Any coach losing games in the NFL knows he’s in for criticism, but Bill Belichick is on the receiving end of some brutal jibes.
Speaking on an edition of ESPN’s “Get Up” (h/t Awful Announcing) Ryan tore into Belichick on two fronts. First, over Belichick’s unwillingness to definitively name a starting quarterback between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe:
“Can I just say this: Bill Belichick, please stop. Just name your dang starter. It doesn’t matter, they both stink. Whether it’s Zappe or Peashooter Jones, we don’t care. They stink. Just go ahead and save the drama. Like we care about your team. Your team stinks.”
Next, Ryan took aim at Belichick’s overall record since decorated quarterback Tom Brady left New England in 2020. Brady promptly won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Belichick and the Pats are in line for a third losing season out of four.
Ryan didn’t hold back: “Tom Brady was the only reason you won anyway, alright? I’m just telling you the difference. I said from the jump, they would never win again. I said they would never win again when that guy trotted down to Tamp, when it came out, because I know how draining that is to those kids. And, that, that is what you’re facing right now.
“You pick all the players, you do all this. Bill Belichick, greatest in history, I will never dispute that, OK? I had my ass kicked by him a million times. But if you think for a minute that it wasn’t about Tom Brady, you’re absolutely crazy.”
Those are tough words from somebody who hasn’t been a head coach in the NFL since 2016. Ryan was often on the losing end against Belichick during his two stints in the AFC East, but some of this criticism may still hit too close to home.
Bill Belichick Has Invited Criticism in Post-Brady Era
Belichick’s inability to win big without Brady isn’t limited to the last four seasons. It’s a career-long problem for a head coach with just three winning years out of 29.
Reversing the trend isn’t likely to happen when Belichick has struggled to develop Brady’s replacement. Both Jones and Zappe have floundered, leaving the Patriots losing games even when the defense gives up 10 points.
Belichick’s quarterbacks haven’t been helped by the mediocre targets at their disposal. Recruiting below-par receivers is Belichick’s “biggest” mistake, according to Chad Graff of The Athletic, who named DeVante Parker and JuJu Smith-Schuster as obvious flops.
This is an issue also highlighted by Ryan during a previous rant against Belichick. Speaking on “Get Up” back in September 2022, Ryan blasted Belichick’s choice of receivers, as well as the decision to let former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and ex-special teams coach Joe Judge run the offense:
Every factor in that organization is Bill Belichick’s decision. He earned that right, but going back to last year, bringing in Nelson Agholor — how’s that worked for you? Don’t complain about the weapons. You chose those weapons. Nobody can get open. Every one of these moves you’ve made, they haven’t worked out. All these moves that you made, you have no weapons, one of the reasons is because you can’t evaluate them. You’ve done a poor job evaluating the weapons. You have a very smart kid (Mac Jones) at quarterback. Smart enough to know that Matt Patricia and Joe Judge probably ain’t that good a football coach for him, offensive-coaching wise.
Jones regressed from a Pro Bowler to mediocre last season. It’s a slide Belichick has been unable to arrest, despite signing Smith-Schuster and bringing Bill O’Brien back to call a more expansive scheme.
Those are the main reasons the Patriots are 2-9. The main reason Belichick is taking heat from a former coach he used to dominate.
Rex Ryan Rarely Got the Better of Bill Belichick
If Ryan’s latest putdown of Belichick sounded particularly savage, there’s likely a reason why. Specifically, Ryan went 4-12 against Belichick as a coach.
Belichick’s overall dominance was a credit to his powers of recovery. Ryan initially gave the Pats a ton of problems when guiding the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010.
The latter of those conference title appearances came after Ryan’s Jets beat the Brady and Belichick Patriots 28-21 in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium. It was the last notable victory for Ryan over Belichick.
While the latter dominated the rivalry, all numbers like this show is how good Belichick used to be when Brady was still in town. The only way to quiet the critics is for the 71-year-old to start winning without the QB who made so much possible.