How A Phone Charger And Bill Belichick’s Ruthlessness Squandered RB Jonas Gray, Arguably The Greatest One-Game Wonder In NFL History

Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

“The Sith Lord giveth, and the Sith Lord taketh away.” 

Bill Belichick’s unwavering mantra to put the team above the interests of individuals has resulted in coaching moves that toe the line between genius and morally corrupt.

Jamie Collins is arguably the most accurate microcosm for Belichick’s shrewd ways. In 2016, Belichick shipped Collins, the best player on the Patriots defense, to the winless Browns mid-season for just the 103rd overall selection in the 2017 draft. Jamie Collins is back on the Patriots, a key cog in the best defense in the league, after the Browns signed him to a four-year, $50 million deal and cut him (lol Browns).

Running back Jonas Gray is a lesser known example of how Belichick views his players as assets, and his story is particularly painful.

In November 2014, the undrafted third-year running back was living in a one-bedroom apartment outside of Boston when he got a call up from the Patriots practice squad to play in a November 14th game against the Colts.

In that game, the then-24-year-old had one of the best games for a Patriots running back in franchise history, running for 201 yards and four touchdowns, earning him a spot on the cover of the Sports Illustrated cover 10 days later.

That was five years ago, almost to the day, and I’m willing to bet you haven’t heard much of Jonas Gray’s name since.

A great write-up by ESPN Senior Writer Elizabeth Merrill details how Gray’s seemingly astronomical ascendence to NFL glory crashed and burned thanks in large part to Belichick’s ruthless chess moves and a bum phone charger.

The Patriots were playing Detroit that weekend, a team Gray had followed since he was a kid growing up in Michigan. Thursday night, Gray stayed up late watching film of the Lions on his cellphone and iPad, lying on his couch with ice packs on his legs.

He plugged his phone into a charger and fell asleep on the couch. Gray was too tired to notice that the charger was dangling precariously out of the wall socket.

One of the first things you learn in the House of Belichick is to never, ever be late. A tardy is the same thing as an absence. Bryan Stork, a rookie center for the New England Patriots back in 2014, once contemplated buying a snowplow blade just in case he got caught in a nor’easter on his way to a team meeting, but he eventually decided it would have been over the top.

The Patriots had an early team meeting on Friday, Nov. 21, and like always, Gray had set the alarm on his cellphone the night before. It never went off. He awoke to the sun, glanced at the kitchen clock and saw, to his horror, that it was 8:30 — one hour after the meeting had started. He scrambled for his phone, which was dead. In the agonizing minutes it took to charge the battery, Gray was awash in panic. When the phone finally turned on, he saw a text from veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork. “Are you OK?”

Gray then showed up at the Patriots’ facility to talk to Belichick after missing the team meeting. He walked in to find the legendary coach on a treadmill walking and reading notes, just repeating the words “We just can’t have it.”

Two days later, Gray didn’t play a single snap against the Lions, likely brought on by Gray’s absence and a tweet he deleted before the game that read, “how fast people can turn their back on you.”

Belichick and the Patriots began to phase Gray out, telling him they were going in a different direction and his time with the team was over.

He ended up in the division with the Dolphins, and then the Jaguars, before tearing his quad during training camp in 2016.

Now, he’s 29 years old, has three kids, and is working for an energy company in Boston.

Maybe the greatest one-hit wonder in NFL history awaits his shot to play again.

[h/t ESPN]

Matt Keohan Avatar
Matt’s love of writing was born during a sixth grade assembly when it was announced that his essay titled “Why Drugs Are Bad” had taken first prize in D.A.R.E.’s grade-wide contest. The anti-drug people gave him a $50 savings bond for his brave contribution to crime-fighting, and upon the bond’s maturity 10 years later, he used it to buy his very first bag of marijuana.