By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
A little over two weeks ago, the Patriots were coming off a 41-25 spanking of the Bills in Buffalo that had them headed towards their bye week with a 7-1 record, and a flawless 4-0 mark after the return of Tom Brady from suspension. Although things were not perfect going into their league mandated vacation, they were still far and away favorites to win the Super Bowl in February.
The following Monday, which ironically happened to be Halloween, Bill Belichick pulled a trick not even a necromancer could have seen coming. In a move only the high and mighty hoodie could conceive, Bill the GM sent his most talented defensive player, defensive lineman Jamie Collins, to the NFL’s version of Siberia – the Cleveland Browns.
Shortly after the stunning news was announced, departed Patriots’ executive and unofficial spokesman for Belichick, Mike Lombardi, took to social and broadcast media to defend his former boss and in turn, indict Collins for his less than stellar play so far this season. Currently a commentator for Fox television, Lombardi lambasted the soon to be free agent for freelancing, which is apparently taboo in Foxboro.
Not surprised by the Pats trading Colllins. Not been playing well at all they need to get the defense fixed. This will get their attention
— michael lombardi (@mlombardifoxtv) October 31, 2016
Collins on the second play of the game does whatever he wants and Bills gain 28 yards. Been happening all year. It was not going to continue
— michael lombardi (@mlombardifoxtv) October 31, 2016
As a result of the move – in which the Patriots may turn out receiving less than they would have if they held on to Collins and let him walk at the end of the year – Bill essentially completed the castration of the Patriots defensive line, having sent Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals for offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick prior to the NFL draft in March.
Despite the fact that Belichick greatly reduced his team’s chances of winning another Super Bowl with Tom Brady on the right side of 40, the fan response in New England was generally the expected, “In Bill We Trust.”
How’s that working for you now, Pats sycophants?
It is mindboggling how many times Belichick has lessened his team’s likelihood of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with moves that seemingly purged important players from his roster for no apparent reason other than arrogance, over his time with Brady and the Patriots. The list is a long one and includes players like Lawyer Milloy, Deion Branch, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Asante Samuel, Ty Law, David Givens, Logan Mankins, and now Jones and Collins.
As successful as the team has been in the regular season for over 16 years, there is no telling how many more titles the dynamic duo of Belichick and Brady would have if Bill the GM wasn’t someone who held a grudge. Belichick’s supreme ability as a head coach has allowed him to mask the holes he has created with his front office moves, for the most part, over that time, but when the real football is being played in January and February, they have almost always come back to bite him in the ass.
Other than spawning a full-out mutiny in the locker room, there is no logical reason that anyone can give to the move that was made with Collins, other than Bill was pissed about something and wanted him gone. In reality, Collins wasn’t traded; he was fired, plain and simple. Apparently, Collins pissed one to many times in Belichick’s Cheerios, so he was sent to rot in the armpit of America – Cleveland.
And the impact the rash move had on his former teammates was obvious. Safety Devin McCourty, in an appearance on CSNNE’s Quick Slants with Tom Curran, said this of the potentially divisive deal , “Jamie’s a huge piece of our defense – arguably our best defensive player, so it’s going to be a lot of changes that come from this move.”
He added, “There’s always guys coming in and out, but when you’ve got a guy like Jamie who was here for four years on the team, very productive player … to lose him is a bit shocking; I think, to everybody on the team. There’s definitely a little transition to getting used to that type of change.”
Translation – WTF, Bill?
There is no way that the players on his team think they have a better chance to win now, than they did with Collins, even if he was playing poorly. In first trading Jones in the spring, and then Collins in the season, Belichick took two of his four play makers on defense away, leaving only Malcolm Butler and Dont’a Hightower remaining as potential game changers. Sunday night’s performance – or lack thereof – against a very good Seattle Seahawks team is proof that the diminished defense, which is now further handicapped and was never as good as some expected them to be at the start of the season, will likely be the reason the Patriots fall short of winning the fifth Super Bowl in team history next February.
Belichick didn’t have to trade Collins or Jones; he wanted to. The were both under team control at reasonable money for this season. By doing so, he let his arrogance and personal feelings lessen his team’s chance of being successful when the games mean the most, the playoffs.
When Belichick drones on about “doing what is best for the team,” what he is really saying is he did what was best for Bill. That’s the way he has always operated and always will. The question is, do the members of Patriots Nation think that is best for them?
If history is any guide, the answer is likely to be, “In Bill We Trust.” I wonder if that will still be the answer when the defense Bill depleted lets the team down in the playoffs once again?