By Bucky Gleason
The announcement came suddenly but subtly, a by-the-way insertion in monotonic fashion that's typical when Bill Belichick addresses the media. The Patriots' head coach was speaking to reporters Monday, a day after New England beat Houston, when he offered a little nugget.
“I'll just put it out there now that we're in the process of bringing Brian Daboll back onto our staff,” Belichick said. “As soon as we get that worked out, he'll be part of our coaching staff going forward.''
In terms of the immediate future, it didn't sound like big news. New England has more important items on the agenda, starting with Sunday's rematch with Baltimore in the AFC Championship game, than bringing back their former receivers coach. The Pats are looking for their second straight trip to the Super Bowl.
In the grand scheme, however, the move was so calculating, so intelligent, so Belichick, that his agenda could not be ignored. He could have re-hired Daboll after the playoffs and avoided speculation about him becoming a possible replacement for Josh McDaniels. But why wait when the St. Francis High graduate can help the Patriots win now?
Let's connect the dots.
Daboll was offensive coordinator in Kansas City before getting swept out the door with head coach Romeo Crennell. Kansas City played Baltimore and Atlanta this season. New England lost to Baltimore, 31-30, in Week Three. The Pats also lost to San Francisco by a touchdown and didn't play Atlanta.
You can safely assume Daboll spent hours breaking down the tendencies of Baltimore and Atlanta the way Belichick taught him as an assistant with the Patriots from 2000-06.
Belichick, always on the lookout for an advantage, is hoping Daboll can bring something — anything, a sliver, a shred — that can help win another Super Bowl.
He also might have his next offensive coordinator if McDaniels, again considered hot property for his work this season, bolts for another chance to become a head coach. Anything is possible, and Belichick is making sure he has every short- and long-term scenario covered in the best way possible.
Say what you will about the Hoodie – that his genius is overstated, that he lacks personality, that he's uncooperative and prickly. You could also argue he's the best coach in the history of the NFL. Yes, that includes Vince Lombardi and Chuck Noll and Tom Landry and Bill Parcells.
In an age in which more players switch teams and schemes become more complex than ever, Belichick has adjusted better and found more creative ways to win than anybody else. New England is where no-names become stars if only for a brief time in which Belichick can use them and discard them for a similar plug-in player.
The Patriots haven't won the Super Bowl since the 2004 season, but they do everything with a championship in mind. Look no further than their 41-28 victory over the Texans to reach the AFC Championship game for the latest examples of what has made New England so successful under Belichick.
New England selected two tight ends in the first four rounds of the 2010 draft, a decision that left many scratching their heads. Belichick has since shown how Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez cause major matchup problems in the secondary because they're too fast for linebackers and too big and strong for cornerbacks.
Gronkowski re-injured his left arm in the first quarter Sunday. Danny Woodhead, an undrafted free agent who was cut by the Jets, suffered a thumb injury. No problem.
Shane Vereen came off the bench, became the third player in NFL history to have two receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in the same playoff game, and joined the long list of nameless, faceless Patriots who have made a difference.
Having a future Hall of Fame passer in Tom Brady helps, obviously, but one could argue that Brady has been the bigger benefactor in his relationship with Belichick. Can you imagine Brady having the same success under Mike Mularkey or Dick Jauron? Could you see Wes Welker putting up the same numbers with, say, Cleveland or Jacksonville?
Belichick started grooming Brady as a rookie and taught him how to look, where to look and when to look for every possible advantage while turning the offense into a machine.
Brady now has 17 playoff victories, the most of any starting quarterback in NFL history. Welker has 17 games in which he caught 10 or more passes, another record.
Brady is the only player who remains from their first Super Bowl. The Pats gradually overhauled the roster despite picking near the end of the draft order every year. They continued no matter who wore the uniform or which coaches worked under Belichick.
Every decision was made with a purpose, to win the Super Bowl.
And that's why Daboll is back.
Not so clear
Baseball writers last week bemoaned rules prohibiting them from picking more than 10 players each year for induction into the Hall of Fame. It eventually could lead to several changes in the voting process. Let's hope the standards are tougher and clear.
Roger Clemens picked up 37.6 percent of the votes, about half of the percentage needed for a place in Cooperstown, while Barry Bonds had 36.2 percent. Both would have coasted into the Hall if not for the steroids mess. The idea that neither would be inducted during their lifetimes appeared to be gaining momentum last week.
The Hall of Fame is an honor bestowed among the best players of all time, but it's also a museum that helps record and store history. I'm not saying needles should be on display, but treating the steroid era as if it didn't happen is worse than baseball ignoring the problem in the first place.
“It's not news that Bonds, Clemens, [Sammy] Sosa, [Rafael] Palmeiro, and [Mark] McGwire didn't get in, but that they received hardly any consideration at all,” Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt said in an email to The Associated Press. “The real news is that [Craig] Biggio and [Mike] Piazza were well under the 75 percent needed.”
The aforementioned players and hundreds of others played when players used performance-enhancing drugs. It's a fact that has tainted many a career, but too many voters made decisions based on suspicion rather than fact. Basically, a tainted jury is deciding on tainted careers. It makes no sense.
ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian in several interviews last week said the voting process was long and painstaking. He spent 12 hours analyzing his own ballot knowing arguments could be made for and against him. He still wasn't happy when submitting his vote. Give him credit for caring, but it should take about 15 minutes.
Baseball writers should know whether a player belongs in the Hall of Fame long before he's eligible for induction. It should be obvious during his career. If a voter needs half a day to make a decision, the player doesn't belong.
Equally ridiculous is the idea that only the best players, the elite of the elite, are granted induction on the first ballot. We don't need a Hall of Fame for the Hall of Fame. You're either in or not. In a perfect world, they would get three chances rather than 15.
Three strikes, and you're out.
Keep talking, Lance
We'll see what Lance Armstrong says when his 2½-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey airs Thursday, but it's already become anticlimactic. Armstrong's decision to come clean merely confirmed what most people suspected, especially after he had apologized to the staff at Livestrong.
What happens in the months that follow is more compelling than Armstrong's admitting his involvement in the doping scandal. Cycling has been littered with doping accusations for years, which has left the entire sport under suspicion. Armstrong has the power to speak the truth and clear cyclists who weren't involved.
It would go a long way in restoring whatever credibility he has left.
“He used to be one of my husband's best friends and because he wouldn't go along with the doping, he got kicked to the side,” Betsy Andreu, the wife of former cyclist Frankie Andreu, told CBS News. “Lance could have a positive impact if he tells the truth on everything. He's got to be completely honest.”
Just a bite ...
Venus Williams is back among the top 25 women's tennis players after slipping below the top 100 last season. Her slide down the rankings came after she was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, which had left her exhausted and short of breath.
Williams, 32, told reporters covering the Australian Open that she wants to play this season and next, which would give her 20 years on tour.
She had to change her diet and stop eating high-calorie foods and anything loaded with sugar. She calls herself a “chegan,'' or a vegan who cheats.
“If it's on your plate, I might get to cheat,” Williams told The Associated Press. “If you're sitting next to me, good luck. You turn your head once and your food might be gone.”
Ryan Miller on the NHL lockout: “It was just a stupid, useless waste of time.”
400,116 — Dollars earned on the Web.com Tour last year by Russell Henley, who pocketed $1.008 million for winning the SONY Open in his PGA tour debut.
15 — The ranking of Niagara University among Division I hockey teams in the country, according to the latest U.S. College Hockey Online poll.
• The Heat are still the best team in the NBA's Eastern Conference, but they're going to have a difficult time getting back to the NBA Finals unless they solve chemistry problems.
Dwyane Wade has been moping about not getting enough shots. Chris Bosh has had too many nights in which he looks as if he's going through the motions.
• For the sake of storylines, I'm pulling for the 49ers this weekend. A Harbaugh-Harbaugh coaching matchup would be irresistible, but a rematch between the Niners and Pats wouldn't be bad, either. Baltimore-Atlanta in the Super Bowl could mean addressing items on my “Honey, do ...” list.
• In case you were wondering, Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros led the NHL with 70 points apiece in 1995, the last 48-game season. It would have been good enough to tie Eric Staal for 21st place last season, when he had 24 goals and 46 assists in 82 games.
email: bgleason@ buffnews.com