Tuesday, March 3, 2009

White knights in black suits

Can I Be - KiD CuDi

For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what Bill Belichick was thinking on this one. A second rounder? When there’s a dearth of quarterbacks available and a plethora of teams needing signal callers? After THAT season??? At first, I’d assumed that the market for Cassel had been significantly more tepid than anyone had thought. At least this made sense. After all, people could draw comparisons to Derek Anderson’s aberrant Pro Bowl season. When the news dropped that there was an offer for a 1st and 3rd round pick on the table, however, things became even more confusing. Why would the shrewdest man in the game give up a chance to stockpile high picks? If we value character, regardless of whether we consider them protagonists or antagonists, then the only thing Belichick could do to be more frustrating to us here would be to step so wildly out of character, which this move seemed to be doing.

Kudos to Cian over at fuhbaw for, as he so often does, finding the straight line through my convoluted path from point A to point B. His idea of ethically neutral loyalty fits perfectly with what has been the Foxborough code of conduct since Ill Bill moved in: Ideals that aren’t ideals, but rather rigid commandments to live by. Belichick as the altruistic, misunderstood hero became unrealistic once Spygate blew up, but Belichick as a man of honor, even if it’s a villain of honor, only makes more sense after this move. If he doesn’t act as though he cares about our ideas of “right” and “wrong” with regard to the game, why would we expect him to conform his concepts of things like loyalty and appreciation to the way we see them?

That, if nothing else, is what strikes me about this deal with regard to Belichick. The same reason he wouldn’t give Mangini a legitimate handshake throughout 2006 is the reason why he follows through on a negotiated deal with Scott Pioli even though better offers appear. The same reason he refuses to speak to Tony Dungy is the reason why Matt Cassel, after performing so admirably and toeing the company line throughout the offseason, winds up in what Cian correctly calls a “familiar newness”, rebooting a system with the assistance of a man largely responsible for the success of the system he just left. The code of Belichick conduct may be abhorrent to some, but it’s certainly just to all; punish defiance and reward devotion.

In fact, the truth is that backing out of the deal with Pioli would have been the out of character move for Belichick. Not only does Belichick commit to those who commit to him, but he also commits to himself and his ideas, regardless of whatever temporary landscape changes emerge. This trade was what he wanted; he would reward a close friend, send a good servant to a place where he could thrive, and continue to build a team on the Belichick ideal of lesser names yielding greater results (don’t laugh at a second round pick that is so high it essentially gives the Pats three first rounders this year, none of which will command insane salaries). What about the last several years makes you think that Belichick would have dropped his well laid plans for some immediate problem that arose. Perhaps more than any other coach, this is a man who recognizes that the time to question your belief system is not when things are at their most turbulent; rather, this is when you cling to your ideals the hardest. Perhaps this is why, as much as we and so many others love to hate him, all of this talk about Belichick’s latest move being sleazy or underhanded strikes us as disingenuous. He’s simply living by the code he’s always lived by, a code that he has never tried to conceal, and doing so well within his rights as a coach. If characters don’t get to arbitrarily declare their own identity to us as readers, we don’t get to arbitrarily declare it either.

We'll get to the Chiefs half of this tomorrow...this is too confusing for one go around.

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