The world of sports currently exists in a state of chaos. The last month, as well as the following weeks, represent what I like to refer to as the “Trade Equinox,” a time of madness that combines the precursor to the NFL draft, the weeks leading up to the MLB’s Opening Day and the trade deadlines for both the NBA and the NHL. This is why there is no better time than now to begin what I hope will be a series of articles where I filter all of this madness and ask a simple question, “What If?” So join me as I guide you through the endless possibilities that the sports world has to offer.
What if Tom Brady isn’t better without Belichick? The NFL has been buzzing about whether or not the 42-year-old superstar will return to New England next year. If he does, then there’s no story, some version of the Tom and Bill show will boot back up and produce at least a decent football team, probably not perfect, but decent. So, working under the assumption that Brady is packing his bags (as much of the evidence points to), what might happen? History would suggest he should be fine. Before Brady was the indisputable G.O.A.T., Peyton Manning did the same thing. He left his Super Bowl-winning Indianapolis team just to go make a Super Bowl-winning Denver team. How about Belichick? What does this story say about him? Well Manning left in 2012, but missed all of the 2011 season due to injury. That first year without Manning on the field, Jim Caldwell led the Colts to a whopping 2-14 record. Caldwell lost his job, lost his quarterback and spent the next four years averaging barely .500 with the Detroit Lions before ending up where he is now, the quarterbacks coach for the Miami Dolphins (coincidentally under ex-Patriot Brian Flores). Is this old Bill’s fate? Will he end up as lost and sunken as Jim Caldwell? Would Brady truly land on his feet without the New England powerhouse he’s used to? Or are they symbiotic? Maybe together Brady and Belichick can win six Super Bowls, but alone they’re just decent.
What about the draft? If you ask me, the truly wise decision for the first-pick Cincinnati Bengals to make would be to pass on Joe Burrow. That’s right, you heard me, I believe the Bengals are throwing away their shot at some generational talent in defensive end Chase Young, solely because they believe a good quarterback can solve all their problems. Well, it won’t — because they already have a good quarterback in Andy Dalton. The 32-year-old threw for his fourth highest career yard total last year and was one of the best pieces that sorry offense had. So “What If” the Bengals were smart? If Joe Burrow doesn’t go first overall it’s hard to say where he will go. The Redskins would be next on the clock and they’re likely to give Dwayne Haskins one year all to himself before they go shopping for replacements. How about the Detroit Lions? Matthew Stafford is one of the best (and highest paid) quarterbacks in the league. If the Lions intend to keep him, they would never roll the dice on Burrow. However, for a team that’s been basically trying to rebuild since 2014, putting Stafford on the market could go a long way, but I wouldn’t count on it. After the Lions are the Giants who, had they never gone double or nothing on Daniel Jones, would be willing to take Burrow in a heartbeat. They did and are now set with their “Quarterback of the Future.” Finally we land at the end of the line, the Miami Dolphins. A team that truly tried their best to ‘Blow for Burrow’ but just couldn’t get the job done. But maybe all hope is not lost for Miami. It’s only my opinion, but I fail to see its fault.
What if all of this does come to pass? What if the future of the NFL isn’t as secure as it seems? All it would take is a handful of Bengals front office members to completely change the draft. We could see Burrow on the Dolphins, or Stafford on the Chargers or even Dwayne Haskins on the Patriots. Only time will tell, but at the end of the day it’s all just a big “What If.”
Matthew Shimkonis is a first-year student majoring in history. MS925373@wcupa.edu