Back to Home Page

Tim and Tom Terrific

             As I begin to write a column comparing Tim Tebow to Tom Brady, I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m not comparing Tim Tebow to Tom Brady. While that appears to be a contradiction, it sort of depends on what your definition of the word “is” is, as someone famously once said.

            Tim Tebow is no Tom Brady. I don’t expect Tebow will ever develop into the complete and elite quarterback that Brady is today, and that Brady has been for the better part of eight years. Brady is awesome. Tebow is not. There really IS no comparison.

            However, there is a commonality between who Tim Tebow is now, and who Tom Brady was in 2001. And that’s what makes this national conversation about Tim Tebow so distinctly interesting in New England: We’ve all seen this before. When Brady was winning games, but not performing like a traditional quarterback by piling up yards or points, his supporters quickly re-defined what makes a great quarterback. It became much more about winning, managing the game, and minimizing mistakes. Tebow supporters are working just as hard today to explain what makes him a successful and quality quarterback.

            When Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe 10 years ago, he led the Patriots to eleven victories in the regular season, and of course, so much more in the post-season. As a sixth round draft pick, Brady didn’t have the same hype or expectations that Tebow has, but it didn’t take long for people to recognize Brady is a winner. The Patriots, who came out of the gate dropping their first two games, won 11 of 14 with Brady. But his contributions in that first season were far less than what they would become, and far more similar to Tebow’s current contributions than Patriot fans are remembering.

            In Brady’s first start, for instance, he threw for 168 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 79.6. It was a good first start, but it doesn’t come close to explaining how the Patriots beat the Colts that day, 44-13. How does a team score 44 points without a touchdown from its quarterback? Well, the Patriots picked off Peyton Manning 3 times that day, and ran two of them back for touchdowns.

            In his next start, Brady threw for just 86 yards, and fumbled a snap that Miami returned for a touchdown. The Patriots lost, 30-10. That’s a lot like Tebow’s Detroit Lions game. In Tebow’s second start this year, the Broncos lost 45-10. It happens to the best of them – and Tebow.

            Brady’s third game was an overtime win over San Diego with Adam Vinatieri kicking a 44-yarder to win it. Tebow has won three overtime games so far, and against the Bears, he needed 59-yard and 51-yard field goals from his kicker. For as clutch as both quarterbacks are, they’ve both needed reliable kickers to finish their comebacks.

            Those in Tebow’s corner, at least those I’ve heard from, don’t claim he’s an elite quarterback, or even that he’ll develop into one. They acknowledge Tebow’s flaws, particularly in the first three quarters of games. And they don’t say the Broncos are winning because of Tim Tebow. But the Broncos record with him at quarterback can’t be ignored any more than the Patriots record in 2001 with Brady at the helm.

            I remind you, before Brady started lighting up the scoreboard and plastering his name in the record books with an all out aerial attack, he was praised for managing the games, for not making mistakes, and making the plays that needed to be made. It was true for him then, and it’s true for Tebow now. In that first year, Brady threw 18 touchdown passes and 12 picks. Tebow has 14 touchdowns (including runs) and 2 picks, so far. He’s actually managing games better than Brady and making fewer mistakes. And yes, he’s getting help from his defense – just like Brady.

            Of the Patriots 11 wins in 2001, (14 if you count the playoffs) only once did their opponents score more than 17 points. That was the overtime win over San Diego, 29-26. Brady gave us a glimpse into the future that day when he threw a game tying touchdown pass with :36 to go. There was no questioning his poise or ability to come up big in the clutch even then. Isn’t that also true of Tebow today? Tebow, by the way, already has wins against opponents who scored 24 and 32 points, and his defense is ranked 22nd in points allowed. So, it’s not as if he’s quarterbacking the ’85 Bears.

            The Patriots finished the regular season in 2001 with 6 straight wins. In the first game of the streak, Brady was phenomenal with 4 touchdown passes. But in the next five games, he threw just two touchdown passes and five interceptions. Also during those last five games, he never had a QB rating above 94, and had three QB ratings in the 60’s. And even though none of us knows how to compute the QB rating, we know that the 60’s indicates below average to poor play. In the playoffs, Brady’s numbers remained unimpressive: 3 games, 1 td, 1 pick, and a QB rating of 77.7. But, and this is what Brady fans said then, and what Tebow fans say now, he found a way to win.

            Somehow, Tebow managed to win a game while completing just two passes. His critics scoff at that game, in particular. But one of Tebow’s completions was a touchdown, and he also ran for a touchdown. The Broncos ran for 244 yards that day, but Tebow still found a way to help – in his own way.

            Tebow’s good fortune and the Broncos winning streak may come to an end on Sunday, yielding to Brady and his decade of dominance, but that won’t change the fact that, in many ways and despite their dissimilar skill sets, Tebow is what Brady was. That may only be a competent, confident football player who believes in himself, and who his teammates believe in, but that was enough for the Patriots then, and it may be enough for the Broncos now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Red Sox: More WOW than Woe

I remember Thursday, September 8, 2011 quite vividly. That was the night I expected smoke to come out of my remote control as I frantically changed channels from the NFL opener, the U.S. Open quarterfinals, and the Red Sox – Blue Jays game. It was a sports fans delight. I thought about how great it would be to have picture-in-picture-in-picture, and I wondered why picture-in-picture never really caught on. I wondered if there would ever be an opportunity to rise from the couch for a snack or a bathroom break, and I calculated the myriad of permutations for DVR’ing one or two of the events while pausing the live action on the third just so I could check the Internet for updated fantasy league stats. It was a horrible ecstasy! That Thursday three weeks ago was also the night, I began to wonder why baseball has always been my favorite sport. But after last night, I’ll never wonder again.

OMG – baseball is slow! That’s what I thought while Drew Brees and Aaron Rogers were lighting up the scoreboard, Roger Federer was rifling groundstrokes, and Andrew Miller was throwing 93 pitches in five innings. The contrast was striking. And this was a quick baseball game played in under three hours. But juxtaposed with high-scoring football and non-stop tennis, baseball appeared to be even slower than a Clint Eastwood movie. (Gran Torino, Hereafter anyone?)  And the Red Sox still had a 6.5 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays, so it didn’t seem like the game had any tremendous meaning.

So, I questioned my love of baseball, a mistake I won’t make again. Baseball just gave us an amazing gift. In the span of a few hours, and then in a matter of three minutes, we saw an unprecedented comeback and an historical collapse. The “choke” and the “clutch” were so well synched, it would have made Karl Benz proud. Both games were remarkable reminders of what baseball has to offer. One out away. One strike away. A .108 hitter who didn’t have a hit since April 27th (Dan Johnson) hitting a pinch-hit, game tying home run in the ninth inning. Are you kidding me?! Frustrating to Red Sox fans, to be sure, but still, somewhere deep down inside, you gotta love that! Yes, I said “love”. Look for it. I’m sure it’s there, and I’m equally sure it will make you feel better.

For reasons I don’t understand, people like to rank their disappointment. Is this Red Sox collapse worse than 1978 or 2003? I don’t know. Were you sadder when your dog died or when your elderly aunt you hardly had any contact with died peacefully in her sleep after a long, happy life? Did it hurt more when you cut your finger dicing onions, or when you stepped on a piece of glass? Quantifying my unhappiness, or even my pleasures, is not an exercise I participate in. But if you’re one who does, I would argue this one should hurt less, because your sorrow has to be overwhelmed by your amazement. This was a truly remarkable event – and turn of events – that has to have earned your respect and appreciation – even admiration – thereby diminishing the sadness brought on by the results. Today is not about the woe. It’s about the WOW!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hockey Fights

            I’ve been rebuked by hockey fans for taking this position before, but hockey fights are stupid and unnecessary. I listened to enough sports talk radio with fans and hosts frothing at the mouth delighted that the Bruins and Canadiens embarrassed themselves by accumulating nearly 200 penalty minutes. Seven fights in all. Seven complete wastes of time. Two days later, the Islanders and Penguins doubled the output with 15 fights and 346 penalty minutes. Only in hockey does “donnybrook” become a term of endearment. Those on-ice riots would be properly identified as brawls in any other sport, and we’d be appalled by them. Why is hockey so different?

            Well, proponents have come up with exactly two reasons to keep fighting in hockey. First, without it there would be more cheap head shots and stick penalties, and players would be at greater risk for injury. To paraphrase; if the morons doing the punching don’t get to punch, they’ll use their weapons to slash and poke and cut their opponents. Um, excuse me, couldn’t you just tell them not to do that? Call it a brotherhood or a code, or just make the penalties so severe they wouldn’t want to do it.

            And the other reason to allow fighting is summed up by former Bruin Joe Thornton who said: “Fighting’s been around since Day 1. I think it would be a shame to take it out of the game. It’s part of hockey, like tying up your laces or shooting the puck. It’s been part of hockey for a long, long time.”

            Ah, tradition! Love that one. Wonder if that’s what the pro-slavery folks were saying. Note to Big Joe, hockey goons and salivating fans – just because something’s been done for a long time doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Look to the Middle East, or ask a woman who can now vote. They’ve come a long way, baby. Hockey should, too.

            I look forward to another onslaught of emails from arrogant, though misguided, so-called purists who will patronize me with the likes of: “if you ever played the game”, or “you just don’t understand”. They’ll tell me the fights are a self-policing part of the game, and that a lot goes on during a game that leads to justifiable fighting. And I’ll think, a lot goes on in basketball, too. Elbows under the boards. Let’em duke it out on the court. There are a lot of one-sided violent hits in football, too. How’s a wide receiver supposed to deter a defender from taking him out over the middle if he can’t stand up and go toe-to-toe for a while?

            Hockey fans, you’re game’s not so special. Oh, unless you consider it “special” when something like a 21-year-old kid dies in a game when his head hits the ice during a fight. Look up Don Sanderson and then write me some more condescending emails.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bill’s In Toyland

            Maybe Bill Belichick did exactly what the rest of us would have done. He got himself a shiny, new toy and he couldn’t resist taking it out and showing it off. Tom Brady leading one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses was the toy. It was at its newest and shiniest in 2007 when the Patriots set a record with 589 points. Man, that’s a lot!

            The toy was broken in 2008, but once repaired it was nearly as good as new. So, the boy with the toy showed it off some more, and the Patriots scored 427 points in 2009, good for sixth in the league, and then they led the NFL with another explosive season this past year with 518 points. What a show!

            But there’s a reason why seven of the final eight teams in the post-season were ranked in the Top 8 in points allowed (only Seattle, ranked 25th, screwed up an otherwise perfect stat, but Green Bay and Pittsburgh are ranked one and two. So, that helps.) It’s because the one old adage that has always remained true is: defense wins championships. The Patriots had a first and second ranked defense when they won their last two Super Bowls, and a sixth ranked defense when they lost out on a perfect season. Instead of showing off their toy with all the bells and whistles, maybe the Patriots should take a page out of Theo Epstein’s playbook. Instead of run prevention, the Patriots should focus on point prevention. That works even better in football than in baseball.

            It’s why the Steelers starting “pitcher”, Ben Roethlisberger is still playing, but Tom Brady is not. Teams with top defenses can survive when their quarterback is mediocre, even terrible, but the Patriots couldn’t. It’s why a guy like Mark Sanchez, a 12-game winner in baseball terms, can lead a team to the AFC Championship two straight years.

            Of course, optimistic Patriot fans believe this year’s young defense showed enough to indicate it will be better next year simply by virtue of being older and presumably smarter. But is their really any evidence of defensive players getting significantly, or noticeably better? Most of these guys enter the league and make an impact right away or they don’t. Is Jerod Mayo suddenly going to become a much needed playmaker instead of just a tackle machine? Brandon Merriweather? Is Devin McCourty going to improve on his 7 picks? Will Vince Wilfork be better?

            Let’s just say, I’m not convinced. Perhaps, it’s more likely that the Patriots need different players to become a better defense. And they can do it. They’ve got all those draft picks to work with and free agency to consider. But getting the defensive genius some tools to work with has to be the number priority as the Patriots prepare for Super Bowl XLVI.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Can You Say?

Okay, Patriot fans, what are you prepared to say now? The loudmouth, trash-talking, Brady hating, Belichick disrespecting, chest pumping blow-hards from New Jersey just beat the clean-cut, professional, classy, tight-lipped, respectful Patriots. It’s a victory that should change the conversation, but will it?

Are you willing to say that Rex Ryan’s methods can work, or is beating the heavily favored Patriots not enough? Does he have to win a ring first?

Are you willing to say you’re pretty impressed that Ryan has been able to go 3-2 against Belichick despite having Mark Sanchez as his quarterback? Or maybe you’re ready to give credit to Sanchez for being a winner, and a clutch time performer.

Are you willing to acknowledge that trash talking has no impact on the outcome of a game and does nothing to motivate a team? Or, do you think Wes Welker’s personal attack on Ryan rallied the Jets around him and ultimately helped the Jets win the game?

Do you look at the Randy Moss trade today the same way you looked at it during the regular season? I’m not saying Moss would have made a difference on Sunday, but getting rid of him was supposed to make the Patriots a better playoff team.

What are you saying about Tom Brady’s last three playoff games? While he remains the best quarterback in the league, and perhaps of all-time, he’s lost three post-season games in a row, two of them at home, and he’s thrown 4 interceptions in those games while being sacked 13 times. He’s also thrown 11 interceptions in his last 7 playoff games. Are these things you’re willing to discuss and express some level of disappointment?

Does Brady’s performance get you rethinking your position on Peyton Manning? Perhaps, when Brady’s pressured, when his defense is nothing special, and when his teammates make a few mistakes, he ends up looking a lot like Manning and other quarterbacks who end up losing playoff games.

Are you willing to question Belichick’s abilities to out-think and out-prepare any team when he has two weeks to get ready? And what about your faith in his second half adjustments?

Certainly, Belichick and Brady should still have your trust. Together, they make up one of the greatest football tandems in football history. But there was zero doubt in many Patriots’ fans minds prior to that Jets game. Will there be the tiniest bit of doubt the next time the Patriots step on the field?

Or will you write off what you saw on Sunday as an aberration? Will you ignore what you saw and hold steadfastly to old opinions? The only good thing that can come out of a bad loss like that is if we all get to look at things with a new perspective and change the tired old conversations. But will we?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rick Pitino Signed Book Available

Rick Pitino – the man who inspired the title of the book — graciously signed 20 copies for the cause. I’m selling them for 50 dollars each. Contact me at my Facebook page and we’ll make a plan for payment and delivery. Also, I will soon have 20 copies signed by Kevin Youkilis.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Winning Is Losing

            Winning’s been doing a lot of losing lately. When Felix Hernandez wins the American League Cy Young Award despite a 13-12 record, it’s an indication that winning isn’t that important. When the NFL Network’s Top 100 Players list has Peyton Manning at number 8 and Tom Brady at number 21, it’s evident that winning wasn’t a priority in the selection process. And when LeBron James still gets referred to as the best player in the NBA despite Kobe Bryant’s five championships and continued excellence, then you know people aren’t giving serious attention to wins and losses.

And you know what? I’m okay with it.

            King Felix was the best pitcher in the American League this year, and he deserved the Cy Young Award. He threw the most innings and had the lowest ERA. And according to the sabermetrics that I don’t pretend to understand, he had 8 “tough losses” and zero “cheap wins”. His record was a product of the team he plays for. Certainly, if he played for the Rays or Yankees like David Price and C.C. Sabathia, he could have won 19 or 21 games, respectively, as they did. But what team he pitches for has nothing to do with the quality of his pitching. It only impacts his number of wins, which is something he can’t control.

            Likewise, for Tom Brady, and any other NFL quarterback. The only things a quarterback can really do are score points and protect the ball, and even that requires an awful lot of cooperation from his teammates. Wins and losses are determined by so many non-quarterback related factors that they can’t be used to accurately assess a quarterback’s excellence. To say Brady is the winningest quarterback isn’t the same as saying he’s the best quarterback (though I’m willing to listen to arguments that, in his case, he’s both.)

            The long way to the point concludes with this: unless you’re talking about an individual sport like tennis or golf, an individual’s greatness shouldn’t be determined by his team’s wins and losses. We accept this as “mostly” true right up until it’s time to break a tie or defend our favorites. Is Brady better than Manning? First we look at touchdowns, turnovers and yards. Then we try to consider intangibles, and when the debate goes nowhere, we lazily fall back on the previously discarded idea that  championships should be factored in. Case closed. But unless the argument starts with who has the most titles, and it shouldn’t, then it can’t end there either. Thank you Felix, NFL Network and LeBron. We’re finally starting to understand that winning teams don’t make individuals great, and the greatest individuals aren’t always found on the winningest teams.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Brady and Big Ben

            Forget for a moment Ben Roethlisberger’s questionable past. Focus only on his on-field accomplishments, and you’ll have to admit that when it comes to winning, only one active quarterback does it better than he does: Tom Brady. Yet, while the successes of the two quarterbacks are relatively close, their reputations as great quarterbacks are not.

            Simply talking about active quarterbacks, the debate regarding who’s the best usually boils down to Brady versus Peyton Manning, and Patriot fans resolve the issue by reminding everyone of Brady’s three Super Bowl rings. Case closed. Next in the discussion come, in some order, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, and Tony Romo in a good year. Michael Vick gets some love. And sometime before we exit the Top Ten someone will mention Roethlisberger. Even though his accomplishments track very closely to Brady’s, Roethlisberger doesn’t quite get the recognition he probably deserves.

            Consider: in pure numbers, Roethlisberger completes 63.3 percent of his passes. Brady completes 63.4. Their QB ratings are 93.5 for Brady, 92 for Ben. Yards, TD’s and INT’s favor Brady who’s been in the league longer and throws the ball more often. Suffice to say, Brady’s better. But it’s not night and day. It’s night and dusk.

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger wins 70 percent of his regular season games, second only to Brady’s 76 percent among actives. Roethlisberger has won 80 percent of his playoff games (8-2), slightly ahead of Brady’s 78 percent (14-4). Both have been aided by top defenses and great coaching, but it’s worth noting Roethlisberger’s won with two different head coaches, neither of whom gets the genius label like Bill Belichick.

In his rookie season, Roethlisberger won his first 15 starts, and he did it with extremely similar numbers as Brady’s 2001 season. Then he won his first Super Bowl in his second year. Just like Brady. And when it comes to clutch, we know Brady has gotten it done several times, but his most memorable performances ended with a field goal. Roethlisberger threw a perfect pass with :35 to go to win his second Super Bowl a couple of years ago.

None of this is to say Roethlisberger is as good as Brady. He’s not. But he’s close. And if he happens to win a third Super Bowl before Brady wins a fourth, who in New England will give him credit as Brady’s equal as a leader, a quarterback or a winner? Anyone? Imagine if it were to happen this year. Big Ben and Brady would have an equal number of rings, and a combined six of the last ten, yet one of them (Brady) is likely to be held, not just in slightly higher regard, but much higher. Strange. No?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Yes, I saw the Giants dismantle the Seahawks, and yet I remain pumped, and more than a little jacked to be able to sit here today and tell you that Pete Carroll can coach a little bit. The guy got a bum rap when he was with the Patriots. Folks said his folksy charm, incessant optimism, and cheerleading style couldn’t work in the pros. And those who believed such nonsense believed their opinions were validated when he went to USC and won 2 national championships. Imagine, instead of giving the guy credit for being able to identify talent, recruit talent, and then coach talent, people still thought his success was only due to his schtick, and that his feel good approach only worked while he was working with kids in college. The problem, as usual, is that once a guy is labeled, it’s hard to rip that label off, even if it never belonged their in the first place.

The man took over for the great Bill Parcells – arguably one of the top three or four coaches of all time. In Parcells’ last year in New England, the Patriots won 11 games and went to the Super Bowl. The following year, Carroll – with a new coaching staff, a new system, and a bunch of new players – led the Patriots to a division title, a 10-win season and a second round playoff loss to the Steelers. Remember that game? That’s the one where Todd Collins had a brain cramp and forgot to push Kordell Stewart out of bounds on his way to a 40-yard touchdown. Must have been bad coaching.

Keep in mind, while Carroll was in New England, Bobby Grier did the drafting and he stockpiled more busts than a museum. The first round picks were Chris Canty, Robert Edwards and J’Juan Cherry. Not making that up.

And still Carroll managed to win with declining talent. Granted the trend was bad. He won, in descending order, 10, 9 and 8 games, but the drafts were bad and Drew Bledsoe got worse, finally throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in Carroll’s final season.

None of this is to say that Carroll is an elite coach, but he was sandwiched in between Parcells and Bill Belichick, two of the best ever, and he held his own a little bit. When Belichick arrived with his new staff and his new system, the Patriots only won five games. Then he got Tom Brady.

Meanwhile, Carroll has returned to the NFL to take over a Seattle team that won just four and five games the last two years, and he’s already won four games and has the Seahawks contending for a division title. Yes, it’s a weak division. I’m not saying Carroll is a miracle worker, but he’s a much better coach than you thought he was when his enthusiasm inexplicably annoyed you.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Mass Exodus – Red Sox Version

When Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels, and Scott Pioli got plucked away by other teams, that was a lot of pluck. Some say it’s had a serious impact on the Patriots who haven’t won a Super Bowl since those guys left. Maybe Bill Belichick has taken on too much responsibility, or maybe he’s given too much responsibility to assistants who aren’t quite ready. No matter. This is a piece about the Red Sox.

Last off season, the Red Sox lost bench coach Brad Mills to the Houston Astros. And by the way, “Millsy” had about as much success with his new team as all the ex-Patriots had with theirs. Now, almost a year to the day after Mills left, the Red Sox lose pitching coach John Farrell to the Blue Jays. Why isn’t that like Mangini going to the Jets?

I’m thinking a bench coach and a pitching coach are similar positions to offensive and defensive co-ordinators. Nobody thinks the pitching and bench coaches have nearly as much importance as NFL co-ordinators, but maybe they do. The questions have been raised about even the genius Belichick. So, go ahead and wonder: Will Terry Francona be as good a manager without the help of his two top assistants?

That’s question number one. Next up: How good a pitching coach was Farrell anyway? Sure, he gets all the credit for standing up and telling Theo Epstein not to trade Jon Lester and others for Johan Santana. That legend has grown to where it seems like Farrell had the tiebreaking vote and whatever he said the Red Sox would do. But that’s just not the way it went down. Farrell turned out to be right, but he wasn’t the guy who made the call.

Anyway, Lester and Clay Buchholz have blossomed under his tutelage. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett, you could argue, have gotten worse. Jonathan Papelbon, there is no argument, has definitely gotten worse. John Lackey didn’t get any better, nor did Manny Delcarmen. Whatever happened to Hideki Okajima? I’m just sayin’!

None of that is a knock on Farrell. He doesn’t throw the ball. I’m sure he’s extremely prepared, and he’ll probably be a good manager. He’s pitched in the big leagues, been a scout, in the front office, and a de facto assistant manager. The man’s ready, and the Red Sox are great to watch him go without any hard feelings. They did the same for Mills. But Mills joined the Red Sox in 2004 and the Red Sox won a World Series. Farrell joined the Sox in 2007, and the Sox did it again. I’m just sayin’, maybe these are bigger losses to the Red Sox than fans may recognize. An organization has lost two of its best people. That can’t be a good thing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And when that championship was sandwiched between two New England Patriot Super Bowl victories, ... read more

copyright 2010 Bob Halloran | site design / implementation by Romanelli Communications