The classic motto, “In Bill We Trust,” is about to face its biggest challenge yet as Bill Belichick the New England Patriots GM decides on Tom Brady.
There’s been a popular maxim in New England for about two decades now: “In Bill We Trust.”
Quite simply, it means that no matter how good or bad a job we as fans think Bill Belichick is doing as head coach and de facto general manager of the Patriots, we need to trust that he knows exactly what he’s doing.
After all, he’s the third-winningest head coach of all-time at this point, trailing only Don Shula and George Halas. He has more Super Bowl rings than anyone else on earth, and he’s widely regarded as the greatest head coach in NFL history.
Here’s the thing though — no one ever really disputes Belichick’s coaching decisions. For every questionable call he’s made from the sideline (the failed 4th-and-2 against Indianapolis immediately comes to mind), there’s an equally monumental stroke of genius on the other end of the spectrum (his decision not to burn any timeouts at the end of Super Bowl 49, for example).
Belichick’s record as a football executive, however, is a little less cut-and-dry. He surely deserves to be commended for drafting a slew of exceptional players during his time, including Deion Branch, Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and — of course — Tom Brady.
He’s also swung and struck out on a number of players though, too. Notably almost every single wide receiver Belichick has ever selected has flamed out eventually (with Branch and Edelman really being the only major exceptions … and maybe David Givens).
Belichick has also become a bit of a polarizing figure as a GM when it comes to deciding when is the right time to move on from players. Some people think he’s a genius who knows exactly when it’s time to let go of someone, a year or two before their inevitable decline. Others think he’s a cheap tightwad who won’t suffer any egos in the building other than his own.
Somewhere in the midst of all this is the truth. By and large, Belichick has earned the right to do whatever he wants with the roster though. That’s what happens when you take over a perennial loser in the NFL and transform them into the greatest dynasty the sports world has ever seen.
But even for a guy like Belichick with the world’s longest, slackest leash, the next few weeks should be interesting. If ever there was a player who could break the mold and somehow survive Belichick’s ruthlessness when it comes to treating football like a business and nothing more, it’s Tom Brady.
The argument may never be resolved as to whether Belichick or Brady is more responsible for making the Patriots the Patriots. What we do know, though, is that team owner Robert Kraft reportedly had to step in a few years ago and nix a succession plan that would have had Jimmy Garoppolo starting for New England the last couple seasons instead of Brady.
Kraft has pledged not to interfere this time around with Brady’s impending free agency. While he has repeatedly referred to Brady as a second son over the years — and he’s also made it quite clear that he wants TB12 back in a Patriots uniform in 2020 and beyond — he’s also at least publicly decreed that he’s going to let Belichick ultimately make the decision whether or not Brady remains a Patriots.
Obviously, Brady is going to have quite a bit of say in all this, too — especially if he hits free agency on March 18. He’ll have no shortage of suitors willing to welcome him with open arms and pocketbooks, and you can make a pretty compelling argument that a great many other teams have better offensive complementary personnel around their quarterback position right now than the Patriots do.
Ultimately though, the decision of just how much the Patriots are willing to extend to Brady in terms of contract years, contract total earnings, guaranteed money, etc., it’s all going to fall on Belichick’s shoulders. He’s going to have to decide whether the time is right to move on from the greatest quarterback of all time, or whether it’s in the best interests of the Patriots to pony up and ride out with Brady for one last rodeo.
Hopefully, Belichick will make the correct choice. This is the ultimate test of the whole “In Bill We Trust” creed and dogma. Only time will tell if he passes or fails that test — or more accurately, if we as fans were right or wrong to believe in those words.