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NFL Open Thread: Has the Supergenius Turned SUPERGENIUS?

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I alluded to it earlier this week, but the exile of Jamie Collins to the shores of Lake Erie is a fascinating trade. On the surface, it doesn’t make much sense. A veteran team with a 39 year-old QB needs to be maximizing its short-term results. (Brady is playing so unprecedentedly well at his age that it’s hard to know what his aging curve is, but I’d note that Peyton Manning went from having one of the better seasons in NFL history to being literally sub-replacement-level in 2 years. I don’t know when Brady will lose it, but as you start pushing 40 your value will eventually collapse very quickly.)  Collins is a good player and the Pats aren’t exactly stacked on defense. I agree that the trade is a combination of Belichick having no use for players who won’t do their job as the coaches define it and thinking that Collins is overrated on the field. This doesn’t mean he was right, and the trade could well be a mistake. If I were a Patriots fan would not so much be with this trade — in the contemporary NFL, even a good inside linebacker is pretty expendable, and if Belichick thinks he’s not as good as his reputation I’m not inclined to argue with him — as that it makes the Chandler Jones trade, which could really only be justified in future space cap concerns, look even worse. I’m not sure the Patriots will miss Collins much, but  Jones is another story.

While I think that Kelly’s analysis of the trade is reasonable, I did find this…odd:

On one hand, it’s hard to argue with Belichick’s track record of success: six Super Bowl appearances and four wins. The Seymour trade produced the pick that was used to select mainstay tackle Nate Solder, and the Patriots used picks acquired in the Jones trade to add offensive lineman Joe Thuney and receiver Malcolm Mitchell, two pieces for the future of the current team. On the other hand, you have to wonder if New England could have won a few more Super Bowls if not for the decisions to move on early from experienced, productive veterans.

In 2014, Law said that he believes Belichick’s personnel philosophy has cost the Patriots championships because, at times, they relied too heavily upon young, inexperienced replacements. And that should be the primary fear with the Collins trade: He hadn’t played at an All-Pro level thus far this season, but the drop-off to “the next man up” may end up proving to be a fatal blow to an already-struggling defense.

I dunno, I have to say that when I look at Belichick’s record with the Patriots my inclination is not to wonder how he could “only” have won 4 Super Bowls in a league engineered in many ways to produce parity. Leaving that aside, this is a really strange criticism of Belichick. In the draft and fee agency, his record is solid but he has plenty of whiffs like anybody else. His record at evaluating the players in front of him and knowing when to move on, though, is exceptionally good. In addition to the list above, one could add other recent examples like Wes Welker and — yikes! — Darelle Revis. As we’ve discussed before, his Stengelian ruthlessness about not letting loyalty to players who have helped him in the past cloud his judgment about what is best for the team now is one of the most important reasons that he’s put together one of the greatest records any American major pro sports coach has ever had. I don’t think the Collins trade was one of his better moves, but whatever you can criticize Belichick for saying he’s moves on from veterans too quickly really ain’t one of them.

On the other end of the organizational spectrum, let us consider the Bucs and Jags. In the most recent draft, the Buccaneers traded up to take a placekicker in the 2nd round. This would be an extraordinarily stupid allocation of resources if he was good, and it’s a catastrophe given that he’s the least effective kicker in the league.  The Bucs’ punter is Bryan Anger, who joined the team after four mediocre years with the Jaguars. The Jaguars, of course, drafted Anger in the 3rd round, four spots ahead of some short quarterback from Wisconsin — anybody know what happened to him? I guess he married a singer or something? Anyway, since the Jaguars have the King of Garbage Time as their quarterback now I’m sure they’ve never given it a second thought.

The lesson here is that good organizations know what they don’t know — they trade down, they accumulate lottery tickets, they know projecting prospects is a very inexact science even if you have good scouts and talent evaluators. Bad organizations think you can identify the once-in-a-decade punter or kicker who could justify a high draft pick ex ante. But you can’t.

 

 

 

 

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