If you're looking for cost-effective moves, how about a free one?
Learning from your mistakes costs nothing. Nada. Zilch. It's as free as sunlight, air and hope.
But, more and more frequently, it seems like Belichick won't learn from his team's major playoff losses. It seems like he's still playing chess.
Sure, he won three titles playing some chess in New England. But at the time, he had guys like Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel, Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, Matt Light, Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison moving those chess pieces. It's easy to be cerebral when you have nightmarish mad dogs who inspire mental dread and physical fear in everyone they come into contact with on the field.
But those mad dogs are long gone.
Sure, this team still wreaks havoc in the regular season, while other teams are finding their identities. But when the postseason hits, the Patriots stay cerebral while the other teams get desperate, audacious and aggressive.
The real problem is, too many teams have seen the Patriots crumble in too many big games. There's no myth left over from the dynasty years; all that magic dust is gone. Without that myth, without that magic dust, there's no armor. They don't intimidate anybody in the playoffs anymore. Some rival players even trash-talk the Patriots because there's such a lack of intimidation there.
In a recent ESPN video, analyst Trent Dilfer explained his perspective on what the Patriots need in order to break their alarming trend of losing big playoff games:
"[They need] the recognition that they're no longer that team that always has the highest football IQ in big situational moments. You go to the Seattle game and how they lost that game...the first time the Ravens came back to them...and in the AFC Championship Game...I don't see them as mentally sharp as they've been in years past. I think that can be addressed through coaching."
There's a lot of truth to Dilfer's point. The Patriots seem to be a team that feels it can win big situations with its football IQ. But what the Pats fail to realize is that a lot of other teams have caught up; those teams have studied the Patriots' methods for success, and those teams have gotten wiser and stronger themselves.
Teams like the Giants, 49ers, Ravens and Seahawks combine football IQ with football muscle. John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh play chess, just like Belichick, except they have the dangerous and daring mad dogs to help move the chess pieces.
In addition to being daring and dangerous, it's also about being hungry to win and hungry to validate the chip on one's shoulder. Flacco and Colin Kaepernick are hungry to do both, just as Eli Manning was hungry and Brady was hungry. Hunger propels fearless men to new heights. The most cost-effective move the Patriots can make over the offseason is to re-discover their hunger.
The Patriots need to stop this trend of losing playoff games to tougher teams who want it more. They need to ease up on the finesse. Enough IQ. They need to get mean, demented and snarly. Then, when their muscle finally catches up to their heads, they can start playing a little chess again.
That's a significant cost-effective move that won't cost them a dime.