The Talk of Fame Network this week continues its pre-training camp previews with a visit to a place long dominated by Patriots.
And that’s the AFC East.
Since Bill Belichick arrived in 2000, the Patriots have won 14 division titles — including the last eight, a trend most NFL observers believe will continue. To explore the Patriots’ dominance our Hall-of-Fame hosts – Ron Borges, Clark Judge and Rick Gosselin – visit with New England’s newest acquisition, top-rated free-agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Gilmore may already have accomplished the most astonishing feat of his five-year career this offseason when he got the Patriots to pay him top dollar to leave division-rival Buffalo and take over as New England’s No. 1 corner. Why’d he come?
“They expect the best out of their players … top to bottom,’’ Gilmore said of the Patriots. “That stood out to me.’’
What also stood out was the presence of quarterback Tom Brady, who won his fifth Super Bowl last year by leading the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Brady brought New England back from a 25-point, third-quarter deficit to beat the Falcons in overtime. Did that surprise Gilmore?
“Oh, man, I don’t think I ever beat Tom Brady (in 10 tries with Buffalo),’’ Gilmore said. “He’s super competitive … very passionate. He drives you to be good.’’
One guy driven to find a way to beat Brady, Gilmore and the Patriots is Miami Dolphins’ coach Adam Gase. He led the Dolphins to the playoffs last season in his first year as head coach and now focuses on overcoming the Patriots’ long divisional dominance.
“I look at it as a positive to play the best team twice a year,’’ Gase said. “I’ve been on the wrong side of the stick in Denver and here (against the Patriots). They showed us why they win the division. In crunch time they made critical plays, and we made mistakes. We understand all the things we’re talking about and practicing will matter. It’s really a race to how detailed you can be.’’
One team that’s unlikely to be in that race this year is the rebuilding New York Jets. But things might be different if they still had Joe Klecko dominating their defensive line. Klecko is the only defensive player in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl player at three different positions – nose tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end.
But after 29 years of retirement he has yet to be considered for a bust in the Hall of Fame. Does Klecko believe one reason he’s been passed over might be because his versatility makes it difficult for selectors to be sure what he was?
“I do,’’ Klecko said frankly. “It’s not frustrating at all, but to be in the Hall of Fame would be the piece de resistance.’’
There’s plenty more on the Talk of Fame Network’s two-hour show. You can hear Gilmore, Gase and the guys on SB Nation radio, on 77 stations around the country, on our free podcast on iTunes or my going to our website, talkoffamenetwork.com, and clicking on the show icon. We’ll be talking to you!