Cancel the Bill: Why Head Coach Bill Belichick Needs to Step Down
Has Bill Belichick's curmudgeon act worn thin? Is his treatment of reporters appropriate or professional? See, when you’re winning, these questions are rarely asked. . .and why should they be? The argument in defense of Belichick's terse responses and painful exchanges with the media is that, “He’s not playing his cards in front of you.”
The brusque demeanor of Bill Belichick is calculated and manufactured with an emphasis on not giving reporters fodder. Most of the time it appears as though he’s in a dental chair with a room full of dentists looking to rip out his teeth with no novocaine. We’re talking extreme discomfort and agitation here. I’d go as far as to say that Bill brings new meaning to the word ‘dour.'
His Relationship With the Media
His relationship with media members is a complicated one—he has his favorites.
Michael Holley, a local Boston radio host, was allowed two years of unprecedented access to the Patriots organization (including Bill) for an excellent book he had written titled, Patriot Reign. What I have observed over the years is that when talking X’s & O’s, Belichick’s eyes light up, and he gives you the answer befitting a football-coaching genius.
If you know football and can inquire about Cover 2 defensive schemes, you’ll get a glowing response. If you ask Bill about the altitude in Denver, and whether that may hurt his team's chances, you might get an “I don’t know” or a simple growl.
The Patriot Way
His method of setting the tone for his team by not giving opponents any bulletin board material to the media has been a tried and true method. He realizes that football is the ultimate team game—a game of inches where any competitive advantage no matter how big or small, can help.
Doing the dozens with the media can shift focus off the team and open the door for self-aggrandizement. This philosophy trickles down to his players who either buy in or get cut. When Randy Moss started in about money and how unhappy he was with his current contract, he was shown the door. This was a guy that had caught 23 touchdowns and helped the Patriots on their way to a 16-0 season! Logan Mankins, a pro bowl caliber guard, suffered a similar fate. The list of guys that have stolen focus from the team and were subsequently canned, is endless.
Has Bill Belichick overstayed his welcome in New England?
Wait, Where's Butler?
Now, that brings us to the present. At the time of this writing, I’ve yet to come across an honest answer or explanation as to why Malcolm Butler was stuck on the bench for the majority of Super Bowl LII. It’s been over a month and still...crickets. This is where the Belichick act has finally run its course. He can try and spin this decision any way he wants.
The fact of the matter is that we’re accustomed to his usual responses, but after such a devastating loss in which many people are blaming his decision(or non-decision) to bench one of his best defensive players, the normal cliches often used by the great coach don’t carry much water. When you make a move as bold as that one, you have to give us more than, “We’re on to Cincinnati.”
I believe Bill Belichick has got to go. His ego has cost the Patriots key games and key opportunities that are too numerous to be ignored. The fact that he hasn’t expressed interest in getting a stud defensive player is infuriating. The Patriots defense was picked apart by Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles, but that should come as no surprise. Their total defense ranking was 29 out of 32 teams--they couldn’t stop a nosebleed.
This is no new phenomenon, however. The defense has had a “bend but don’t break” philosophy carried out by a virtual “defense-by-committee” for years now. It is Belichick's stubborn way of doing things differently and his ego, to think that he’s so far beyond the expertise of the rest of the NFL, that he can send out scout team defenses year after year, and still expect the continued success.
Super Bowl Luck?
Yes, they've won Super Bowls against Seattle and Atlanta with bad defenses, but one could make the argument that the Pats were lucky to win both of those games. They were nail biters for the simple fact that the defense was trounced and the Brady-led offense was nothing short of amazing. You saw this play out in Minnesota at Super Bowl LII. Tom Brady threw for over 500 yards and put 32 points on the board, but because the defense was so lousy they still lost the game. Not only has Belichick not addressed the concern for an improved defense, but he also can’t even address why his pro-bowl cornerback was stuck riding the pine for the biggest game of the year!
Remember the Good Times
This criticism of Bill Belichick is harsh, but it won’t be without context. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in NFL history. It’s that simple, and there’s not enough time in the day to sit here and go over each and every one of his accomplishments. It probably sounds cheesy, but “all good things must come to an end.” He was the architect of the Patriots Dynasty and his merits will be in perpetuity, but I feel it’s time to part ways with the craggy-faced hooded enigma.
There’s a feeling by some that we should have won more Super Bowls if not for Belichick's stubbornness—sitting Butler is just the latest example. It may seem like i’m harboring ill-will or committing blasphemy in the eyes of Patriot Nation; but I see the forest for the trees. I’m not psychic, but I don’t see Bill changing his ways anytime soon, and to that I say, “Let's get some fresh blood in there.”
Bill Belichick has said on occasion that, “Players win games and coaches lose them.” If we’re to take him at his word, is it fair to say that Belichick owes football fans an explanation as to why he helped lose this past Super Bowl? Players would like an explanation, also.
Former Patriots Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Browner were critical of the decision, with Browner insinuating, via an Instagram post, that the Patriot locker room is divided, which was liked by current player Dont’a Hightower. According to the Boston Herald, he hasn’t even discussed the benching with his own players. This is treading into dangerous waters because the job of a head football coach is to ultimately get you to buy into the system. When you lose the trust of your players, you run the risk of losing the locker room altogether. I surmise that’s what’s happening here although it’s difficult to know for sure when you’re dealing with a tight-lipped organization like New England.
End of the Road?
The Patriots have a lot of work to do. The reported rift between the trio of Belichick, Brady, and Kraft are piling on top of this already hot mess. There are so many moving parts to this supposed rift: frustration with the quick trigger trade of backup quarterback and possible Brady successor Jimmy Garoppolo, revoking Brady’s trainer’s access to team facilities, and a simple lack of communication about the direction this team is headed.
The latest Butler benching debacle is adding salt to the wound and has outsiders scratching their heads and sharpening their knives. Even if the rumored rift was a fabrication and the Butler benching is clarified, the general feeling about the organization is that it’s bursting at the seams. This is the news the majority of other NFL teams and their respective fanbases have been dying to hear. Success breeds contempt and no one understands that more than New England.
They’ve practically held a monopoly on postseason success and the Lombardi trophy in the era of the salary cap. People are sick of them winning in the same way the New York Yankees were detested by baseball fans over their success.
The Roman Empire was destroyed from within--so too will the Patriot Empire. Complacency has caused the empire to go to ruin because winning cures all. The overconfident attitude of, “I can win with anybody”, has finally caught up with this juggernaut of a football team. It was a mistake and in my opinion a fireable offense. It qualifies as a cause for termination because this isn’t one isolated incident. It’s a wildfire of drama that wasn’t extinguished by the man at the helm. . .Belichick. This shouldn’t be a fiery breakup, however.
I don’t think that words like “animosity” or “acrimony” would describe a parting of ways between this coach and organization; on the contrary, I have a feeling that we will remember the good times of this long and successful tenure, instead of dwelling on the ending. Like somebody once said, “All good things must come to an end.”