Time to break out the Sun-Tzu again and find the appropriate quote for what Bill Belichick is reportedly planning for Thursday. Or at least appearing to plan.
Let’s go with, "All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near."
It’s not like Belichick runs back to his office for his dog-eared copy of the sixth-century Chinese general’s book, The Art of War, trying to find the chapter detailing what to do when your Hall-of-Fame quarterback is suspended and his handsome young backup has his shoulder smashed by a man named Kiko.
By now, Belichick’s actions are reflexive. And turning his team’s own personnel uncertainty into a leverage point against an opponent who wants to know what the hell is coming is elementary.
Believe me, the Texans are very concerned about who will playing quarterback Thursday night. They aren’t afraid of rookie Jacoby Brissett. They aren’t scared of a diminished Garoppolo. They are concerned about being unprepared.
So when Ian Rapoport dropped the news this morning that Julian Edelman is preparing “extensively” at quarterback this week, a Texans team that is hours away from climbing on a plane has to now decide how much effort they’ll put into preparing for Edelman.
If they were smart, they would have done so already. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien asserted on Tuesday they have.
"I think we have to be ready for their roster, you know what I mean?" O'Brien said in a conference call on Tuesday. "We have to understand the skill sets of the players on their roster. Obviously with Julian, I was there when they drafted him. He was a shotgun, wildcat quarterback at Kent State and really good at it. I can remember doing some of things with him over the couple years that I was with him in practice there. I know that he can do that. It’s that and other guys. There’s other guys. [Danny] Amendola can throw the ball. We’re trying to do the best we can to be prepared for their roster."
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This news isn’t really a surprise. Edelman was a college quarterback at Kent State who could throw a little and run a lot. Former Patriots exec Mike Lombardi mentioned Edelman would be the backup to Brissett when Garoppolo went down.
And I spoke in the postgame about how this would be precisely the kind of spot where Belichick would embrace the chance to be unconventional and resourceful by using Edelman.
But you won’t see the hashtag #UnconventionalBill if Edelman starts taking snaps. It will be #ARROGANCE and it will be trending like a motherscratcher.
To the people who revile Belichick for what they see as a mumbling, smarter-than-thou pomposity, using Edelman at quarterback won’t be fun – WHEEEE!!!! – like it would be if some coach who's cuddly with the media did it. It will instead be seen as an attempt by Belichick to show how smart he is. Another "Look at the big brain on me….!" moment in which he’s toying with an opponent like a cat with a mole.
When the Patriots trotted Troy Brown out on defense in 2004 and 2005 (or Edelman in 2012) there was some of that. The Doug Flutie extra point dropckick in the regular season finale back in 2005 wasn’t viewed as a great throwback moment and a nod to the past. It was, to many, a dink move.
So it’s in the eye of the beholder. The risk, obviously, is that you get your 30-year-old wideout and arguably your most indispensable offensive player twisted up under Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt just five months after having his second foot surgery. Yeah, that could happen on a wide receiver screen too, but better to have a wideout get hurt doing wideout things than playing quarterback.
The reward is giving the Texans a little something extra to think about and prepare for. To make them take attendance when they break the huddle and see if Edelman’s split wide and Brissett is under center or if the two men have switched spots. To brush up on triple-option and Wildcat principles on a compressed week. To hand-wring about what might happen when – in reality – it probably never will.