“Let me be clear; they hate their coach.” ESPN’s Tom Jackson famously said those words about Bill Belichick after the New England Patriots were destroyed 31-0 to the Buffalo Bills in the 2003 season opener. What precipitated that comment was the release of popular safety, Lawyer Milloy, one week earlier. All the Patriots went on to do that season was go 14-1 the rest of the way, onto their second, (at the time), Super Bowl. They followed that season up with another Super Bowl…a downright dynasty, having won three out of four championships.
Now, let ME be clear: they DO NOT hate their coach. However, they often DO hate their GM; who happens to be Bill Belichick. It’s hard to argue that Bill Belichick, “The Coach”, is the best who’s ever walked the sideline. His Patriots coaching career is unparalleled; having a career record of 207-73, with 25 playoff victories and five Super Bowl wins. And, he’s working on his 15th consecutive 10-plus win season.
It’s often tough to separate Belichick “The Coach”, from Belichick “The GM”, especially with that resume of success. BUT, Belichick “The GM” doesn’t always make the right move. Trading Jimmy Garoppolo is the latest example. It isn’t so much the trade itself, but the timing of the trade, which is so peculiar.
There is no doubt that the Patriots would have received more than a second round pick if they dealt him before this year’s draft. By all accounts, the Pats could have received the number 12 overall pick from Cleveland Browns plus additional draft picks. But as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported at the time, Belichick “The GM” wasn’t trading Jimmy G, “for four first round draft picks”.
We’ve seen Belichick “The GM” make other odd decisions. After the 2005 season, and third Super Bowl win in four years, they didn’t re-sign cornerback Ty Law, (who would later come out and say that Belichick, “The GM”, cost the Pats from winning more titles). In 2006, they played hardball with Super Bowl XXXlX MVP Deion Branch, only to see him walk. They also let number-2 wide receiver David Givens leave via free agency. The result of that was playing in the AFC Championship Game with Troy Brown, Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, and Doug Gabriel, as the teams’ quartet of wide receivers.
They lost that game 38-34 to The Indianapolis Colts.
Examples like that have sprinkled Bill Belichick, “The GM’s” career. In 2008, he let popular safety Asante Samuel leave. In 2009, in the last year of a four year deal, “GM” Belichick, traded defensive end, Richard Seymour away. At the time, like so many of “GM” Belichick’s moves, it was scoffed at. But, like the honey badger…(You’ve seen the video on YouTube), “He don’t care…he doesn’t give a shit”, about what you or I think. At the start of the 2014 season, “GM” Belichick traded away offensive lineman, Logan Mankins. What followed was a petulant quarterback in Tom Brady, a 2-2 record to start the season, and a Bill Belichick “The Coach” now famous quote, “We’re on to Cincinnati”. The season ended with their fourth Lombardi Trophy.
So what’s the point? Bill Belichick “The GM” has seemingly made inexplicable, controversial, and downright strange deals throughout his career, yet for the most part, they often work out. His mantra of “Do Your Job”; and the team’s philosophy of “Next Man Up” are real, and somehow work in the long run. In the short run, however, we’re left scratching our heads. How can a GM in good conscious, trade away, not one, both BOTH of his back-up quarterbacks, (Don’t forget, “GM” Belichick traded away Jacoby Brisset three days before game one).
This deal doesn’t make sense on so many levels, and goes counter to what “GM” Belichick usually does. In Cleveland, 24 years ago, Belichick signed Vinny Testaverde and released quarterback Bernie Kosar. And 15 years ago, he traded away Drew Bledsoe. As I said, Belichick is “The honey badger”. Belichick “The GM” ALWAYS believes in getting rid if a player one year too soon as opposed to keeping him one year too long. But if that’s the case, Garoppolo would be the Patriots quarterback for the next decade, and Tom Brady would be the player shipped out of town.
This deal reeks of ownership stepping in, and Tom Brady forcing “GM” Belichick’s hand. When “GM” Belichick drafted Garappolo in the second round, his answer was, “we know what Tom’s (Brady), age and contract status is”. And, he repeated that it’s always better to be early than late, especially at the QB position. Maybe that subtle push was intentional, but it may have backfired. In Belichick “The GM’s” zeal to give Belichick “The Coach” a replacement for Tom Brady, he awakened a sleeping giant. The result: two Super Bowls in the last three seasons. On top of that, you now have a quarterback regarded as the best ever; “The GOAT”, and at age 40, says he intends to play as long as he can…at least five more years.
There is no way owner Robert Kraft will allow Bill Belichick “The GM” to trade away “The GOAT”. That is the ONLY way to explain this deal happening now. Belichick “The GM” always looks to the future. Drafting Garappolo in 2014 was with an eye on the future. Not trading him when this season started was again with an eye towards the future. But as much as the blue print always seems to work for “GM” Belichick, he fell victim to the golden rule…He who has the gold, makes the rule. In this case, Robert Kraft has the gold, and he made the rule.
So now Belichick “The Coach” still has Tom Brady, (which isn’t a bad place to be), and a 6-2 record at the midway point of the year. They will no doubt win 10-plus games again. They will no doubt win their division again. And, they will likely be playing in another AFC Championship Game this season.
But I have to believe Belichick “The GM” is sour about what has transpired over the last couple of days. In his press conference on Tuesday, he said, “We rode this out as long as we could”. He knew both quarterbacks could not exist with the other still around, (sort of like Harry Potter and Lord Voldermort). The problem for him is that he envisioned the next five-plus years with Jimmy Garoppolo under center for the Pats.
With Kraft’s override, Belichick’s time with the Pats is now tied to Brady’s. At 65, Belichick “Coach” and “GM” still have a ton of good years left. Up until a few days ago, I’m sure he believed he’d be ending his career as a Patriot with Brady ending his career elsewhere. But now, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends his career as coach and GM where he started, with the New York Giants. He always loved The Giants “family” and I know his ego will drive him to create one more winner…without the shadow of Tom Brady hanging over him. As his mentor Bill Parcells once famously said, “If they want you to cook the dinner, they should let you buy the groceries.” For 17 years, he’s been allowed to buy, prep, and cook the meal. Usually they’ve been delicious, but in this case…
Bob Kraft wasn’t going to allow Bill Belichick “The GM” to prep or cook this “GOAT”.