Patriots, Belichick Extend Crippling Streak of Mismanaging Assets With Stephon Gilmore Trade

Stephon Gilmore, who was named Defensive Player of the Year following the 2019-20 season, was dealt for a sixth-rounder on Wednesday

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Linda Holliday celebrate with Stephon Gilmore
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Linda Holliday celebrate winning the Super Bowl with Stephon Gilmore.
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty

As was clear from the defensive game he — and not his tongue-wagging son — called against Tom Brady and the Bucs on Sunday Night Football, Bill Belichick the football coach still has his fastball. But as was made resoundingly clear today, Bill Belichick the football general manager may need to hit the showers.

Belichick the coach had 2018 first-round running back Sony Michel, future Defensive Player of the Year cornerback Stephon Gilmore, future Hall-of-Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski and all-time NFL quarterback Tom Brady on the field playing for him in Super Bowl LIII in February of 2019, and all four players had key roles in the Patriots beating the Los Angeles Rams to win New England’s sixth championship. Now, in October of 2021, Belichick the GM has rid himself of all four of those players and has little in return to show for it.

Gilmore, who was given a raise prior to last season after being named Defensive Player of the Year following the 2019-20 season but started out this season on injured reserve with a dubious ailment related to a contract dispute, was traded to the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday for a sixth-round pick, a near-criminal return on investment.

The Gilmore deal comes a little more than a month after Belichick dealt Michel — who rushed for 94 yards on 18 carries and scored the only touchdown in that Super Bowl — to the Rams for a fifth and a sixth-round pick that could convert to a fourth-round pick. 

A little more than a year before that deal was made, Belichick traded Gronkowski and a seventh-round pick to Tampa Bay for a fourth-round pick. The reason Gronkowski wanted to go to Tampa was so he could reunite with his longtime quarterback Brady, who became a Buccaneer last summer after Belichick let him walk for nothing more than a compensatory pick in the third round that ended up being underwhelming defensive end Ronnie Perkins (who was inactive against the Bucs on Sunday night).

At this point, it’s only fair to say that the different circumstances behind the departures of Michel (underwhelming play heading into a contract year), Gilmore (wanted more money), Gronkowski (wouldn’t play for Belichick anymore) and Brady (wanted to be paid fairly and the team didn’t want to pay him at age 43) all played a role in the meager returns Belichick was able to get for them. But the fact remains that all the Patriots ended up losing a quartet of players that made up the core of a Super Bowl team in exchange for a sixth-round pick, a fifth and a sixth-round pick that could convert to a fourth-rounder, a fourth-round selection and third-rounder Perkins.

For any other GM, that type of criminal mismanagement of assets would cost them their job. Fortunately for Belichick, the Patriots can’t fire him as GM without losing him as a coach, and at least for now, that’s a trade-off the team is unwilling to make. But if Belichick continues to make losing trades, both the GM and coach may soon be finished.

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