AFC East: Romeo Crennel
Here are three things to watch for New England:
1. Will the defense continue to improve?
New England's defense made strides in last week's 37-16 victory against the New York Jets. But this often-criticized unit still has a lot to prove. The Patriots remained last in total defense entering Week 11. But New England has the NFL's easiest remaining schedule. Also, playing against Kansas City backup quarterback Tyler Palko should help. Expect New England, which had five sacks last week, to be fearless in pressuring Palko. The Patriots have to feel confident Palko cannot beat them with his arm.
2. What does Romeo Crennel have in store?
Very few coaches know New England's personnel better than Kansas City defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. He was the Patriots' defensive coordinator during their three Super Bowl titles last decade. Crennel's defenses had to practice every day against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and many are curious to see what Crennel draws up against his former team. Kansas City playing stellar defense is one of the few ways the Chiefs can pull off the upset.
3. Can the Patriots stay injury-free?
The last time the Patriots played the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008, Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury. This is exactly the type of thing New England needs to avoid Monday night. The Patriots are expected to win this game pretty convincingly. But that doesn't mean it won't be a physical game. The best thing New England can do is jump on Kansas City early, then allow some of the Patriots' key players to rest in the fourth quarter.
What it means: One game does not make a season. But, come on folks, the Kansas City Chiefs can’t be feeling good after this one. To allow the Buffalo Bills to come in and ruin opening day like this is stunning, and, frankly, it’s inexcusable. Remember last year’s opener when the Chiefs played with spunk and outworked the Chargers? It started a special season. What will this stinker be the start of? After a poor preseason, the Chiefs played like a team that was unprepared for the regular season on Sunday. It was outworked and outplayed and it was sloppy and ineffective. Add anything else you like. It was just plain bad and the Chiefs.
Trending: It all started with the reported Jonathan Baldwin-Thomas Jones fight. Until the reported fight in late August, all was fairly solid for the Chiefs. They started slow, but they were healthy and all was good. Then, the bout occurred and Baldwin hasn’t practiced since with a thumb injury. It started a flurry of bad news for the Chiefs. Free-agent pickup, linebacker Brandon Siler, was soon lost for the year with a torn Achilles. Then, standout tight end Tony Moeaki was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his knee. Then the Chiefs went 0-4 in the preseason and now this horrible performance in the opener.
What’s really scary: Going into this game, no one expected the Bills’ offense to be a juggernaut and no one will likely expect it to be after this game. But the Bills rammed it down the Chiefs’ throats. The Chiefs couldn’t do anything defensively against the pass or the run. Kansas City won 10 games last year because the defense was stout. It was awful Sunday.
What's next: The Chiefs have to go to Detroit and play the improved and dangerous Detroit Lions before playing at San Diego in Week 3. Yes, Todd Haley’s crew must get it in gear, pronto.
New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro explores that daydream with the Jets about to play the New England Patriots in the playoffs.
The Jets and Patriots form one of the NFL's most intense rivalries, and Belichick's stunning decision to jilt the Jets is a prominent reason.
Belichick was supposed to succeed Bill Parcells as head coach 11 years ago last week, but his introductory news conference turned into a resignation. He joined the Patriots quickly thereafter.
The underlying, overriding issue was always the looming specter of Parcells. By the time Belichick held his "Blair Witch" press conference, he had clearly grown tired of his Parcellian link. Eleven years later, we know why: Parcells has never been to a Super Bowl without Belichick; Belichick has won three without Parcells. But in 2000, that notion would've seemed ludicrous. He had to strike out on his own.
Vaccaro notes Belichick's staff would have been in place with the Jets. Assistant coaches Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Al Groh and Eric Mangini followed him from the Jets to the Patriots. So did personnel executive Scott Pioli.
That's quite an infrastructure the Jets would've had in place.
But would the Jets have had the fortune of drafting Tom Brady?
The Patriots selected him 199th overall in 2000. The Jets had four first-round picks that year. They had three choices between the third and sixth rounds and another in the 218th slot. Based on Brady's profile leaving Michigan, there's a good chance he still would have been on the board then.
What do you think would have happened?
ESPNBoston.com chieftain Mike Reiss reports Green would be open to re-signing with the Patriots but not before he fields whatever offers may come his way.
"Definitely this year I'm going to experience the market," Green said. "I think for any player in their NFL career they need to experience that, and this will be my first time. I had the chance five years ago but I re-signed with the team. So this has been different for me, and it's been cool not being obligated to anyone but my family, my wife and kids."
Green started a career-high 12 games this season. His sack production has gone down significantly. He registered 14 sacks in 2006-07, but has only three the past two seasons. He had one sack in 2009.
Reiss notes there could be interest in Green because of former coaches scattered around the AFC. Former Patriots defensive coordinators Eric Mangini and Romeo Crennel could pursue him for their new teams.
Green told Reiss he underwent five surgical procedures since last offseason: two on an elbow, one on a wrist and one on each knee.
"I went through a lot of stuff, and the first thing you understand as a football player is that nobody plays 100 percent. There is no such thing," Green said. "But can I say that I ever felt like I was in my time? Here and there.
"After I came back from my knee surgery during the season, I felt pretty good for two to three games, but I still had my complications, the aftershocks of all my surgeries. So it feels good to have a full offseason obligated to healing up, getting back. I feel very blessed to walk away this year with no injuries."
On Monday, the Dolphins fired Paul Pasqualoni after two years on the job.
Crennel's name has popped up because he was a longtime defensive assistant to Dolphins football operations boss Bill Parcells with the New York Giants, New England Patriots and New York Jets.
Speculation around the NFL is that Crennel, most recently the Cleveland Browns head coach, will be the Kansas City Chiefs' defensive coordinator.
Brain drain continued Tuesday in Foxborough, Mass.
ESPN's Michael Smith reports New England Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli is joining the Kansas City Chiefs. The loss is the latest in a series of Bill Belichick consiglieres to flip.
Hotshot offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was introduced Monday as Denver Broncos head coach. Reports indicate he will take secondary coach Dom Capers and special teams coach Brad Seely with him.
Top college scout Thomas Dimitroff became Atlanta Falcons general manager last year. Belichick coordinators Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini have departed since December 2004.
Pioli spent nine years with the Patriots, winning the Sporting News' Executive of the Year award in 2003 and 2004 and Pro Football Weekly's version of the award in 2007.
From the Patriots' media guide:
Pioli's primary personnel objective is to build a team, not to simply collect individual talent. As a result, the Patriots have been able to prosper despite the NFL realities of injuries and the salary cap, which have proven in many cases to be impediments to long-term success in pro football.
Patriots player personnel director Nick Caserio will be Pioli's replacement, but how long will Caserio stick around? He already has gained notice around the league. Reports connected him to the Broncos and Cleveland Browns GM vacancies. So Caserio will remain with the Patriots, but maybe next year he'll want to call his own shots.
Belichick is a savvy overseer. He hasn't missed badly with his appointments. He makes wise choice after wise choice when identifying subordinates to carry out his master plan.
But how long can Patriot Nation expect to survive the loss of so many bright minds?
For Dolfans, this item will be as pleasurable as wet socks ... or maybe chewing on tin foil.
Yes, I know your amazing team is on its way to the playoffs. Rookie head coach Tony Sparano won 11 games and the AFC East championship.
Sounds like a great foundation year, the type of turnaround campaign that leads folks to believe happy days are ahead for a long, long time.
But let me remind everyone Eric Mangini won 10 games in his first season, too.
Romeo Crennel won 10 games last year.
Both of them were fired on Monday. Both of them also are former Bill Parcells assistants.
I'm not saying there's a trend developing, but Monday served as a valuable reminder: Success is contained by the calendar. Too many circumstances change from season to season. Injuries, free agency, drafts and coaching changes play a role.
So does the schedule.
The AFC East had an easy schedule in 2008. It played the AFC West and NFC West, divisions that produced one winning record -- not each, but combined. Western divisions had an aggregate 45-83 record, a .352 winning percentage.
In 2009, the AFC East will meet the AFC South and NFC South. That's four playoff teams. Nobody in the NFC South had a losing record.
Dolphins at home (dates and times usually announced in April): Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Law narrowed his choices to teams that offered direct links to their coaching staffs: the Jets, Patriots and Cleveland Browns. He has played for Eric Mangini, Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel.
"Yeah, I talked to them a few times, and it was pretty close," Law told reporters at the Jets' facility in Florham Park, N.J. "It's always going to be a relationship there with the Patriots organization and the fans. I chose to come here to New York, but I've always loved the Patriots.
"I'm a Jet right now, and we got to play against them. So right now, they've got to be the enemy."
Nobody is sure what Law's role will be in Thursday night's game against the Patriots, but NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci predicted if Law plays with a short week of prep time the snaps will be limited.
"If he's been sitting on the couch he's not going to be ready to play, but if you know Ty Law he's probably in very good shape and been training all along and waiting for this opportunity," Mariucci said on a conference call.
"Just coincidentally it's against his former team. That's an interesting move. I'm anxious to see if he has any participation in the game with such short preparation time, but good acquisition. He's 34, in Brett Favre's generation and he still has some football left.
"When he plays, whether it's this game or next game, I'm sure he'll have a role. I doubt if it'll be an every-down spot. It'll probably be nickel situations at first and then see how he feels and work him in gradually that way."