Jon Gruden is about to get $100 million to coach the Oakland Raiders and keep coaching them when they move to Las Vegas in a couple of years. And maybe you have to look at a crazy number like that, in light of the reports about current palace intrigue in Foxborough, Mass., with the Patriots and wonder what Bill Belichick would be worth on the open market, where Belichick sure isn’t for now but, who knows, maybe not forever.
You can also understand why there was the immediate suggestion — or pipe dream — around New York that the Giants should be in play for Belichick. After all, it was only 20 years ago that Bill Parcells was on his way out of Foxborough, and his job coaching for Patriots owner Robert Kraft, even when he had the Patriots on their way to a Super Bowl.
There was a ton of palace intrigue then, with what turned out to be rather historic implications, because Parcells leaving the Patriots when he did and the way he did set off a chain of events that eventually put Belichick in Foxborough, where he got with Kraft and got with Tom Brady and produced a dynasty in the modern world of the NFL that will likely never be matched.
Parcells went to the Jets. Belichick became his genius top sergeant, same as he was when Parcells coached the Giants. Kraft replaced Parcells with Pete Carroll, whose record with the Patriots over three years was 27-21. Not bad. Not good enough. Carroll had also coached the Jets once. Maybe you’re detecting a pattern. The Jets seem to lead the league in Super Bowl coaches who never actually coach them to the Super Bowl.
Parcells stepped down as Jets coach. The line of succession was set up for Belichick to take over. Except he only became the “HC” of the “NYJ” — as he famously said at the time — for a day, and before he was on his way to Foxborough and into history. Nobody will ever know for sure what happened when Belichick decided he wasn’t going to coach the Jets because he saw a better opportunity with the Patriots (I wrote at the time that it was a way for him to get out from under Parcells’ shadow once and for all).
But somehow Robert Kraft, in a move that changed everything in New England even before the Patriots drafted Tom Brady, got to Belichick. Kraft clearly let Bill Belichick know that he, Kraft, was not just willing to turn over the store to him, but willing to pay whatever it took — and he did pay with draft choices — to get Belichick out of Jersey.
So the Jets did it to the Patriots once with Parcells. Later the Patriots did it to the Jets with Belichick, who went to New England and only became the greatest pro football coach of all time. You can see why so many around here have jumped, and real high, at the idea of the Giants making some kind of play for Belichick.
It would have brought a lot of things full circle, especially the time Parcells was explaining leaving the Patriots with one more famous line from him:
“It’s just like a friend of mine told me: ‘If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.’ ”
The guy once known as the Big Tuna became the Big Get with the Jets, and before not too very long had the Jets in the lead at halftime of an AFC championship game before they lost to the Broncos. Then Vinny Testaverde got hurt in the opener the next year, and Parcells wasn’t going to take the Jets to the Super Bowl the way he had the Giants and Patriots.
Then Belichick left the Jets and became the Big Get for the Patriots (I know, all this remembering can make you lightheaded). And now, all this time later, and no matter what might ever happen with the Giants, there has to at least be a part of Belichick, even as he may be on his way to his 8th Super Bowl for Kraft and with Brady, wondering what he’s worth if a guy who won his one and only Super Bowl 14 years ago and has been in a television booth for the past eight years is worth $100 million to another NFL team.
All anybody knows for sure if they’ve read Seth Wickersham’s piece about all the drama in Foxborough is that the central assertion of the piece, one Kraft has now emphatically denied to Peter King at The MMQB, is that Belichick was forced to make a bad deal with backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (a second-round pick for someone who is already a transformational player with the 49ers) because Brady didn’t much want Garoppolo around any longer.
For someone as brilliant as Belichick, someone always playing the long game, the deal still makes absolutely no sense, even if Kraft says it was all Belichick’s idea. But if you believe ESPN and believe that Belichick didn’t want to make that deal, then something else has come full circle with the Patriots:
The guy who replaced Parcells three years after Parcells left the Patriots for the Jets, the guy who left the Jets for the Patriots, might not think he’s still getting to pick out all the groceries in Foxboro.
Now people want the Giants to bring back Bill. Hey, it would be the biggest thing around here since the Knicks brought back Phil.