In world according to Bill Belichick, superstars need not apply

Jim Hackett
March 19, 2020 - 9:41 am

Remember the Wheaties cereal box that featured the 2001-2002 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots? It was a first of its kind. The Wheaties box typically featured a lone ranger, a lone star that may have carried his or her team to glory.

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Think of Michael Jordan as a prime example. That box cover was the ultimate public acknowledgement of what we knew to be true that entire magical season; the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. A championship machine built with 53 parts, many castoff from other organizations and a skinny sixth round underdog draft pick who 20 years later, is universally and correctly regarded as the undisputed greatest to ever play his position.

Now, after 20 dynastic and storybook seasons in New England, Tom Brady, the greatest of them all and the brightest superstar to ever grace these parts is gone. If your brain is laboring over how it could have come to this, the only evidence you ever needed to know this outcome was coming, and it dates back to that very image on that famous cereal box. Bill Belichick has always been most comfortable shopping at Walmart, where even during the coronavirus crisis, you’ll always be able to find something useful on the shelves. No matter how empty the shelves actually may be.

Make no mistake, the Patriots have had their share of Pro-Bowlers, All-Pro’s and superstars on their roster during Belichick’s tenure, it’s hard to win without them. However, the Patriots' history of employing the league’s elite is far different than most NFL teams. Rarely do they dive in and buy one (Stephon Gilmore being the most obvious exception). Usually, they draft them. Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Richard Seymour are prime examples. Sometimes they trade for them when a star player’s value is low. See Randy Moss.

No matter how they get here, with the greatest of the great, like Brady, Seymour, Moss or Gronkowski there is always one consistent trait you can see clear as day however.

It usually ends messily.

Brady’s mere existence enabled Belichick’s team building philosophy to prosper beyond any reasonable expectation. Think about it. If the most highly touted college QB of his era, Peyton Manning was the Patriots quarterback during New England’s early dynasty years, would that level of success continued? No way. Manning would have cost too much and the formula would have crumbled whether he stayed or left. At best, Belichick’s whole team building structure would have had to have been reset and that could have taken years.

With Brady, humble beginnings, unrivaled determination and early success in his most formative and impressionable years, allowed Belichick to mold his mind and embed his team first mentality early in his development. It was a perfect mentor/protégé collaboration.

Seed firmly planted and its flower has blossomed for two decades straight.

With Brady on board, everything could come together with championship pedigree and precision. Not to mention longevity.

Brady got better quickly, remained affordable and by the time he was great not only was a dynasty built, it was reinforced and then strategically supported and added to. The ultimate master plan, all made possible because the league’s preeminent superstar acted like anything but and wasn’t remunerated as such either.

The train kept rolling.

“Attention Walmart Shoppers - Randy Moss is on-sale for a fourth-round draft pick”…

“Attention Walmart Shoppers – Rob Gronkowski is still on-sale at pick No. 42”…

“Attention Walmart Shoppers – Darrelle Revis is available for 80 percent off”…

Belichick is the ultimate opportunist and finding talent where others don’t always see it is one of his greatest skills. The man can find diamonds in a cesspool. His level of success in doing it cannot be debated. Granted, that skill alone may help keep you in contention, but that doesn’t make your team a perennial champion or championship caliber contender. Being able to keep a Rolls Royce like Brady for the price of a higher end Acura accomplishes that. Oh and you need the clutch championship performance that Brady consistently delivered too, especially when the lights were the brightest.

Brady is the Patriots all-time golden egg. Belichick is the goose that laid the golden egg, no doubt there. However, as soon as Belichick couldn’t make that golden egg work anymore in the breakfast budget, it was time for him to move on. Superstars just aren’t born to last forever in Foxboro.

A superstar was born in New England and his humility and team first mentality allowed for two decades of unprecedented success. In 2014, Belichick sowed the seeds to replace his superstar quarterback. The writing was on the wall in bright red ink spelling the name Jimmy Garoppolo.

In that same year and the years to follow, Tom Brady made that succession impossible with his consistent MVP level play. Tom Brady effectively replaced Tom Brady as only a superstar like him could. In a land where superstars have trouble finding work and keeping a home, I’d say it has been a pretty amazing run.

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