One nice perk of the Cam Newton signing was it should’ve pretty definitively slammed the door on any kind of talk that the New England Patriots would tank the 2020 season for top draft picks in 2021. The idea that Bill Belichick, the third-winningest coach in NFL history, would gladly take his first losing season since 2000 with a smile just to reset the team via the draft was always preposterous, but it still popped up here and there just like a lot of other flat-out-bananas QuaranTakes that we’ve all seen this offseason. Thankfully, with Cam on board now, the idea that the 2020 Patriots could be a top-5 defense that’d be hamstrung with bad QB play is all but out the window.
Well, sort of, because after several Patriots decided to opt out of the 2020 season altogether, as you’ve surely already seen, the T-word made another appearance on Tuesday and caught a particular Patriots alumni’s attention in the process. And by “caught his attention”, that means like the old Twitter joke goes: “every day, there’s a new main character on here, and your goal is to never be it”.
Donté Stallworth, who’s played for what seems like half the NFL in his day and logged two seasons in New England on the ‘07 and ‘12 squads, caught a couple people bringing back the “Bill is tanking for Trevor Lawrence!” after the news broke about players like Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung opting out, and let’s just say Donté was....entertained.
I am enjoying all the Bill Belichick and Trevor Lawrence tweets, they are truly hilarious. But if anyone thinks BB is gonna tank whatever season there is in 2020 for *any* reason, you have lost your mind. That dude would coach through the apocalypse— Donté Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) July 28, 2020
About that whole “apocalypse” thing, though......
This might be the apocalypse, D— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) July 28, 2020
I’ve definitely done this joke to death, but Bill’s basically the MacGyver Smoker; you give him an avocado and a snorkel, and he’s good to go, he’s made more with less before.
Well, that and being maniacally competitive and obsessed with perfecting his football teams in all the smallest details of the game, of course. The tanking idea’s never made any sense to begin with, especially given that this year’s offseason was typical Patriots; let big-ticket free agents walk, look for undervalued assets in the marketplace, and don’t let one or two players bork your salary cap for years down the road.
As one of the more outspoken Pats alumni out there, Donté’s insights into the team, players he knows, and about how Belichick runs the ship in general are always worth a read/follow. Back in 2017, he had a great little thread about one play him and Randy Moss ran in ‘07, compliments of one of our favorite Pats Twitter follows:
Another great backstory here. Randy lined up wrong and we ran an improvised play here literally on the fly. This is the result. https://t.co/93H0yHvAyR— Donté Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) July 17, 2017
I was so hype I grabbed him & yelled, "you ain't shit!!" b/c he & I improvised on the LoS and discussed our routes. He scores effortlessly pic.twitter.com/qW0kRvElWi— Donté Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) July 17, 2017
I got to play with those two dudes, Brady and Moss. What a blessing to learn from two of the greatest to ever do it— Donté Stallworth (@DonteStallworth) July 17, 2017
And a few years before that, Donté took a flamethrower to the idea that draft prospect Michael Sam would be a (air quotes) “distraction” to whoever drafted him, which is worth reading in full:
Herm Edwards posed a hypothetical question on epsn re: drafting Michael Sam, “can (GM/owner/coach) handle the media... with this situation?”
If any NFL team can’t “handle the media coverage” of drafting Sam, then your team is already a loser on the field... let me tell you why...
There are a multitude of issues that can arise in the long duration of an NFL season... some on the field, some off the field.
You won’t have any idea what that on the field/off the field situation is until it’s already upon you and the entire organization...
Which means that with drafting Michael Sam, you get a jump start on controlling the “media coverage” right from the onset.
If an organization is inept to the magnitude of not being able to control things with prior knowledge, how will you handle the unexpected?
Case Study 1: The Miami Dolphins and the bullying scandal... players talked more about THAT than they did football... for weeks!
During that time I questioned (tweeted) why the Dolphins players were talking more about the scandal than their next opponent....
Since the bullying story broke, the Dolphins finished the season 4-4...w/playoff hopes still alive, got spanked by division opp Jets, 20-7
Case Study 2: The New England Patriots and Aaron Hernandez AND Tim Tebow situations...
Beyond the state of shock I endured after the revelations of Hernandez, I knew that if ANY organization could handle this, it was the Pats.
This all happened right before training camp where players are supposed to come in w/clear minds in preparation for a long, rigorous season.
Not only were there questions about Aaron, but also about the health of Gronkowski and how those two combined affected the team as a whole.
Aaron is still awaiting trial & Gronk played in only 7 games this season...but yet the Pats seemed to avoid those “distractions” altogether.
Despite many season ending injuries to key pieces, the Pats finished 12-4 and lost to the Broncos in the AFC title with... ZERO distractions
Not to mention the whole Tebow signing and (alleged subsequent) distraction wasn’t even a blip on most radars... Why?
Because Mr. Kraft and Bill Belichick would not allow ANY of that to be a “distraction” to ANYONE in the entire organization...
In my 10 years as an NFL player, I’ve played for 6 different teams & have been in every kind of locker room. Vet, young, mature, immature...
The leaders of an NFL organization AND the locker room better be able to handle adversity that is certain to emerge during a long NFL season
In my experience, if your organization can’t “handle media coverage”, they will suck on the field anyway... but hey, there’s always 2015...
Assuming we’re still getting NFL football in 2020, rest assured that the players that actually know Bill know that New England tanking is about as likely as Patrick Mahomes voluntarily giving up ketchup.