And, just like that, it’s fall. The days shorten. Crockpots come out of retirement. And the Patriots play the Jets on Sunday. We spoke to Christopher Price, author of the forthcoming book The Blueprint: How the New England Patriots Beat the System to Create the Last Great NFL Superpower (Thomas Dunne Books, out October 16) and asked him what to expect this season.
Your book is being called football’s Moneyball.
I know that’s an ambitious statement, but it’s basically an examination of how the Patriots have been able to do what they’ve done over the past seven years in a league that’s designed to bring everyone back to the center with planned parity and balanced scheduling and a salary cap. The most important thing is an organizational philosophy that says that it’s not about collecting talent, it’s about assembling a team. Every team wants to have a Pro-Bowler at every position. That’s not possible. So they go out and find guys like Mike Vrabel, who wasn’t fitting in in Pittsburgh. He comes to New England and he becomes one of the most important cogs in this defense.
Speaking of defense, Rodney Harrison was just suspended four games after admitting HGH use. Surprised?
I was very surprised. Rodney, in his time in New England, has been a straight shooter with the media. He’s been a good guy. And to hear something like that is very disappointing. I will say this: he gets points for the way he handled the thing. In typical Patriots fashion, he got out in front of it and controlled the message. He said, “I did it. I’m going to serve my punishment.” He could have very easily stonewalled. He could’ve said it was flaxseed oil. I’m not saying what he did wasn’t horribly wrong, but he’s handled it differently than a lot of other people have.
How do you think hothead Randy Moss is going to pan out, as a character and as a wide receiver?
Guys like Tom Brady and Tedy Bruschi are able, for lack of a better term, to patrol that locker room. Corey Dillon was another one: a questionable character that they brought in and remade in their image. I think it’s going to be the same thing for Moss. It’s going to be interesting for him because, for the first time in his career, he’s not the most talented guy on his own team. That’s gotta be a little humbling. [On field], I think it’s going to be slow. Brady can be a little finicky as far as how receivers run his routes. One time in practice he put a ball in the back of a guy’s head because he wasn’t running the right route. Moss needs to be on the same page as Brady. Whether that comes this week or this month, I think they’ll click by the end of the year.
So what’s the prognosis?
I think they’ll finish 13-3 or 12-4. They have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. The toughest game right out of the gate is week two [against San Diego], without Harrison and [defensive lineman Richard] Seymour. It’s a game they needed all hands on deck, and without two of their best defensive players it’s gonna be tough. But they’ll be right there at the end. Time and again, they’ve really been resilient when they’ve been faced with a problem. They pull together, and they get through it.