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Monday, February 2, 2015

Seahawks Blow It! Terrible Play Call Ends Seattle's Chance to Win Super Bowl


For a few moments it was going to be the Super Bowl in which we would forever talk about the bobble-catch made by Seahawks receiver, Jermaine Kearse. On first and ten with a 1:10 to go in the game, with Seattle trailing by four points, Russell Wilson went for it all heaving a pass down the sideline to a double-covered Kearse, who made a play for ages.

Initially it looked like the ball fell incomplete, but Kearse was able to keep his focus on the football as he was falling down onto his back, and made the catch with two Patriots standing over him. Yes, the bobble catch was going to join the likes of the Helmet Catch as one of the greatest, and most improbable catches in football history.  The Patriots were once again going to lose a Super Bowl because of a tremendous catch in the late stages. And one could feel the karma of Deflategate coming back to bite the Patriots with this Seattle rally.

That was until the Seahawks decided to throw it all away.

Seattle had the game in their back pocket. With :26 to go, the ball at the one yard line, and a timeout to use, all the Seahawks had to do was hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch and the game would have been won. Instead they decided to throw the football on second and goal at the one, and it was intercepted by rookie safety Malcolm Butler. Game over.

It was easily the worst play call in the history of the National Football League. There was no logical reason for the Seahawks to throw the football on the goal-line. Some have said that Lynch had issues in the past running the football at the goal-line, but I just don't understand how. Lynch has been one of the toughest backs to tackle all season; he has been notorious for carrying defenders for long gains, and had already gashed the Patriots for a steady 102 yards on Sunday night. If Wilson hands Lynch the football, he scores -- its that simple.

Whoever made that call, whether it be head coach Pete Carroll or offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, must be sick to their stomachs right now, because logic dictates that running the football is the only option in that situation. If the Patriots stuffed Lynch and kept him out of the endzone, Seattle could then try a naked bootleg, or a bubble-screen to the corner on the next play, and still find a way to get the winning score. Instead we are left with not only the most bizarre endings, but maybe the worst ending to a Super Bowl.

The Patriots got the football back, drew Seattle off-side, and started a melee in the end zone when Pats' tight end Rob Gronkowski was taunting the Seahawks. Gronkowski wasn't penalized at all, another signal that when it comes to the Patriots and discipline, the officials like to turn a blind eye. Instead it was Seattle's Bruce Irvin who was ejected for starting the fight. It didn't matter, the game was already lost.

I can only imagine what Carroll and his coaching staff went through last night when the team actually had a moment to think about what had happened. I bet it is replaying in Carroll's mind even to this minute; he'll never get over it, trust me.

While the end of the game is clearly pinned on the play-calling of the Seahawks coaches, lets keep in mind that this was a team that had a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Seattle had the number one ranked defense in football, and were 18-0 when leading after three quarters the past three years combined. Yet, the Seahawks much bally-hood Legion of Boom defense had no answer for the Patriots in the fourth quarter.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady picked them apart with short, high percentage throws to the sideline. Rarely did Bardy challenge the Seahawks deep, when he did it led to a couple of interceptions, including one down near the goal-line in the opening quarter of the game. Other than the two picks, Brady was fantastic. He threw for 328 yards and four scores, claiming the game's top prize as MVP.

However, a honorable mention should also go to Julian Edleman, who gutted out a bad hip to catch nine passes for 109 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Both fourth quarter drives ate up huge chunks of clock and yards as New England pressed the issues against the Seahawks vaunted defense. In a lot of ways it was like Seattle never adjusted their defensive game plan. They were going to give the Patriots everything and anything underneath, but were not going to allow Brady to beat them deep; unfortunately for Seattle that plan backfired.

A nine play 68 yard drive, not only ate up close to five minutes, but it left the Seahawks defense gasping for air, as Brady found Danny Amendola in the end zone for the score. After Seattle went threw and out on it's next possession, Brady drove the Patriots down field again, on another lengthy drive that felt eerily reminiscent to the drive Joe Montana led against Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII. Brady was 9-for-9 on the Pats final drive of the day, with every single plass being a short underneath check down.

While Brady's integrity regarding deflategate should be questioned, you can't take away the fact he had a great Super Bowl against, what was supposed to be a shutdown defense.

But at the end of the night, all anyone was talking about was the opportunity that Seattle had. The Seahwks could have changed everything in that game if they only did the smart thing and run the football. This is a play, a moment, a game that will haunt this franchise forever. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Inside Look on BlogTalkRadio

On Friday I had the esteemed pleasure to interview fellow baseball broadcasting colleague, Dan Arndt, who is an Events Production Supervisor for the NFL about what it is like to work behind the scenes at the Super Bowl.

Dan gave great insight into all the hard work that the men and women behind the scenes do to put the worlds biggest game on the air.

Listen to an excepert here:

You can catch the full length episode right here:

Friday, January 30, 2015

Goodell says Deflategate Investigation Moving Forward

In his annual State of the League address, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell emphasized that the investigation into Deflategate is moving forward until the truth is found by investigator Ted Wells.

"We take it very seriously about anything that affects the integrity of the game," the embattled Commissioner said.

The Patriots, who play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, are believed to be in the know about 11 footballs that were less than the required 12.5 lbs of PSI. Those 11 balls were detected by the Colts and the officials in the first half, and New England was told to inflate them at the half. However, in recent days Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino tried to put cold water on the situation, saying that the officials didn't log the weight of the balls before, during or after the AFC Championship. It has not been explained why 13 other Patriots footballs were at full inflated capacity, and why the Colts footballs were perfect.

It's been a wild week where the integrity of the sport has been questioned. The Patriots have been trying to stonewall the issue, with Belichick and Brady both acting like they didn't know anything, to Belichick acting like an astrophysicist last Saturday. The controversy hit it's tipping point when Patriots owner Robert Kraft ripped the NFL, saying the league should apologize for the investigation.

When asked about Kraft's remarks, Goodell had some strong words for the Patriots sly owner. "This is my job to protect the integrity of the game. I represent 32 teams. If we have information that is in violation, I have to pursue that, and we will pursue that vigorously," Goodell said.

Later in the press conference Goodell was pressed if he would hold Bill Belichick and the Patriots to the same standards he held Sean Payton and the Saints for Bountygate in 2012. However he tried to avoid the question citing that he had two years worth of information on the Saints, which was enough evidence for him to suspend Payton.

"These are individual cases. We don't know enough in this case to make a judgement. When we get more information from the Wells investigation, we will make the right decision for the integrity of the league," added Goodell, who emphasized that it is important for teams to follow the rules.

 "We are a league of rules. Every fan expects us to follow those rules. If there are rules about how the game is supposed to be played, we will enforce those rules. Whether a competitive advantage was gained is secondary in my mind."

When pressed about favoritism to Kraft, an allegation that Seahawks corner Richard Sherman made earlier in the week, Goodell said: "I was at the Kraft's residence with season ticket holders as part of an AFC Championship party. It's what we do. We were with our partners at CBS, taking questions. it's not unusual that I work closely with ownership. Robert Kraft works on several board committees. I think very highly of him on a personal level." 

When pressured if he was embarrassed by the controversies that have hurt the NFL this year, Goodell only said it was a year of "humility and learning."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

NFL Needs to Suspend Bill Belichick from Super Bowl

Roger Goodell needs to be as mad as hell, and he shouldn't take it anymore.

In a year where he has watched the credibility of his sport get dragged through the dirt, the latest scandal to hit the National Football League needs to be taken care of, not only with the utmost care, but with a hard and quick resolution.

The New England Patriots are being investigated for deflating footballs during the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Both teams are responsible for their own footballs, which by league rule are inspected by NFL officials two hours and 15 minutes before the game kicks off. Anyone who doctors the ball afterwards will be heavily fined. Apparently the Patriots didn't get that memo, or, they just didn't care.

Several reports have the Patriots deflating as many as 11 of the 12 balls in their possession, two PSI below the standard weight of an NFL football. Walt Anderson, who was the head referee for the football game, said that every football checked out before the game started, which clears the officials of any wrong doing, and makes one wonder what the Patriots did to those balls after Anderson inspected them. ESPN later reported that the deflated balls were detected at halftime, inflated again, and put back in the bag for the second half. There was no update on whether those same footballs were found deflated again after the game.

On top of that the Colts and Ravens are now crying foul that the Patriots may have deflated footballs in previous match-ups, one against Indianapolis in week 11, and, again in the divisional playoffs against Baltimore.

Did the altered footballs effect the play of the game? Did it push the Patriots to a dominant victory over Indianapolis? Chances are, not likely. The Colts were horrible on Sunday against New England. They were outplayed in every facet of the game, and the Indy offense had no answer for the Patriots defense. Those saying the Patriots could have won the game with beach balls are correct; the Colts did nothing to stop New England.

That being said, just because the score was 45-7 does not exonerate the Patriots. Cheating is cheating no matter how one slices it. In the mind of the Patriots they were trying to gain a competitive advantage, and they got caught.

Roger Goodell (L) and Robert Kraft used to be all smiles.
The reason this story has so many people upset has nothing to do with fan base loyalty, or whether people like the Patriots or not. This is a national story because the Patriots are no strangers to cheating. Talk about hubris.

Spy-gate happened because the Patriots were caught red handed video tapping signals coming from the sidelines of the NY Jets in 2007. Soon thereafter other teams started reporting that they suspected something was fishy when they had played the Patriots in previous seasons. As result, the Patriots only got a slap on the wrist with a hefty fine, and lost draft picks. That was it. 

Now there is this.

Considering the Patriots past, should there be any surprise that New England would stoop this low in order to gain, what is in their mind only, a competitive advantage? The Patriots were the better team than the Colts, they didn't need to alter a football in order to win a game. Yet the paranoia of Bill Belichick proved once again that this so-called genius is his own worst enemy.

This has to leave the NFL angry. It should leave Roger Goodell beyond upset. The Patriots disgraced the Shield with their arrogance. They have turned Super Bowl week into a complete joke, and have dragged the NFL into an impossible situation where earning the trust of a national fanbase will take a monumental effort by the league.

If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, and all they get is the same punishment a la Spy-gate, Goodell will never hear the end of it. Just the image of the Commissioner handing Belichick and owner Robert Kraft the Lombardi Trophy in 10 days is flat out embarrassing. It will make the NFL look like enablers in the Patriots scam.

Maybe it's time for Josh McDaniels
Even if the Patriots lose the Super Bowl, there will be those who will claim the NFL did something fishy to make sure Seattle won in order to save face. The NFL cannot win in this situation, unless they do one very simple thing: suspend Bill Belichick.

If Sean Payton can get suspended for a full calendar year for his involvement in Bounty Gate in 2012, surely Bill Belichick can get suspended for whatever involvement he has in Deflate-gate. Goodell shouldn't even wait, he should drop the ax on Belichick right now, and suspend him from the Super Bowl.  The last thing the NFL needs is Belichick avoiding every question he gets about Deflate-gate with his typical droll persona during Media Day next Tuesday. The more the Patriots make fun of the allegations and the more they avoid it, the worse it will get for the NFL.

The NFL should force Robert Kraft's hand, and let offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels coach the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and if the suspension of Belichick lasts into next season, let McDaniels run the team through that time as well. That would almost certainly end Belichick's run in New England.

Getting Belichick off the team immediately in light of this developing story is the only answer if the NFL wants to separate itself from the Patriots' scandals. There is nobody to blame for this except the Patriots themselves; now they need to pay for it.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jets' Maccagnan and Bowles Introduced before NY media

If you base winning the press conference by how much humor and boastful proclamations the coach throws at the media, than Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan have a lot of work to do.

Bowles and Maccagnan are the anti-Rex Ryan. The days of circus press conferences are over, and the focus is now on football only. 

In place of trending quotes, we got an introductory press conference were we heard a who lot of nothing as Bowles and Maccagnan were introduced before the NY media for the first time on Wednesday. Neither guy showed their hand, playing it close to the vest like a couple of poker players.

Maccagnan he did a solid job, he came across with a much firmer grasp of the media than his predecessor, Idzik did in two years on the job. He didn't offer much insight as to how he will handle things as General Manager of the team, reading mostly from a prepared script and answering each question with the much expected and practiced declarations. When asked about Geno Smith, he dodged the question, saying that the Jets will "work with" the quarterback, but the entire roster "needs to be vetted" as part of the "process."

As for Bowels he came off as very dry. This is a man who is football first, and football only. The platitudes of guarantees will not come out of the mouth of Bowles, and you get the sense that even if the media tries to pry out a personality out of him, it won't happen. 

When asked about the quarterback, Bowles called Geno Smith a good college quarterback, and wouldn't expound any further than that. When asked if he would "kiss Bill Belichick's rings," Bowles offered a different answer, saying he was more concerned with "getting my own rings." When asked about what kind of team he wanted to build, Bowles said, "We're going to be a tough team. We're going to be an intelligent team, we're gonna try to build a championship team."

What a difference. Rex Ryan would never use the word 'try' in his vocabulary. For those tired of Rex Ryan, this was a dream come true. For those who miss those days, listening to Bowles sounded like listening to Bill Belichick Jr.

Bowles is not a flashy guy, he seems comfortable in his own skin. I do wonder what kind of person he will be behind closed doors. He didn't come off as a fiery personality in the press conference. He will need to take that passion to another level with the players. Something only he and the Jets will find out.

Overall, I would say it was an understated debut for the new Jets hierarchy. Now they have to win in order to make that quiet demeanor work over the long term.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Patriots vs. Seahawks, an early preview

After the Seahawks completed a stunning come-from-behind victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game, the Patriots demolished the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship.

The AFC contest wasn't even close as the Pats built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Tom Brady was terrific once again on the big stage, throwing for 226 yards and three touchdowns, including one to offensive lineman Nate Solder, who lined up at tight end. The Patriots held the football for nearly 38 minutes, and amassed 397 yards of offense as compared the Colts inferior 209 yards of offense.

In fact the game was so one sided, it was easy to forget that Andrew Luck was even playing in this game for the Colts. Luck's contributions mattered little, with a 12 of 33 night for 126 yards and two picks. It didn't help that his teammates didn't even get off the bus on Sunday night.

Now it sets up what should be a pretty fascinating Super Bowl. These are two franchises that have history in their sights, so let's take an early look at what's at stake in Super Bowl XLIX.

  • The Seahawks are looking to be the first team to repeat as Super Bowl Champions since the Patriots did it themselves in 2003 and 2004. 
  • Seattle is looking to be the first NFC team to repeat as Super Bowl champs since the 1992-1993 Dallas Cowboys. That's a long, long time ago. 
  • Russell Wilson is trying to win his second Super Bowl at age 26. Tom Brady won his second Super Bowl at age 26; Troy Aikman won two Super Bowls by age 27; Joe Montana by age 28, and Terry Bradshaw had his second title by age 27.  Therefore, Wilson will be one of the fastest.
  • A second Super Bowl title for Pete Carroll would put him among some big names like Belichick, Bill Parcells, Tom Flores, Jimmy Johnson, etc. who have won at least two Super Bowl titles. 
  • The Seahawks have played in four conference title games, 3-0 in the NFC, 0-1 in the AFC. 
  • This is Seattle's third trip to the Big Game in nine years.
  • The Seahawks are looking to establish themselves as the dynasty of the 2010s, and will try to do so against the team that dominated the previous decade (the 2000s) in the Patriots. 
  • The Patriots are trying to to be more than just a team of the 2000's, they want to be an All Time Franchise with their fourth Super Bowl triumph under this administration. 
  • The Patriots seek their first Super Bowl title in 10 years.     
  • The Patriots are in their sixth Super Bowl in 14 years, and third appearance since 2008. 
  • Bill Belicheck is in his sixth Super Bowl as a head coach, tied with Don Shula who went to six (5 with Miami, 1 with the Colts) Super Bowls. 
  • Tom Brady is looking for his fourth ring, which would tie him with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana among starting quarterbacks to win the Big Game.
  • Brady/Belichick as a tandem are looking for their fourth title which would also tie them with said combos of Noll/Bradshaw and Walsh/Montana. They are currently tied with Landry/Staubach with three. Not bad at all. 
  •  This is the Patriots eighth trip to the Super Bowl all time, tying them with Dallas and Pittsburgh for the most appearances by one team.
  • New England is 3-4 all time in the Super Bowl; Seattle is 1-1 all time in the Super Bowl.
  • New England returns to Glendale, Arizona, the same site where their bid at 19-0 was destroyed by the New York Giants in 2008.
  •  Russell Wilson's first game as a starter was in Arizona against the Cardinals in 2012. 
  • New York Jets connection: Both Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll were defensive coordinators for the Jets, and ironically, head coaches for a short period. Belichick was HC of the NYJ for one day before stepping down; Carroll was HC of the NYJ for one season (1994). 
  • Carroll succeed Belichick's coaching colleague, Bill Parcells, in New England in 1997. 
  • After the 1999 season, and after Belichick spurned the Jets, he replaced Carroll in New England as head coach. 
  • The Patriots and Seahawks are no strangers. They faced each other in October of 2012, with Seattle winning 24-23. That game is remembered for Richard Sherman taunting Brady. 
  • This will be the 17th meeting between the Pats and Hawks. The series is tied at 8-8.
Should be a fun two weeks of discussion and debate until kick-off at 6:22 p.m. ET in Glendale. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Onside kick sparks Seattle comeback in NFC Championship


The Green Bay Packers were up 19-7 and had just intercepted Russell Wilson for the fourth time in the game. With 5:04 the game was all but over, the Packers were heading to the Super Bowl with an improbable upset. Oh, how cruel the sport of football can be.

The Packers did nothing with the interception, going three and out and punting it back to the Seahawks, and giving them the hope they were searching for. That was the theme of the day for Green Bay. They had numerous opportunities to finish off the Seahawks, but never did.

The Packers could have put the dagger in the Seahawks in the first quarter, but never did. Their first three possessions were in Seattle territory, two of them because of Seahawks turnovers, and all the Packers could muster were two field goals to take a 6-0 lead.

Later on with the Packers up 16-0, Green Bay had another chance to shut the door on the Seahawks, but never did. After Wilson's third interception, Aaron Rodgers returned the favor with his second interception of the day, killing a great opportunity for Green Bay to expand that lead even further before the half.

If you have noticed, I haven't even mentioned the name Brandon Bostick. There is a reason for that. While the Green Bay Packers made plenty of mistakes in this game as a team, it will sadly be Bostick who will forever be remembered for Green Bay's heartbreaking 28-22 loss to the Seahawks in the NFC title game.

Nobody will talk about those blown red zone opportunities. No one will talk about how the Packers defense suddenly became a sieve down the stretch, allowing Wilson and Marshawn Lynch to do as they pleased.

Instead all anyone will talk about is the onside kick.

The Seahawks had just scored a touchdown on a Russell Wilson scramble to get back into the game at 19-14. It was easy to think no harm, no foul, with 2:09 the Packers would recover the onside kick and all will be swell in the land of cheese. Wrong.

The kick by Stephen Hauschka popped up into the air, and it was Bostick, the back-up tight end, who lept into the air to make a play on it. He tried to catch the football, but the ball bounced in and out of his hands, and it fell into the mittens of Chris Matthews. Packers special teams coach Shawn Slocum had a few words of frustration for Bostick and the tight end went sulking to the sideline. You can't blame Bostick for trying, he wanted to win that game as much as anyone, and was just trying to make a play to help his team.

The Seahawks were recharged, all of a sudden Russell Wilson rediscovered the magic. He sprinted down the sideline for 15 yards to the Packers 35 yard line. The 12th Man was going totally insane at this point. Two plays later, Marshawn Lynch, and his golden feet, went trampling on the Green Bay Packers defense for a 24-yard sprint to the end zone. Like a flash of lightening it was 20-19, Seahawks. Seattle then converted the two-point conversion on a ridiculous play in which Wilson hit Luke Wilson while back-peddling away from a sack. It was Seattle's night after all, 22-19.

The Packers did manage to the tie the game when Rodgers moved the Packers into field goal range in the waning seconds, but the flow of this game was totally broken. Green Bay's mojo was gone and everyone knew it.  In a lot of ways it was easy to root for Green Bay to find a way to defy the odds at this point just to take poor Brandon Bastick off the hook. They couldn't do that either.

In overtime, it didn't take Wilson long. After an afternoon where he couldn't hit the side of a barn, Russell Wilson found something a little extra in that right arm of his. He connected with Doug Baldwin for 35 yards to move into Packers' territory. Then he won the game in walk-off fashion with the home run ball into the end zone to Jermaine Kearse to win in 28-22.

For Wilson, the tears of joy that poured from his soul after the game was a testament to his dedication to the Seahawks. He has never found himself in a situation where the game was on his shoulders like it was on Sunday, and on his worst day, he still found a way to pull a rabbit out of his hat. Kudos to him.

Meanwhile the tears of sorrow and "what could have been" are all Green Bay's to own. They had the game won at 19-7. They even had the game won at 19-14. While it is easy to pin all of the blame on Bostick for the loss, he doesn't deserve it. Already social media has been comparing him to Bill Buckner or Steve Bartman. Both Buckner and Bartman endured incredible abuse, most of which was undeserved from Boston and Chicago fans. Buckner wasn't forgiven until the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, and even then it was hard for him to forgive the fans. Bartman, a fan himself has been in seculusion ever since the foul ball at Wrigley Field.

For Bostick's sake, and for the sake of humanity, let's hope that Green Bay fans are a little bit smarter than Cubs and Red Sox fans, and do not make Bostick the scapegoat of the championship that got away.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jets FINALLY cut ties with Terry Bradway

Score one for Jets General Manger Mike Maccagnan!

The freshly minted New York Jets executive showed more gusto then his predecessors ever did when word came down Friday afternoon that the Jets have fired Director of Player Personnel Terry Bradway, at long last.

Bradway, who had various titles in recent years including director of player personnel and college scouting, was an albatross for 13 years. In fact, he redefined the term survivor, because year-in and year-out he found a way to stay on Woody Johnson's good side no matter what. Starting when he was the general manager of the team back in 2001 and through his 13-year stay, the Jets have been steeped in mistakes and disasters coming out of both free agency and the draft under his watch -- yet through it all he never paid the price.  Until now.

Dwayne Robertson? Total disaster. A first round pick at defensive tackle that flamed out quicker than a candle when Bradway was the GM.

Justin Miller? Forgetable.

Mike Nugent? A total waste of a first round pick. Who picks a kicker in the first round? Bradway did.

Vernon Gholston? The definition of lazy.  An Ohio State product who didn't care about football, period.

Mark Sanchez? Along with Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum, it was Bradway and his group that scouted him.

Geno Smtih? Another quarterback bust.

Dee Milliner? Approaching Justin Miller status.

Stephen Hill? A second round bust at wide receiver.

Those are just a few of the many busts to come the Jets way over the past 13 years. 

The only picks that emanated out of the personnel department that actually worked, were Darrelle Revis (now with the Patriots), and Nick Mangold and David Harris. Sure, Bradway wasn't the general manager when all these players were drafted, but he was in the personnel department and scouted them all. He has shouldered a lot of blame in the eyes of the fan base, and it was deserved.

Bradway's stay with the Jets hit a point of pure silliness a long time ago. He out Isiah Thomas'd Isiah Thomas for his ability to keep his job despite a poor track record.  There was no reason for the Jets to keep this guy for this long, but Johnson always had a strong admiration for him. Either that or Bradway was really good at convincing Johnson, Tannenbaum and John Idzik, that he had everything in personnel under control.

Leaving with Bradway will be Jeff Bauer, who was in charge of the college scouting under Bradway.

With Bradway and Bauer out of the picture, Maccagnan can now focus on bringing in his people to get this franchise moving in the right direction. Rumors are he will tap former Jaguars GM Gene Smith to be his assistant GM. Look for Maccagnan to revamp the entire scouting staff as the Jets prepare for the combine and Senior Bowl. 

Score one for Maccagnan! Only four days into his new job he is already changing the culture for the Jets, and doing so all for the good.