

6. Pete Prisco deserves credit for ranking his top-100 NFL players again. I really disagree with some of his rankings — but, in all seriousness, it would be impossible to fully agree on a list of this magnitude — such as the prominence given to Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson (No. 5), Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake (No. 31), Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (No. 34) Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (No. 44), Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (No. 49) and Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace (No. 89).

7. On the other side, I thought Saints quarterback Drew Brees (No. 10), Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (No. 50), Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (No. 60), Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo (No. 62) were too low and deserved better rankings.

8. Do you really believe Jackson is a better player than Wilfork and Mayo? Not a chance.

9. It's interesting the Patriots are, reportedly, working out Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett one week after they had a reported two-day visit with Washington quarterback Jake Locker. While Locker is a very likely first-rounder, Mallett's off-field character concerns should drop him into the second round.

10. I've paid close attention to Mallett since his freshman year at Michigan, and I love his physical talent. While it's still too early for the Patriots to plan for Tom Brady's successor, Bill Belichick could have identified Mallett as an absolute steal if his stock holds true and he falls deep into the second round. With a few years of tutelage and some added maturity, Mallett's mental makeup could catch up to his immense football talent.

11. So, that's why I believe the Patriots are working out Mallett. I don't think the main purpose was to set up a smokescreen to raise the trade value of the 28th and 33rd picks. Because, as I wrote last week, I don't think teams will readily buy the notion that Belichick is actively seeking out Brady's successor.

12. I've heard really good things about California defensive end Cameron Jordan and Baylor guard Danny Watkins in regard to their character. Based on my background information, I believe Watkins would be a better fit for the Patriots than Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey.

13. Drew Bledsoe and Bill Parcells have garnered most of the attention as finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame, but Parcells took some time this week to give a nod to the third finalist, former defensive tackle Houston Antwine.

"I saw him play quite a bit, and I thought he was really, really a tremendous player," Parcells said. "Tremendous player. And he?s one of those guys that I don't think ever got a lot of notoriety, but I can tell you firsthand, he was terrific."

14. It was interesting to hear Parcells didn't even know the Patriots had opened their Hall of Fame. He said the only time he has been to Gillette Stadium was when he was coaching the Cowboys in 2003.

15. Parcells was asked about the impact he hoped he had on the game and gave an insightful answer.

"I feel like if someone would say something positive about Bill Parcells," he said, "I would hope it would be that, 'He had a lot of respect for the game and his predecessors. If he did leave any mark on the NFL, it would certainly be those to follow.' That's what I would hope. I've said many times, we're all riding a train. And it's a great ride when you're on it, but when they ask you to get off, everybody has to get off the train. And that time comes, you're just hopeful that there is no heartbreak with it, because there can be. But in my case, there never was, so I was very fortunate in that regard."

16. The best anecdote from Parcells' call was that he lives in the same condominium complex in Florida as Belichick, who lives two floors above his mentor. We had all known for several years the two had mended fences, but it was interesting to hear they're seasonal neighbors now, too.

17. Parcells was also asked which task was more difficult: undertaking the Patriots or Jets.

"I think New England was bigger because there was a lot more stability at the Jets," Parcells said. "Ownership was more stable at the Jets. The talent level, initially, when I went to the Jets was much better. So, I would say that New England was a bigger undertaking because there were a lot more areas that lacked structure and stability."

18. There is some statistical backing to that. Parcells brought the Patriots to a 5-11 record (after a 1-11 start) in 1993 after they went 2-14 without him in 1992. He then improved the Jets to 9-7 in 1997 after they went 1-15 without him in 1996.

19. Bledsoe said he wasn't a superstitious player, but he did buy into it once. He was having some issues with his cleats during the second quarter of a 1994 game in Week 11 against the Vikings at Foxboro Stadium, so he went into the locker room to get a new pair. The Patriots, who entered the game with a 3-6 record, erased a 20-0 deficit to beat the Vikings, and they closed the season with seven consecutive victories. Bledsoe wore those cleats for the rest of the season, but he threw them out after the Pats' playoff loss to the Belichick-coached Browns.

20. Bledsoe was very happy to brag about his new coaching venture. He led a third- and fourth-grade flag football team to an undefeated record last season in Bend, Ore. He also said he was happy to make a clean break from the NFL, and if he ever really got into coaching, he doesn't want to go past the high school level.

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