Let’s be honest. Bill Belichick hasn’t received this much criticism, and perhaps had his genius questioned this much since he was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 1991-95.
In the five years Belichick coached the Browns, he had a 36-44 record and the team made the postseason once in 1994. Over the past nearly year and a half with the New England Patriots–without Tom Brady–Belichick has only mustered a 9-13 record. That’s an even lower win percentage (.409) than his days in Cleveland (.450).
That explains the widespread criticism he’s receiving as the Patriots fell to 2-4 on the season and an embarrassing 0-4 record at home. The latest defeat was a painful 35-29 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Belichick’s team played hard, but they were let down by the offensive line and the defense couldn’t come up with the big stop they needed in the fourth quarter or the overtime period.
Also, Belichick’s decision making–specifically his unwillingness to take a chance–was the object of some criticism after the game.
Bill Belichick Slammed for Lack of Courage With His Calls and Trust in His Players
A good percentage of the postgame Twitter reaction took aim at Belichick not trusting his offense to pick up a crucial fourth down at the end of the half, and in the overtime period.
98.5 The Sports Hub captured Belichick’s answer when he was asked why he had his team kneel at the end of the first half rather than try to extend what was a 14-10 lead going into halftime.
The Patriots had the ball on their own 21 with 20 seconds remaining and no timeouts. Belichick could have looked to work the sidelines to try to get into field-goal range. Instead, with his team due to get the ball back to start the third quarter, Belichick elected to take a knee twice to head into the locker room.
That decision wasn’t too difficult to defend, but the same cannot be said for the one in overtime. With 8:04 remaining in the overtime period the Patriots were facing a 4th and 3 on their own 46-yard line. Rather than having offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels draw up something to get the first down and extend what could have been the game-winning drive, Belichick brought on his punter Jake Bailey.
His punter hit one for 34 yards which resulted in a fair catch and the Cowboys got the ball on their own 20. Dak Prescott would drive the ball down the field and hit CeeDee Lamb for the game-winning 45-yard TD strike to win the game.
Dan Sostek of Penn Live called Belichick’s decisions to punt on fourth down this season “cowardly.” He hinted at the irony considering Belichick used to be more aggressive in these situations.
Through the first six weeks of the season, the Patriots have gone for it on fourth down just three times. That ranks them 31st in the NFL. Only the Seattle Seahawks have attempted fewer fourth-down conversions.
While this year’s total is pretty low, the concept that suggests Belichick is suddenly far more cautious is a little overstated. The Patriots have only ranked inside the Top 20 in attempted fourth-down conversions three times in the last 10 years, and never in the Top 10.
So while it is pretty clear Belichick trusted Tom Brady more in these situations, he’s never been as daring as Sostek and some others may be suggesting.
Still, Deadspin’s Chuck Modi and others are questioning Belichick’s trust for players and guts.
The Patriots and Their Moral Victories Are Getting Old
The Patriots proved they can compete with any team in the NFL on Sunday, but just competing isn’t good enough–especially not for this franchise and fanbase.
The time for the moral victories has to end. The Patriots need to find a way to go on a run and it needs to start next week against the New York Jets–one of the two teams they own a win over this season.
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