Author Archives: Christopher Price

Atlanta Coach Dan Quinn says Falcons wont run from memory of Super Bowl LI loss to Patriots

Falcons coach Dan Quinn is going to “Embrace The Suck” that goes along with the stunning Super Bowl LI loss to the Patriots.

Speaking with with Don Banks and me and the “Cover 2” podcast earlier this week, Quinn laid out his post-Super Bowl philosophy, which means approaching the 2017 season with a straightforward ethos: don’t run from the memory of what happened last February against New England. In other words, “embrace the suck.”

“It’s a warrior mentality,” he explained. “What ‘Embrace the Suck’ translates to is, ‘Hey man, this is going to be hard. And right now, I’m going to push past any self-perceived limitations I have, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s going to be hard, and we’re going to go for it anyway.’”

In the wake of the Patriots loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, there were guys on that team who — tongue-in-cheek and otherwise — said they had no interest going back and re-watching that game. That door was closed. Quinn is taking the opposite approach.

“I was one that wanted to go back and watch it. I felt like if I didn’t learn lessons, than the pain was for nothing. So I wanted to make sure there were lessons to be gained here. How could we be more adaptable in game in terms of plays calls and game management and how to utilize the players better?

“For sure, I was of the mindset that you have to watch it. It doesn’t mean that you ever get past it. But you get past it if you know what I mean in that, OK, you have the lessons and it sucked, and now, you’re on to the next thing. But you have to make sure in my opinion that you do understand where you can grow stronger. That’s the way I went about it.”

Some important professional news

Today was my last day as a full-time employee at WEEI.com. I’ve had a terrific time for the last eight-plus years, met some amazing people, and had the chance to work for a great boss in Rob Bradford. Now, it’s on to the next challenge. I’ll be honest — I’m not sure what that is right now. (Maybe I’ll finally take a chance on that career as a rodeo clown I’ve always wondered about.) But I’m also confident in the future and all that it holds. I’m going to step away from social media for a bit, but I’ll be back again, sooner rather than later. After all, someone has to remind people about the greatness of things like special teams, coffee and Pulp Fiction.

Take care, and thanks for everything,
Chris

The most underrated part of Randy Moss’ game? His hands

Randy Moss turned 40 the other day, and the NFL celebrated with a really cool montage of all of his 40-plus yard touchdowns over the course of his career. An electric collection of scores, it showed just how devastating Moss could really be.

I covered him for three-plus years, and one of the things that stood out to me — and one of the things that players and coaches always said about Moss — were his hands. He was blessed with great size, amazing balance, and all sorts of skills. And teammates say he was one of the hardest workers they had ever come across. But his hands and how he used them were what really set him apart.

“Guys like Randy Moss who were great at it, not raising his hands to catch the ball until the ball is almost past him,” Bill Belichick said back in 2015. “You couldn’t do that against him, but the other receivers, when they move their hands to catch the ball, defensively if you match their hands, then that’s where the ball is going to be.”

With that in mind, I wrote this story a few years ago on the “importance of shooting late hands.” I talked to a few receivers who played with Moss (or just studied him), and they all said the thing that was the most amazing about him was the fact that he didn’t always put his hands up until he needed to. The thinking? You have a defensive back chasing you and you throw your hands up, that defensive back knows the ball is coming. Like Brandon LaFell said, you have to “shoot late hands.”

“Most of the time, when you beat a defensive back and he’s in catch-up mode, he’s not going to turn around and look at the ball. He’ll look at your eyes. He’ll look at your hands,” LaFell said. “The sooner you throw your hands up, the sooner he’s going to try and rake. The better you do when you shoot late hands, the better chance you have to catch the ball. You still might have to catch the ball at a low point, but those late hands help you out in those situations.”

LaFell also said it was something he learned from Steve Smith Sr. when they were together in Carolina.

“He did it so well, especially on fade balls in the red zone,” LaFell said. “He’d just be running and looking back and the DB is just waiting, waiting, waiting to see him shoot his hands, and the ball just drops over his shoulder and he just catches it real low at the last minute. He’s a guy I pretty much learned that from in my first four years in the league.”

Some food for thought when it comes to the legacy of one of the best receivers in the history of the game.

Welcome to the NFL’s ‘Low Sunday’

My Dad was an Episcopalian minister. He’s retired now, but when he preached, he was really good. He used to draw people in, act as a counselor and a friend, and had all sorts of really cool sermons. He would preach on Johnny Unitas and Jackie Robinson and Ricky Bobby. (Yeah, that Ricky Bobby.) In one of my favorites, he drew this line between the dinner-table scene where Ricky Bobby and his family were talking about Jesus and what sort of Jesus we’re all comfortable with that — as a writer — I’m still amazed at.

(I was always a little struck as to how similar our jobs were/are. We both have non-traditional pursuits that don’t fit into the 9-to-5 stereotype. We both worked weekends, and the week always built to the big payoff. Every so often, we would have to try and soothe people in occasional times of travail. And we both engaged with people of deep faith and spoke to those who would look forward to salvation every Sunday.)

Anyway, the buildup in the church to Christmas and Easter is understandable. In church, those two holidays are everything. But after those two holidays, there’s the inevitable letdown the following week, both spiritually and emotionally. The Sunday following Christmas and the Sunday after Easter were always referred to as “Low Sundays.” Basically, today is the NFL’s version of “Low Sunday.” Enjoy it. Rest, recharge, watch all the highlights on NFL Network and be ready when the carousel gets cranked up again.

What it’s like to cover a crazy Super Bowl finish

When it comes to covering the end of a crazy game, there’s a lot that goes on. In the rush to get stuff posted as quickly as possible, it’s frequently a race against the clock to get something tossed up on the Internet. In the midst of all of that, you always have to gather your thoughts about who you want to talk to and what sort of questions you need to ask when you go downstairs. Fortunately, I have a couple of really talented colleagues in Ryan Hannable and Mike Petraglia; Trags has handled the “Snap Judgments” post that goes up right at the end of the game for us. Having done that for several years in the past, it’s not an easy gig. When it comes to a wild ending like the Super Bowl, you have to write and re-write and re-write. His one this year was a piece for the ages.

(I still have three different, unused versions of my game story from the end of Super Bowl XLII that had to be scrapped because of that finish. For what it’s worth, if the Patriots had one and finished off the perfect season, the story was something along the lines of “The 2007 Patriots took their place as the single greatest team in NFL history with an epic win over the Giants Sunday night in the desert….”)

Usually, Ryan, Trags and I would break down who would be responsible for what before we went downstairs. On many occasions this year, Ryan went into the visitors locker room, and he managed to get some great stuff, because frequently it’s just as (if not more) interesting to hear what an opponent has to say about the Patriots than hear from the Patriots themselves. More often than not, Trags and I would head to the Patriots. And one of my other things? Always stick around the locker room as long as you can. You never know who will talk or what they might say. Logan Mankins always took a ton of time, but was always worth sticking around for. This year, it was probably Martellus Bennett who was that guy.

Anyway, on Sunday in Houston, I stuck with Brady and Belichick in the postgame presser. Then, after a few minutes in the postgame interview area (where they bring guys after big events like the Super Bowl), I went to the locker room. The championship locker room celebration in the NFL is usually way different than baseball. Basically, there’s no champagne. Usually pretty buttoned up by comparison. This year, though, someone had a bottle of something, and they popped it open and sprayed it on some teammates. (I honestly didn’t see who it was or what was being sprayed. I was one of a few guys talking to Matthew Slater when it happened.) Robert Kraft was speaking with us, and handed out cigars while guys passed the trophy around and took pictures with it. I made sure to congratulate a few of the players who I had developed a solid relationship with. There’s the longstanding journalistic rule that you can’t cheer for a team you cover. But at the same time, you can acknowledge what you have just witnessed, and say “Good job” to the guys you are truly happy for, like Slater, Chris Long, Nate Solder and others. They booted us out of the locker room soon after that, but not before Bennett walked past a few of us and said, “I’m a champion!”

Then, it was back up to the press box to really get down to the real business of writing. Many of the quotes are already transcribed by teams, and while they usually do a great job, it’s always worth going through your own notes for everything. Empty out the notebook, basically. (If I find a few, I usually post some to Twitter while I’m writing. Good to whet the appetite for some readers.) On Sunday, I wasn’t sure what i was going to use as my lede. A lot of my stuff is written beforehand and kind of sketched out before I get downstairs, but there are always directions that can surprise you. In this case, Brady’s surprise “a lot of shit happened” in the postgame presser proved to be a pretty good entry point, and I kind of built from there. It never ceases to amaze me that some of my best stuff is written quickly, while some of the other stuff I think is good and takes a while and builds after a long stretch of writing tends to be a bit overblown and not so hot. Maybe it’s the adrenaline that comes from writing on deadline and the synapses firing and lack of sleep or too much coffee or whatever. Who knows.

Anyway, the primary focus is on getting stuff up quickly to the blog. Once that’s done, the real column work begins. On Sunday, that meant doing about five of the 10 things, in addition to the blog, at the stadium, before it was time to take a quick break and head back to the hotel. But first … to the field!

When it comes to my job, one of the things I’ve always loved and really appreciated is the fact that I simply get to go to Super Bowls. As a souvenir for friends and family, I’ve gotten a handful of confetti from each of them. So we went down to the field after the game and scooped up some confetti and took some pictures. (See the above shot.) This was (probably) around 2:30 or so Houston time. Hopped back on the media shuttle back to the hotel, where we ordered room service and finished writing while watching an NFL Network replay of the game until 6 a.m. or so. A quick nap and then back to the convention center for the MVP award and press conferences, and another few blog posts after that.

No sleep? No problem. Like Dante Scarnecchia has said, “We’re not building rockets here.” While it’s not the life for everyone — you miss family time, you work long hours on nights and weekends — it’s a blast, especially when you get to cover something so special. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Reflections on the end of another football season

Every year, especially if I’m lucky enough to be at the Super Bowl, I start to really think about how fortunate I’ve been. And I just wanted to get it all down before Super Bowl LI on Sunday. If you think of the Patriots 2016 season as an album, consider this my contribution to the liner notes.

Call it fate. Call it luck. Call it happenstance. It’s a little remarkable that Sunday will mark my seventh Super Bowl. It’s hard to believe that I’ve managed to trick the powers-that-be into allowing me to cover so many of them. I started covering the team in 2001 on a total lark. I was sports editor at the Boston Metro, and because the Patriots had availability during the day, I figured I could go to Foxboro during the day, get quotes and find a story, and then come back to the office and write and lay the pages out at night. That summer, there was very little buzz around the team. “I’ll just go down to Foxboro, like, once a week,” I told my girlfriend at the time — who would later become my wife. “It’s not going to be a big thing. They’re probably not going to be all that good. It’ll be something different and fun.” And yeah, my first game was the one where Tom Brady came in in relief for Drew Bledsoe.

Flash forward 15-plus years, and my work as a football writer has come to define my professional life. I’ve written two books on the Patriots, won awards for my work, and gone places and met people I would have only dreamed of meeting if I had never gotten on this roller coaster. My life has been enriched, both literally and figuratively, because I cover the team. It’s been remarkable. I think of that every time I roll into the parking lot in Foxboro.

At the same time, I haven’t gotten here on my own. I mean, I’m a good writer and I work hard and I would have done something worthwhile over the last 15 years. But to get here? That takes a lot. It takes a lot of people doing a lot of sacrificing to put me in the best possible professional situation. And they all deserve a big thank you.

First and foremost, it takes a partner sacrificing and planning and helping figure out how it’s all going to work. My first Super Bowl, while we were planning our wedding and my job would only agree to reimburse me $250 for the whole trip, my wife gave me her frequent flier miles to make sure I could get to New Orleans and back. She keeps the trains rolling all football season. We find a way to make it work. That’s sacrifice. That’s partnership. She’s the best.

It takes a son who is patient and kind and sweet and understanding that Dad has to travel and work on weekends and doesn’t have a 9 to 5 job like all the other Dads. But every year, he gets to come to training camp and meet the players and have lunch at Five Guys and drink free Pepsi and check out the view from the press box and the media tent. (And catch Stephen Gostkowski’s field goal attempts.) And every time Dad goes to the Super Bowl, he brings home some cool swag. But I know it’s not easy not having me around. Mostly because I’m an awesome Dad. Hey – sometimes, you don’t want Dad the Sportswriter. You just want Good Old Dad.

It takes the wisdom of parents like the ones I was blessed with. My Mom and Dad encouraged me to become a writer — a sportswriter — and they kept me in pads and pens. They made sure I joined the school paper, got me into a college with a good journalism program and helped chip in when there were unpaid internships and bills due. And later, that meant figuring out a way to get me a Powerbook so I could write my first book and become a real writer. They are the best.

It takes amazing colleagues like Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable. They are hardworking, dedicated colleagues who are tremendous partners. They understand the process, and how sometimes it all comes together at weird hours in strange places like Oneida, where you are operating on no sleep in the middle of the night and still have a six-hour drive ahead of you back to Boston and the Tim Horton’s isn’t taking your credit card and all you want is a goddamn grilled chicken sandwich. It’s a weird lifestyle that doesn’t always really make sense. But God bless the both of them. And it takes a boss like Rob Bradford, who makes you a better writer and reporter.

It takes a mentor like Leigh Montville. I wanted to become a sportswriter when I started reading him, and getting the chance to develop a relationship with him later in life is a gift. We should all get a chance to meet our heroes, and we should all hope that they’d be as nice and kind and helpful as Leigh was to me if that happens.

It takes readers and listeners. I find it hard to believe I would be doing this without anyone reading, and so to anyone who has read my stuff along the way or listened to something I said or watched me talk on TV, just know it’s meant the world to me. For those of you guys who follow me on Twitter, Facebook, listen to me on the radio, whatever, it’s a blast. Even when we disagree, I think the fact that we can manage to be civil to each other says something. Always remember: Just because we don’t agree on something doesn’t make either one of us bad people.

And so, I am here at the Super Bowl, seven flights up in a luxury hotel in downtown Houston. I’m listening to the faint sounds of ZZ Top off in the distance somewhere as I write and marveling at how all of this good fortune continues to fall into my lap. As my colleague Bob Socci said, he’s “no worse than tied for first among the world’s luckiest guys.” That pretty much sums up what I’m feeling right now. The bottom line? If luck is the residue of design, someone was really looking out for me when it came to my blueprint. Thank you all for everything.