Look, it’s all Bill Belichick bashing here this week. There was a time when that was viewed as more of a warning than an invitation (and still probably is by some).
I understand. But at least dig in and give the mailbag a shot, even if you are suffering from Great Coach, Crappy GM fatigue. We try our best to look at both sides, but the feedback was consistently anti-Belichick. The folks are restless. Change is wanted. They want to keep the coach and send the GM off to the Island of Misfit Executives.
But know this: It will never happen. Bill Belichick will have complete control of all things football in that organization until he hangs up the hoodie and sails away on V Rings. (Until we see some changes on that defense there won't be any need for a name change on that boat). That's how it goes when you win three Super Bowls for a franchise that had three fewer when you took over. So bitch and moan all you want, but it ain't changing. There's a better chance Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries give it a second chance, decide that the spotlight isn’t for them, move to Vermont and run a successful B&B while staying married for 52 years than there is of Bob Kraft ever stepping on Belichick's football tootsies.
To the ‘bag we go (and, as always, feel free to email away to email@example.com) ...
The five-year look back on the drafting of defensive players says it all. What is most disturbing is Belichick's arrogant refusal to change his philosophy. What he's proven in a negative sense is that quality comes before quantity. If you have three or more stud defensive players (see Ravens), you can fill in around them. The clock is ticking on Brady's career. How many more years of potential championships is he going to squander with lousy drafts?
A: I don't think it has anything to do with arrogance -- the same guy that drafted Rob Gronkowski drafted Darius Butler. And I suspect his draft philosophy is at the end of the day the very same as everyone else -- take the player you think is best. It just hasn't happened nearly enough over the last half-decade or so and to me that's enough of a sample size to suggest that maybe someone else should at least have a significant seat at the table. But it won't happen.
Time to let someone else shop for the groceries. They accumulate picks every year and then trade down for players who can't contribute. Several years of terrible drafting has caught up with this team. If they don't have Brady, they are closer to being the Miami Dolphins than we'd like to admit.
A: Again, let's be fair here: The Patriots have had two straight hideous postseason losses at home (Reasons No. 1 and No. 2 why no one should care about Brady's home-win streak, which means as much as Sox sellout streak) and are one of the five or six worse defenses in the NFL. Belichick should take a ton of heat for that. But this team is a league-best 19-4 since the start of the 2010 season. I'm all for handing out blame, but can we do it with some sense of reality? Sure, of course this team would be screwed without Brady, but does anyone really think they would turn into the Colts? Did 2008 never happen? Are we so down on Belichick that we have turned him into Jim Caldwell?
Bill is a great people manager, good coach, horrible talent evaluator, and horrible horrible GM. I am a huge Patriots fan but facts are facts and Bill is on the verge of destroying Tom Brady's potential legacy as the greatest football player of all time. Everybody on defense sucks even Vince. Me personally, I think it has to be coaching. I bet they would not be 32nd ranked with Rex Ryan as coach.
A: I think Brady's legacy is secure, Aaron. What is true, though, is that they are pissing away the last years of Brady (from a Super Bowl perspective) with a defense that simply cannot get off the field. Brady could throw for 4,500 yards and 40 TDs this season and it won't matter if Gary Guyton plays like the Gary Guyton we've seen. Brady could break his own INT-less record and it won't matter if Phillip Adams, Antwaun Molden and James Ihedigbo are in the secondary. This defense is not good enough to win a Super Bowl, so this team isn't going to win a Super Bowl. Simple. Forget schemes, there's just not enough talent.
We know there are flaws like every team, its about getting better, defense is in some respects. Its about playoffs this year not a 14-2 season! And Minihane, no one says that Coach can't be criticized for his GM moves, every GM in the league can. Don't try to be Shaughnessy or Ryan. Go write for the Colts.. the act is tired here. I grew up with bad Patriots teams, no way we complain because we may not have the #1 seed.
A: Look, if you grew up with Rod Rust, Zeke Mowatt and 23,000 strong every week at Sullivan Stadium as I did, I suppose it's now understandable to be content with double-digit wins every year. But -- as I'm sure Belichick and Kraft would tell you -- the goal each season is to win the Super Bowl. And Belichick -- one of the three or four greatest coaches in history -- has failed to put together a defense that can do that. The Brady Clock is ticking, and this is going to be another year wasted because the GM of this team hasn't done his job.
Belichick the personnel guy needs to get the boot from Robert Kraft. We need a GM that can find talent instead of so called value. Belichick the coach needs a defensive co-ordinator that will spend time developing the talent that the new GM finds. Will Belichick go along with this? No .......because his ego is huge.....
A: As I wrote on Tuesday, I don't think Belichick the coach is the problem at all. I don't think his coaching IQ has dropped 50 points since 2004. Look at the players he had on defense during his five Super Bowls -- Lawrence Taylor (the best defensive player of all time, maybe the best player in history), Harry Carson (Hall of Famer), Carl Banks (an All-Pro), Leonard Marshall, Ty Law (five Pro Bowls, borderline Hall of Famer, to me the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVI), Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour (he's going to the Hall of Fame), Rodney Harrison (ditto), Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel. These are all great players, game changers.
On this team I'll give you Vince Wilfork at that level. That's it. Adalius Thomas was supposed to be one of those guys. Didn't happen. Albert Haynesworth was supposed to be one of those guys. Hasn't happened. And when you trade down and miss on guys like Clay Matthews you have to hit with some of the extra picks. Again, it just hasn't happened.
Much like Theo, Belichick's useful shelf life is running out.
A: I'm not buying the shelf-life angle, Jim. That's an excuse of convenience. Theo Epstein had a shelf-life because he and Larry Lucchino couldn't stand working together. If Lucchino had left in, say 2009, Theo would still be the GM and we would have heard zilch about Bill Walsh and the need for a new voice. Who won the World Series this year? How long had LaRussa been managing the Cardinals? It's not a question of shelf-life, it's only this: Belichick is a Hall of Fame coach but an average GM.
I have no doubt that if you gave him top-five talent on defense he'd win Super Bowls. And that's what separates Belichick from other coaches -- we've seen plenty of guys fail to win with stacked teams. But his track record of picking players is spotty. It was disastrous in Cleveland and has been up-and-down in New England. The hits are obvious (and Brady might be the best draft choice in history) but the misses are glaring and have been more frequent during the last half of his tenure. But it's not going to change. Kraft would never do a thing to upset Belichick (which is of course understandable). You watched "A Football Life" and saw those two together -- is there any way in the world you can see Kraft stripping Belichick of his GM duties? Do that and you lose the coach.
I hated when they traded Richard Seymour, yeah he was getting old, but he was a leader and he is still a solid defensive player. The best defensives have a core thats been together for a while ... like the Ravens, Steelers, Packers.
A: Well, the Packers defense stinks, Lu, but I get the larger point. And I was for the Seymour deal when it happened. I thought it was a trade that would bring back a top five pick in 2011 -- wrong -- and also thought that Seymour was in serious decline -- also wrong -- and was completely off on that one. This isn't a knock on Nate Solder, who could turn out to be Anthony Muñoz for all we now. But Seymour is very badly needed on this defense right now. Solder might be a swell tackle in 2017, when Seymour is out the NFL. I get it. But when we are talking about last year, this year and next year -- three Super Bowl or Bust years -- Seymour means a lot more.
You are flat-out wrong about the onside kick. That play made good football sense. If they kicked deep, they had to have a three and out to get the ball back. If they kicked the onside kick and it failed they had to .... wait for it .... have a three and out to get the ball back. So the onside kick gave them an EXTRA chance to get the ball plus it DID NOT make the job of the defense any tougher. The job was the same. Three and out. It isn't complicated. Everyone is so DAMN caught up in "Does Belichick admit his defense sucks? Does Belichick admit he drafts badly?" that they miss the basic fundamental football strategy. How do you people get jobs in sports journalism?
A: Yeah, I'm not sure if you got my report card mixed up with the 31,444 others that come out on Tuesday, but I was fine with the onside kick. Made all the sense in the world to me. If I had to coach that defense I might exclusively kick onside. The execution of the play was embarrassing, but in terms of giving his team a chance to win I thought it was a risk absolutely worth taking.