Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Belichick Canard Strikes Back

I first mentioned the Belichick Canard last month.  In a nutshell the Belichick Canard is a unsubstantiated  belief that  Bill Belichick agrees with you asserted in support of your argument.  For example, Bedard stated that there was "no chance in hell" that Belichick would ever rely on his kicker to win a game.  When, in fact, Belichick won 2 Super Bowls on last second field goals.  And, in a third Super Bowl, he ran the ball three straight times and punted from the Eagles 35  with a minute remaining (rather than being the Agressive-Imanginary-Belichick-That-So-Obviously-Would-Have-Gone-For-The-TD-To-Put-The-Game-Out-Of-Reach-Duh).

 Silverstein brushed the Belichick Canard off this weekend to support the Veteran Leadership Theory of the 2008 Packer season.

Bill Belichick always seems to have a certain number of veteran players on his roster who are past their prime but still offer a lot of leadership, guys like Rodney Harrison, Troy Brown and Junior Seau.

On the other hand, Bill Belichick's greatest and most bold coaching move of his entire career (and it isn't even close) was jettisoning his 10-year veteran, 3 time Pro Bowl QB with Super Bowl experience in favor of a second-year sixth round draft pick.  And that's the beauty (and worthlessness) of the Belichick Canard: you can use it to support whatever point you want to make.  Silverstein uses it to show how important veteran leadership is.  I use it to show how overrated veteran leadership is.  Which one of us is correct?  Neither.  It's a stupid argument.

Go ahead and look at New England's Super Bowl winning rosters here, here, and here.  You can find examples of older players on the roster, but color me underwhelmed.  Now, in recent years you can find a lot more examples of oldtimers on Belichick's teams, for example the aforementioned Seau and Harrison.  But you know what you won't find on those teams?  A championship.

Personally, I think the 2007 Patriots are the prime example of why its bad to have too many past their prime players at key positions.  Over the first 10 games, the Patriots outscored their opponents by an average of 25 points (!) a game.  Over the last 6 games, the Patriots won by an average of 10 points a game.  Three of those six games were won by a field goal.  The Patriots also needed a couple very lucky bounces to keep their perfect record intact.  In short, the Patriots were very vulnerable towards the end of the season, and their loss to the Giants really wasn't that shocking. 

I personally think that what happened to the Patriots last year was the same thing that happened to Favre this year: they simply wore out.  I highly doubt that Belichick would not have preferred to have some players that were younger and better last year.  That is almost unfathomable to me.  But, we'll never know unless some asks him.

Lombardi is said to have ascribed to Branch Rickey's old adage that it's better to get rid of a player a year too soon than a year too late.  I think there is a lot to be said about that approach.



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