Here’s a little dream exercise that is definitely not about New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his star quarterback, Tom Brady. Any resemblance is purely coincidental.
So let’s just say you’re a famous three-time Super Bowl-winning head coach with a good-guy quarterback who has been the face of the franchise for 14 years. Everyone in your multi-state region wears this player’s #12 jersey. He’s so popular that he has become the one uncuttable player on your team.
Now let’s say that you have also been watching your quarterback’s skills deteriorate over the last few years. He can’t throw the long ball accurately. He’s missing receivers in more and more obvious ways. Perhaps you even have secret inside knowledge of decline, like maybe he’s never been quite the same since blowing out his knee a few years ago.
Now let’s further say that in the last few years this good-guy quarterback has become a wee bit uncoachable. He forces the ball to his favorite receivers at the expense of other options. He won’t give new receivers a break. He will ignore wide-open receivers if they aren’t within the precise six-square-inch spot where he expects them to be. (This is always explained as the receivers “lacking chemistry” with the QB.) He gets exasperated easily.
And let’s say that this aging but uncuttable team leader and fan favorite has said publicly that he wants to play four more years.
Finally let’s say that you, coach, have a reputation for being scheming and even Machiavellian.
How do you get yourself out of this fix?
One way to start would be to wait around until your famous offensive line guru retires after 30 years on the job. Replace him with a relative unknown who was fired by the New York Jets after just one year as their offensive line coach, and who spent last season on an AM radio station in South Carolina.
Next, surprise everyone by spending a high draft pick on a smart, efficient young quarterback from the Midwest who is almost a precise replica of your star quarterback from 15 years ago.
Next, shock everyone by trading the veteran left guard who is the soul of the team and has been described as your quarterback’s security blanket.
Next, make sure you have nobody at wide receiver who can get open. If necessary, cut one of your two heralded 2013 draft picks, then inexplicably bench the other one for most games. If a free-agent receiver accidentally proves to be good, bench him too. Keep five running backs and only three receivers on the game-day roster.
Next, begin shuffling your offensive line in a bizarre manner during games. Try three different people at center. Play six different line combinations in one game. As they get more confused and ineffective, shuffle them around even more.
Finally — and this is the biggie — hope nobody remembers how your current star quarterback got his job: he took over after the previous face-of-the-franchise quarterback got injured and nearly killed while scrambling out of a collapsing pocket.
So with your veteran left guard gone, the offensive line a shambles, and no competent receivers at hand, all you have to do now is simply call for pass after pass after pass. Repeat until you get the desired result. Should take only five or six games until that “accident” happens and your star QB goes down for good, right?
Then you bring in the new young quarterback and he takes the old guy’s job, just like it happened in 2001. Then you can stop monkeying with the offensive line, put your good receivers back in the game, and move ahead with nobody the wiser.
Lucky this is just a fictional story. Surely a real coach like Bill Belichick wouldn’t be that Machiavellian… right?