ESPN's Bill Simmons creates an annual list of the most valuable NBA players based upon a single, simplistic question directed at each franchise:
Who would you rather have?
That's it. Whichever player you would take straight-up receives the higher ranking. Salaries, age, personal attachment, everything is baked into the equation which spits out a ruthless list.
When looking at the NFL, it would make sense for quarterbacks to all reside at the top of the list since an above-average quarterback is probably still more valuable than a bunch of skill or line players.
Sample question: Aaron Rodgers, 31 years old, $22 million per year vs Andrew Luck, 25 years old, $3.6 million this year, but a monster contract on the horizon.
Are the six years of age in difference worth the obvious skill advantage of Rodgers? Would Green Bay or Indianapolis blink first?
The Colts would probably be more likely to take that trade than the Packers because Rodgers is the most physically gifted quarterback in the NFL, while Luck is basically Brett Favre- and we all know who Green Bay already sided with. This means that Rodgers gets ranked above Luck, and is likely the highest ranked player.
And he should be. Every single team in the NFL would currently rather have Rodgers than any player on their roster. That's not to say that any hypothetical trade would happen. It just means that all other teams would be willing to consider the swap for a second longer than Green Bay.
The Patriots, for example, have Tom Brady as their most valuable, even with his age taken into account. His minuscule contract hit of $11.4 million per year is laughable and he's still a top three quarterback with respect to on-field production.
There's zero chance the Patriots would ever want to trade him. He's up there in Boston lore with Larry Bird, Ted Williams, Paul Revere, and Marshmallow Fluff. He has a lifetime ticket with New England where he can go on the field and take a literal nap at midfield for the entire game and Patriots fans would rain down "Braaaay-deeeeee! BRAAAAAAY-DEEEEE!" chants the entire time. For however long he feels like doing it. It doesn't matter.
But if you looked at 38-year-old Brady and 31-year-old Rodgers and didn't think Oh, wow, I don't like it, but Bill Belichick could probably win five more Super Bowls with Rodgers, you're probably Gisele Bundchen. Rodgers is the only other quarterback in the league that could generate that thought process.
The Packers don't even think about making the trade. The Patriots? They do a double-take before slamming the receiver.
The above scenario holds the key and result of the #1 overall asset in the NFL, and it's the 62-year-old Bill Belichick.
Belichick is the undisputed best coach in the NFL and possibly the best all time. He's young enough that he could go for another decade, offering a longer future than almost any current NFL player. He's also one of the best general managers in the NFL. He's the best franchise builder in the NFL. Green Bay would ship away Rodgers, head coach Mike McCarthy, and general manager Ted Thompson for Bill Belichick.
I know that Thompson is a fantastic GM in his own right, but Belichick the Coach + Belichick the GM beats McCarthy + Thompson- and if we're comparing a 2 v 1 and it's a tough decision, then your decision is already made.
The Patriots have been fortunate to rack up some of the greatest players of all time for this Super Bowl journey. Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Darrelle Revis will all finish their careers in the discussion or wearing the crown as best player all time at their respective position. But Belichick the GM is the reason why all three can play on the same roster, while Belichick the Coach is making sure they're effective on the field.
Belichick is the most valuable asset in the entire league and it's not really close.