JJ Lanier

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Changing Winds

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

When it was announced the Atlanta Falcons had hired Arthur Smith as their new head coach I immediately thought “‘the guy who wrote Dueling Banjos is still alive…and he’s going to coach the Falcons?”

Ok, so maybe the latter part is a bit of an embellishment, but that is the first Arthur Smith that came to mind.

Even with my knowledge of Smith’s football career limited to his last two years as Tennessee’s Offensive Coordinator, the hire shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise.

Atlanta has a history, particular in recent years, of hiring first time head coaches. While some organizations seemed determined to only hire former head coaches, Smith’s hire will be the fourth consecutive time the Falcons have handed the reigns of their team over to someone with no NFL head coaching experience.

Even when they have gone the “recycled” route, the last two coaches to fall under that category were Jim Mora and Dan Reeves- neither of which were considered bad hires at the time.

Whether that is the best is way for them to proceed or not is completely subjective, but I do give them credit for not falling in to the relationship trap of “oh, I know who they were beforehand, but they’ll be different with me.”

What intrigues me more about the hire is what it might say about the direction the franchise is heading and what exactly the expectations are for Smith.

Typically, when you see a young head coach join a team that has several high-profile players on the backside of their career, you automatically think it’s time to tear down and rebuild.

In Atlanta’s case, bringing in a highly regarded offensive coordinator, combined with an aging quarterback and the fourth overall pick in the draft, is the ideal situation to start moving onto the next phase of the franchise’s future.

However, with Matt Ryan hopefully still having another 2-3 productive years left, and Smith’s record of success in Tennessee, however limited it may be, it wouldn’t shock me if those plans are simmering on the back burner for at least another season.

If the Falcons are trying to make one last push before their franchise quarterback rides off into the sunset, bringing in someone who revived a lesser quarterback’s career isn’t a bad place to start.

If I had to guess, how the Falcons choose to use that fourth pick will give us a pretty good indication of what their plans are, and how much leeway their new head coach is going to received.

Trevor Lawrence won’t be available, and I imagine Justin Fields will be off the board as well, so is Atlanta enamored enough with either Zach Wilson or Trey Lance to draft them that high, knowing they probably won’t see the field for a year or two?

Obviously, there are other aspects to take into consideration when you’re trying to figure out the direction of a football franchise, but none will speak louder than Atlanta drafting a quarterback that early.

Like with any hire there will always be questions- are two years enough to judge how Smith will run a team? Were there better options out there?

Regardless of how you answer you those questions, the hire falls right in line with who the Atlanta Falcons have been. Now it’s just figuring out exactly what that means.

High Tide

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

There have been some impressive college football dynasties over the years, but it’s hard to imagine a more successful one than the one currently taking place in Tuscaloosa.

If you take out Saban’s inaugural year in 2007 the Crimson Tide have never won fewer than 10 games in a season (they’ve won 12 or more in 10 of those 13 seasons) own 8 Division titles, 7 Conference titles, and 6 National Championship trophies.

What separates Alabama from other remarkable runs other programs have made is not only the longevity, but the circumstances surrounding it.

As frustrated as people get having to hear the argument about players and teams being from different eras, that does make a difference.

This isn’t the Knute Rockne/Bear Bryant days where all the best players went to one or two schools, making it easier to dominate the competition.

Not only are there more options for players, but a lot of players are spurning some of the bigger programs so they (players) have a better chance of getting their name out there and building their brand.

Yet, Alabama is still able to bring in top rated classes, year after year. They’ve also achieved these feats playing in arguably the most difficult conference in the country.

Clemson, a team some people, myself included, thought could dethrone Alabama as the premier program, is a perfect example. As impressive as the Tigers have been the past 5-6 years, and as deserving as they were in their two championship runs, you knew they were going to have a shot because of the league they play in.

The Tide have been more successful, for twice as long, playing in a much more difficult conference.

One area that seems to fly a bit under the radar is the number of coordinators Saban has gone through, especially on the offensive side.

Over his 14 tenure there have been seven (about to be eight) different offensive coordinators at the helm.

We like to discuss at length the hurdles that come with player turnover due to transfers, graduating, etc., but to have that many different coordinators reigning over the side of the ball Saban is least comfortable with says a lot about his ability to bring in talent not only on the field, but on the sideline as well.

Granted, he’s been fortunate to have some talented play callers on his staff, but to give credit where it’s due, he also was willing to take chances on guys like Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian when their names weren’t exactly well received around the league.

That’s not to say Alabama and Saban are perfect or that they’ve won me over as a fan; of the three people I like associated with the state of Alabama, (Jason Isbell, Charles Barkley, and a player to be named later) none of them have anything to do with Alabama football.

It’s difficult to be objective towards Saban and the Tide- he’s not exactly the most gregarious person there is and winning as much as the program has does automatically brings detractors.

But, with Alabama winning their sixth title in 13 years, I do find myself appreciating what Saban has achieved during his time there.

The argument could be made some were just as good, but regardless of tonight’s outcome, I’d argue nobody has been better.

Malevolent Mullen

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

“My team is on the floor.”

In a movie full of memorable quotes and scenes (Hoosiers) that line may encapsulate the integrity of Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) more than any other.

In six words he not only holds the one available substitute on his bench accountable for not following his rules, but he shows tremendous support for the four players that did.

Regardless of wins and losses the character does exactly what you want a coach to do, set a good example for the players around him.

If Hoosiers was to be remade into a football movie starring Dan Mullen the line may sound like this- “My team is on the field…except it’s not this year’s team, it’s next years…and you know I could just take them all off the field and not play, right…and by the way, what’s with the lack of a crowd, it’s interfering with my current, but yet not current players…hey, how do you like my Halloween costume?”

If adversity is supposed to expose a person’s true character this past season has shown Mullen to be a narcissistic, excuse-riddled coach, whose post game comments are more of a fit for fan base discussion boards as opposed to press conferences. (Seriously, all those jokes about the SEC only losing bowl games they’re not interested in playing, originally directed at delusional fans, can now add Mullen to their intended list of targets.)

For most of the season it seemed like the best way to handle his rants was the same way you would handle a toddler throwing a fit in the toy aisle at a Target; just let him have his moment and move on.

Of course, as any parent will attest, if you don’t stop the fits early enough, they’ll grow into a full blown tantrum, which is basically what Mullen’s post Cotton Bowl press conference amounted to.

There really isn’t any way an objective person could watch that video and justify what he said as anything other than adult tantrum.

Despite all the ridiculous and frankly disrespectful comments he made his lack of integrity was what really pushed the whole thing over the edge.

As I mentioned above, the one thing we hope a coach will do at a minimum is set a good example for their players, right? I mean, I feel like I’ve heard “shaping boys into men” a few times over my 40 years on this earth.

How did Mullen shape his players this year? I assume they learned if things get tough just throw a bunch of excuses and blame towards others and then make sure they know just how lucky they were that you at least showed up?

Coming into this season I didn’t really have strong feelings towards Mullen, one way or the other. I thought he was a good coach who up to that point seemed like a decent guy.

Obviously, my feelings are a little more pronounced than they were a few months ago.

Look, Mullen may be taking the Dabo Swinney approach by doubling down on his comments because he doesn’t care what people outside of his program’s fan base thinks of him.

However, if he does care about his reputation, and since he’s already admitted he’s moved on to the 2021 season, I know just the perfect movie he can watch to help him on his way.

Disney Or Six Flags?

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Since John Calipari arrived in Lexington almost twelve years ago, Kentucky has dominated the SEC.

Over that period of time, in conference play, the Wildcats have won six regular season and conference tournament titles, while finishing in either first or second place in every season but one.

Kentucky has essentially been operating at the level of Disney and the rest of the SEC has been Six Flags.

Still, even when you’ve been as dominant as the Wildcats have been there is usually a season mixed in there somewhere, when other teams are able to get their shots in- last year’s UNC season comes to mind.

Could this be the year the tables are turned?

The one team that automatically comes to mind that’s in the best position is Tennessee.

The Vols are probably the league’s most completely team, with a nice mix of experience, talent, and coaching.

They have played the second toughest schedule of anyone in the SEC (Kentucky’s has been the most difficult, by far) and they have been the most impressive doing it.

The only thing I worry about, and I realize I’m contradicting myself a bit here, is I just don’t trust Rick Barnes.

Yes, I think he’s a good coach, his teams just tend to fall short when they’re the leaders. In a weird way I would actually feel better about their chances if Kentucky were playing at a higher level.

Teams like Arkansas, Missouri, Auburn, and LSU could certainly let wind up at the top of conference if Tennessee were to falter, but there are still too many questions about each for me to feel comfortable separating any one of those from the pack.

I think some of the other teams (Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M) will certainly have a shot at some upset wins, I just don’t think they’ll be able to compete for a shot at the top spot.

Florida is the one wild card in this whole thing. After witnessing Keyontae Johnson collapse on the court and then the aftermath of that event, you can’t predict how they’re going to react.

And just to be clear, these are a bunch of teenage kids who saw a teammate and friend collapse in front of them, so however they respond on the court is really inconsequential.

Of course, this topic is only relevant because Kentucky is off to their worst start in over a hundred years. An optimistic fan will argue the team has played the most difficult schedule in the country and their young players will mature and grow over the course of the season.

Everyone else will counter with the fact Kentucky still lost those games and those young players have more than likely never faced this kind adversity that is currently staring them in the face.

We should have a good idea who may be on the right path after the first few games, since Kentucky begins their conference schedule against some of the league’s weaker teams.

Even though we knew this season was going to be different for all the obvious reasons, I think most still felt like Kentucky was the team to beat and most everyone else was playing for second place.

With Kentucky’s early struggles it feels as if a number of teams have an opportunity to feel what it’s like to be the top dog.

Don’t get me wrong, going to Six Flags can be great, but it’s Disney that most everyone is after.

SEC In Aerosmith Albums

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the regular season essentially over, here is how I think each team fared, worst to best, and the corresponding Aerosmith album it equates to, also in ascending order. (No particular reason for choosing Aerosmith, just been listening to them lately and they do have 14 original studio albums. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy Aerosmith.)

 

  1. Rock and a Hard Place- Vanderbilt. When you lose every game by an average of 22.5 points and fire your head coach, your season is as forgettable as this album. Even the most ardent Aerosmith fans forget these were ever recorded.

 

  1. Night in the Ruts- Tennessee. The only positive thing I can say about Tennessee’s season was it was better than Vanderbilt’s.

 

  1. Music From Another Dimension- Mississippi State. Much like the last album Aerosmith has released, there are one or two highlights, but not much else to get excited about.

 

  1. Just Push Play- LSU. A season most Tigers’ fans would like to forget. Will certainly never be a success story, but ten years from now it won’t be viewed as quite the disaster it is today.

 

  1. Nine Lives- South Carolina. If you look at their on-field production and results they should be ranked lower. I boosted them up a few spots based solely on parting ways with Will Muschamp, which was their biggest win of the season.

 

  1. Done With Mirrors- Kentucky. Middle of the road album, middle of the road season. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

  1. Draw the Line- Auburn. A decent but underwhelming album that immediately preceded Aerosmith’s two worst records. Auburn lived up to the first part, with Malzahn now gone the second part is sure to follow.

 

  1. Permanent Vacation- Arkansas. The album was a comeback of sorts for the band and even though the Razorbacks only won three games it feels as though they’re on the right track.

 

  1. Aerosmith- Ole Miss. Their offense is as good as “Dream On”; if they can just get their defense to the level of “Mama Kin” they may wind up being the second best team in the West.

 

  1. Get A Grip- Missouri. Having trouble finding any correlation between the team and other than it’s my fifth favorite Aerosmith record and I thought Missouri had the fifth most successful season.

 

  1. Rocks- Georgia. Admittedly this album has held up better over time than this season will for Georgia. I know the end result is a disappointment for most fans, but it very easily could’ve been worse. Plus, you’ve found your quarterback for next year.

 

  1. Toys in the Attic- Florida. A really good season marred by a bad Austin Powers impersonation (“Really, who throws a shoe”) and a coach who can’t keep his foot out of his mouth. The Gators podiatry program has been working overtime this year.

 

  1. Get Your Wings- Texas A&M. No standout tracks, solid from beginning to end, just not as strong as the album above it. No standout wins, strong in all aspects of the game, just not as talented and deep as the team above them.

 

1.Pump- Alabama. You can argue my pick for best Aerosmith album, but not with which SEC had the best season; undefeated, averaged 49.5 ppg, average margin of victory 32.7, and actually played all ten games. You don’t have to like them, but you damn sure have to respect them.

Do You Really Care

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

If you had asked me back in September if I thought there would still be a college football season in December, I would’ve told you you’d be more likely to see a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion with the original Aunt Viv.

The fact we are not only playing football in December, but it looks like most bowl games and the college playoffs are going to take place, is nothing short of remarkable.

Considering the difficulties, we all knew the NCAA would encounter to put any semblance of a season together, I think they’ve done an admirable job, overall.

They put together strict guidelines in regards to testing players and coaches multiple times a week, as well the protocols in place for those who tested positive.

They allowed programs to have the autonomy to cancel and reschedule games as they saw fit, which led to some interesting matchups, like Coastal Carolina and BYU, that we otherwise never would’ve gotten.

Still, for all those reasons I just gave the NCAA credit for, I have never been less interested, or watched fewer games than I have this year.

It’s been difficult getting excited for games where I had no idea what type of roster was actually going to be on the field or if the game was even going to be played at all.

It’s also been hard to care about the outcomes of games and how it affects bowl games and the college playoffs when there’s such a disparity in the number of games played.

The most difficult part has probably been the testing. While I applaud the NCAA’s testing requirements there’s something wrong when college kids can be tested three times a week, simply because they’re an athlete, while thousands of Americans wait in line 3-4 hours to get tested.

In many cases, they have to use sick or vacation time for work while they wait on the results because they are in quarantine.

I know it’s an apples to oranges comparison when it comes to the cost or type of tests being administered (public vs private) but I have to seriously doubt the motives of anyone who doesn’t admit the optics on that are bad.

When you take into account the billions of dollars to be made, or probably more important, to be lost, if there wasn’t a season, I completely understand why the NCAA proceeded with football and continues with basketball.

I just wonder for all those fans that were clamoring at the beginning of the season how much they needed sports so there could be some resemblance of normalcy in their daily lives, did it provide the escape they hoped for?

I, for one, felt that way two months ago, but my perspective has changed entirely since then.

Please understand this isn’t some sort of political statement on my behalf. I’m not arguing whether or not a season should have been played or advocating for any particular side.

The NCAA was in a no win situation and I give them credit for trying to make the best of it.

All I’m giving is my opinion on why my interest in caring about this season has basically been nonexistent.

Unless it was a topic I was going to write about, when given the choice to watch a football game or something else, I chose the latter.

After watching Aunt Viv be reunited with Will Smith, I have no regrets.

Loading The Nest

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

You can tell a lot about where an NBA franchise thinks they are with how they approach their free agency.

Do they sign long-term max deals to players that they want to have around for a while?

Is their approach to sign guys they believe will be able to help push them over the edge and get them into the NBA finals?

Do they even participate in it at all?

The Hawks may not be on the cusp of the NBA finals, but they’re free agent signings announced to the rest of the league, and I imagine to their head coach as well, that anything less than a playoff appearance will be unacceptable.

With the young talent on Atlanta’s roster I think most people believed the organization would target veteran players they could sign for two years at a reasonable salary to help those younger players mature a little quicker; basically, what they did with Rajon Rondo. I don’t think anyone expected them to be nearly as aggressive as they were.

Even if you weren’t a bit surprised when Atlanta signed Danilo Gallinari to a 3-year contact for just north of $61 million, I imagine the most ardent Hawks supporter didn’t see them signing Bogdan Bogdanovic at 4 years/$72 million.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying either of those signings were bad, just not the moves most people were expecting Atlanta to make.

None of the four free agents Atlanta has added (yes, I’m including Kris Dunn) were brought in to merely be placeholders, bridging the gap until guys like De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, and Kevin Huerter are ready to take the reins.

They were brought in to not only make the Hawks competitive, but as a signal to those young players that their learning curve just dwindled; it’s time to take that next step and they better be ready for it.

In the matter of a week the Atlanta Hawks went from a team not good enough to play in the bubble, which is like not being good enough to get a participation trophy, to being a team that could cause problems for others in the playoffs.

Which leads me to Lloyd Pierce, who is about to enter his third year as the Hawks head coach with immensely more pressure on him than he had a few weeks ago.

I imagine the next 8-9 months for Pierce will be like watching Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” music video on a continuous loop.

The good news for the soon to be on the hot heat coach (if he doesn’t already begin the season there) is that he has a lot of different lineup options he’ll be able to fall back on, giving him an opportunity to be creative with his substitutions.

If we’re being realistic, the best case scenario for Atlanta is a second place finish in the Southeast behind Miami and a favorable first round matchup as a five or six seed.

There is the slight possibility their season could turn out even better, but I imagine that would have to do with other teams struggling more than Atlanta having success.

Regardless, this should be the best season the team has had in the past four or five years.

It’s playoffs or bust for the Atlanta Hawks, or at least that’s what their free agent signings indicate.

Welcome To The League

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With everything going on in the world to go along with a lack of star power in this year’s draft, it would be completely understandable if you forgot the NBA Draft hadn’t taken place yet.

Honestly, the only reason I remembered is I haven’t purchased NBA 2K21 yet because the rosters couldn’t be up to date since there had been no draft (or free agency and trades).

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not a fan of giving out grades when to comes to drafts.

I know they’re interesting to read, which is why most media outlets post them, but unless it’s just a no brainer pick, or one that makes absolutely no sense, it’s three or four years before you can really make any judgements.

So, instead of telling you how well or poorly the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic did, here are a few remarks on the type of player each team is getting.

Atlanta Hawks

Oneyka Okongwu, C, USC. The former 1st team All-PAC 12 player was largely considered to be the best low post player in the draft.

Like most young big men with similar size and athleticism his strength is on defense, however his offensive skillset is farther along than most of his peers.

I imagine the plan is for Okongwu to back up Clint Capela while he adjusts to the NBA, but if his development is quicker than expected Capela could become expendable, something that may be appealing to Atlanta at the trade deadline.

There’s a very good chance the Hawks drafted their long-term answer down low.

Skylar Mays, G, LSU. With the NBA’s emphasis on drafting young players based on potential, hopefuls like Mays- four-year players with NBA level skills- oftentimes find themselves waiting until the second round before they hear their names called, if at all.

Mays, who started all four years at LSU and was named 1st team All-SEC this past season, is certainly good enough to play at the NBA level, the only question is whether he’ll get a chance to prove himself with Atlanta.

Not many players drafted in the 50th spot hang around, Mays has the potential to be an exception to the rule.

Orlando Magic

Cole Anthony, G, UNC. As a devout parishioner from the church of ABC (Anybody But Carolina) I was able to watch Anthony a few times during his lone, injury riddled season in Chapel Hill.

I try not to make player comparisons, but the best way I can describe Anthony’s game is “Kyrie Irving Lite”.

Anthony has great handles, can get to the rim with relative ease, and has a knack for making the “no, what are you thinking…. yes, great shot” shot, a la Irving.

But, also like Kyrie, the former Tarheel tends to forget he has teammates he can pass the ball to and avoids playing any semblance of defense.

Now, In Anthony’s defense, he wasn’t surrounded by a plethora of talent at Carolina this past season, so I understand to a point why he was the volume shooter he was.

However, I have a feeling things wouldn’t have been all that different, even if the talent level had been greater.

The Magic may have just found their most beloved, and frustrating, player on their roster.

We’ll see how these guys turn out over the next few years. For both the Hawks and Magic, they’re hoping the 2020 Draft will be a bright spot in an otherwise dreary year.

Jimmie

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the exception of a few years in the mid to late 2000’s where I was a casual watcher, I’ve never really been a fan of NASCAR.

It’s not that I had anything against it, watching racing just wasn’t my thing.

However, as Jimmie Johnson’s full-time career comes to an end- and I say full time because race car drivers are like WWE wrestlers, they never seem to completely retire- I can’t help but think back on how he was perceived during that time.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not talking about his legacy- I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough to make those kinds of assessments. I’m referring to how he was viewed among most NASCAR fans, and why.

Johnson entered NASCAR as Jeff Gordon 2.0. He was a good looking, well dressed, articulate speaking (no accent) individual, which meant the ladies loved him and the men, not so much.

The fact he drove for the same owner as Gordon, Richard Hendrick, led to me hearing them referred to as the “Backstreet Boys of racing” on more than one occasion.

It would be easy to put the lion’s share of Johnson’s struggle to win over the diehard fan on him being an outsider, but it goes a little deeper than that.

NASCAR is a tight knit community where names like Petty, Wallace, and Allison mean something; and no name carries more weight in that sport than Earnhardt.

I honestly think had Earnhardt been around the Hatfield and McCoy’s feud would’ve ended with “…and they all gathered around the table in their Earnhardt shirts, thanking the good lord for placing the Intimidator on this earth.”

Fan loyalty runs deeper in NASCAR than any other sport, so to have a racer like Jimmie Johnson winning five straight Cup Series Championships over Dale Earnhardt Jr. was blasphemy at its highest level.

It would’ve been bad enough to have a racer like Tony Stewart or Kevin Harvick defeating Earnhardt Jr. when it was supposed to be his time, but for those defeats to come at the hands of a pretty boy from California was unacceptable.

If Johnson was your average racer, winning a race or two here and there, I still think fans would’ve had the same opinion of him, it just wouldn’t have been nearly as deep seeded.

(I feel like I need to mention I don’t ever remember Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson having any issues with each other, outside of the normal confrontations all drivers seem to have with each other some point. Like most things related to sports, it had nothing to with the drivers themselves, but rather the fans.)

I also believe Johnson’s popularity with the casual NASCAR fan outside of the south was a major reason the sport reached its peak around that time- something I think the diehard fan had difficulty coming to grips with.

If I had to guess it’s been ten years since I, not only watched a NASCAR race, but actually followed what was taking place. I have no idea if Johnson’s popularity within the sport has increased over that time or if it’s stayed the same; I imagine it’s gotten better, but probably not by much.

I have no idea where Johnson ranks among the pantheon of great race car drivers, but for a few years he was one of the more polarizing drivers in the sport, and NASCAR was all the better for it.

 

 

Rooting for Tom Brady?

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

For the past eighteen years, I’m not sure if there’s an NFL player I have liked less than Tom Brady. (I don’t count the year he took over for Drew Bledsoe because both he and New England were underdogs, and even I enjoy an underdog story.)

When other quarterbacks around the league yelled at their teammates or got in their face for making a mistake, a la Dan Marino back in the day, I viewed them as motivators who cared about winning. When Brady did it, I vilified him as a jackass.

While I applauded players for their business endeavors outside of football, I thought Brady was pompous for basically everything that had to do with his TB12 brand.

He was the rare player where I knew I viewed him through a hypocritical lens, but I didn’t care.

Yet, to my own dismay, there I was a few weeks ago watching Tampa and Chicago play on a Thursday, actually rooting for Brady.

It was as if I was having an out of body experience and my soul kept yelling at me, “No, don’t do it!”

Obviously, one of the reasons for my change of heart is that Brady no longer plays for New England. I’ve always put Patriot players in the same category as New York Yankee players- I can’t pull for them while playing for their respective teams but have no issue rooting for them once they leave.

But the main reason I’m starting to see Brady in a different light has to do with the year he’s having. Up to this point of the season, when you look at some of the major categories we use to determine a quarterback’s success- completion percentage, td/int ratio, yards per completion) the 43 year old is above his career average in every one.

And it’s not like this season is the continuation of a downward trajectory that still happens to be better than average. You could’ve made that argument over the last two or three seasons, but statistically speaking, Brady is on pace to have his best overall season in five years.

There’s no denying Brady and Belechick had a great run together with the Patriots but entering this season I was interested to see how each would adjust without the other.

My original hope was that both would implode, and I would revel in their struggles; it’s good to know New England is holding up their end.

It’s probably been four or five years since I allowed myself to admit that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to have played in the NFL.

Since that time, all he’s done is win a couple more Super Bowls and continued to be one of the best in the game.

The fact he’s doing this at an age when most of his peers have either already hung up their cleats or are barely clinging to a team, makes what he is accomplishing even more impressive.

I know there will be some that will argue he was surrounded by great talent and coaching, but so was Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, John Elway, and basically every other Hall of Fame quarterback you can mention.

And of course, there are those who will scream “Deflategate” at the top of their lungs, and while I won’t disagree with you, in my mind Brady has done enough to overcome that rebuttal in regards to him being the best ever.

That said, I still cringe a little saying these nice things about him, just not as much as I used to.

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