The Billy Beane Theory of Chaos is at play in the NFL nowadays, helping explain a lot of the ugly we have seen so far this season.
Because whatever your particular NFL problem — Chiefs, Norv, Sanchez or Cowboys — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady almost assuredly has a hand in that blame. He has ruined NFL franchises. He has sold them hope, then watched as that fledgling spirit dies violently.
He has done this quite unintentionally, by being good, by being so good that NFL franchises were confused into thinking that it was the guys around him, not actually him, winning all of those games in New England.
The Billy Beane Theory of Chaos is based on this belief, very en vogue among my sportswriting peers at the moment, that for every amazing team or player, there has to be genius behind the genius. It had some merit with regard to Moneyball, Beane and MLB’s Oakland As. It has none with Brady.
What we have running amok in the NFL and its feeder system is a bunch of Brady Mommas, guys who got rich from simply being around him.
As it turns out, Brady is that good. He and coach Bill Belichick are why the Patriots have been so good for so long. This does not qualify as earth-shattering or soul-crushing news unless, of course, you are the Kansas City Chiefs (or more succinctly, their fans) and you bought into this idea that Scott Pioli was really why New England won, was the genius behind the genius and was going to bring "The Patriot Way" to KC once he was hired as general manager.
Pioli eventually hired Romeo Crennel, another “Patriot Way” guy, after the GM’s Todd Haley coaching experiment failed. Crennel excelled as defensive coordinator in New England. And while not technically a “Brady Momma,” his rep certainly benefitted from his work. Calling defenses is a lot easier with a Brady-provided lead.
About 40 miles to the west of KC sits another “Brady Momma” in Charlie Weis. He is the first-year head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks, after previously being coach of Notre Dame. What both are learning is Weis’ "schematic advantage" is decidedly moreso when Brady is running his plays.
It has gone so far south for the once highly sought offensive genius that he has taken to fighting the school’s student newspaper because it had a mean cartoon and a truthful column about his terribly awful football team.
Somewhere, Belichick has to be thinking, “C’mon, Charlie, really?”
This is not to say these were not good coaches or maybe are still. It is a “buyer beware” because as Josh McDaniels learned in Denver and Denver learned about Josh McDaniels, being around genius is quite different than being a genius. He looks a lot smarter since returning to New England, once again coaching Brady.
The flaw in the plan is there is no "Patriot Way." The secret is Brady.
I remember being in Jacksonville for what was and remains the worst Super Bowl experience ever and listening to Pioli with a crowd, actually a big crowd, of sportswriters. We were crammed into a ballroom of a nondescript hotel (in what I am now sure was actually Georgia) and listening as he explained how he had built New England into a champion. It was not his fault. He was simply answering the questions asked. There did come a moment, though, when I wanted to ask, “Wait, isn’t this about Brady?” I did not, though, and I am pretty sure I wrote that Scott Pioli is a genius like everybody else.
And he had a pretty good record of finding gems, churning his roster and building a team. What he seemed to forget, at some point, was a lot of his success was predicated on a sixth-round draft pick named Brady. That guy made everything else work, got everybody rich, turned Pioli and Weis and Crennel into highly sought hires.
This is how Pioli ended up in KC, where he has proven himself not to be a genius or really even very good at his job. This is his fault, kind of, insomuch as he has been unable to land himself another Brady.
Nothing can take away from Pioli’s obvious role in all of those Super Bowl rings and years of success in New England. He played a part for sure. As we watch this ugly train wreck go down in Kansas City, let us also remember the absurd amount of luck that came in finding Brady.
And how in the end, the biggest asset for Pioli, Weis, McDaniels, et al, was being associated with Brady. And that does not win in the NFL unless you can bring him with you.