John Tomase

Robert Kraft would have to fire Belichick before he tanks vs. Jets

Bill Belichick's hatred of the Jets cannot be overstated.

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So lemme get this straight -- Bill Belichick plans to intentionally lose what's probably his final game with the Patriots ... to the Jets?!

The team he despises more than any in NFL history? The team that opened the SpyGates of hell? The team he may have screwed over as recently as this year's draft? The team he couldn't stand the thought of HCing before joining the NEP in disgrace-turned-glory?

Those Jets?

There's a better chance of Belichick taking a tearful high-five lap of Gillette, like Yaz in 1983, than laying down vs. Gang Green simply to ensure his replacement picks third instead of sixth.

If we've learned anything about Belichick over the last quarter century, it's that he's an inscrutable creature of pride and obstinance and pettiness who takes orders with a sneer. The NFL wants him to abide by the rules of the injury report? He'll list everybody. Ownership wants him to draft Mac Jones? He'll systematically break him into so many pieces, there won't be a functional quarterback left to put back together. The media wants answers about his future? We're on to (insert opponent), you b*****s.

Now we're supposed to believe that Robert Kraft will order Belichick to bench starters in Sunday's finale to increase the likelihood the team picks second instead of seventh? Kraft can demand whatever he wants, but by now he must know that short of firing his head coach tomorrow, he can't force Belichick to play along.

And it's hard to imagine why he would. There's just no way Belichick wants his final moment on the Patriots sidelines to be jogging across the field to offer perfunctory congratulations to hardo Jets counterpart Robert Saleh, whose staff spent portions of Hard Knocks this summer mocking the do-your-job mantra of the Patriot Way.

I suspect if Belichick could choose between a humiliating loss to the Jets that guarantees his return to the Patriots sideline, or going for broke to deny the visitors the satisfaction of one extra victory even if it costs him his job, he'd roll with column B and chase Don Shula somewhere else.

His hatred for the Jets simply cannot be overstated. The feud dates to his departure in 2000, when he famously conducted a rambling press conference announcing he would step down as the HC of the NYJ after just one day. He wanted to join the Patriots, and ultimately got his wish, but not before a Jets exec suggested he was mentally imbalanced, a statement Belichick never forgave.

Conveniently overlooked in this origin story, of course, is the fact that Belichick stiffed the Jets, and not the other way around, but who are we to question the logic of his resentments? He reveled in thrashing his division rivals for years, and then came 2007, when protégé Eric Mangini ratted him out over SpyGate, thus ensuring he'd do whatever it took to destroy them for the rest of time.

Belichick hates the Jets so much that some execs believe he intentionally accepted a mildly unfavorable trade from the Steelers in May just so Pittsburgh could leapfrog New York and draft the tackle the Jets wanted. "Belichick did it just to (eff) the Jets," one GM told the Washington Post.

Whether that's true is up for debate, but what's not is that it's entirely plausible. Such is his level of loathing.

So color me unconvinced that Belichick will do anything other than try his damndest to pin one last loss on the Jets before he departs the Patriots sidelines for good.

He no doubt remembers how Tom Brady's career ended, with a pick-six against the Titans. Losing to New York would represent a similarly unbecoming walk-off, and good luck to anyone from ownership on down who believes they can convince him to take a dive.

It's motherbleeping Jets week, and Belichick's going down swinging.

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