I like principled, I hate rigid.
Bill Belichick is principled. He treated star quarterback Tom Brady the same way treated his 3rd-string running back, because, that's the "Patriot way". There's a method to his madness. The Patriot way wins Belichick the favor of his middle and lower-class players (the majority), and creates the ultimate meritocracy. It's what led to Brady, a 6th-round pick, earning the starting job in 2001. It also led to six Super Bowls victories. So, when it came time to negotiate with a now 42-year-old Brady, applying the Patriot way was a no-brainer. Brady's gone, but only after the most successful NFL run we've ever seen.
That's the value of principle. The value of rigid? I'm not sure I see one.
Boy, is Bill O'Brien rigid.
Bill O'Brien didn't like DeAndre Hopkins' "baby mamas". He didn't like that Hopkins didn't practice. He didn't like the people Hopkins hung around with. I covered both guys in Houston, and I'd heard all of those things since last fall. No rhyme, no reason, no principle. With O'Brien, it's personal, and it's rigid. Principled and rigid are long lost cousins. One lives in a high-rise, one lives out in the boondocks.
Hopkins is half O'Brien's age, but twice as wise. Don't burn bridges. There's no need. Hopkins knows not to make it personal, because if nothing else, getting personal makes people look small. Hopkins is a top-3 wide receiver in the NFL. He's bigger than a coach-player feud.
Not to mention, he's found the perfect fit.
Hopkins is a natural fit for the Arizona Cardinals. Emerging star quarterback, legendary wide receiver moving into the mentor stage, head coach that's totally over himself. Yeah, that'll work.
"Some guys you ask a question and they give you an answer just to give you an answer. He doesn't do that. 'You know what, Fitz, let me get back to you." Larry Fitzgerald said about Kliff Kingsbury in a Darren Urban piece in January. In Kingsbury, DeAndre Hopkins will find a coach looking to get it right, not be right. A breath of fresh air.
Sure, Hopkins is leaving a top-10 quarterback in Deshaun Watson, but Kyler Murray just won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and has had massive success with a receiver with a similar skillset. CeeDee Lamb and Kyler Murray hooked up for 1158 yards and 11 touchdowns during their one year together at Oklahoma. Murray, like Hopkins, is outwardly quiet, inwardly confident. Sound like anybody else?
Larry Fitzgerald may be the most underrated part of this new marriage. It's not that a 4x Pro Bowler like Hopkins needs a mentor, especially after playing his rookie season alongside Andre Johnson, but it's nice to have the best Cardinal of all time be a welcoming ambassador. Fitzgerald has his picture up on the walls of Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles, and probably a dozen other places where he eats for free. Maybe one day, Hopkins can too.
Being in the grips of a rigid boss is suffocating. Being in the grips of a principled boss is exhausting. In Arizona, I'd expect Hopkins to find a nice middle ground. That might be just what he needs.