Felger & Mazz

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As we start anew, let’s make this simple. Weeks ago, Bill Belichick told us he did not want to trade quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. When the Patriots nonetheless elected to do so, they did not merely endorse Tom Brady for the foreseeable future.

They also ignored one of the fundamental tenets on which the Patriot Way has been built.

Before you get your back up, particularly if you’re a Patriots Honk who merely rubber-stamps everything the team does, please stop to recognize the conflicting forces in the Brady-Garoppolo story. For years, the Patriots (and their fans) have preached the benefit of the long term, of moving on from a player a year too early versus a year too late, of the whole instead of the parts. You defended the trading of Richard Seymour because, simply, In Bill You Trust. You did the same with Logan Mankins. And Vince Wilfork. And Adam Vinatieri. And Ty Law. Always, always, always … the Patriots made the smart, hard, long-term decisions that no other organization was willing to make.

That’s why they’re the Patriots. That’s why they win. That’s why they have sustained a run of greatness like perhaps no other team in NFL history.

The problem?

When it came time to apply that same philosophy to the most important position on the field, the Patriots did not merely balk. They caved. They gave in to Tom Brady, forgoing Garoppolo, choosing the short term over the long in what might be the biggest personnel decision of the Bill Belichick Era.

Again, let’s slow down here and back up for a second. There is no way to know for certain what went on behind the scenes in the power struggle involving Brady, Belichick, Garoppolo and the Kraft Family. Forget, too, whether you think Garoppolo can play or not. What we know is that Bill Belichick believed in Garoppolo and wanted to keep him, and his hand was likely forced by an owner who stood behind his quarterback instead of his coach.

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In the past, when Belichick has made this sort of decision, you have defended him. In Bill We Trust. You, in fact, have argued time and time again that Belichick has never really been haunted by a personnel decision. (This is, of course, untrue, as both the Seymour and Vinatieri decisions, not to mention cornerback Asante Samuel, affected the Patriots negatively in varying degrees.) Now Belichick wanted to make a similar move, and there are those who want to laud Kraft for standing in the way.

For a quick moment, let’s just talk about you. If you defended the Pats when they ushered so many other players out the door, then fine. That is your prerogative. But shouldn’t you have been seeking the same fate for Brady? You either believe in the system or you don’t. You either believe in loyalty or you don’t. If you pick and choose on a case-by-case basis, well, you’re merely a Patriots honk who supports every decision the team makes. Which is fine. But accept the cost.

Now the bigger issue, which concerns the myth that is the “Patriot Way.” How is that the Patriots can so frequently preach long-term roster management, then spit in the face of that philosophy when it comes to the most important position on the field – maybe the most important position in all of sports? Sure, the “Patriot Way” works when you’re talking about defensive linemen, offensive guards, even kickers. But when it’s the quarterback, the philosophy goes out the window? That makes no sense. The approach should be more important as you move up the football food chain. Otherwise, it’s really not a philosophy at all.

What happens from here? Heaven knows. Maybe Belichick finds the next Garoppolo and maybe he doesn’t. Maybe Brady for another 10 years. But in the interim, don’t delude yourself. Belichick had the successor to Brady in his hands and he gave him away – for a second-round pick, no less – and by doing so he disregarded one of the fundamental blocks on which the Patriots have been built.

And if you don’t believe that, I’m willing to bet Bill Belichick does.

Co-host of afternoon drive from 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Tony Massarotti is a lifelong Bostonian who has been covering sports in Boston for the last two decades. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti