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Dance on the Patriots’ grave. Go ahead.
Knock yourself out.
Many of you have waited 11 years for this day. No AFC East title this season. Facing playoff elimination Sunday at Miami.
You heard the GOAT: He mortgaged the future to win those last three Super Bowls fully aware this might happen. There’s no crying in baseball, but apparently there is Crygate in Foxborough. Hey, just because the trophy is named after him doesn’t mean Vince Lombardi never had to eat humble pie.
The Death of a Dynasty obituaries were written everywhere even before Tom Brady took his talents to Tampa Bay. Some were written before Bill Belichick won Super Bowl LIII — one for the thumb on his other hand — over the Rams.
But enjoy this while you can, haters.
There is no playbook for a pandemic, for eight players opting out (including Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung and Marcus Cannon), so Belichick wouldn’t have won a Super Bowl this season with Brady if he couldn’t win one with him with a better team in 2019.
The emergence of the Bills as new beasts of the AFC East and the rise of the Dolphins encourage those who root for the ruination and termination of the Evil Empire. And, unless Belichick decides to field Bob and Jonathan Kraft and Ernie Adams and the longest-tenured Patriots beat writers in the regular-season finale against Jets, he’ll be dealing with Trevor Lawrence for a while.
But this is the NFL, where you can go from pretender to contender from one year to the next if you know what the hell you’re doing.
And this is Belichick.
He would love nothing better next season than to be cast in the lead role of a “Night of the Living Dead” remake.
Serby Says asked Belichick’s good friend, former Cowboys two-time Super Bowl-winning coach and former Dolphins coach and now Fox Sports analyst Jimmy Johnson, how long he thinks it will take Belichick to field another Super Bowl contender.
“Knowing Bill Belichick, probably in a year or two,” Johnson said. “He does a great job as far as acquiring players from other teams that have been castoffs and put them in a place where they can succeed. And on top of that, he had eight players opt out. … So they will be back in the picture in a hurry.”
For the first time since his days in Cleveland, Belichick confronts the same reality as many of his fellow head coaches — finding a quarterback who can take him to his 10th Super Bowl.
NFL Network analyst and former Ravens Super Bowl-winning coach Brian Billick agreed with Johnson.
“It can be instantaneous,” Billick told Serby Says. “They’ve got the pedigree. They’ve done it before.
“But it really centers around: Do you have what you need at the quarterback position?”
Johnson was excited about the low-risk, high-reward Cam Newton signing on the cheap at a time prior to training camp when some believed Jarrett Stidham would emerge as the starter. But Newton, plagued by major shoulder and foot injuries since the middle of the 2018 season, has not been Superman (five touchdowns and 10 interceptions to go with 11 rushing TDs). A bout with COVID-19 hardly helped.
“Without question, Cam could be a better player with an offseason and with more time with [offensive coordinator] Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick,” Johnson said.
But Belichick failed to surround Brady with better weapons — trading a second-round draft choice for Mohamed Sanu, getting one game from troubled Antonio Brown, drafting N’Keal Harry at the end of the first round in 2019 instead of Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown or DK Metcalf, and not replacing Rob Gronkowski — and will desperately need to get a go-to receiver for Newton or whomever in 2021.
“Is he a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback? Is he an elite quarterback? I don’t know. … They certainly need to wrap more assets around him,” Billick said.
Julian Edelman, bless his heart, will be 35 next season. Belichick currently has $68.8 million to spend — with the likes of Allen Robinson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chris Godwin and Curtis Samuel as enticing free agents, and as many as 10 teams projected to be over the reduced $175 million cap floor.
“He’s always pretty active, not necessarily going after the top-rated guy,” Johnson said. “Some of those players didn’t work out, but a lot of ’em that had had mediocre careers other places have really been top performers for him. I don’t see him getting into a bidding war for somebody.”
Belichick infused young talent into the roster with 10 draftees last year, and he has eight 2021 draft picks with a projected three compensatory picks for losing Brady and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins in free agency. Florida QB Kyle Trask could intrigue Belichick in the first round.
“It’s hard for me to imagine he’s just gonna go wholesale wild and bring a bunch of free agents in, ’cause that very rarely is the answer,” Billick said.
Johnson befriended Belichick long before he was the GOAT and had entertained him on his boat over the years.
“My first or second year in Dallas, [when] he was in Cleveland, we made a couple of trades,” Johnson recalled. “And so obviously we were on the phone with each other. Then we just happened to be at the Kentucky Derby on Millionaire’s Row in the private dining room together. To me, I was bored out of my mind because there’s so much time between the races. And so Bill and I spent all day talking between races. We went out on the rail and watched the races, talked football and it struck up a friendship. … That goes back 30 years ago.”
He knows Belichick well enough to know that missing the playoffs won’t serve as any extra motivation for him.
“I don’t think his motivation is gonna be any different today than what it was six years ago,” Johnson said, “or six years from now.”
Would anyone put it past Belichick to still be coaching at 74? What he and Brady accomplished together will be difficult even for Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes.
“It was unprecedented — no one has done that,” Billick said. “So to think that [he] gonna go do it again, no, that’s not gonna happen. That was a unique dynasty, it was fantastic. That doesn’t mean that they can’t come back and win and be another championship-caliber team, of course they can. Are they gonna knock off six Super Bowls? No.”
A seventh for Belichick and the Patriots would be one too many for the haters.
“You’re gonna go broke underestimating Bill,” Billick said. “They’ve got the structure, they know what they’re doing — you gotta hit it right, the quarterback position’s gotta be right. But certainly they know what it looks like. That’s a big part of the equation.”
Johnson won the first of his two Super Bowls the year before NFL free agency began.
“It’s very rare that anybody has a dynasty because the way the league is set up, the more success you have, the more difficult it is to have success the next year with free agency, and the draft, etcetera,” Johnson said. “And so what he was able to accomplish in that period of time, it’s really unimaginable. It was a fantastic run.
“But having said that, I don’t think anybody would ever count him out doing it again.”
In New England, Ya Gotta Billieve.
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