Wednesday, September 09, 2009

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Imagine the conversation.

Bill: Richard, can you please step into my office?
Richard: Sure, coach. What's up?
Bill: Have a seat. We've traded you to Oakland.
Richard: Whaa....
Bill: You've done a bang up job here with the Patriots, don't get me wrong. But the opportunity came up to fleece them again and I couldn't resist.
Richard: Wait. Please. Hold on a minute. Let's not do anything rash.
Bill: They gave us an unconditional first round pick in 2011. Thanks for the hard work but you need to go pack your things. Tom Cable should be giving you a call.
Richard: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Talk about a worst possible landing spot for a good guy - at least a year in the 9th circle of Hell, given it's the last year of his contract (due $3.7 million, by the way). Of course, lots of upside opportunity (read: no place to go but up) there but Oakland is sure to win at most 7 games? 6? the Patriots a high pick. I think Belichick has stones the size of... a football field. A quote from Belichick on day two of Seymour not yet reporting to Raiders' camp:

"There's a lot of things that Richard did well," Belichick said in his first remarks since Sunday's written statement announcing the trade for Oakland's first-round draft pick in 2011, "but that's the way it is and we're moving forward and our team's moving forward."

Wow. A smart move, in my opinion, on a big name before the last year of a big contract. Short term it hurts the Patriots, but I really like this move long term. I think very few coaches would make a move like this, yet Belichick has made these moves an art form. What say you?

photo credit: pkeleher via flickr


Tim Walker said...

One of the hardest things to do in management -- and sports -- is to make the smart move regardless of fallout. Belichick, though he's not perfect, is a master of making these moves.

I have a hard time imagining that 3-man front without Seymour, but I like your analysis of the shrewdness of this deal.

Aaron_Strout said...

Adam - great post and amen to you for keeping the flame alive.

1) totally agree that this move took stones to execute
2) it will ultimately be a great move for the Pats (who knows, they may end up getting Seymour back in free agency)
3) it does hurt them defensively in the short term. i'm a little nervous that the Pats may have to score 4+ TDs /game to overcome their LB/DL deficiencies.

With that said, it's amazing the confidence that 8 straight seasons of 9+ wins, 3 Superbowls and 6 playoff appearances can make.

Jim Storer said...

I had an MBA professor that liked to interrupt and say "the long term starts today!" when someone tried to talk about how they made a decision for the long term.

I'll bet they had conversations with Seymour about signing a 2-3 year "local discount" deal, but he wanted to test the open market (rightfully so). So the long term started when he gave that answer and the Patriots made the decision they've been known to in that situation situation... take value vs letting someone walk for nothing.

I'm left wondering how much this will hurt a defense that's already lost quite a bit of leadership since last year (Vrabel, Bruschi). It's safe to say Belichik will be spending a lot more time with the defense this year than he did in '08.

adamcohen said...

Jim - don't forget Harrison too. Big leadership needed from Wilfork and the remaining guys to fill the void. No doubt this hurts this year, especially if injuries start to take more defensive tolls.

Aaron - I like your thinking on resigning as a free agent next year, but we have 16 (+, hopefully) to get through this year first.

Separate topic - saw the Bruschi will be a football analyst for ESPN this year - while he's no Boomer I think he'll be great.

Jim Storer said...

@adam... yep Harrison came to mind just after I hit submit. I figured (correctly) one of you guys would add him soon.

Would rather see Tedy as an asst coach for the Pats (esp given the Seymour trade), but ESPN analyst is a pretty sweet gig.

Kyle Flaherty said...

The reason fans make horrible GMs is because they get emotional about a person and forget the fact that these are assets meant to make a team better. Perhaps that is cold, but Belichick is putting into place the ability to compete as a team after the new collective bargaining agreement. I'm not sure why the CBA discussion is not coming up more because you are going to have a year without a salary cap and then a year with a new structure. That latter year the Patriots will have two first round picks, three second round picks and five third round picks. What this means is that Belichick can trade picks for talent if the CBA trends towards the old cap or draft young talent if the CBA is structured completely different.

Next is the fact that Seymour is in the last year of his contract and from what I'm reading was not planning on resigning. Let's assume he was going to give the Pats a fair do you then resign Brady and Wilfork?

Item #3...remember who sat out of camp in a stink during a contract negotiation, the exact opposite of what Wilfork is going right now? Oh right, Seymour. You think Belichick and Kraft don't remember those actions?

Belichick is willing to give up a potential Super Bowl run in 2009 to ensure that he has a competitive team through 2015. That is terrific management and what we should look for out of any CEO at any level.

Finally, although this hurts the Pats now, I don't think the impact is as bad as one may think. They are looking to play five LBs a lot this season and with Bruschi gone they have some sick talent. Don't be surprised if you see a 3-5 scenario throughout the season with one of the LBs freelancing like Willie used to do back in the day.

This team still wins 12-13 games and is the favorite in the AFC, in 2009, 2010, 2011....


adamcohen said...

Amen Kyle. Agree with everything you said, but I have to say I still feel bad for Seymour. Could it be any worse than going to Oakland?

Derek Peplau said...

I'm not as invested in the Patriots as I suspect the rest of you are (not many Pats games on TV in CT when I was growing up, so I lay no claim to that fan legacy). However, Kyle is right: fans are too invested in the person and not in the cold realities of the moves a team needs to make. The Red Sox, one could argue have been somewhat beholden to this (Varitek & Lowell being two recent examples where PR has probably played a role in those signings to some degree).

One of the things which Belichick seems to excel at is remaining objective in an almost robotic fashion. Seymour's a popular player no doubt, but the degree to which Bill cares about that can't even be charted. That needle is resting comfortably at zero and won't move anytime soon.

I wouldn't say Seymour was the 'face of the franchise', but it is reminiscent of shipping Nomar. Popular player, (somewhat more of a) malcontent, and forward looking. Both moves help the team and shock fans.

The difference is, I doubt very much Bill needed several vodka tonics to get to sleep that night like Theo says he did.

psalvitti said...

Seymour will be missed in the short-term; all star players, regardless of sport, leave a void initially. What will be interesting to see is how long that void remains, or "is allowed" to remain by the Patriot team leaders; that's the "unknown."

It does take guts to do what Bill does on an on-going basis and it's not enough to simply say "that's the business side of sports." There's a finesse aspect that underlies much of the personnel decisions that revolves around the "genetic" make-up of the team--ignore that "genetic" make-up and you'll likely to end up with a team that is no longer in contention (e.g., the Sox of my youth, recent Bruins teams 'cept last years' team, etc.)

That's where Bill's mastery of the history of football really begins to shine. We'll see though ... great post Adam!