Gil LeBreton

Don’t do it, Belichick warned Falcons about Julio Jones deal

It cost the Atlanta Falcons five draft picks for the right to select Julio Jones (11) in 2011. At the time, New England coach Bill Belichick didn’t see the value. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
It cost the Atlanta Falcons five draft picks for the right to select Julio Jones (11) in 2011. At the time, New England coach Bill Belichick didn’t see the value. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) AP

Don’t do it, he told them.

Don’t trade all those picks just to draft Julio Jones, Bill Belichick told his friends who were now running the Atlanta Falcons.

The rest of the story might well come Sunday at Super Bowl 51.

In his 2011 book, War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team, author Michael Holley wrote in part about the New England Patriots head coach and his relationship with former aides Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli, now the general manager and assistant GM, respectively, of the Falcons.

As the 2011 draft neared, Atlanta desperately wanted an impact player to add to its Matt Ryan-fueled offense. The Falcons proposed a five-pick swap with the Cleveland Browns to move from the 27th position in the first round to the sixth.

The five draft picks were the Falcons’ Nos. 1, 2 and 4 in 2011 and Nos. 1 and 4 in 2012.

"Thomas, I’m just telling you as a friend, I wouldn’t do it," Holley quotes Belichick as telling Dimitroff.

Belichick gave his reasons – fickle hands, not as fast as advertised, trouble getting open on intermediate routes.

The Patriots coach just didn’t see the value.

Dimitroff made the deal anyway, and Jones has been to the Pro Bowl four times. Atlanta opponents spend hours working on ways to stop Julio Jones.

Speaking to the media during Super Bowl week, Dimitroff explained, "I’ve said this time and again, that whether he caught four balls or 14 balls, he was going to have defenses on their heels, and that’s a big thing for us.

"In this league, it’s matchup, speed and athleticism. He has all of that. He also has toughness and competitiveness and a number of other things."

Dimitroff remembered the thinking when he called Belichick for advice before the trade.

 "I knew it was going to be a monumental move and a potentially historical move, and not one that was going to be a real fan favorite," he said. "I expected to hear that Bill was thinking about my best interest and telling me that this was one of those things that was going to be with me for the rest of my career.

"I take what he says seriously, but also knowing where we were, I felt it was right for our organization at the time." 

OK, but five draft picks?

NFL history is lined with the carcasses of general managers and coaches who made mega-draft day deals.

Texas fans remember the trade that made Longhorns hero Ricky Williams a Saint. Coach Mike Ditka sent all of his 1999 draft picks – six in all – plus two more in 2000 to Washington for the chance to select Ricky with the fifth pick.

The 1999 Saints went 3-13, Williams averaged only 3.5 yards a carry and Ditka was fired at the end of the season.

And then there was the Robert Griffin III trade, where Washington surrendered three No. 1 picks and a No. 2 to the St. Louis Rams, who eventually flipped some of those picks into a total of eight players.

We know how that turned out for RGIII and the Redskins.

When his team played in Washington two years later, then-Rams coach Jeff Fisher trolled the Redskins by sending all six players left from the deal out for the pregame coin toss.

There were said to be two top quarterbacks available in the 1998 draft, but the San Diego Chargers were sitting in the No. 3 spot. To get Arizona’s No. 2 position, the Chargers sent the Cardinals their Nos. 1 and 2 picks, plus two players – to move up one spot.

The Colts, picking first, drafted Peyton Manning. San Diego at No. 2 confidently took the other quarterback – Ryan Leaf.

Belichick will get a first-hand look Sunday to see how his advice about Jones turned out.

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