Hackett: In the Land of Make Believe, all Patriots fans' questions are answered

Jim Hackett
September 26, 2018 - 10:01 pm

USA Today Sports

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Disclaimer: The interview cited below is purely fictional. It is farcical. It did not happen. Though had it, I do believe this is exactly how the conversation would go under the circumstances provided below ...

So I had the chance to grab a cup of coffee and a couple of sides of sodium pentothal with the head coach of the New England Patriots recently and it was a blissfully candid conversation. We uncovered a lot. At the outset I learned that heading into this Sunday’s game versus division rival Miami that the team needs to play better in all three phases of the game; offense, defense and special teams. Additionally, it has become apparent that the team needs to prepare better, game-plan better, coach better, play better and basically do everything better. I also uncovered that the Patriots apparently have a long way to go and a lot of work still to do. I’ll give you a moment to take that all in, let it marinate and make some notes.

Once the sodium pentothal kicked in, however, we really got into it. Here’s the meat of the (once again, fictional) conversation:

Me: "Coach thanks for making the time. Congratulations on all your success, you smell terrific. If it's OK with you, I’d just like clarify some questions that Patriots fans have had over the years of this dynasty if that’s OK. Before we start, care for more sodium pentothal?"

BB: "We’re onto the questions."

Me: "I’d like to start with the first Super Bowl year. When Bledsoe was finally able to return after the Mo Lewis hit that previously took him out of action, did you ever consider going back to him to start?"

BB: "No. Tom had earned the job at that point, the team had a belief in itself and a kind of momentum behind it that wouldn’t have been wise to tinker with. Tom had the attention of the team even at that young age. Frankly, in hindsight, I had seen enough from Brady in the preseason to name him the starter but didn’t feel that perceptually or organizationally that it made sense at that time. Had I listened to my gut heading into the regular season I would have started Tom. People forget that the year before, we kept four quarterbacks, Tom being the fourth. We had an idea that we had found something in Tom well prior."

Me: "You’ve made some tough cuts over the years with popular and productive players; either by not resigning free agents, outright releasing players or trading them away while still being in or near the primes of their careers. Some controversially or at least against general consensus at the time. Names that come to mind include: Lawyer Milloy, Adam Vinatieri, Deion Branch, Richard Seymour, Wes Welker, Logan Mankins, Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins and this year with Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola. Any regrets?"

BB: "Yeah, Jimmy Garoppolo."

Me: "We’re getting to that one. I considered it a separate category due to the utter preposterousness of it all. How about with the other guys I mentioned? If you had one do-over who would it be with?"

BB: "If you look at those players you cited, for the most part, we were able to replace that production elsewhere either with the signing of new players, drafting of new players or with players that we already had in our organization that were ready to take on more. Vinatieri’s negotiation after the 2005 season stands out as difficult but we were able to fill that void immediately in the draft with Stephen Gostkowski who is still a productive player for us in the kicking game. With Wes Welker, when he left for Denver it opened up a larger role for Julian Edelman who to us was obviously ready to emerge. We also added Danny Amendola in free agency that offseason. I think we’ve done that in most cases. The one player we had difficulty replacing for a season would be Deion Branch. We probably over-estimated our receiver depth and talent and underestimated how difficult he would be to replace heading into the 2006 season."

Me: "Kind of like this year right?"

BB: (Silence and stink eye).

Me: "Moving on…it’s been said that you don’t allow emotions to get in the way of your personnel decisions as noted regarding the players we just talked about. However I think we need to be honest here, emotions have impacted your decision making at times haven’t they?"

BB: "What are you talking about?"

Me: "Wes Welker comes to mind with his insubordination regarding Rex Ryan’s foot fetish. You penalized him for that, letting him watch the first series of a playoff game you obviously wanted to win."

BB: "I penalized him for his insubordinate actions, emotion had nothing to do with it."

Me: "Fair enough. How about trading Chandler Jones for journeyman offensive lineman, Jonathan Cooper, a guy who can barely stay in the league? Did Jones’ synthetic marijuana ‘episode’ in 2015 lead to his trade? Not much of a haul for an emerging star player. It seems like you were in rush to get him out of town."

BB: "I was trying to do what was best for the team."

Me: "Let’s take a break. Please Bill, have some more of this delicious sodium pentothal. Now, let me rephrase ... regarding the trades of Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins and Jimmy Garoppolo; in each individual case, did you make each of these players available to all 32 teams? And did you make contact with all 32 teams to seek the largest possible haul on each player?"

BB: "When you’re making a deal there are multiple factors; timing being a critical one. At the annual trade deadline, for example, speed is obviously important as there is a firm time stop to deal with. You evaluate a player and try to gain equal value back and that’s what we do in every case."

Me: "Granted that certainly makes sense for deals happening at the trade deadline, I mean the word ‘deadline’ is in the title. You were under the gun during last years’ deadline, weren’t you? In terms of having to get rid of Garoppolo correct?"

BB: "That is not correct. Nobody was held at gunpoint, I was not held at gunpoint. A determination was made within the organization that keeping both Brady and Garoppolo would not only not be feasible but an unlikely scenario. Brady playing at his level and with his intentions to play even longer along with Jimmy’s desire to play made their future together in the organization an unrealistic outcome. At that point, we needed to move on and get what we determined to be fair value for the player versus getting nothing after his rookie contract was set to expire."

Me: "A second-roundd pick is equitable value?"

BB: "You could do better?"

Me: "I think so. You should see some of the Fantasy Football trades I pull off. More to the point, could you have gotten more than a second round pick had you acted earlier, like say around the NFL Draft?"

BB: “The value proposition was different six months earlier. The situation was different six months earlier. You’re in contention, you have a 40-year-old quarterback, a potential succession plan and a need to sustain and solidify the backup quarterback position. Teams know and assess your needs all the time and that’s a moving target. We got the value we feel we could at the time."

Me: "So you’re saying you could’ve gotten more value if you acted earlier?"

BB: "You’re saying that."

Me: "It’s been a rather drama-filled year, the Garoppolo trade being a big part of it. Another noisy drama that has surrounded your team is the prolonged story of and presence of Alex Guerrero. I’m sure you’re sick of talking about it and I’m sick of hearing about it, but I have to ask, is there any ill will or conflict surrounding Guerrero, Brady, the team and the staff? Answer honestly and I’ll never ask again."

BB: "Alex works for Tom. If he helps Tom be successful and he does, then it’s good for the organization. I need to run the organization the way I see fit. So we came to a place where both needs have been met. Like many things, it took a while. He’s not on our staff and my team needs to follow our staff and respect that. I think we have an accord that works. That’s all you’re getting."

Me: “In reviewing your draft history, it seems like you value players with one functional ACL more than players that have two. Is that true?”

BB: (Silence and stink eye).

BB: "We always look for the best value, that’s how you can afford and sustain a complete 53 man roster and scout team. That’s how you stay competitive, by adding players with the potential to outperform what you pay for or where they are drafted."

Me: "You’re opportunists for sure, which leads me to Josh Gordon. Your obfuscation with this player has been downright congressional. You not acknowledging his existence on the Patriots last week after he was acquired was akin to not congratulating new parents on the birth of their child until the birth certificate is processed at City Hall. Why couldn’t you just acknowledge his existence?"

BB: "I like messing with you people. I am also trying to slow roll with this player. He’s talented and has a sensitive history. We’re trying to do what we think is best for the player. If I don’t have to talk about it or anything else for that matter I’d rather not. Where’s the upside for us in that?"

Me: "Will we see Gordon this week? Looks like you’ll need him."

BB: "Not answering that."

Me: "Last one for me coach, can you please tell us why you really benched Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl?"

BB: "Truth serum wore off, we’re onto the Friday press conference."

And now back to regular programming. Thanks for visiting.

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