About the only thing that might be longer at this point than Bill Belichick’s list of NFL wins (you may have heard he tied Tom Landry over the weekend, nice little day at the office) is his list of players he’s built into critical pieces of championship teams after they got either released by their original team or traded away for what the crew here at Pats Pulpit calls “a bag of peanuts”. Whether he’s playing Monopoly on draft day or in free agency, Bill’s somehow managed to earn a reputation as the biggest wheeler-and-dealer in the game while simultaneously getting a reputation for never actually signing anybody to a normal-sized contract. And based on a story that came out from a book about longtime Raiders owner and delightful anti-hero Al Davis, Belichick almost pulled off an even more absurd trade for the greatest deep-threat receiver of all time than what actually went down.
You guys surely remember that Bill ended up shipping a fourth-round pick for a supposedly washed-up, approximately-as-motivated-as-a-college-kid-the-day-before-spring-break Randy Moss back in the spring of ‘07. Belichick’s draft-day trade haul with the San Francisco 49ers when the Niners got (rightfully) all heart-eyes over a kid named Joe Staley snagged the Patriots an extra fourth-round pick that year, and the 49ers’ ‘08 first-rounder, and that San Fran fourth-rounder ended up as what sealed the deal for Moss.
According to this book, though, Bill was *THIS* close to crossing the T’s and dotting the lowercase J’s on a deal for Moss that would’ve only cost New England a sixth-rounder. Look at this Ocean’s Eleven heist that almost happened (from ESPN):
“It would have been even more one-sided if Davis hadn’t intervened. ... After two seasons with the Raiders, Moss made it known that he had no interest in returning for a third. Davis agreed it was time for a parting of ways. The only question that remained was, could Davis save face and recoup some of the high cost from trading for Moss in 2005?
“Davis changed coaches after the 2006 season, firing Art Shell and replacing him with Lane Kiffin. One of Kiffin’s first tasks was to trade Moss, and Kiffin’s personal assistant Mark Jackson was charged with the task of making a deal.
“Jackson had worked with Kiffin at the University of Southern California, and he had some prior NFL experience with the New England Patriots. He soon found himself on the phone with Belichick, someone regarded as one of the most savvy football minds of all time.
“Jackson and Belichick finally agreed upon a sixth-round draft pick for Moss.”
The book details that Davis “was aghast” at the price.
That’s when Davis, according to the book, “phoned Belichick from the Raiders meeting room and accused him of taking advantage of Jackson, who had no experience in this area.”
Belichick responded that he was simply agreeing to what was offered, and then, according to the book, asked Davis what he was seeking for Moss. When Davis said a fourth-round pick, Belichick agreed to the terms.
When Moss went on to have great success with the Patriots, the fourth-round pick seemed like a bargain. But as Davis explained in the book, there wasn’t a trade market for him.
“You know how many teams turned him down?” Davis said. “That guy in Green Bay thought he couldn’t run anymore. Even Denver, where they’ll take anybody, turned him down.”
Classic Al Davis, just sneaking in a little division-rival burn there at the end.
And even though Belichick’s famous for taking picks from the Day 2 and 3 of the draft and making them into superstars (and occasionally first-ballot Hall of Famers), I’d bet the rent that almost nobody could name the guys from New England’s four sixth-round picks (one of which was presumably what Bill was trying to trade for Moss) that year:
Justin Rogers (LB, SMU)
Mike Richardson (CB, Notre Dame)
Justise Hairston (RB, Central Connecticut State University)
Cory Hilliard (G, Oklahoma State)
...Yeah, didn’t think so.
Back to the story: ESPN’s Mike Reiss caught up with Belichick to talk some Al Davis, and even though Davis will probably always be the classic football heel to a lot of people, Bill had nothing but great things to say about Mr. “Just win, baby!” himself:
“They have a great tradition, a great fan base and intensity. Those guys play hard. They play with a lot of passion. They’re always a tough, physical team, which they are again this year. Al Davis -- I’ve always had a ton of respect for him. I had an opportunity to talk with him on many occasions. He was always very insightful and [it was] a pleasure to be around the guy with his passion and love for football, the coaching part of it, the scouting part of it. He was very special.
Awwww, maybe football IS family after all.