Ratto: Newton's Fourth Law, as told by Bill Belichick

On the Pats’ signing of the erstwhile MVP

Ray Ratto
June 29, 2020 - 2:13 pm
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Bill Belichick is being hailed as a genius yet again, this time for signing Cam Newton months after anyone else could have, which is an odd way to define genius. I mean, if you come on the third of a flea market and find a bargain, does that make you smart, or lucky?

To be fair, Newton is by any standard better than a flea-market-quality quarterback, but the National Football League still can't get over being hinky about quarterbacks who often run. They still prefer the long-term stability of the guy who stays relatively within the safety of the pocket while being fascinated by the short-term gains of the Lamar Jacksons of the world, and before him Russell Wilson and, yes, Cam Newton.

Also, Colin Kaepernick, but that's an entirely different traincar full of political worms, or haven't you noticed the deafening sound of crickets that followed Roger Goodell's endorsement of him?

Frankly, Kaepernick would be a semi-ideal backup for Newton stylistically, and it would be the kind of thing that would brand Belichick as the scowlier version of Wile E. Coyote, Soooooooper Genius. I mean, if it's that easy to be pilloried for losing Tom Brady, there's no reason why he can't be festooned with other dukedoms and principalities for this, right?

But that's the funny thing about reputations; once the people who bestow someone with a rep, it remains theirs as a default position because nobody really wants to go to the trouble of rethinking a position. Belichick being hailed as a mastermind because he found something nobody else wanted may be a lot of things, but genius it isn't. Not yet. After all, what if Newton isn't the Newton of six years ago? What if this actually isn't genius but a calculated gamble by a guy whose alternative is Jarrett Stidham? What if he doesn't see magic in Newton but insurance? Why if he loved Newton enough to sign him did he leave him sit on the market for so long?

What Belichick did with this signing was show that he is an elite pragmatist, which is different than being a genius. He found something other people had devalued and decided to roll the dice, knowing the potential loss would be minimal and the potential gain great.

Why does this matter? Because if Newton does well, the credit should properly be his first because he'll be the one who's actually done the deed. His will be the AAO (against all odds) comeback story, and the predictable ESPN 30 For 30 — unless NFL Network gets to it first, or Newton beats them both to it and markets his own Last Dance.

Maybe credit doesn't matter in the greater scheme, but if Cam Newton is revivified, the Belichick-is-a-genius narrative shouldn't come first. It will, but it shouldn't.

And if Newton is actually done, Belichick will still be credited for taking a chance while Newton will be slagged for not succeeding. Being a genius no matter what happens is nice work if you can get it. True gamblers, though, know that part of being a genius is actually cashing the ticket, and all that has happened here so far is that Belichick has laid down a bet. He'll be a genius when Newton is, and not before.

In that moment, the other 31 teams who couldn't be bothered can feel bad about themselves. Until then… well, I guess we'll wait and see if anyone wants to be a genius about Colin Kaepernick.

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