Fast Friday 5: Nick Caserio’s extension is a Patriots’ coup

Andy Hart
February 14, 2020 - 6:26 am
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Five fun Friday mini-columns from the world of (mostly) Boston sports for the price of one free click!

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In the Nick of time!

When the Patriots’ way-too-early offseason began on Wild Card Weekend, the expectation around New England was that Bill Belichick might lose a number of key advisors in both offensive coaching and personnel. Coming a year after turning over nearly the entirety of his defensive staff, it was fair to wonder if the coach would soon be spread too thin for a man in his late-60s.

But while legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia’s retirement and special teams coach Joe Judge getting the Giants head coaching job are certainly losses, the somewhat unexpected returns of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and, now, director of player personnel Nick Caserio, are a huge coup for Patriot Nation.

Word this week that Caserio – who reportedly wanted to depart the franchise last summer for a job in Houston’s front office that has now seen full control go to head coach Bill O’Brien – had reached a multi-year deal to remain in New England means Belichick retains his right-hand personnel man heading into arguably the most critical offseason in Patriots franchise history.

Caserio, as Belichick has noted many times, is one of the most unique men in the NFL. Sure, he’s the top guy in the personnel department, but he also helps in the coaching booth on game days as a key voice for McDaniels, throws passes in drills on the practice field and has a hands-on approach throughout the spring scouting trail.

McDaniels is back. Caserio is back. Maybe it’s a theme this offseason in New England of key figures returning despite much ado about their potential departures.

Hmmm….who could be next?

 

Those Bloom-ing Red Sox!

Welcome to Boston, Chaim Bloom!

Now, fire – excuse me, mutually part ways with your manager – in the midst of a sign-stealing cheating scandal and trade away your best player, a former MVP who’s among the top couple all-around players in the game today.

Well, now that that’s taken care of, it should be smooth sailing from here. Spring training is open and don’t forget the sunscreen!

The reality for Bloom, who went from making lots of little, key decisions in Tampa to a few critical ones worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the crucible of Boston, is that he may never have more of a mess to deal with than his first couple months running the Red Sox baseball operations.

It wasn’t easy. Most people – hand raised – don’t like it. But the unfortunate reality of past contract mistakes forced Bloom’s hand in the unique financial world of baseball.

With their competitive balance tax now seemingly in order – at least according to what smarter people tell me, I won’t pretend to understand it all – the Red Sox can get back to the business of actually trying to win games.

Bloom’s honesty, at least at times, after dealing away Mookie Betts and David Price – “I certainly think it’s reasonable to expect that we’re going to be worse without them.” – is appreciated.

But that appreciation will fade fast if the Sox start like they did a year ago and sink into the worst place to be in sports – irrelevancy.

It will be years before we know if the resetting of the finances paid off. If Mr. Bad Back Alex Verdugo or Jeter Downs are pieces of future success.

Maybe Chris Sale will be healthy in 2020. Maybe the middle of the lineup of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez will be the foundation of a slug-out-wins offense.

Either way, just find a way to be fun. Be competitive. Entertain.

Because that’s what sports are about.

And trading away talent solely for financial reasons isn’t fun even if necessary. It just isn’t.

Play ball!

 

Houston – and MLB -- has a problem

Speaking of cheating scandals, maybe everyone in Houston should actually just stop speaking about the Astros’ sign-stealing debacle that’s already cost plenty of jobs and, more importantly, has injected “integrity of the game” questions into Major League Baseball.

Ask Tom Brady, “integrity of the game” questions don’t usually play out very well.

Astros owner Jim Crane struggled when he met the media this week, despite likely spending plenty of time with high-priced PR people preparing to face the firing squad.

As you may have heard, in the span of 55 seconds he said of the sign-stealing that was a pretty technical undertaking by a variety of members of his organization: it “didn’t impact the game” followed by “I didn’t say it didn’t impact the game.”

Oh boy. That poorly played PR spin was immediately skewered on social media, radio and TV everywhere. How could it not be?

But, alas – and I bet you didn’t see this button hook coming -- I’m here to defend Crane slightly. Just as I did when A.J. Hinch danced around similar questions in his interview with MLB Network.

There could be a reason so many seemingly smart men can’t answer these questions about the impact of sign stealing and how it may have altered games. It’s a pretty simple one.

It’s the rationalization we’ve heard so many times in so many cheating scandals in sports.

Some of us may have uttered it ourselves to try to get out of our own troubles at some point in life.

But it’s a clear phrase that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred would never let anyone in his league admit these days as he works to contain, dare we say cover up, this mess.

Everyone. Was. Doing. It.

Or at the very least, lots of very successful teams were pushing the bounds of age-old sign-stealing into the world of technology-driven cheating.

Sorry baseball, but the way you’ve handled this stuff has opened up Pandora ’s Box of doubt.

Now baseball has to do what it did not long ago with another scandal. MLB has moved past the “steroid era.”

Now it must find a way to convince us all that it’s moving past the “sign-stealing era” that may have very much affected the outcome of at least a pair of World Series.

 

Tom Brady and the Patriots game of chicken

Am I the only one who feels like Tom Brady and the Patriots are playing a high-priced, legacy-altering game of chicken right now?

Heck, in my mind I’ve even envisioned the two muscle cars cruising toward a collision. They started this stare-down race toward each other last summer. Now, though, they’ve picked up speed and are on course for a crash that would not only rock Patriot Nation, but the entire football world.

Let’s play it out.

In one fancy imported speedster, Brady is driving with his wife, Giselle, in the passenger seat. In the back are his business partner/body coach Alex Guerrero and agent Don Yee. They all have opinions, but TB12 is the one at the wheel.

The other, a dark black, Detroit-born beast barreling down the dusty road has Bill Belichick in the driver’s seat. To his right is New England owner Robert Kraft. Jonathan Kraft is in the back seat alongside the recently-extended Nick Caserio.

Months ago it was easy for all to stay the course. To play the game.

Now, though, a collision is drawing near. Things are about to get real. Anxieties are rising in both vehicles.

Will Belichick swerve away? Would Kraft grab the wheel and swerve himself?

Is Brady really willing to toss away 20 years of success in Foxborough? Or are his palms sweaty on the steering wheel, Giselle’s spaghetti squash on his shirt as he considers a swerve from Belichick’s course? If Giselle were to grab the wheel would it be to swerve away or pull Brady back on track to once-and-for-all win the game of chicken with Belichick to feel appreciated?

Who’s gonna swerve?

Who’s gonna blink?

Brady Watch 2020. Having fun yet?

 

The XFL has a chance

Don’t tell anybody, but I kind of liked the first weekend of XFL action.

I won’t pretend I watched all the games, or even all of any one of the games.

But from what I saw, there is something for Vince McMahon and his peeps to build off of.

Hearing the replay official debate calls is gold, even if it’s hard to envision some poor guy doing the same kind of thing in an NFL game, or even the Super Bowl.

The rules changes and alterations are interesting. I like the idea of going for three points after a touchdown or a team being able to put up as many as 18 points in two possessions. Marry that up with the liberal clock stoppages and the XFL has the chance for some epic comebacks.

The kickoff rule looks gimmicky with guys lined up 5 yards apart and ready for mini one-on-one battles, but it’s a move I could see the NFL considering for health reasons.

The communication between the coach and his offense is cool at time and annoying at others. The networks will figure that out.

Sure, there was some pretty poor QB play. And tackling was horrific at times.

But it was Week 1. Much of that should improve.

Will I ever circle an XFL game on the calendar and plan my weekend around it?

Nope.

Do I like football enough that if I’m bouncing around the channels on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in the spring I’ll land on an XFL game?

Probably.

It is what it is. It’s minor league football. It’s lesser talent.

But it’s unique and it’s still football.

Bottom line, I don’t hate it.

Related: State of the Patriots: Running back