When longtime Patriots assistant Eric Mangini left to coach the Jets, New England coach Bill Belichick openly seethed about his right-hand man’s defection. Belichick refused to wish Mangini good luck, instead holding a grudge against him that extended all the way to chilling non-handshake meet-and-greets at midfield after games between the Jets and Patriots. Well, now another Belichick chosen assistant has departed and, like Mangini, Josh McDaniels may be getting slighted by his former tutor.
According to numerous sources, McDaniels’s Broncos were close to a deal for his former quarterback, Matt Cassel, on Friday night. At the last minute, New England backtracked from the deal and included Cassel, a player they were willing to franchise tag at a cost of millions of dollars, in a trade made earlier for linebacker Mike Vrabel with the Chiefs. The Cassel addition may go down as one of the great throw-ins of contractual history, right behind free jalapeno poppers when you buy a large Coke.
The decision to send Cassel to the Chiefs not only smacked of favoritism for Belichick’s former front office compatriot, longtime Patriots-turned-Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, it also tomahawked McDaniel’s new offensive lineup before he even gets a chance to work with it. When the Broncos angled for Cassel, it became clear the team was willing — anxious even — to deal Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler. That concept didn’t play well with Cutler or his teammates, as you read right here yesterday.
Suddenly, after the Patriots received only a second round draft pick for the package of Cassel and a Pro Bowl linebacker, it became clear that something was amiss. By keeping Cassel from the Broncos, Belichick not only hurt a team that has long been a thorn in New England’s side, he also stuck the move to his former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Belichick is smart enough to know that the Chiefs are still one, probably two years away from legitimate contention. That’s not necessarily the case for the Broncos, and being able to hold back an assistant he didn’t want to leave may have only made shorting Denver an easier decision for Billy B.
The lopsided deal — which, as we pointed out Saturday, could become a lot more plausible if the Patriots land Julius Peppers — was so out of character that some writers have called for an investigation into why the Patriots made it. FANHOUSE columnist Jay Mariotti is the biggest name among that group, and (somewhat shockingly) he makes some decent points as to why something is clearly fishy with the deal.
Mariotti probably won’t get his probe, but the Patriots may get a lot more scrutiny over future moves, and that’s something that would have seemed crazy even a week ago.
We hate to stick with sports teams that play in a single east coast city, but there’s another Boston move that bears further inspection: the Celtics’ signing of team-killer Stephon Marbury. Starbury made a predictably impressive debut off the team’s bench on Friday, but he was 0-for-3 against the Pistons on Sunday, racking up four fouls in 13 minutes, not to mention one embarrassing steal he practically handed to Detroit’s Rip Hamilton. In short, he looked awful, and his brooding gaze under a towel on the sideline didn’t seem to help things during Boston’s upset loss at home, either.
Naturally, that raises the question of whether, if Marbury continues to struggle in a bench role, he’ll be content sitting on said bench. Clearly the Celtics thought he would, because there’s no way he’s stealing any time or any of the role from emerging point guard Rajon Rondo, but there’s no precedent for Starbury “fitting in”. In fact, he’s never fit in, so why should the Celtics assume he will now? Clearly they may have been using specious logic in believing that Doc Rivers, as compelling a coach as he has been, could instantly get Marbury on board with Boston’s team dynamic. That just means that Marbury could be more trouble than he’s worth, which is precisely what the Celtics don’t need if they have any hope of repeating without James Posey.
Just when it looked like Manny Ramirez was finally going to sign that Dodgers deal, Brooks’ recent prediction that he’ll sit out at least the start of the season looks even more prescient. According to Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. TIMES, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is using his prerogative to screw over Scott Boras, claiming that all talks for a deal for Ramirez must now “start from scratch”.
At one point on Sunday, the two sides were said to be less than $2 million apart on a two year deal, with only Ramirez holding an option on the second year. The chance to reach agreement on that faded away when McCourt showed his cheap side. Often dumb, but cheap, when he said the Dodgers and Ramirez will have to start from step one, reeling in Boras to a de-facto admission that the Dodgers are the only team with legitimate interest in Ramirez, then fleecing him by saying that a $45 million deal for the slugger is “off the table”.
The question now is only whether McCourt will suddenly get really, really stingy, trying to drive down Manny’s asking price by $5 million or more, or whether this is all an exercise in saving face and proving a point. The danger there, of course, is whether Boras convinces Manny he’s being disrespected, telling him to turn to some type of a strangely-structured deal with the Giants. That’s probably unlikely, but the way talks have been going, it sounds more and more like a deal between Manny and the Dodgers isn’t so likely at the moment, either.
- Longtime Jazz owner Larry Miller was laid to rest on Sunday, and all of his children drove to the funeral in sports cars, an homage to his start in an auto parts store. Naturally, Karl Malone and others were in attendance in a pretty classy ceremony.
- Former NHL degenerate Steve Downie is back in the news, which can only mean one thing: He’s getting himself in big trouble. This time he didn’t take his frustrations out on an opponent, he used a ref … and slashed him with a skate.
- Is anyone else sick of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant facing off? After missing each other for far too long, they suddenly have played three times in three weeks. Shaq won this round, but really, do we want to watch any more right now?
- On Sunday, THE WASHINGTON POST reported that Maryland might have been on the verge of a recruiting violation because of contact between Under Armour, former Terp Byron Mouton and top prospect Lance Stephenson. Now the U of Md. is responding, and they’re not taking these allegations lightly. Naturally, Stephenson probably isn’t, either, which just means he’s almost certain to land somewhere else.
- Bad idea: Offering up a helmet night when one of you’re players has a real shot at a hat trick. Worse idea: overturning the third goal … then watching him score a third goal minutes later:
- Wait, so you’re saying that LaDanian Tomlinson could be a Saint? What would we have to do to make that happen. Can you even imagine that backfield?
- One of Bill Simmons’ favorite phrases that ESPN won’t let him say: Benedict Cockblock. Luckily, Adam Carrolla can say that whenever he wants. God bless.
- You know those images that you don’t want to see, but can’t turn away from because they’re just too riveting? Meet female bodybuilder Christy Resendes squeezing an orange … with her biceps:
- We just got a lot more respect for Virginia Tech: Any school whose fans openly want to “teabag” another school’s point guard can’t be all bad.
- There are now two pieces of evidence that Maddox Jolie-Pitt is a serious Liverpool fan.