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Drafting Mallett might be one gamble Belichick regrets

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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NEW YORK -- The best coach I've ever seen is Bill Belichick. The best I'll likely ever see is Bill Belichick. In a sport where flaws are quickly exposed, and mistakes happen with great rapidity, Belichick the personnel man has made few. Until now.

Ryan Mallett is a Patriot. Chew on that for a moment. The Patriots have taken jackasses under their wing before: Randy Moss and Corey Dillon to name a couple. Moss was a quitter and a chump, but until late in his tenure with the Patriots Belichick kept him under control. Then Moss became Moss. He couldn't help himself.

Mallett is a bigger gamble. Mallett might turn out to be the biggest gamble of Belichick's career. I'm afraid it's a gamble Belichick is destined to lose and like Moss, at some point, we're going to see Mallett become Mallett.

I don't think Mallett can help it. I've met Mallett and also witnessed him live at the combine where he proceeded to act like he was God's gift to quarterbacking with the media. He did this knowing that everyone was watching, and still Mallett didn't care.

Mallett has first-round talent and a third-round head. The drug rumors, the attitude -- it's why he dropped in this draft like BP's stock after the Gulf spill. The Boston Globe reported that two league executives said Mallett admitted in pre-draft meetings to marijuana use. "We didn't believe him," one of those executives said.

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They didn't believe him meaning they didn't think he was telling them everything. Mallett was also arrested for public intoxication.

This is the part where the conspiracy theorists wonder why I like Cam Newton despite his troubled past, and not Mallett. Newton did make mistakes but there are three major differences between the two men. Newton's alleged stealing of a laptop and dismissal from the University of Florida were indeed problematic but in interviews with several personnel men, Newton seemed genuinely contrite about his mistakes. Mallett wasn't as convincing in his discussions with teams. Frankly, some of them just didn't think he was a good guy.

Second, Mallett's alleged drug issues may be simple, or they may not be. We don't know. As the Globe reported, some teams think they aren't.

Lastly, and most importantly, is where the two men were picked. Newton went first overall and Carolina's checking into Newton's background was so extensive the FBI would be proud. The fact Mallett fell into the third despite having perhaps the most pro-ready arm says a great deal. In fact, it says everything.

Belichick is gambling in numerous ways, one of the main ones being screwing with the head of his Hall of Fame thrower. Tom Brady will publicly be the good soldier but it's difficult to believe Brady will like this. The Patriots drafted Mallett to replace him despite Brady still likely having another five years left in football at a high level. Just what you need: Brady looking over his shoulder.

Part of me second-guesses myself mainly because it's Belichick drafting Mallett. Belichick has made personnel mistakes, sure, but he's been mostly exemplary and just his selection of Mallett lends the pick great credence. But even Belichick can be wrong.

The argument that the Patriots locked room can handle a malcontent has some validity yet Moss took a hand grenade to it and was such a distraction the Patriots put him in an ejector seat as quickly as possible. Getting rid of Mallett, one of your draft picks, won't be as easy.

Is it possible the Patriots drafted Mallett to trade him? Sure it is. That would be a Belichick-ian move, James Bondish. That's the Patriots way, too.

It's more likely Mallett is a Patriot and that is a shock to the system. It's a crazy move even for Belichick and one that could blow up in his face.

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