What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
I’m the guy who tells you which NFL coach is most likely to get fired. I’m also the guy who told you who should be getting fired. You might think it’s easy for me to criticize coaches, because I’m a Patriots fan. I have the best coach in the league; a guy who is in the team picture for best coach of all time. Well, let me tell you something about William Stephen Belichick: He’s not perfect either. I will say with full unashamed bias, I think no one prepares better than the “Hoodie.” His attention to detail is unparalleled. He goes over any and every scenario there is. He puts his teams in the best position to have success.
He’s also gotten lucky a few times.
November 3, 2003:
Trailing 24-23 in Denver with 2:51 left on the clock and facing a 4th and 10 from his own 1 yard line, Belichick was unwilling to give Denver good field position, so he ordered the long snapper to air mail the snap through the end zone for a safety. The decision worked, as the Patriots pinned Denver inside their own 20 on the ensuing free kick. The defense forced a 3 and out, giving Brady the ball with a little over 2 minutes left (Note: Belichick had all his timeouts here, so this part wasn’t luck).
Brady then goes down the field on 6 plays, hitting David Givens for the game-winning touchdown. Belichick is a genius, right! Maybe. It helps when you have the most clutch quarterback in the history of history to actually make your plan work. I’m not saying it was a good or a bad decision. I’m saying Tom Brady made it work. If he hadn’t, Belichick would have been roundly criticized.
I know that for a fact from another decision that didn’t go quite as planned.
November 15, 2009:
Leading 34-28 with 2:23 left to play, but backed up on their own 28 yard line in Indianapolis, Belichick elected to go for the 4th and 2 rather than punt. Brady completed a pass to running back Kevin Faulk, who appeared not to make a clean catch, but was driven backward and was ruled to have not made the 1st down, resulting in a turnover on downs. After 3 plays, Peyton Manning threw the game winning touchdown, giving the Colts the lead and the eventual 35-34 victory.
Now there are many in New England who to this day believe the spot on Faulk’s catch was wrong. Personally, I’ve seen that play probably 100 times and I still can’t say for certain. It should also be noted that the Patriots had a huge lead in this game, and in the second half Manning was shredding the defense to make it this close, so you can understand why Belichick wanted to end it right then and there.
Was that a good decision? Was that a bad decision? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The debate raged on for weeks. Had the Patriots gotten the first down and won the game, Belichick would have been a genius again. Instead, he was criticized and questioned.
That’s because the media loves a game called “Playing the Results.” They wait to see how the decisions turn out then heap praise or criticize accordingly. In other words they’re a bunch of gutless, spineless, and witless “Monday Morning Quarterbacks” who would have never had the balls to make the calls Belichick did.
Having said that, there’s also a HUGE difference between crapping on a guy for taking a gamble and coming up “snake eyes” and pointing out something that makes absolutely no sense. Roulette is gambling, Russian Roulette is just stupid.
The best example of that I can give you comes from pure Patriots fandom. I can go back to last year and cite 3 games where I can point a demonstrable finger straight at the “Hoodie” for costing the Patriots a much better chance at getting to the Super Bowl. I can point to 3 reason why the Patriots had to go on the road to Denver for the AFC Championship Game rather than hosting it in Foxboro.
Don’t forget as you read my examples, there was a point in time when New England had a 2 game lead over the Broncos for home field advantage. Then, the “Hoodie” pissed it away.
Week 13 at home facing the lowly Eagles: Philadelphia had pretty much packed it in for the season. Chip Kelly was a dead man walking when they came to New England. The Patriots were coming off their first loss of the season, which just so happened to be to the Broncos, so this should have been one of those occasions where the Patriots know that wins matter now in order to keep home field advantage. All signs pointed to what should have been a Patriots’ blowout.
And early on, it was. The Patriots predictably got off to a 14-0 start and should have been able to mail in the second half. Then Bill Belichick’s ego popped up like the little devil on his shoulder. He tries what he calls a “mortar kick,” which is not just a surprise on-side kick, but something out of a rugby match which backfired. That served as the turning point in that game; Philadelphia was ready to roll over and die, until the “Hoodie” gift-wrapped the game’s momentum for them.
J-Dub always says that anything is possible in a football game if you can run the ball, play defense, and get a play on special teams. Perfect storms are rare, but they happen. New England always has one of the best special teams units in football, then they gave up an inexplicable touchdown on that rugby crap. Tom Brady rarely throws picks in the red zone, until he’s facing a rejuvenated defense who smells a shot at an upset that would be the highlight of their otherwise “Bataan Death March” season.
All this happens because Belichick gambled when there was no reason to, and that show of utter disrespect and arrogance inspired Philadelphia to go all “Rocky Balboa” on the Patriots.
Week 16 on the road against the Jets: This game goes to overtime, the Patriots win the coin toss and don’t take the ball. I know the rules are a little bit different now, but it’s still sudden death if the team who has the ball first scores a touchdown, and the odds are in your favor just by taking the ball. The only way you can lose in overtime having the ball first is by committing a turnover which results in a defensive score or giving up a safety on the opening possession.
In other words, giving up the ball in overtime is never a good idea. Even the time he got away with it against Denver, that was in a game where the wind was blowing at 40 mph and all the surgery, therapy, and deer antler spray in the world still meant Peyton Manning’s arm was just a banana peel with fingers on the end of it. Despite all that, the “Hoodie” gave the Broncos a shot to win, and he lived to tell the tale.
But in this case, there was no wind, no Manning, the Jets were playing for a playoff berth at the time, this was a division game and it’s not like Patriots v. Jets isn’t a huge rivalry anyway…Oh, and don’t forget…after losing to Philadelphia, wins are even more important in the quest for the all-important home field advantage.
I know Bill Belichick has forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know, and there’s stuff on that “Don Pablo” menu he always holding that we don’t get to know about, but somebody needs to explain to me why in the hell you would give the ball away in a game you need to win, which gives the other team a shot to nail your coffin shut with a touchdown…which is exactly what the Jets did. Remember what I said about the difference between roulette and Russian roulette?
Week 17 in Miami: This is the week after the Jets debacle, and despite the fact New England has lost three of its last five games, the Patriots can still clinch home-field advantage with a win. Keep in mind this was a Miami team that was already making tee times for the following Tuesday, they’re playing for an interim head coach who knows in three weeks he’s going to be a 6th-grade gym teacher somewhere, and had just and had just lost at home to the sorry-ass Colts.
Just like the Philadelphia game, this reeked of another Patriots’ blowout. But just like the Jets’ game, the “Hoodie” gave a team a chance to win by trotting out a game plan seemingly designed for Jacoby Brissett, not Tom Brady. Perhaps that was the idea…get a quick early lead in the final game of the season for a bunch of guys who are going to be looking to beat the traffic to the airport, then once the game is in hand, protect Brady, Gronk, and the rest of the stars from injury by playing guys like Brissett, Eddie Sideline, and Joe Practicesquad.
The problem with that theory is why would you run such high-school with your starters? When I saw Tom Brady on a naked roll-out, I knew the Patriots were in trouble, because when I think about a guy who can win a footrace to the pylon, I think Tom Brady.
Belichick could have saved everybody the time and trouble by just tossing a fifty-pound potato sack over Brady’s head and wailing on him with a seven-iron. Brady took such a beating had this game been played closer to Halloween, he could have gone as Ray Rice’s wife. Kind of kills that whole “injury” theory, doesn’t it?
The Patriots haven’t been a “run first” team since the days of John Hannah and Sam “Bam” Cunningham, which is why I will never understand why the “Hoodie” ran the ball 18 times in a row with a Hilary Clinton-level of success. When they did pass the ball, it was little short dump-offs that went nowhere. In other words, Belichick played his starters in a game with a plan the hamstrung them, and he pinned a “Kick Me” sign on his quarterback.
The end result was the Patriots lost, Denver won, and the AFC Championship Game was in Denver, where New England lost by 2 points. Like I said, there’s no way to predict what would have happened, but doesn’t Vegas give the home team 3 points automatically just for being at home?
It sounds like I’m taking a hatchet to Bill Belichick, but I’m actually making the point that nobody’s perfect. The difference is you’ve got to be right more often then you’re wrong. That’s what separates the “Hoodie” from the guys who will be on snagajob.com in January.
Agree? Disagree? Got a hot take of your own on this topic? Hit up the Comments section of send it straight to JFI at @jbhickle on Twitter or email email@example.com.