Mike Shalin's Working Press: No, Bill, the Titans are mediocreBy MIKE SHALIN
January 08. 2018 8:48PM
WILD CARD WEEKEND reinforced what most of us have felt all along:
The NFC is a lot better than the AFC.
Somehow, those NFC teams felt like playoff teams. The AFC, which sported the Buffalo Bills, the Tennessee Titans … well, did not.
As soon as Travis Kelce went down for the Chiefs, you had the feeling the only team that had any chance of beating the Patriots this Saturday night was gone. Obviously, there was no way to predict the great comeback by the Titans that led to Kansas City’s sixth straight home playoff loss.
But is anyone really scared of the Titans around here?
Vegas sees it as a blowout (13½-point opening line) and it’s hard to imagine it any other way. The Patriots, easily surviving their bye week drama, were installed as two-touchdown favorites.
Asked Monday what it says about the Titans, that they were able to overcome an 18-point deficit to win a playoff game, Pats coach Bill Belichick, who, like his players, will NEVER say anything negative about an opponent, said, “It says they’re a good football team. They’re balanced in all three areas. They do a great job in the kicking game. They’ve got a great punter, kicker, returner.
“They can run the ball. They can score points. They play good defense, turn the ball over, stop the run, play good situational football. They’re very well coached. They have a lot of talented players. They compete well. They play hard. They’re tough, mentally tough. I mean, that’s what it says about them. They’re a good football team, which they are.”
Nah, they’re mediocre. They’re fodder.
Naturally, Belichick’s future was addressed on Monday’s conference call. Here it is:
Q: Is there any truth to the report from the New York Daily News that you have interest in possibly coaching the New York Giants?
BB: Right now my interest is trying to do the best I can for our football team to get ready for Saturday night against Tennessee. That’s where my total focus is.
Q: Is your intention to definitely be back with the Patriots next season?
Didn’t he once coach the Jets for about 10 minutes?
My buddy and colleague Terry Pluto wrote a fascinating piece on Cleveland.com chronicling the path that sent Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers — just days after the Browns were told he wasn’t available — adding further fuel to the fire of what’s going on in Foxborough.
Pluto wrote: “On Nov. 4, I wrote how the Browns had last talked to the Patriots on October 28. They couldn’t even start a conversation. They were told Garoppolo wasn’t available. They said more than once, “If you are open to trading him, please call. Two days later, he was traded to the 49ers.”
He also said: “I know that (Sashi) Brown was willing to part with Houston’s first-round pick and other goodies. He would have been willing to help Belichick shop around for a backup quarterback to help the trade work.”
Pluto also wrote the Browns were willing to help the Patriots find a different backup quarterback.
Seth Wickersham, who did to the Patriots sort of what Michael Wolff did to the White House in recent days, was on WEEI Monday morning and said he talked to “multiple” players for the ESPN piece.
“I can’t get into the numbers, but I appreciate the question,” he said. “It was multiple.”
He added: “I think the reporting process in a story like this has to remain as confidential as possible. I was as transparent as I could be in the story.”
Sox make news
Stop the presses: The Red Sox made an announcement Monday, signing Steven Wright and Carson Smith to one-year contracts. Both can be important to the 2018 season.
Speaking of 2018, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com rated the six rookie managers and their respective chances at winning the World Series in Year 1. Washington’s Dave Martinez got the nod, followed by Aaron Boone in New York and then the Red Sox’ Alex Cora.
On Cora, Castrovince wrote, “This guy just won a World Series as bench coach for the Astros, so that eliminates some of the first-year fear factor. And though it’s easy to be swept up in the narrative of the Yankees overtaking this division after reaching the AL Championship Series and bringing Giancarlo Stanton into the fold, something tells us Cora’s boss, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, is not done wheeling and dealing this winter. The Red Sox have a terrific core of talent in the rotation, bullpen and lineup, and Cora might be the ideal modern manager — a bright, bilingual former player who embraces analytics.
“But Boston is its own animal. You can ask (Terry) Francona, (John) Farrell and Bobby Valentine all about that. Cora will face scrutiny he never received as a low-profile Red Sox utilityman, and he’s inheriting a club that encountered, and created, its fair share of media drama last year.”
This tweet from my pal Christopher Smith of MassLive: “Red Sox still need to agree to contracts with arbitration-eligible players Brock Holt, Xander Bogaerts, Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Joe Kelly, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brandon Workman.”
Betts, who plays basketball with Boston College assistants, was in the front row at Conte Forum for the Eagles’ win over Wake Forest on Saturday.
Great chart on MLB Network Monday showing MLB has gone from 4,186 to 4,909 to 5,610 to 6,105 homers over the last few years. The Red Sox have hit 123, 161, 208 and 168 over that span.
Facebook post from Jerry Remy Saturday: “It’s freezing I’m bored and The Pats aren’t on tomorrow This is not good!”
Both the Celtics and Bruins, fresh off their impressive “first halves,” are in a mini-suspension of their schedules. The Celtics are off until Thursday, when they face the Sixers in London, and the Bruins are in their bye week before visiting Montreal on Saturday night.
The Celtics lost Gordon Hayward on opening night, Charles Barkley declared their season over — and they’re 33-10. They are getting great help from the Lakers, who are looking very much like a team that will finish between Nos. 2 and 5 in the draft order.
Patrice Bergeron was named the NHL’s No. 1 star and the Bruins got a point out of Tuukka Rask’s “horse-bleep” night in Pittsburgh as they rest up. The kids are playing well, and the defense is, for the most part, protecting the goalies.
Sidney Crosby had three assists Sunday night and now has 13 goals and 37 assists and is plus-11 in 35 career games against the Bruins. That might sound like a lot but consider this: He has 33 goals and 107 points and is a plus-28 in 60 games against the Islanders.
Here and there
The Cavaliers are trying to pry DeAndre Jordan from the Clippers and the hangup appears to be that precious Nets pick that Cleveland got from the Celtics. … The SEC entered Monday night’s title game assured of the league’s 10th national crown since 2003. … That said, UCF celebrated it’s “title” at Disneyworld Sunday. … Drew Brees had his seventh 300-yard postseason game Sunday. … Villanova is back at No. 1 in the AP hoops poll. … The contributions to Andy Dalton’s charity from Buffalo fans had climbed over $345,000 by Sunday — thanking Dalton for the Bills’ brief playoff visit after a 17-year-drought. … From @RichDubroffMLB: Buck Showalter on Manny Machado: “I’m making plans for him to be on our team right now.” … Brad Marchand being stopped Sunday made shooters 10-for-27 on penalty shots in the NHL this season. Shooters won the first five and the goalies have stopped the last eight. … After telling you about Joe Thornton losing a chunk of his beard in a fight, we pass this along: Michael Del Zotto picked up teammate Chris Tanev’s teeth off the ice after Tanev took a puck to the mouth. … Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin, who had all those great college and pro battles at Madison Square Garden, face each other there for the first time tonight when Georgetown meets St. John’s. It would be great if 93-years-young Lou Carnesecca and John Thompson are there. Speaking of Thompson, his son, John III is impressive in his TV debut season.
Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com.