Bill Belichick is a “Ken.”
So is Robert Kraft.
“Barbie” took in more than $1 billion this summer. The “girl power” flick was powered by a script recycled from pick-your-favorite-1970-something episode of “Maude.” It portrayed the struggles of women suffering under the iron-fist of a male-dominated patriarchy with fun, flair, color, a plush wardrobe, and nifty visuals.
Having been married for 34 years come November, the concept of a patriarchy carries as much relevance to me as the latest dining trends in Kyrgyzstan. Yet “Barbie” was immensely popular and packed theatres. Nicole Kidman can go home now.
“Ken,” played by a very chiseled Ryan Gosling, was a clueless sort who thought the world revolved around his whims and needs.
“Ken” is the type of guy born on 1st-and-goal at the 1 and thinks he drove the first 99 yards himself.
“Ken” would believe he won 6 Super Bowls because of coaching acumen. He would deem his skillful stewardship of the Patriots franchise as the key factor that delivered a Score of Success © in New England. “Ken’s” pernicious ways with the NFL’s salary cap and “cash spending” would be – in his mind – the most essential ingredient in stitching those six banners that adorn Gillette Stadium’s north end zone.
The delusion of “Ken” has dominated Foxboro since Tom Brady – our Margot Robbie – left Massachusetts for Hurricane Alley and other points West and South.
Bill Belichick reached peak “Ken” during his weekly sponsored appearance on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” the other day. The coach/GM/Hoodie/genius was asked about the Patriots being ranked 31st in NFL in cash spending and their overall spending habits. For 2024, the Pats rank dead last in cash spending, also according to OverTheCap.
“Are the Patriots cheap?” was the question, at least in theory.
“Ken’s” answer, to summarize, was “no.”
“Cash spending isn’t really that relevant. It’s cap spending,” Belichick said. “We spend to the salary cap. That’s what’s important.”
Belichick takes the arrows for the fate of the Patriots. But he does not control the checkbook. That responsibility belongs to Kraft. In the same way that John Henry has put the handcuffs on the Red Sox when it comes to spending on legitimate starting pitching.
The salary cap is fluid. According to the NFL collective bargaining agreement, salary cap penalties are assessed against a three-year average. Money can be moved in the moment to meet an immediate need.
Belichick admits teams can spend aggressively in terms of cash, for now.
“You can’t sustain the 20 years of success that we sustained by overspending every year without having to eventually pay those bills and play with a lesser team. So I think if you look at the teams that have done that, that’s kinda where some of them ended up. Jacksonville back in ‘14, the Rams are going through it, Tampa is going through it now. So, I’m not saying there’s anything right or wrong with it. It’s just a different way of doing things and there’s the results for doing that.”
That’s no excuse for why the team is $16 million under the cap this season with a roster bereft of offensive skill, strength, and talent.
Did anyone else notice the key element missing here?
Brady was the best salary cap shield in the history of organized sports. Any “Ken” could work salary cap magic with Brady at quarterback. Especially when Brady was willing to restructure his deal whenever it was necessary to accommodate another request.
Yes, Brady got paid. But not nearly as well as others at his position. And the timing of his checks never mattered.
We still don’t know the full scale of what the Patriots lost by not keeping Brady in the fold until he “sucked.” In much the same way we are still learning the long-term effects of COVID-lockdowns that needlessly curtailed medical care, education, and commerce.
It is also laughable for Belichick to cite the Rams and Buccaneers as “lesser” teams.
Once upon a time, winning Super Bowls mattered on Route 1.
The Buccaneers won a Super Bowl by going “all-in” with Brady. Not including the Super Bowl, the Buccaneers have played host to three playoff games in the past three years.
Kraft has never met a home playoff game, or a home playoff gate, he didn’t like.
The Rams also won a Super Bowl by going “all-in.” They even beat Brady (in the playoffs) to do it. Neither Belichick nor Kraft has done that.
Both the Bucs and Rams won Super Bowls in their home stadiums.
The Patriots have not won a playoff game home or away in nearly five years.
It remains their longest run without a postseason victory since 1996.
The preferred narrative is that the Rams and Bucs are beyond redemption, but the Patriots are in a happy place.
The 2023 projected over/under win total for each team is 6.5. Prices vary by sportsbook.
All three are ridiculous longshots to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots odds to make the playoffs (+245) are marginally better than the Rams’ (+310). The Patriots are +800 to win the AFC East, while the Rams are +1000 for the NFC West and the Buccaneers are +1000 in the NFC South.
In terms of quarterbacks, Mac Jones and Matthew Stafford are a push on Mac’s best day. Baker Mayfield could do as well as Mac under Bill O’Brien’s tutelage. The Rams (Cooper Kupp, Cam Akers, Demarcus Robinson) and the Bucs (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin) are deeper at the key offensive skill positions than New England.
To suggest that the Patriots have done it “better” without Brady, and then to cite two teams that have won Super Bowls since Brady left New England, is “Ken” level clueless.
Even for the Patriots’ resident genius.
Bill Speros (@RealOBF and @BillSperos) can be reached at [email protected].
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