Embrace the underdog. Weigh the anchor. Turn the page.
Yes, I’m still waiting for Belichick’s public thoughts on the nation’s civil unrest and his current feelings on his friend Donald Trump, but even I have to give Belichick credit on this masterful offseason handiwork: it’s not even July 4th, and The Hoodie has turned Tom Brady’s departure into the New England disrespect card.
Belichick vs. The World is back.
Did you notice the report from NFL Media’s Mike Giardi last week about Julian Edelman?
Giardi wrote on Twitter, “Asked one #Patriot about Julian Edelman's mindset this season. JE's been a regular at throwing sessions. ‘Julian is Julian. He hates excuses. He hates to lose. He's already got the red ass about this season. People thinking we're no good and (that) he's just a product of Brady.’"
Is there any doubt Belichick has stoked the flames of that Brady fire under Edelman’s ass?
Then on Tuesday, the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian had this nugget of insight Patriot great Rodney Harrison on the 2020 Belichick mindset: “It’s not just talk, not with the Patriots. It’s a chip you carry in the weight room, you carry in the film room, in the dining room, you carry at home watching extra film, it’s a chip that motivates you. It’s motivating for people to say you can’t win without Brady. I know I would be pissed. ... So these guys are going to be motivated, pumped up and ready to go.”
The chips are right now being firmly placed on players’ shoulders, as Belichick pushes his chips to the middle in an effort at winning the immortal Belichick vs. Brady debate.
This all brings back memories of the 2001 season, where Belichick famously dropped a literal anchor in the middle of the locker room to symbolize the dead weight the Pats had been carrying during the previous 5-11 campaign.
Come this fall, wax figurines of Brady and Rob Gronkowski might well be anchored to the Gillette locker room floor. Nasty articles, even obscure ones like The Score in Canada ranking the Pats QB group dead last in the NFL will be waiting in Foxboro for players upon arrival.
A prove-the-doubters-wrong season is on its way.
Former Pats tackle Matt Light agreed as well recently on NFL Network: “Are they going to have motivation to go out there and prove they can win without Tom Brady? Yeah, they’ll use this.”
Now sure, 2001 and 2020 are not complete parallels. In ‘01, Belichick decided on a complete roster overhaul and dealt with calls for his job while the team was thought a league doormat after an 0-2 start. It’s much more peaceful entering ‘20, with the roster still to be littered with champions and the team expected to win at least eight games and be in the AFC East title mix.
But the 2020 hindsight at underdog sentiment is nevertheless within Belichick’s grasp, and it is now clear he’s going to embrace it. Caress it. Love it like it’s lacrosse, the Naval Academy, or a strong-legged punter.
We’ve seen this from Belichick in other years as well. In 2010, Belichick had pictures taken down at Gillette and a fresh coat of paint applied in a write-your-own-history approach. He’s a master at re-focusing.
Galvanizing is in Belichick’s blood. And I’m sure he loves the opportunity to build again without wondering what Brady drama is around the next media corner, or what new player Brady is stealing away from his weight room to Alex Guerrero’s facility.
This is Belichick’s team, top to bottom, and he’s going to rebuild it his way, with his mindset. And with every new Brady ‘Tompa Bay’ photoshoot that drops, more fans will rally around the loveable Belichick narrative he is spinning.
Are they good enough on the field? Who knows, but the coach is doing all he can with the intangibles and even I have to marvel at the web being weaved.
Belichick is taking New England back to the future. In 2020 we’ll find out if he’s built enough mental road for them to get the DeLorean past 8-8.