AFC East: Willie McGinest

Links: Hill says Jets to go 'deep in playoffs'

July, 16, 2013
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Buffalo Bills

Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd is the only franchise tagged player to have not signed his tender. Sources close to the situation told The Buffalo News the parties did not speak Monday and didn’t have any talks last week. David Canter, the agent for Chargers safety Eric Weddle, tweeted some harsh words for Warren Sapp, who tells Byrd to go back to work and earn a deal. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas reacted to Byrd's demands by tweeting, "Pay that man...lol."

Just how fast will the Bills' offense run under coordinator Nathaniel Hackett? "We’ve averaged from four seconds to 18 seconds (per play)," Hackett tells Chris Brown of the team's official website.

In an ESPN Insider piece Insider, Gary Horton ranks Bills running back C.J. Spiller as one of the AFC's most versatile players.

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Herald's David J. Neal opines on the impact of free speech in this age of social media, and how it reflected on Mike and Maurkice Pouncey: "The Pounceys turn 24 on July 24. They don’t remember when 'Free [jailed person here]' once carried a social element."

"We haven’t yet heard from Mike (Pouncey), but you can be assured Dolphins coach Joe Philbin will talk to him. Most likely he’ll ask him where the hats came from, why they wore them, and tell Mike not to put the team is such a position again. End of story," writes Chris Perkins of the Sun-Sentinel.

"I wouldn't trade Cam Wake for anybody in our league," Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle recently told the Dolphins' official website.

Rookie defensive end Dion Jordan answers five offseason questions, including how he'll accept feedback from veteran players.

New England Patriots

Former Patriot Willie McGinest predicts New England will finish 11-5 in 2013 because of his belief in both quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick.

Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork will be honored at this year's "The Tradition" event in Boston.

Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2013, ESPNBoston.com takes a closer look at cornerback Ras-I Dowling.

The Boston Globe takes a closer look at what life is like for former Patriot Aaron Hernandez in jail.

In an ESPN Insider piece Insider, Gary Horton ranks Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman as one of the AFC's most versatile players.

New York Jets

Wide receiver Stephen Hill says the Jets "will be in the playoffs, and deep in the playoffs."

Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com says Mike Goodson is the Jets' wild card among the running backs heading into the 2013 season.

A one-time short-term replacement for Darrelle Revis, defensive back Aaron Berry looks to find his place on a roster that now includes Dee Milliner.

"It won't matter to fantasy owners whether the Jets' quarterback is past pariah Mark Sanchez or potential messiah Geno Smith; worrying about it will be as worthless as agonizing over a last-round kicker," writes Sports Illustrated's Eric Mack.

Are the Patriots too uptight?

June, 10, 2013
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For a team as consistently successful as the New England Patriots, you would think most players would leave the organization with glowing reviews. But that's often not the case in New England.

Many notable former Patriots are disgruntled for one reason or another. You can go as far back as Lawyer Milloy and Willie McGinest during the dynasty years. Recently, starting defensive tackle Kyle Love was furious when he was released after being diagnosed with diabetes. And Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker told Yahoo! Sports this week about New England's stuffy football culture and the differences he sees in his new team, Denver Broncos.

"I feel like I can be myself a little more, for sure,” Welker said candidly. “All [the Broncos] told me was, 'Just be yourself.’”

Are the Patriots too uptight?

Welker certainly is describing New England as a place where it’s hard for players to be themselves. As a media member, I can vouch that New England’s locker room usually doesn’t offer much insight or personality. Players appear reluctant, and almost afraid, to say anything worthwhile about an opponent, injury or an upcoming game. It comes from the top with head coach Bill Belichick, who simply wants to coach football and views anything else as a distraction.

You cannot argue with the Patriots’ success the past 13 years under Belichick. His record includes five Super Bowl appearances and three titles. However, New England has also become infamous for expecting players to act like robots when they’re on the team and later treating them like replaceable parts when it’s time to kick them to the curb. That combination has rubbed some people, like Welker, the wrong way.

Welker also says that Patriots quarterback and good friend Tom Brady was not happy with New England's letting Welker go in free agency. Brady, partly due to New England's tight-lipped culture, essentially avoided the topic this offseason and said he is moving forward with replacement receiver Danny Amendola. It’s permissible for Welker to speak the truth now that he’s in Denver.

“He was upset about it, and part of me was a little upset about it too,” Welker said. “But things happen for a reason, and I'm excited about the opportunities here and the type of team we have and things that we can do.”

Football is meant to be fun, and perhaps the Patriots define fun only by winning, which happens a lot in New England. But it seems that a higher percentage of players than usual leave Foxborough with some kind of complaint.
Returning to New Orleans for the Super Bowl has conjured up some old feelings. Just a few days before Super Bowl XLVII, we have two former players going at it from teams not associated with this year's title game.

On one side you have Hall of Fame tailback Marshall Faulk, who says he's still upset about his St. Louis Rams being "cheated" out of a Super Bowl 11 years ago in New Orleans due to the New England Patriots' "Spygate" scandal. On the other side, you have former Patriots Pro Bowl defensive end Willie McGinest responding to Faulk by defending New England's first of three championships.

"If we had any extra information, then that game wouldn't have been as dramatic as it was, coming down to a field goal," McGinest told Comcast Sports Net in New England. "Trust me. It would have been a blowout."

The Patriots won the game, 20-17, with an Adam Vinatieri field goal in the final seconds, which jumpstarted New England's dynasty. The "Spygate" scandal broke years later, and it's clear that doesn't sit well with some former players like Faulk.

But beyond that, this looks like two retired players arguing over a game from more than a decade ago. The final score still stands in the record books and that's not going to change. It's time for everyone to move on.
Willie McGinest was right: You cannot beat the New England Patriots in contract negotiations.

The Patriots are emotionless and truly believe no one player is above the team. Many NFL clubs say it but later cave into star players' wishes. The Patriots do not.

Wes Welker is the latest poster child of "The Patriot Way." The deadline for players under the franchise tag passed at 4 p.m. ET Monday without a new extension for Welker. He will receive no long-term security and this could turn out to be his final season in New England.

Welker
So how did Welker and New England get to this point?

A case can be made that Welker has done everything right in his five years with the Patriots. He is an undersized receiver who worked very hard to overachieve and outperform a modest contract with New England.

Welker never complained about his previous contract. He signed it and played it out in full. But this offseason was supposed to be a reward for years of staying quiet and playing great football. Welker caught 100 or more passes in four of his five seasons in New England.

Instead, the Patriots are sticking to what they are comfortable with and didn't budge. They want to keep the 31-year-old Welker for at least one more season. New England is willing to risk losing Welker when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2013. Another, more expensive franchise tag is possible next year. But the Patriots will not give Welker a long-term contract at 32, when they wouldn't do it at 31.

McGinest, who won three Super Bowls with New England, warned Welker this offseason during a highly-publicized Twitter spat. McGinest pointed out to Welker that every player is replaceable at One Patriot Drive, and Welker should be happy he’s getting the one-year, $9.5 million offer. Welker scoffed at McGinest but on Monday learned the hard way that McGinest is correct.

The Patriots' harsh approach to doing business under Bill Belichick has worked well the past dozen years. It's hard to argue with three Super Bowl championships and 10 AFC East titles since 2000.

But there are some Patriots casualties who feel cheated along the way. You now can add Welker to that list.
In case you missed it, here is a recap of some of the many topics we covered in this week's AFC East chat.

Eric: Matt Moore is doomed either way. What's the point, if we're gonna suck anyway, of NOT starting Ryan Tannehill now? Let him face adversity. I'm tired of "rebuilding" every, single year.

James Walker: Because it's the job of the coaching staff to play the players who give the team the best chance to win. Despite what fans and media say, every team thinks it can compete for the playoffs at the start of the season. Tannehill doesn't give Miami the best chance to do that this year. Maybe in Year 2 or Year 3. Moore or [David] Garrard is the safe choice while Tannehill learns.

JonK13: Hey James, I've heard coach Philbin is coaching a very upbeat offense down there in South Beach. Do you think Miami will be in shape to start the season or will they be gassed the first 7 games like last year?

James Walker: If the Dolphins players aren't in shape, they better get there. Miami is running more up-tempo on offense, at least that's what it looks like in practice. Miami wants to put pressure on the defense. That can be good and bad. It could lead to quick points if you're moving the chains. Or it could lead to a lot of quick three-and-outs and expose your defense. It worked in Green Bay. So HC Joe Philbin is trying it in Miami.

Matt: As it stands right now, do you think the Buffalo Bills' receiving corps is talented enough to be competitive and score enough points this season? Specifically, do you think T.J. Graham is enough of a vertical threat upgrade?

James Walker: It would be nice if Buffalo found a proven No. 2 receiver to go with Steve Johnson. But the Bills can't plug every hole. I think they did a solid job of re-signing Johnson at a price they were comfortable with and drafting a left tackle on offense. Those were two big things the Bills needed this offseason. It's too early to project what Graham can do. The Bills are hoping for the best, but we have to wait and see.

Diddy: Never mind Chan Gailey, any chance Rex Ryan is on the hot seat if the NYJ fail to make the playoffs again this year? And are the owners starting to get tired of his big mouth?

James Walker: I don't get this one. Rex Ryan is not on the hot seat. He hasn't had a losing season yet in New York and went to back-to-back AFC title games. Say what you want about his brash and sometimes empty talk. I critique him all the time about that. But Ryan is a quality coach.

Emotionless negotiator: Doesn't this sort of behavior engender a lot of ill will from the players over time? New England is getting a rep for treating dedicated players horribly.

James Walker: It can and probably does. But the Patriots are consistent and always doing what's best for the team, not the player. I think as long as you're going to Super Bowls, it doesn't really matter. Do Patriot fans really care that Willie McGinest is still upset years later? Probably not.

AFC East links: No rushing Tannehill

May, 20, 2012
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Buffalo Bills
The team announced that its first two home games -- Sept. 16 against Kansas City and Sept. 30 against New England -- are sold out, the Buffalo News reports. The team plays seven games at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and one at Toronto's Rogers Centre -- Dec. 16 against Seattle.

Miami Dolphins
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross says the team won't rush the development of Ryan Tannehill, the quarterback Miami drafted eighth overall. "We drafted Tannehill because we thought he’d be a great franchise quarterback," Ross told the Palm Beach Post. "He has all the intangibles, (he’s) a great athlete. The important thing is not to have great expectations up front, and bring him along."

New England Patriots
Former Patriots standout Willie McGinest told the Boston Herald he's made peace with Wes Welker after taking issue with how the receiver dealt with his contract status. "I'm cool with Wes. I never had a problem with him in the beginning," McGinest said. "I was just trying to give him the blueprint of how things go down (in Foxboro)."

New York Jets
The Jets aren't in fact out of the running for a return engagement on HBO's "Hard Knocks," the Sporting News reported. "(It) has not been offered to us," general manager Mike Tannenbaum said, "so right now we’re on the sidelines and we don’t know who’s going to be asked at the end of the day."
Tom Brady/Wes WelkerStephen J. Cohen/WireImagePatriots stars Tom Brady, left, and Wes Welker were all smiles at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady spent time with teammate Wes Welker last weekend at the Kentucky Derby. Between the schmoozing and excitement of horse racing, Brady should have given his top receiver a subtle message and said, "Buddy, it's time to get back to work."

There is one thing for certain about the Patriots: You do not fight the machine.

Welker is facing an uphill battle he cannot win. Many have tried before him and failed. Welker is not the exception.

Welker has yet to sign his franchise tender and hasn't decided how long he's going to protest New England's one-year, $9.5 million offer. The potential distraction has been held to a minimum thus far, but it would only grow stronger if Welker continued to skip New England's offseason program.

The Patriots' mandatory minicamp is scheduled for June 12. The best advice is for Welker to have his mind made up by that time. Missing New England's current voluntary program is not a big thing. But if Welker also chooses to skip the Patriots' three-day veteran minicamp, that is when he's hurting the team in the eyes of the coaching staff.

At that point the gloves may come off -- and Welker doesn't want that.

New England is emotionless and shrewd in negotiations. Just ask three-time Super Bowl winner Willie McGinest, who apparently still carries some level of bitterness about how he was handled by the Patriots at the end of his career. McGinest recently got into a Twitter spat with Welker about his contract situation and delivered this stern message.

"We're all expendable at Patriot Place," McGinest tweeted to Welker.

McGinest is right. NFL players in general are expendable, but even more so in New England.

Welker needs to be more mindful of how the Patriots often treat players like replaceable and interchangeable parts. It happened to McGinest, who spent the final three years of his career with the struggling Cleveland Browns. It happened to Richard Seymour, who was great for eight seasons with the Patriots and suddenly shipped to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round draft pick. The Patriots also traded future Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings when Moss grew unhappy about his contract.

Welker should know better. No one player is above the team in New England. That is the Patriot Way.

[+] EnlargeTBD
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesNew England signed four free-agent receivers, but can any of them match Wes Welker's production?
This is not to say Welker hasn't worked hard and doesn't have a point about long-term security. This is more about wisely navigating the cruel business side of the NFL. It's all about leverage. Welker has little. New England has plenty. Sometimes it's best to accept your fate and move forward.

Welker remains steadfast in shedding the franchise tag for a long-term contract.

"Through my body of work, through the past five years, I think what I've done I've earned a long-term deal,” Welker recently told ESPN Boston Radio. "It's what I am looking for and what I want. Hopefully that's the case and hopefully we come to something where we can make that happen."

Do not think for one second that New England is not prepared for the worst. All the Patriots have done this offseason is sign wide receivers.

New England signed receivers Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Gonzalez and Donte’ Stallworth in free agency. All are productive veterans who have a chance to add something to the offense. The Patriots also re-signed veteran Deion Branch, backup Matthew Slater, and drafted rookie receiver Jeremy Ebert. Chad Ochocinco and Julian Edelman also remain on the roster.

New England will have an elite passing game next season with or without Welker.

If Welker decides to stage a lengthy holdout, Lloyd and Gaffney would be the starters, while Branch, Gonzalez, Stallworth and Ochocinco compete in training camp for backup roles. New England also runs a lot of two tight-end sets with Pro Bowler Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. This is still a very deep and talented group of targets for Brady, who also has a knack for making everyone around him a couple of notches better.

Despite 122 receptions and 1,569 yards last year, the Patriots have found a way to make Welker replaceable. But that's only if Welker chooses to be and doesn't sign his franchise tender.

The next move should be the best move by Welker. He should sign the franchise tag, take the $9.5 million and see if anything changes over the next several months at Patriot Place.

Because there's always a chance the Patriots could have a change of heart between now and August. New England has the salary-cap room to extend the 31-year-old Welker and give him the long-term security he's seeking. But it's going to be on the Patriots' terms, not Welker's.
It's usually an event when a former New England Patriot rips a current Patriot. It always seems odd, considering how tight-lipped players are when under Bill Belichick's umbrella. Suddenly a player retires, is given an open forum and is very vocal about current events in New England.

Welker
Former Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest, who works for the NFL Network, is the latest example. He called Patriots Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker a "diva" for not signing the franchise tag and considering skipping the team's mandatory mini-camp in June.

"I just don't like the diva attitude," McGinest said on the NFL Network. "Let's keep it real. Prior to the Patriots, this is a guy who played three years, had 96 receptions, never had a 1,000-yard season."

McGinest continued to rip Welker.

"This $9 million-plus that they're offering is half of his last contract. That's a lot of money," McGinest said. "Let's not forget that they signed Brandon Lloyd...they signed (Deion) Branch back, they got the two tight ends; they have weapons on that offense.

"So look, Wes, it's time to take off the leopard-printed cowboy boots, get off the party tour and get back to work."

Ouch!

Welker is slated to make $9.5 million for 2012 if he signs the franchise tag. Welker, who turns 31 next week, prefers long-term security.

But calling Welker a diva seems out of line. Welker has never had that reputation. Like McGinest, Welker is a very hard worker who got the most out of his abilities with the Patriots. Sometimes the business of the NFL can get dirty, but that shouldn't override Welker's character.

NFL's 'The Top 100' a nice distraction

May, 16, 2011
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The NFL Network is filling some of the lockout downtime with a countdown of the top 100 players, revealing 10 at a time every Sunday night.

The first AFC East players were mentioned in the most recent group, Nos. 71 through 80, as voted on by their league peers.

New York Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson came in at No. 79. Jets receiver Santonio Holmes was No. 76.

Sunday night's recap show featured analysis from former New England Patriots outside linebacker Willie McGinest and reporter Jay Glazer. During the show, host Lindsay Soto mentioned 12 quarterbacks are among the top 100 and asked the experts to give their rankings.

McGinest's list:
  1. Tom Brady, Patriots
  2. Peyton Manning, Colts
  3. Drew Brees, Saints
  4. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
  5. Philip Rivers, Chargers
  6. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
  7. Michael Vick, Eagles
  8. Eli Manning, Giants
  9. Matt Schaub, Texans
  10. Matt Ryan, Falcons
  11. Tony Romo, Cowboys
  12. Donovan McNabb, Redskins

Glazer's list (with a tie for 12th):
  1. Tom Brady, Patriots
  2. Peyton Manning, Colts
  3. Drew Brees, Saints
  4. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
  5. Philip Rivers, Chargers
  6. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
  7. Michael Vick, Eagles
  8. Matt Ryan, Falcons
  9. Eli Manning, Giants
  10. Tony Romo, Cowboys
  11. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
  12. Matt Schaub, Texans, and Sam Bradford, Rams

What do you think?

AFC East leftovers from the combine

March, 3, 2011
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Before we get too far removed from the NFL scouting combine and mired in the labor morass, it's time to empty out the notebook from Lucas Oil Stadium. Here are some AFC East-oriented tidbits from the defensive players who met with reporters there.

Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers on the NFL's greatest offensive tackle:
"If I had to pick, I’d have to say Jake Long. One of the best I have ever seen."

Bowers on being compared to Bruce Smith and Reggie White:
"It's amazing. Just to be in the same sentence as those guys is amazing. Anytime anybody can put you in a sentence with Reggie White and Bruce Smith, you must be doing something right."

Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward on being compared to Vernon Gholston:
"We're two totally different players. Vern, they had him dropping at linebacker. You've seen my dropping abilities. They're pretty good [joking]. Me, I can play all over the line. I can play 3-technique and 6-technique. We are two different players. We had the privilege of going to The Ohio State, but we're not the same player. I'm never going to compare myself to him, and I don't think he'll ever do the same."

Fresno State outside linebacker Chris Carter about working with former Patriots outside linebacker Willie McGinest:
"We've been working primarily on drops. I know how to rush the passer. That's my big thing, work on drops and perfecting that, getting the hips loose. Making sure we go over the defenses 100 percent and I know everyone's assignment. When you play DE, you pretty much only have to know the front-seven assignments. But as a backer, one thing they emphasized is making sure we know everyone's assignment."

Hampton defensive tackle Kendrick Ellis on a fellow alum with the Miami Dolphins:
"Every time when I used to be at Hampton, I'd watch Kendall Langford. He just gave us hope. Small-school guys, we're not on TV every week. Just with him doing it, it gave us hope that we could do it. Kendall was a good player. So I try to emulate what Kendall did, being strong in the weight room, working hard and trying to be just like him."

Clemson safety Marcus Gilchrist on what he learned from C.J. Spiller:
"Humbleness. A lot times you hear about these big-time, high-profile guys and a tendency to judge them with character issues because they have such a big head. But C.J. is one of the most humble guys you'll ever meet."

Florida punter Chas Henry on speaking with Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff:
"I’d sure love to hear from him. It’s a great organization. They’re going to have a lot of success in the future, and I’d love to be a part of it. ... I’m definitely following their situation."

Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson on comparisons to Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby:
"I've heard that a lot. I could definitely see myself as a similarity to Karlos. We're both tall and got long arms. Actually our play styles are very similar. That's a great comparison. He's a great linebacker. Just to have that type of comparison, someone who was in the NFL, is just a great accomplishment."

Clemson defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins on being coached by the Buffalo Bills at the Senior Bowl:
"It was real good, being coached by the Bills. They opened my eyes a lot. I had to improve my pass-rush a lot, and they taught me a lot about not looking in the backfield, beating my man first, and actually had a good Senior Bowl, got better each day."

Cancer survivor and Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich on his relationship with Tedy Bruschi:
"Tedy reached out to me first. I remember the date, Sept. 29th, because that's the date I was told I didn't have cancer any more. One thing he told me that night back at my dorm at Boston College was 'Mark, you're a survivor now. Be proud of being a survivor.' Those are words that have stayed with me through my whole process. To me, that meant get your story out there, raise as much money as you can, be helpful to other people."

Video: Faulk, Izzo on being a Patriot

December, 6, 2010
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video
As part of the lead up to the AFC East clash between the New York Jets and New England Patriots on Monday night, Scoop Jackson sat down with Larry Izzo and Kevin Faulk to talk about what it means to be a Patriot.

Izzo starred on special teams for the Patriots and the Jets. Faulk is on New England's injured reserve. When the video concludes, click on the related videos to see other clips, including their predictions for Monday night.

SI.com rates Tom Brady the greatest No. 12

August, 25, 2010
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Who was the greatest NFL player to wear a specific jersey number?

SI.com decided to find out and produced a list sure to create debate. The package, which includes plenty of vintage photos, was published Wednesday.

SI.com's Richard Deitsch explained the process:
A team of SI.com's finest numerologists crunched the data on jersey numbers to come up with the best performers in professional football at each number from 00 to 99. We based our decision on a combination of impact on the game, statistics and team success during the player's time wearing that number.

Here are the AFC East fellows who made the rundown from 00 to 99 ...

4. Brett Favre, Jets quarterback: Hey, he spent a season there.

12. Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback: Deitsch called this the toughest call over Terry Bradshaw. There's also Joe Namath and Roger Staubach.

13. Dan Marino, Dolphins quarterback: This selection was listed among the eight simplest to make.

23. Troy Vincent, Patriots and Bills defensive back: Next runner-up was Mel Gray.

39. Larry Csonka, Dolphins running back: Selected ahead of Hall of Famer Hugh McElhenny and Patriots fullback Sam Cunningham.

55. Junior Seau, Dolphins and Patriots linebacker: Willie McGinest and Joey Porter mentioned as "worthy of consideration."

57. Dwight Stephenson, Dolphins center: Thin crew when Bart Scott was in the all-time mix.

62. Jim Langer, Dolphins center: Name another No. 62. Quick!

67. Reggie McKenzie, Bills guard: Member of O.J. Simpson's famed Electric Company, but ahead of Dolphins guard Bob Kuechenberg?

73. John Hannah, Patriots guard: Other AFC East runners-up include Joe Klecko and Bob Baumhower.

Best Patriots Team Ever: 2004

June, 30, 2010
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Notable players: QB Tom Brady, RB Corey Dillon, WR Deion Branch, WR/DB Troy Brown, TE Daniel Graham, T Matt Light, DE Richard Seymour, OLB Willie McGinest, OLB Mike Vrabel, ILB Tedy Bruschi, CB Ty Law, CB Asante Samuel, S Rodney Harrison, K Adam Vinatieri, ST Larry Izzo.

[+] EnlargeBrady
Matthew Emmons/uS PresswireTom Brady and the Patriots collected their third Super Bowl win in four seasons.
Analysis: The New England Patriots are the only AFC East club with three championship seasons to consider, and one could argue with conviction their best team didn't win the Super Bowl.

But 2004 stands apart. The Patriots claimed their third Vince Lombardi Trophy in four seasons to establish themselves as one of the all-time great teams. Brady and head coach Bill Belichick ensured their place in Canton.

The Patriots picked up where they left off after winning Super Bowl XXXVIII the year before. They increased their win streak to an NFL record 21 games. They ranked fourth in scoring and second in points allowed. They lost two games all season, Week 8 at the Pittsburgh Steelers and Week 15 at the Miami Dolphins.

After beating the Indianapolis Colts for the second time and holding Peyton Manning's offense to three points in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Patriots scored 41 points to avenge their defeat in Pittsburgh.

In Super Bowl XXXIX, the Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles more comfortably than the 24-21 score indicates. Adam Vinatieri didn't need to drill a field goal in the closing seconds for a change.

Most impressive win: The Patriots never were more dominant than they were in Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills, a borderline playoff team that won three out of four heading into Gillette Stadium and six straight afterward. The Patriots rolled up a season-high 428 offensive yards and limited the Bills to 125 yards to win 29-6.

What can Brown do for you? Pretty much whatever you could ask of him. Brown caught only 15 passes in the regular season, but in Week 9 against the St. Louis Rams, he entered the game as an emergency defensive back when Samuel went down with an injury. Brown finished the season with three interceptions (one shy of the team lead) and broke the Super Bowl record for punt returns.

Honorable mention

2007: It's the greatest NFL team not to win the championship. Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker rewrote a good chunk of the offensive record book, but the Patriots fell short of finishing the season undefeated, losing in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.

2001: New England won its first championship with an offense that ranked sixth in scoring and a defense that ranked sixth in points allowed. Belichick's controversial decision to stick with Brady when Drew Bledsoe returned to health created a superstar.

2003: New England went 14-2 to win its second title in three years. The offense was pretty mediocre, but the defense posted three shutouts, gave up six points or fewer five times and averaged 11.9 points against over the final 10 weeks of the regular season.

1976: Patriots fans thought a storybook season was unfolding in the bicentennial. Steve Grogan and Sam Cunningham led the Pats to an 11-3 record, but a controversial late-hit call helped them lose to the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs.

video

Tom Brady reflects on life and football

May, 10, 2010
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Peter King scored a rare and insightful offseason interview with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to lead off "Monday Morning Quarterback" at SI.com.

Brady
Brady came off as contemplative but unapologetic in discussing how family is pulling him away from the Patriots' offseason program more than before.

Brady, who will turn 33 in August, has been a sporadic participant in the Patriots' conditioning program thus far, choosing to spend more time with his two sons. Jack, whom Brady had with actress Bridget Moynihan, is 2. Benjamin, whom Brady had with wife, Gisele Bundchen, is five months.
"It's a balancing act,'' Brady told King. "I don't want the next 10 years to go by and to say I wasn't there for my sons. I wish I could be there [at Gillette Stadium over the offseason] the way I was when I was 24, but life is different now.''

Brady admitted that not being around as much isn't ideal for team development.
"I'm not going to have the same relationship with the guys as if I was there every day,'' Brady said. "I hope they can understand. I've seen it handled different ways by a lot of guys on the team in the past, including some of the real leaders. I've seen Willie McGinest and Rodney Harrison when their family lives turned in different directions and they couldn't be in the offseason program every day. Ultimately, what it comes down to is this: We've all got to be ready to play.''

Brady touched on a variety of topics, but the most interesting quote to me was his take on whether the Patriots were a team on the rise or on the decline. They won the AFC East last year, but an embarrassing home loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round ended the Patriots' campaign with a resounding thud.
"Our fans think just because we're wearing the same jerseys, we're the same team. And we're not,'' Brady said. "Teams change in this league every year, and ours is no exception. Last year was pretty disappointing in a lot of ways, obviously. Losing to Baltimore the way we lost in the playoffs, losing leads late, losing on the road. Every year is so different, and the way we approach this year will be extremely important. We need to see the toughness. We need to see the commitment. Can we take the coaching?''

He said he has been throwing passes to Wes Welker, but King said he declined to reveal any details about how Welker is recovering from surgeries to reattach his left knee and to mend a rotator cuff.

Brady also told King he's high on young receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate and liked the signing of old friend David Patten.

As for the New York Jets' offseason, here's what Brady had to say:
"They're always a team that gives us problems, and they've sure made a lot of changes this offseason. When your archrivals do as much as they've done, you've got to pay attention. They went to the conference championship game. They've got a great defense. They can run the ball as well as anyone, and they've got a great young quarterback who can make a lot of plays. Our whole division's improved. To win the division, we'll really have to earn it this year.''

Patriots announce all-decade squad

March, 16, 2010
3/16/10
2:48
PM ET
The New England Patriots have revealed their all-decade team. The players were chosen Monday by the Patriots' Hall of Fame Nomination Committee.

Offense

Quarterback: Tom Brady

Running back: Corey Dillon

Receivers: Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Troy Brown

Tight end: Daniel Graham

Center: Dan Koppen

Guards: Logan Mankins, Joe Andruzzi

Tackles: Matt Light, Nick Kaczur

Defense

Nose tackle: Vince Wilfork

Defensive ends: Richard Seymour, Ty Warren

Outside linebackers: Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel

Inside linebackers: Tedy Bruschi, Roman Phifer

Cornerbacks: Ty Law, Asante Samuel

Safeties: Rodney Harrison, Lawyer Milloy

Special teams

Kicker: Adam Vinatieri

Punter: Josh Miller

Kick returner: Kevin Faulk

Coverage: Larry Izzo

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