By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Bill Belichick is in full-fledged damage control, on the field and off, his words and actions filled with resignation. The Patriots cannot stop the run and they clearly cannot throw, but there is no doubt that Belichick can still deftly pass the buck.
The Patriots lost another game yesterday, this time to the Buffalo Bills, a 24-21 decision splattered with mistakes, culminating in a lost fumble by Cam Newton in the final seconds of a fourth straight defeat. The Pats committed costly penalties. They got pushed around. And Belichick made multiple decision that reflected just how little confidence he has in his team.
And yet, the worst part of it all was an interview Belichick did late last week with former assistant coach Charlie Weis which sounded late one of the great copouts and plant jobs of all-time. Belichick blamed the state of the Patriots on everything from COVID-19 to the salary cap and beyond, which certainly felt like him pointing fingers at everyone – including owner Robert Kraft and former quarterback Tom Brady – other than himself.
Courtesy of Mike Reiss at ESPN, you can find the pertinent parts here:
Wow. What a phony. But then, nobody tries to spin the media quite like Three-dollar Bill, who sees what he wants to see and never looks in the mirror.
Facts: The Patriots have drafted poorly in recent years to the point where they lack talent on both sides of the ball; in quarterback Newton, they took the last item remaining on the discount table and now seem surprised that it’s not working; on the field, they have been careless with the football, make crushing mistakes and, yesterday, committing hurtful penalties.
All of those things lead back to Belichick, which is not to say he’s entirely to blame; certainly, Kraft’s decision to keep Brady (who became increasingly high-maintenance) and peddle off Jimmy Garoppolo was a huge crossroads for the organization. But Belichick disclosing organizational thoughts to Weis reeked of the ultimate bag job, mostly because that’s almost certainly what it was.
Let’s be honest: for someone who fancies himself a team guy, Belichick is really anything but. With regard to the football operation in Foxboro, it has almost always been Bill’s way or the highway, which is fine. He’s a brilliant coach. But there is a tradeoff to everything, of course, and Belichick’s methods often leave him with blind spots at places other than wide receiver. He quickly sees the flaws in others, but usually takes far too long to recognize his own.
Yesterday, the Pats played without both running back Sony Michel and wide receiver N’Keal Harry, both of whom Belichick selected in the first-round of recent drafts and both of whom look like busts. (At best, they were first-round misses.) Chase Winovich, who seemed to be surging at the beginning of the season, played just five snaps. The Patriots look small and they look slow, and they often look ill-prepared even though, after a COVID-19 shutdown, they have resumed practiced for two straight weeks.
As for the alleged salary-cap crunch, the Pats conveniently announced that they had settled financial disputes with both Antonio Brown and Aaron Hernandez shortly after signing Newton, which certainly feels like the team was playing a shell game.
Is Belichick allowed mistakes? Of course. Absolutely. He’s human. But when it comes to admitting them and taking some responsibility, it’s hard to remember many occasions where Belichick just fessed up.
With regard to football, we all know where the buck stops in Foxboro.
And it stops with Belichick, whether Three-Dollar Bill wants to admit it or not.