Bill Belichick would never do “it.”
Not after what happened last week, especially on Friday. We all know what “it” is. And “it” happened.
New England Patriots football CEO Belichick signed Antonio Brown to a one-year deal. That isn’t totally surprising, considering Belichick has taken on a few big-name malcontents before and thrived.
A lot of people figured, eventually, it would happen.
What is shocking – yes, shocking – is Belichick agreed to guarantee $9 million to Brown just hours after one of the biggest public sideshows via social media in pro sports history.
Brown, maybe the only player in the NFL that could go toe-to-toe with Tom Brady in terms of production the last half-dozen years – averaging 115 rec., 1,500 yards and 11 TDs – has broken every rule Belichick has ever created.
Giving out “family” secrets and private conversations to the media. Boasting on social media. Taping, illegally, his private conversation with his head coach ... then posting it on Instagram without permission. Dressing down his general manager in front of his teammates. Calling out his teammates.
And that was all in the last three days.
Being charged with domestic abuse (charges dropped) against the mother of his daughter. Missing meetings. Not showing up at the facility. Calling out his quarterback. Calling out his head coach.
The list is endless. One of those things, just one, and Belichick suspends the player.
This is precedent-setting, even for Belichick, who has a very good working relationship with Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus.
While the Patriots appear to have high-end talent and depth at wide receiver with Josh Gordon, Desmaryius Thomas and Julian Edelman, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, all three are question marks.
Gordon is a 50-50 gamble, Thomas is coming off an Achilles injury and Edelman hasn’t been able to stay on the field.
Brown, in terms of ability, is no gamble. He’s the best, most consistent wide receiver in the game. He’s got the quickest feet in the game and his hands are top five.
As for Tom Brady’s issues with “veteran” receivers, most of those problems were due to those guys being at the end. They didn’t have what it takes, energy-wise, to deal with Brady’s demands.
But Brown’s best quality is Brady’s biggest demand from his receivers: Route running.
Brown is an elite route-runner. Elite.
Brown also has that special, burning fire that Brady has. Maybe it’s the “sixth-round pick” complex that somebody might be better than them or, God forbid, take their job.
That’s not the issue here, though. Other than consistent production and work ethic, Brown has been the polar opposite of The Patriot Way.
He’s acted more like a tennis player, a golfer or some sprinter, who lives by their own schedule and antics.
In the confines of Gillette Stadium there will be rules. You break one, just one, and you’re sent home.
Why would Belichick, whose Patriots team is among a handful of four teams favored to win the Super Bowl, take a risk like this?
Brown is guaranteed $9 million, and can make $15 million by reaching incentives, which we expect are all reachable.
He has more power than the person he is most compared to, Randy Moss, who was on the final year of a deal when the trade was made before the 2007 season. Brown, it appears, is bordering on crazy, even delusional at times.
But Belichick is probably the only person in the football business who could pull this off.
The irony is that despite the $9 million promissory note to Brown, the Patriots could still win the Super Bowl without him, if he did go off the rails. Yes, the Patriots could afford a $9 million mistake.
Every year, as Belichick has noted several thousands times, is different. Yup. The 2019 season, which hasn’t even begun, has become the most interesting in the Patriots Dynasty.
I have two things to say.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.