John Tomase

Stop underestimating Belichick's value — he's worth a first-rounder

Does Belichick actually have more trade value than people think?

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In the days before 75-inch OLEDs were mounted above mantels, kids watched TV at ground level. Inevitably, we'd surrender to the impulse to squish our noses against the screen, disintegrating the picture into pixelated oblivion.

Such behavior would earn a rebuke from our parents ("Back up or you'll go blind"), who couldn't even remotely envision the future horrors of macular degeneration we'd one day pull from our pockets and ogle lustily like eye cocaine.

In any event, when your face is pressed against a 27-inch Zenith, you lose all perspective. Everything looks like fuzz. And this brings us to the issue of Bill Belichick's future.

In New England, we have watched it all implode with a mixture of fascination, revulsion, and shock. The Patriots are 2-9, and Belichick's fingerprints are all over both numbers, from his wretched roster construction, to his Jigsaw-like dismantling of quarterback Mac Jones, to his team's undisciplined play. The Patriots stink at every level.

As a result, we have a hard time believing anyone else would entrust him to run their organization. Surely they recognize that the game has passed him by, with his anachronistic love of special teams, his refusal to prioritize receivers who can run and/or catch, and his wasted draft picks on kickers, punters, and guards.

But as we ponder Belichick's future, we should take a step back and recognize that we're sitting too close to the screen.

We see a 71-year-old who dismissed Tom Brady with an impatient wave and then ruined his successor, but a title-starved organization like the Commanders, under new ownership, could see a six-time Super Bowl champ. We see a misanthrope whose petulant snorting, grunting, phlegming act has worn thin, whereas a directionless franchise like the Panthers might see the mastermind of the NFL's most enduring dynasty. We see a guy with one foot out the door, but maybe the desperate Chargers, Raiders, or Bears see a savior to lead them out of the darkness.

In fact, so many teams will be in the market for coaches this winter that far from letting Belichick slink away for nothing, the Patriots should be in a position of power, with the coach still under contract, to demand a legitimate return.

Not even a year ago, the Broncos surrendered first- and second-round picks to the Saints for Sean Payton (and a third-rounder), who'd spent a year in the broadcast booth after leading New Orleans to 158 wins and one Super Bowl title in 15 seasons. He turns 60 this month and boasted nowhere near the resume of Belichick, but the Broncos still believed he was worth the expense.

Someone will make the same determination on Belichick, just you watch. Never underestimate the insular delusions of NFL owners, as perhaps best exemplified by Indy's Jim Irsay, who recently told HBO that his 2014 arrest for drunk driving was motivated by prejudice against "a rich white billionaire." Needless to say, this is not a group of men awash in self-awareness.

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They're mostly old, and residents of an exclusive villa -- Population: each other. Don't assume they see what we see. They see Robert Kraft with his custom Nike Air Force 1 Ultra Forces kicked up on the head of the table, Meek Mill at his side, and they want a seat, too. Nothing turbocharges that process like hiring the architect of Kraft's success.

You might think it's stupid to hire Belichick in a league that's swinging towards hot-shot young offensive minds like Miami's Mike McDaniel, but does 66-year-old Panthers owner David Tepper agree? He didn't just fire his third coach in four years because he knows what he's doing. If he's willing to use the No. 1 overall pick on Bryce Young, he could certainly be convinced to trade a future first-rounder for Belichick.

Similarly, the Chargers' Dean Spanos is 73 and has watched gifted young quarterback Justin Herbert regress under the supposedly brilliant and precocious Brandon Staley. It would make sense for Spanos to say, "Eff these young guys, I'm going with the track record."

Or how about George Halas McCaskey, the fourth-generation chairman of the Bears? He's not running the team because his genius demanded it – it was basically stamped on his birth certificate. He's 67 and has overseen exactly two winning seasons since taking the reins in 2011. You're telling me a franchise desperate to live up to the legendary Halas name wouldn't go all-in for Belichick?

There's no reason the Patriots shouldn't receive at least a first-round pick to let him leave. "Aren't they just going to fire him anyway?" you ask. Perhaps, but all it takes is one desperate owner to decide it's not worth the risk of Belichick becoming a free agent to put the Krafts in the driver's seat.

Therefore, the question isn't whether you or I would make that deal. It's about an aging NFL owner desperate to attain relevancy, and if you'd just pull your nose away from the TV, you'll see there's no shortage of those.

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