- Mike Reiss, ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Bill Parcells' election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is more of a New York story than a New England one, and I sense that some Patriots fans aren't ready to forgive him for the way he handled his exit from the franchise after the Super Bowl following the 1996 season. That was messy, but my thoughts on Parcells are trumped by what he did to revive the Patriots upon his arrival in 1993. He brought instant credibility to what had been one of the worst-run franchises in the NFL. I wish I had the chance to cover his teams, missing him by a year. Parcells did make time for me a few years back when I was writing a story on the outdated draft-value chart teams sometimes use to gauge the value of draft-day deals, and he set the interview up for the 5-6 a.m. range. It might have been the only time he could fit me in, but knowing his coaching style, I also took it as him testing me to see how badly I wanted it. Sure enough, the phone rang early, and the voice on the other line said, "It's Parcells, are we ready to rock?" You don't forget things like that.
2. In his "state of the NFL" news conference Friday, commissioner Roger Goodell said the results of minority hiring this offseason were "not acceptable," although he didn't offer any definitive steps to change things. The answer seems simple, and it's to expand the "Rooney Rule" to the coordinator hires, as that is the primary feeder spot for teams seeking head coaches. I counted 22 coordinators officially hired by new teams this offseason, and six were minorities (three of whom were coordinators with different teams in 2012). So essentially, just three new minorities were added to the primary head-coaching pipeline this year (Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin). The Eagles have yet to officially name offensive and defensive coordinators, and the Rams and Saints are still seeking new defensive coordinators. We'll update the numbers when those hires become official.
3a. I wasn't a big consumer of Super Bowl media hype over the past week, but from what I did see and read, I came away impressed with how both Ravens coach John Harbaugh and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh carried themselves. They are a big storyline this week -- brothers squaring off against each other in the Super Bowl -- but they didn't make it about themselves. The Harbaughs are a good thing for the NFL.
3b. I enjoyed Parcells' Patriots recollections in Dan Shaughnessy's column from Saturday's Boston Globe (registration required). Two of my favorite parts: Parcells' reference to the late Bucko Kilroy as a key figure in talent acquisition from 1993-1996 and how Parcells and Bill Belichick had dinner together Tuesday night.
3c. On Harbaugh versus Harbaugh, I didn't realize that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's son is a coaching intern on John Harbaugh's Ravens staff. Conflicted feelings for Jay Harbaugh today? Not at all, as Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times reported in another Super story.
4. Receiver Brandon Lloyd didn't miss a game for the Patriots this season despite working his way through a knee injury; he played 84.8 percent of the offensive snaps and finished with 74 receptions for 911 yards and four touchdowns. With that type of production, his standing on the 2013 roster wouldn't seem to be in question. But as is the case with most everything in the NFL, economics are a factor, too. Here are the key facts with Lloyd: He is due a $3 million bonus at some point in 2013, and has a base salary of $1.9 million. His salary cap charge is scheduled to be $4.5 million. Do the Patriots view Lloyd, his past production, and his future projection to be worth it? I'm interested to find out the answer, which might not come until after June 1, because I'm not sure it's a slam dunk.
5. As it turned out, a Patriots player or coach hardly registered on the radar in the annual Associated Press awards -- Most Valuable Player, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year. Quarterback Tom Brady and defensive end Chandler Jones were the team's top player candidates -- remember the "MVP! MVP!" chants for Brady on Dec. 10 versus the Texans? -- but a lack of a strong finishing kick ultimately hurt both of their chances. Brady had the lone two votes for any Patriot, for Offensive Player of the Year.
6. Here is a stat that spoke volumes of the way Bill Belichick viewed the December NFL suspensions of third-year Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and rookie Patriots running back Brandon Bolden: Cunningham was averaging 39 defensive snaps per game before the suspension and was cut down to an average of 18 per game after, while Bolden was averaging 14.4 offensive snaps per game before the suspension and 3.5 after. Maybe there was an element of conditioning in play, but nonetheless, Belichick's message was clear from this perspective: Cunningham and Bolden let the team down, and they'll have to earn Belichick's trust back in 2013.
7. Has anyone played in more big games over the past four years than former UMass safety James Ihedigbo? This is his second straight Super Bowl appearance and this season marked his fourth straight year playing in an AFC Championship Game. Ihedigbo, as he was for the Patriots in 2011, is mostly a special teamer for the Ravens who has filled in on defense in a pinch.
8. Packers receiver Donald Driver announcing his retirement after 14 seasons had me drawing a link to former Patriots receiver Troy Brown in that both spent their long careers with one team (rare in the free-agent era), and I think they are the types of players you had to see on a weekly basis to truly appreciate. Driver had better statistical production than Brown and was a different style of receiver, although we never really saw a first-hand look at a breakout Driver game. In three career contests against the Patriots, Driver totaled just eight receptions for 116 yards and no touchdowns.
9a. Did You Know, Part I: The 49ers are the 11th team to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl over the past 12 seasons. In that same span, just five teams have represented the AFC (Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Raiders and Ravens).
9b. Did You Know, Part II: The NFC was 39-25 against AFC teams during the 2012 regular season, proving to be the stronger overall conference. For what it's worth, the NFC has won the past three Super Bowls.
10. The 49ers are one of only three teams to start the same offensive line in every game this season, joining the Vikings and the Jets. When the goal is for all five players to see the same picture, such continuity can be a huge benefit. I was curious if that has ever happened for the Patriots in Bill Belichick's 13 seasons as coach, and it hasn't. In fact, it hasn't been close, which underscores some of the fine work that assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia has done with all the moving parts on the line.
Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:1. Bill Parcells' election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is more of a New York story than a New England one, and I sense that some Patriots fans aren't ready to forgive him for the way he handled his exit from the franchise after the Super Bowl following the 1996 season.