Like any lifelong Patriots fan - one who predates the Dynasty era by a lot of years - as much as I want to look away from the Jerry Bruckheimer-level disaster that is 2023, I'm not blind to the situation we find ourselves in. The images speak for themselves:
The pro football world is a harsh reality. A virtual prison yard where everyone has to constantly demonstrate they can hack it, just with business suits and officially licensed NFL gear instead of orange jumpsuits. Where the strong thrive and the weak are never more than a few minutes away from getting traded for a pack of smokes. And even the ones who are powerful enough to impose their will on the rest are constantly being studied for signs of weakness. From one wall to the next, from the weight bench to the basketball hoop. No one is immune from having to prove themselves, every minute, every day.
In this metaphor, Bill Belichick is the undisputed Lifer. The one the others fear and respect. But even he doesn't get a free pass from having to hold onto his OG status. And he came into this year under a cloud of talk that if things didn't go well, it could be the Green Mile for him:
Mr. Kraft has made no secret of his frustration with not having a playoff win since Super Bowl LIII. Which, in the unforgiving world of the NFL, is ancient history by now. Still, any decision regarding Belichick's future would be as tough a call to make as any owner in any sport has ever faced. With a billion variables. What if his team finished close to .500? What if they just missed the playoffs? Or made it in but got blown out, like in 2021? What if there were extenuating circumstances, like some key injuries or terrible officiating costing them wins? Which we've seen plenty of, by the way.
But there's not a lot of ambiguity in 2-8. And you don't have to dig deep to find critical personnel decisions that have gone completely tits up, like replacing Jakobi Meyers with Juju Smith-Schuster, and Nick Folk with Chad Ryland, just to name two. So while a decision to finally move on from the man you gambled the future of your franchise on 24 years ago and hit the jackpot with would never be an easy one, it gets more reasonable with each loss. Even members of the Belichickian Cult like me understand the very real possibility that this could all be over soon. And are beginning to accept it.
What I don't and will never accept are the maniacs out there calling for Mr. Kraft to fire the man who built his empire immediately. To go back to the prison analogy, they're calling for him fired, not tomorrow, not after breakfast - now! Ben Volin of The Boston Globe even went so far as to suggest that if the Pats lost in Germany, that Belichick would be taking his own flight home. Ridiculous though that idea was, when it didn't happen, he simply doubled down:
Of course it's not just him. It's the 1s & 0s on X/Twitter. The imbeciles who call sports talk radio. Mental patients. People in court-ordered Anger Management programs (though I repeat myself). In King Lear's words, "How sharper than a serpent's too it is to have a thankless child."
And if that's you, if you're really going through life so damaged, so bitter and loathing of all this man has accomplished that the only thing that will satisfy your bloodlust is his genius Croatian scalp hanging from the Gillette lighthouse, I'm going to sincerely and kindly recommend you seek professional help to deal with your issues. Then I'm going to even more sincerely but less kindly recommend you fuck all the way off.
What's the motivation behind this? Did the little man upset you? Do you need a social worker to come with a doll so you can point to the place where he hurt you, namely your black, raisin-sized heart? How much of a total ingrate do you have to be to not merely ask that ownership take the football operations in a new direction under different leadership, but to DEMAND that Belichick be degraded and humiliated for your viewing pleasure? It is because he was mean and sarcastic in his press conferences? It is because he moved on from some favorite player you liked, even as the Super Bowl banners just kept going up on the wall? It it because he once ran up the score on Joe Gibbs and Marv Levy's wife hates him?
Whatever your reasons, if this is your attitude, you deserve to be ostracized. Kept separate from normal humans and shunned by polite society:
… before you infect us all with your nonsensical resentment. You are not worthy of the success you've been given if now, in a great man's darkest hour, you abandon him so thoroughly, without shame or remorse.
Like Tedy Bruschi says, if this be the end, let the man leave with all the dignity he's earned:
Anything less would be nothing but a mutiny, conducted by lesser beings too inadequate to even be a little grateful for all they've been given. Inconsequential, and yet feeling they're somehow entitled to all the good things in life. Which is a terrible combination.
Unfortunately, it's part of human nature. Alexander faced it during the Opis Mutiny. After admonishing his men that before his father Phillip II came along, they were all peasants, he reminded them that under his own leadership, they'd become rulers of the known world:
All riches of Egypt and Cyrene which a won without you are yours now. Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Babylonia; all belong to you. The wealth of Lydia, the treasures of Persia, the jewels of India, the outer sea; you are now satraps. You are generals and captains. What have I held back for myself apart from this purple cloak and diadem? Nothing!
No man can point to my riches, only the things I hold in trust for you all. And what would I do with them, anyway? I eat what you eat, I get no more rest than you. Many times I have spent the night on watch so you can sleep soundly. Who among you believes he has worked harder for me than I have for him? Common!
If you’ve got scars, strip and show them to me. I’ll show you mine. There isn’t one part of my body; the front at least that doesn’t bare a wound. My body is covered in scars from every weapon you can think of; swords, arrows, stones, clubs…all for the sake of your lives, your glory and your wealth.
And yet here I still am, leading you as conqueror of land and seas, rivers, mountains and plains. We’ve celebrated our weddings together. Many of your children will be cousins of my own. I have paid off your debts without asking how you got them, even though you are paid well enough and pillage every city we take. …
But since you all wish to go, then, all of you, GO! …
When you get home, you tell them that when you made it back to Suzza, you abandoned him and went home. Leaving him under the protection of the foreigners you’d conquered. Perhaps, this report of yours will seem glorious in the eyes of men and worthy in the eyes of the gods.
Be gone indeed. Perhaps seeing this man fired will seem glorious in the eyes of men and worthy in the eyes of the gods. But I fucking doubt it. Not any men or gods worth pleasing, anyway.
By no means am I calling for all of this to end this offseason. Just that if it does, it should be to a hero's farewell. With all the honors and accolades Belichick deserves. Pomp and circumstances. A triumph, marching through the gates of Gillette like Alexander used to put on in the cities he conquered. It's impossible to be so successful in today's NFL for so long. And whenever this era does come to a close, it's going to end with me being loyal to King and Country.
Bend the knee. Kiss the rings.