If even a cursory understanding of recent history has taught us anything, it's that Americans have lost the ability to vote for things with any sort of wisdom. Just look at the Parliament of Whores running the country. To borrow from something William F. Buckley said (referencing the faculty of Harvard), "I would rather have the first 500 names from the Boston phone book running the country" than the people who actually are. And when was the last time we elected someone the winner of a talent show that amounted to anything? Winning "American Idol" used to mean you were the next big pop music superstar. Now winning that or "America's Got Talent" guarantees your career will peak with you singing the Anthem at the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500. And never forget that we're the ones who voted for the blue M&M, which is an abomination.
But it's not like we always get it wrong. Some of the most momentous elections of our times are coming up. And if the early polls from likely voters are any indication, there's hope for democracy yet.
As we head into NFL Awards season, the league's state-run media does an anonymous survey of executives who'll be casting ballots. From this year's:
My annual early awards survey was completed this week by high-ranking executives from 23 NFL teams, including 10 general managers. All 23 individuals participated on the condition of anonymity for competitive reasons and to provide an honest assessment.
Briefly, Aaron Rodgers has the edge over Jonathan Taylor for MVP. TJ Watt has a decent lead in a crowded field for Defensive Player of the Year. Micah Parsons is winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year in a landslide. And somewhat surprisingly, to me anyway, Rookie of the Year is still within the margin for error:
It was a tight race between Mac Jones (11 votes) and Bengals receiver Ja'Marr Chase (nine) …
"[Jones is] poised beyond his years," said an AFC executive. "He has less 'rookie moments' than the others, but really processes quickly within their offense, moves the team. He plays in rhythm, doesn't turn over the ball too much. He just plays like a vet."
As an NFC exec put it: "He's making the least critical mistakes at the most prominent position and really turned that team around."
All of which is true. And should continue as we go forward and Jones wins more games. Which will likely win over more swing voters and give him a bigger cushion as the final precincts report in.
But the true hope that we still live in somewhat of a meritocracy comes from the leader in the remaining elections:
Coach of the Year
It's been a running joke in the NFL that Bill Belichick could've been Coach of the Year virtually every season for the past two decades, yet he's won the recognized award from the Associated Press just three times, the last in 2010. (He has won three Super Bowls since.) That makes Belichick's runaway win (11 votes) in this poll long overdue.
"He's just kind of reinvented himself," said an AFC executive. "Not the scheme, but whole new free agency (approach), spent all the money, got a rookie quarterback, bunch of new pieces and it's all kind of come together. Took a year off, and now they're back. It's amazing what he's doing." …
"The one thing that stood out when they were struggling early -- (Belichick) made adjustments to the defense and all of a sudden their defense started to play really well," said an NFC executive. "That's because of who he is and knowing his personnel and adjusting his scheme accordingly to what's working. He's one of the rare birds that will change things up to fit the personnel. That's why he is who he is."
Executive of the Year
That's not a mistake. Bill Belichick not only won Coach of the Year in this poll -- the league's top general managers and personnel men also acknowledged him for the way he's overhauled the Patriots' roster in concert with director of player personnel Dave Ziegler and the team's personnel staff. …
Since Super Bowl LV in February, the Patriots have spent $312.1 million on free-agent contracts -- by far the most of any NFL team -- and appear to have found their quarterback of the future in Mac Jones.
"It usually doesn't work out," an AFC executive said of the offseason spending spree. "We have so many examples of it not working out, so it really takes a good coach to get everyone on the same page and your culture, and then they drafted well, with (defensive tackle Christian) Barmore and (running back Rhamondre) Stevenson. They've done a nice job."
I don't mean to make too much of this. The campaign platform this candidate is running on is not about individual awards. It's measured only in historic success. The kind that results in banners and rings, period. His is a vision that far transcends plaques on an office wall collecting dust.
But still, it would be a magnificent accomplishment to pull off these two elections in the same year. Not vindication for the two whole seasons that just went by without him winning a Super Bowl. Only winning another Super Bowl would do that. I wouldn't have it any other way. But certainly validation for him. Validation that he was right all along and all the doubters were dead wrong. Once again. The ones who insisted 2020 was proof he was never a good coach or GM. That he found a winning lottery ticket in the 6th round of the 2000 draft and without that franchise QB, he's nothing. The soulless wretches who said all his shortcomings as a coach were made up for by one player. That he can't draft, can't sign free agents, can't evaluate college or pro talent. Or that he was never going to be able to overcome the brain drain over the last few years, losing Brian Flores, Joe Judge and Nick Caserio to other teams, and Dante Scarnnechia and Ernie Adams to retirement. And if these polls are accurate and he wins both of these awards, it will be an impressive achievement to say the least. Not just for him, but for all of us who never doubted him for a second.
And what makes it more impressive is that these voters are the ones who have hated him and resented his achievements in some capacity for decades now. The last thing the other executives in the league want to go is laud this man with awards. They would much rather them go to their friends, cronies, and anyone else who hasn't built an empire on their bones. But even with all that politics to consider, they can't help but cast their ballot for the man, if they have an iota of integrity in their bodies. Just like you might have supported another candidate for President, but when the winner is up for reelection after four years of peace and prosperity, you owe it to yourself and your country to put aside petty partisanship and vote for four more years of the same.
Right now, Bill Belichick is Ronald Reagan in 1984, when he won 49 states. Except he's the leading candidate in two different elections. And if there's any justice, his margin of victory will be even bigger.