A few days have passed now since former New England Patriot, Danny Amendola, signed a contract with the Miami Dolphins. One things for sure, he doesn’t leave New England without massive amounts of gratitude from fans and from the organization themselves. Danny Amendola was and still is exactly what the definition of the Patriot way meant.
A guy who came into the league undrafted, worked for everything he had and then was released time and time again, battled injuries and then one of his last stops was to get scooped up by Bill Belichick and company and turned into a two time Super Bowl champion. In his time in New England he took three separate pay cuts in the prime of his career to continue to play with a team that he thrived with.
The NFL has always proven to be a business first and friendships second league. As Tuesday afternoon came and went the New England Patriots and Danny Amendola found out just how true that was.
Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
In 2013, Danny Amendola found his way to New England. His job? Replacing one of, if not the best slot receiver(s) of all-time in Wes Welker.
What’s funny is in the greater Boston area there isn’t a transition period for athletes. There’s no time for them to get settled in. A player is expected to produce and Amendola had a bumpy start with the New England Patriots.
What’s even funnier is the guy that replaced Wes Welker wasn’t Amendola, it was Julian Edelman. The same guy that has grown so close to Danny Amendola and is undoubtedly his best friend to this day.
Amendola never let minor setbacks at the very beginning keep him from succeeding in New England. He just settled into a role that wasn’t exactly what Patriot fans painted him to be. Instead, he carved out his role and went to work.
Amendola, (USA Today).
There are few words to describe just how clutch a 5-foot-11 slot receiver can be. So let me bounce some statistics off of you instead.
Amendola had never reached the playoffs before coming to New England. In his 13 playoff games in five seasons, Amendola had 57 catches on 81 targets.
He racked up 709 total receiving yards in those 13 games, giving him a 55 yard average per game and a 12.44 yard per catch average. In the 2017 postseason alone, he accounted for 348 receiving yards, (49.1 percent of his total playoff receiving yards), picking up the slack for injured teammates Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell.
He also accounted for six touchdowns and 35 first downs made all by himself in that five year playoff span. The point is Danny Amendola got better when the game got tougher. He constantly made big play after big play for a Patriots offense that needed him.
He was reliable and trustworthy, and when Tom Brady needed a reception over the middle of the field, Amendola was there, calmly shaking countless defenders off him.
What the Future holds:
There is no doubt in my mind that Danny Amendola will thrive in his new role with the Miami Dolphins. Now that he can help compliment a guy like DeVante Parker, his new role could be even more of a fit for him than a crowded wide receiving core he leaves behind in New England.
The truth is, Amendola is one of the players that you never want to see walk out the door. He is an excellent personality and a hard worker who has cared about winning more than money his entire career. As maybe his last payday has come and gone, it makes the most sense for Amendola to take his last contract and go down to the warmth and out of the frigid Foxboro winters.
One things for sure, ‘Dola leaves a hole in Patriots fans hearts as he walks out. Regardless of what the future holds and what the end of Danny Amendola’s career looks like, he will always be remembered in New England for his receiving and passing touchdowns and his incredible playoff performances.
He will be remembered for his toe tapping touchdown to beat the Jaguars in the 2018 AFC Championship and his bubble screen goal line grab to score the two point conversion that effectively brought the Patriots all the way back to even the score in SuperBowl LI. He made most of his memories in the post season just like it should be. I mean come on, he is playoff ‘Dola.
Featured image from USA Today.
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The first two days and three rounds of the NFL draft have finished. The third day of the draft is rounds four through seven. These players drafted on day three sometimes do not even make the roster. So what players remaining, after day two, have a chance to become stars in the NFL? Here are some who may answer that question.
Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
(Photo Credit: Chuck Cook, USA TODAY Sports)
Chad Kelly is flying high under the radar. Kelly is the nephew of Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly. Chad Kelly had a pretty solid career while at Ole Miss. Going 14-8 as a starter and even notched a win against Alabama. Kelly threw for 6,858 yards, 50 touchdowns, and just 21 interceptions. He also added 958 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground in his career.
Kelly had a lot of problems off the field that have derailed his career. He was kicked off the team at Clemson for actions against the coaching staff. Once he left Clemson he landed at East Mississippi Community College, more commonly known as Last Chance U. There Kelly led EMCC to a 12-0 season and an NJCAA National Football Championship.
If Kelly has learned from his past mistakes and can be a model citizen off the field then there is a chance he can become a star in the NFL. He has great arm strength and can make NFL throws. Kelly has played primarily in the shotgun and will need to work on his under center mechanics. Also he has great touch passing skills and is much better when moving outside the pocket and throwing. If a team takes a risk in the sixth or seventh round there is a good chance Kelly becomes an NFL starter one day.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
Dede Westbrook was one of the top five receivers in all of college football last season. Some would argue he was the best. Last season he had 80 receptions, 1,524 yards, and 17 touchdowns. Westbrook is an excellent route runner with big play capability. In the open field, Westbrook is explosive and turns a lot of good plays into big plays. Some say his size is an issue but make no mistake, Westbrook could be a scary playmaker in the NFL.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego St.
Donnel Pumphrey is only still available because of his size, 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds.. The Las Vegas product is the all-time leading rusher in NCAA history. NFL tacklers will be able to arm tackling him but that is only if they can catch him. He is so quick and fast that when he sees a hole he hits it without a second thought. Pumphrey may not become an every-down back in the NFL but he can create momentum-changing plays. One NFL team will be very happy one day because of the risk they took on him.
Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
Malachi Dupre has fallen mostly because LSU has not had a quarterback capable of helping any receiver. LSU has had some of the worst quarterback play in the country which is why Dupre only put up 98 receptions, 1,609 yards, and 14 touchdowns in his three years at LSU. If you throw the ball in Dupre’s direction there is a good chance he will catch it. He has one of the best catch radii of all the prospects. He will have to work on his route running but with a solid quarterback Dupre could break out as the next great LSU wideout to turn pro.
Ryan Switzer may be the most underrated, underappreciated player in this draft. Similar to Dede Westbrook and Donnel Pumphrey, size is the only reason for that. In his senior season at North Carolina, Switzer snagged 96 receptions for 1,112 yards, and six touchdowns. He has also proven to be a great return man who returned seven punts for touchdowns in his collegiate career. Switzer can be a Wes Welker or Julian Edelman type playmaker in the NFL and that is a reason teams should draft him as soon as possible.
Connor Harris, LB, Lindenwood
Connor Harris could have been a first round pick. He has it all, the size, the speed, and the intangibles. Teams seem to be holding it against him that he played in division II but Harris is a tackling machine. Harris holds the record at 633 career tackles. He has the ability to drop in coverage and has shown impressive ball-hawking skills as well. Any team that drafts him is getting a player who doesn’t have to come off the field and is a prototypical, old-school linebacker.
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Jake Butt is the victim of a bad injury at the worst time. Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery got a lot of heat for skipping their bowl games but had Jake Butt done the same then he wouldn’t have torn his ACL for the second time in his career. Butt would have been a second round pick without the injury but now teams are scared. He averaged 11.9 yards per reception for his career and is a guaranteed first down waiting to happen. Every team in the NFL needs a tight end that can get them out of a jam like that. If Butt can become healthy and get a shot, he has a great chance of being a top 10 tight end in the league.
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One of the most important and often overlooked aspects of NFL success is coaching. A great coach can elevate his players, an overmatched one can drag them down. Here are my top five NFL head coaches right now. This is based on their body of work along with their current situation.
5: Bruce Arians- Mike Zimmer of the Vikings gets “honorable mention” status in favor of this 64-year-old football lifer. Arians put Temple football on the map in the 80s. His NFL work went largely unnoticed until 2012. As interim coach while Chuck Pagano battled leukemia, he took the Colts and then rookie Andrew Luck from the cellar to the playoffs. However, as an assistant coach, he had a hand in the early careers of both Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. In his first full-time NFL head coaching gig, he has turned the vagabond franchise that was the Arizona Cardinals into perennial contenders. They are 36-17 in just a bit more than three seasons under Arians.
photo from foxsports.com
4: Pete Carroll- Yes, he was fired by the Jets and Patriots before catching on in Seattle, but every coach gets fired or moves on at some point. Also, while out of the NFL, his USC Trojans dominated college football. In history, there are four people to win a NCAA football title and an NFL championship/Super Bowl. Pete Carroll is one of them. That says it all. On a lighter note, I hope I look half as good and have half the energy Carroll does when I am 65.
photo from reignoftory.com
3: Andy Reid- The common knock on Reid is he has not won a Super Bowl. While true, it is not entirely his fault. The guy can coach. He only missed the playoffs four times in 13 seasons in Philadelphia. Under Reid, they reached four NFC title games and the Super Bowl. The franchise still has not recovered from letting him go. Reid continues to work wonders in Kansas City. In three full seasons, he has not posted a losing record. Apart from the one year Terrell Owens ended up in Philadelphia, he has never had top-flight players to work with. He has gotten the most out of guys like Donovan McNabb, Alex Smith, Freddie Mitchell, and Jeremy Maclin. Also, his 11-11 postseason record is far from embarrassing.
photo from nypost.com
2: Gary Kubiak- Yes, I am a Broncos fan, but if anyone thinks Kubiak is overrated at number two, someone please tell me one wrong button he has pushed since taking over in Denver. Last year, he knew exactly when to go to Brock Osweiler and when to go back to Peyton Manning. Under a lot of coaches, that quarterback situation would have disintegrated into a circus. Kubiak calmly named his starter each Monday and got down to business. Long before leading the Broncos to Super Bowl glory, he turned Matt Schaub into a Pro Bowler and led the Texans to the playoffs for the first time ever. He also has three additional Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach. Another sign of a great leader is knowing when to delegate. Kubiak knows his forte is offense. Thus, he hired Wade Phillips as his defensive coordinator in Denver. We all know how that has worked out. This year, he has molded Trevor Siemian into a competent NFL quarterback. Maybe the greatest indicator of Kubiak’s brilliance is how awful Brock Osweiler has looked in Houston this year as well as what a disorganized mess the Broncos were without him last week in San Diego. Rant over. Gary Kubiak is brilliant.
photo from bleacherreport.com
1: Bill Belichick-As good as these other guys are, calling Bill Belichick brilliant simply does not do him justice. Prior to being a model of consistency in New England, he led the Browns to the playoffs in the early 90s. They have only been back once since he left. He was also the defensive coordinator for two Super Bowl wins with the Giants in the 80s. He has tallied double-digit wins every year since 2003. Other than Tom Brady, the players have come and gone. Yet the Patriots are never unprepared for a game or lack direction. Whether it is running the ball 45 times or throwing it 50, the Pats are able to do it successfully to win a football game. It is amazing what Belichick has done over the years with players no one else wanted. Wes Welker, Mike Vrabel, and Rob Ninkovich are just a few examples of castoffs from other organizations that Belichick turned into pro bowlers, and in many cases Super Bowl champions.
Do you agree with my rankings? It is important to realize that no coach can be successful without good players, but the reverse is also true. No coach is perfect and every single one has been fired at some point. If you are a Bengals fan calling for the head of Marvin Lewis or a Bears fan itching to get John Fox out of town, remember how hard it is to win in the NFL. There is nothing wrong with taking a few years to build something. Also, making the playoffs every year is a hell of a lot better than going 4-12 every year like the Browns. There is only one happy coach at the end of the season.
(Peyton Manning will be missed by many when he’s gone, Courtesy Getty Images)
I’ve started to notice the emotion that players are feeling as they approach the end of their times playing for fans. Eric Weddle has been a notable example. With San Diego rumored to relocate, Weddle has been outwardly emotional with fans and the organization. He has stayed after to sign autographs and just spend more time at Qualcomm.
Charles Woodson is one of those players who I’ve noticed has become more sentimental as the season progresses. One of the best players from my generation, Woodson is finishing his career where it all began in Oakland, California. As a legendary Raider and Packer, Woodson has been one of the best defensive players of all time. This season, news organizations all over have paid close attention to the swan song season of his.
So now I’m thinking. This is the first time it has dawned on me that some guys that have been playing for the entirety of my NFL fandom are starting to retire or decline. Some of these guys I am more emotionally attached to than others.
Sure I’ve seen all-time greats retire before like Brett Favre, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Terrell Owens. I’ve seen guys who may not be the best ever but who will always stick in my mind. Guys like Brian Urlacher, Torry Holt, Bob Sanders, and Tedy Bruschi. I can name loads more but that list will expand.
Sure us younger sportswriters may not have seen Joe Montana or Lawrence Taylor in their careers but every era has its household names.
There are plenty of guys still in the NFL as of the 2015 regular season, that will have be remembered for at least the next few years. I’d like to take a look at some of them and what they have meant to me.
There is a whole slew of quarterbacks playing in the NFL right now who will slowly, one after the other be leaving the league.
The obvious first one is Peyton Manning who has followed the sad decline that we have seen with Tiger Woods in the world of golf. Manning has one Super Bowl ring on his hand when he beat the Chicago Bears in 2007. Peyton helped to create legendary receivers in Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. He has been a face of the league since the late 90’s.
Peyton Manning will be in the conversation for top 5 quarterback all time for years to come but truthfully, he needs to leave. He has never been a particularly thrilling quarterback off the field and is more noticeably advertised in recent years with Papa John’s and Nationwide. As for his on-field abilities, he has cozied up to Denver’s fans but Brock Osweiler is sneaking in to become the short-term franchise guy.
Following Manning will be the cluster that I have adored for so long. Drew Brees. Tom Brady. Tony Romo. Carson Palmer….
Fortunately these guys have been playing at such a high level, they may be around longer than we expect. There is a distinct difference between these four and the Matt Hasselbecks and Ryan Fitzpatricks who we have seen for the last decade or so but are not in the elite category that houses the big guys.
Carson Palmer is playing lights-out and arguably better this year than he ever did with Cincinnati (even ’05).
Tony Romo had a short season due to injury this year but has been one of the most underrated quarterbacks of the last decade.
He has gotten media flak for most of his career. Given the attention his buddy Terrell Owens got for the duration of his time in Dallas (and really everywhere), I’m confused how Romo was so hated. He still has a few years left in him but it’s a name that has always been there and was never given enough credit. When he’s gone you might not notice for a while, but it’ll be odd not hearing his name.
Drew Brees is a guy who I really respect and was one of the players that brought me into football. As I have mentioned a few times, I am a Saints fan and I started getting into football around 2004/2005 which was the end of the Aaron Brooks era in New Orleans. Brees was one of the first passers to consistently post huge passing yard numbers and has also won the Super Bowl once in his career (against Peyton’s Colts no less).
Watching Drew Brees play has been truly a gift and hopefully he keeps his word and continues to produce when he says he can play until he’s 45.
Lastly, Tom Terrific. I am stunned that Marvel Comics hasn’t made a series dedicated to the man who I believe currently stands as the best quarterback, maybe best player, of all time.
He has played with dozens of rotations of offensive skill players. From the best of the best in Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski to the reception magnets of Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, Tom Brady has been the guy to beat throughout his entire career.
Four Super Bowl victories and 12 playoff appearances help Brady’s continued success in the NFL. Tom Brady holds the record for most wins with a single team with 172 and has dozens of accolades to his name throughout his football career.
One of the most interesting things about Tom Brady is the way he is vilified by the media. He has hit a point of success that is unmatched and thus the New England Patriots have been under a microscope for years. If Tom Brady ever slips up everyone is all over him. He has achieved stardom that is up there with any other icon.
When Brady retires, we can only hope another quarterback will rise up and run the NFL in a similar manner, but boy are those tough shoes to fill.
Enough about quarterbacks. I apologize if this article is too quarterback heavy but those are the big name guys. Here are a few that I think deserve to be brought up because of what they have given fans in their careers.
The ground-and-pound running back has always been a viable asset to good offenses in football. In recent times, however, the dual-threat back has seen a rise in value with guys who can run and catch.
However, in his lower 30s and maybe gone before we know it is one of the premier triple-threat running backs. Darren Sproles has been a bit of a journeyman in his career and never was a featured back.
He began in San Diego where he played in the backfield with LT. He then went to New Orleans to fill the gap left by Reggie Bush. Now Sproles is part of a confusing committee in Philadelphia.
Throughout his career, he has represented a pass-catching back that offers a returning threat as well. If he plays for one more team before he retires, that’ll give that fan base the opportunity to experience the unique talent that is, Darren Sproles.
Offense wins games, defense wins championships. What does special teams do? Well Special teams can make or break a game.
When you think of the best return man of all time, there is a good chance two names come up. One of those is defensive superstar and return legend Deion Sanders. The other is 21st century return specialist who doubled as a wide receiver… Devin Hester.
Hester played most of his career with the Chicago Bears. He was a kick returner, punt returner, and wide receiver for the Bears for many seasons before recently becoming a Falcon.
His best season came in 2007 when he had 6 return touchdowns and caught his first career offensive TD. Hester was a very important role in the Bears aforementioned Super Bowl run. Hester also holds many NFL and franchise records in all sorts of return category.
Devin Hester has been one of the best special teams players of all time and although he is in Atlanta, Chicago locals along with NFL fans will surely miss 23 when he retires.
Another guy who has done wonders for the special teams unit in his time is Adam Vinatieri. Vinatieri scored the winning points in Super Bowl XXXVI and XXXVIII with the Patriots becoming the first player to ever do so. He also holds many postseason points and field goal records.
Vinatieri brought attention the kicker position after his continued Super Bowl successes with the Pats and Colts. He represented an X factor that was often forgotten when comparing opposing teams.
The Honorable Mentions
Finally, a couple of guys I remember watching growing up that I’m not going to go into too much detail on because they weren’t quite as revolutionary..
Dwight Freeney- Defensive lineman for the Colts and an anchor of their defense through the mid-2000s
Antonio Gates- Chargers tight end who was one of the first breakout tight ends of the 21st century
Greg Jennings- Packers wide receiver through the Favre and Rodgers eras.
DeAngelo Williams- Panthers running back who never really seemed to slow down
Have any players that are hitting the tail end of their careers and you want to reminisce on? Feel free to contact me in the forums or on Twitter @CoachKochman.