“The mind plays tricks on you. You play tricks back! It's like you're unraveling a big cable-knit sweater that someone keeps knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting!” — “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”
The thing I found most shocking about the Patriots’ decision to trade Randy Moss was that the Patriots’ decision to trade Randy Moss managed to shock me.
To be honest, I expected better of myself. This isn’t my first rodeo by any stretch. Ten years ago I chose the path of enlightenment that comes from following in the footprints of Bill Belichick. And I know what that involves: the sacrifice, the commitment and the absolute faith in the philosophy that you have to give yourself over to completely.
But in any belief system, your faith gets tested from time to time, and none more so than us Belichickians. This latest episode involving Moss is just the latest in a long line of such tests.
This past Tuesday night I was a guest on the Planet Mikey show. And from literally the time I parked my car to the time I went up the elevator to the WEEI studios, the Moss-to-Minnesota rumor blew up the Internet. Three hours, two live interviews with Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer (who broke the story) and dozens of incredulous phone calls later, and still I could make no more sense of it than I could when I heard the first report.
And frankly, this embarrasses me to no end. I should’ve known better, because one of the first things you need to learn as a Belichickian is that there is no excuse for being surprised by anything the man — and by extension the Patriots organization — does. Not ever.
Because really, how many more examples do we need before we realize the man and the team are capable of literally anything? I mean, where do you begin? This is an organization that:
-- Didn’t hesitate to bench the best quarterback in team history for a scrawny sixth-round draft pick who couldn’t win a starting job in college.
-- Traded that same franchise QB in its own division.
-- Sent its best safety packing five days before the season.
-- Traded away a Super Bowl MVP.
-- Hung on to a cornerback who said the coach “lies to feed his family.”
-- Traded the best defensive tackle in team history.
-- Made a throw-in on another deal of a folk-hero linebacker who caught multiple touchdown passes as a tight end.
And in between those moves, there have been enough surprising draft picks, head-scratching personnel moves and second-guessable on-field calls (fourth-and-2, anyone?) to wreck the career of a less accomplished coach of a less stable ballclub.
The point being that there’s no excuse not to be ready for any possibility when you’re an adherent to this team’s philosophy, no matter how insane the idea is.
Think about it. The circumstances under which Belichick came to the Pats were bizarre in and of themselves. After an hour on the job he quit as the “HC of the NYJ” in a press conference that wouldn’t have been any crazier if he’d taken the podium in a gorilla mask and started flinging poop around the room. So, we should be used to the insanely inexplicable moves by now to the point that the simple trading of one of the best wide receivers in NFL history for a third-round draft pick in the middle of the season is barely worth mentioning.
And believe me, this is hard for me to admit. It’s not easy 'fessing up to the fact that I have absolutely NO IDEA what Bill Belichick is thinking because, to be perfectly honest, trying to figure him out is just about the only thing I do.
Just ask anyone who knows me. I’m a lousy worker. I leave a lot to be desired as a husband and a father. I’m not the best athlete or writer. All I pretty much do is spend my waking hours trying to make sense of what Bill Belichick’s methods are all about.
And still, I’m a failure as a Belichickologist because I have no idea what his thought process is on this Moss deal. It’s as if Dan Brown threw up his hands and said, “You know what? I have no frigging idea what da Vinci was trying to say. I think he was just painting pictures and that’s it.”
Or to use a different painting metaphor, I took a few art classes in college — less because I wanted to be well-rounded and develop an appreciation for the arts than because I wanted a class with no homework.
Anyway, I quickly realized I was in way over my head unless the artwork looked like something I’d see on “The Magic of Oil Painting” with Bob Ross. As long as I was looking at mountains and lakes I could say, “That painting looks just like mountains. And check out the lake!” Unfortunately, art NEVER looks like Bob Ross’ work, so I had to fake it. And no matter how long I stared at abstract art, it was all lines and circles to me.
Eventually, though, I learned a fake phrase to impress the art majors around me into thinking I knew what I was talking about. And the phrase was this: “subtle luminosity.” I didn’t know what it meant then and I still don’t. It was just two nonsense words I came up with to impress all the future Starbucks baristas in the art department, but it worked.
And I’ve tried the same with respect to Belichick. I’ve made every attempt to make sense of what he’s doing and why. But I can’t fake it. His methods are infinitely more complicated and obscure than anything Picasso, Pollack or Sinatra ever did.
And that’s very humbling. It’s a helpless feeling. Like Charlie Brown when he made it to the finals of the spelling bee but blew it because he choked on “beagle.” The best I can come up with to explain his recent moves is, “It is what it is,” which doesn’t cut it since The Hooded One himself made it up. So, I’m at a loss.
Then, after two days of quiet reflection and giving the whole Randy Moss “draft picks for clunkers” giveaway some thought, I realized where the answer needs to come from. And to the surprise of no one, I decided it can only come from Belichick himself.
And I’m not talking about the scripted, team PR director-approved, carefully parsed statement he gave Wednesday about “the best interest of the team” and “we’re here to win games” and “moving forward” and all that. And I’m not even talking about what every fan and media person in Boston would love: for him to drop the façade, pull back the hoodie, let us in on his thought process and tell us what really led to this deal.
No, I want more. A lot more. Just this one time, I want a full, open and honest explanation. I want full exposition, like a movie supervillain monologuing to the hero and revealing the entire plot because he believes no one can stop him. And I want it delivered to me personally:
“I know that you think me quite mad. But before the end you will know that my actions were the only rational response of a sane man. The last sane man, if you care to look around the rest of the NFL. The chess pieces moving, Mr. Bon- … Mr. Thornton … and the wheels are turning. And there is no going back now. So please allow me to explain myself. You see, as I said in my press conference, we have won more games and more championships in this decade than anyone. In other words, we KNOW what we are doing. Mr. Thornton, I won three championships (and nearly a fourth), not with a cobbled-together group of self-aggrandizing superstar mercenaries, but with a TEAM. A true team. Players who believed in one another and themselves and who were willing to subjugate their own glory for the greater good. Men like Brown, Bruschi, Vrabel, Branch, Smith and dozens of others. None of whom cared what was on their stat sheet; just what was on their fingers. It was real, Mr. Thornton. Not just the stuff of articles in Boys Life magazine or Disney movies, but something very, very real, a collection of players who sacrificed their own personal glory because winning was paramount.
“Well, this week I found myself faced with a young, impressionable group of players who were not here during that glorious time. Who knew nothing of the past or what they themselves could accomplish if only they would come together as a team, unite and conquer the world.
“And yet, I saw what was happening. A legendary player and an exemplary teammate was growing more disgruntled than a laid-off postal worker. And the damage he could do to a young, fragile unit would not be easily undone. I care deeply about Randy Moss and appreciate all he has done for this organization. But he was not the future. And the future was hanging on by a thread. Had I continued to let a player infect the rest of the team with his contract problem or complain about his number of touches or his general dissatisfaction, I risked destroying everything I’ve built. THAT is why I traded Randy Moss. And I truly believe we will be stronger, more unified and more capable of winning than if I had done nothing. That, Mr. Thornton, is why I did what I did. And soon the Patriots world will be united behind me once more!”
Anyway, that’s my best guess as to what the Patriots are thinking on this one. Or my wishful thinking at least. But obviously I’ve been wrong before. The one thing I won’t be ever again, though, is surprised. Because one thing we Belichickians have to keep in mind is that Bill works in mysterious ways.