Bill Belichick probably doesn’t care whether you agree with the reasoning behind the New England Patriots’ surprising decision to trade Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns, or instead find the whole thing rather preposterous. But with that said, Skip Bayless and the "Undisputed" crew know one thing: Even the most successful coach in NFL history is open to criticism.
FOX Sports NFL insider and former Patriots front-office employee Michael Lombardi joined FS1 on Friday to talk Belichick, the Patriots, and much more. Skip shared his perspective:
"Yes, it is fair [to question Belichick], but I preface this by qualifying, or disqualifying myself. I’m a much bigger Brady fan than I am a Belichick fan, as Shannon (Sharpe) knows. We can talk for days about the whys or why nots of getting rid of Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins. Bottom line, all I know is that the two most-talented players on last year’s defense are now not on this year’s defense. Is that fair to say? And all I know for sure is that Jonathan Cooper, whom Bill got back from Arizona [in the Jones trade], did not work out. …"
Lombardi responded that in that trade, the Patriots also received the draft pick that became starting guard Joe Thuney, which Skip conceded. The larger point for Skip is that Belichick’s general coaching and decision-making stand to be called into question:
"But what I don’t get and what I cannot forgive Bill for — what I cannot fathom — is what happened last year in the final two regular-season games. I haven’t gotten over those, so maybe you can talk me through these. But against the Jets, remember, at the Jets last year, Tom Brady leads a 66-yard, 11-play drive … to tie the score at 20 with 1:55 left, which leads to overtime, during which — the coin goes up, Patriots win the coin toss, and Bill decides to defer.
"And I’m sitting in my living room thinking, ‘Wait a second. You have No. 12 on your side, and you just gave the ball to the other team?’ I get it, it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick … but for once, Ryan Fitzpatrick goes five plays, 80 yards, boom, boom, boom, 6 yards to Eric Decker, game over. And I was just dumbfounded by it, which led to the final game, which was at Miami last year."
Skip goes on to criticize Belichick for his game plan in that season finale, which in his mind cost the Patriots home-field advantage in the playoffs — and the AFC Championship.
"So it’s hard for me to defend Bill on those two counts, even though I get your points on the two counts of Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins."
Lombardi, who was working for the Patriots at the time of those games, explained why Belichick made the decision to defer in overtime and pointed to injuries against Miami for the game plan, noting that Brady nearly suffered a major injury in Week 17:
"Where people miss the boat on Bill often, and this is not because he said wonderful things about me … but this is from the Bill that I know from 1991, the minute he walked in the Cleveland Browns offices. Bill makes no decision based on his own ego. … So when he makes a decision with Jamie Collins, it is truly what he believes to be in the best interest of the team. And Jamie, for all the rhetoric that has gone around, when you really study what was going on on the field, they were not producing."
The knee-jerk reaction is that Belichick hasn’t lost his touch, but consider the nuanced take. As one of the game’s best ever, the Hoodied One could be off his game and still remain an outstanding coach — he just wouldn’t be at the same elite level he’d established for himself and his team.
And if you’re wondering why the Collins trade might have made sense in the first place, check out Lombardi’s explanation below: