Patriots’ Bill Belichick Slammed for ‘Fraidy-Cat Decision’

Bill Belichick Patriots

Getty Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

The New England Patriots‘ legendary head coach has been called a lot of things during his legendary run in the NFL, but a “fraidy cat” isn’t one of them–at least not until Sunday’s Week 5 come-from-behind win over the Houston Texans.

The Patriots came back from a 22-9 second-half deficit to prevail 25-22. A key play in the game saw the Texans attempt a 56-yard-field goal with Ka’imi Fairbairn in the fourth quarter with the Texans up 22-15 with 13:28 remaining and on the Patriots’ 38-yard line. Fairbairn, who had a horrific day (1-for-3 on extra points and 1-for-2 on field goal attempts) missed the long field goal giving the Patriots great field position.

Mac Jones marched the Patriots down the field for a game-tying TD pass to Hunter Henry. The Texans could have gone for it on fourth down, which would have been consistent with the decisions their head coach David Culley had been making all game. Instead, Culley brought on his struggling kicker and things didn’t work out.

The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin took Culley to task for his decision, but also took a shot at Belichick for a similar move last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Take a look at Volin’s tweet:

“Fortunes favor the bold, NFL coaches.” I’m not sure that’s always the case. When the risks work out, there is praise, but when things go off the rails, the criticism is even louder.

Belichick Called a ‘Fraidy-Cat’

Volin wasn’t just talking about Culley in his tweet. He was referring to Belichick making a similar decision last week. In a crucial moment of the Patriots’ 19-17 loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3, Belichick elected to try a 56-yard field goal with an ailing Nick Folk in poor weather conditions at Gillette Stadium.

The kick was no good and there were some–including Volin–who criticized Belichick for not giving Jones and the offense an opportunity to pick up a big fourth-down conversion. During the post-game presser, Belichick defended his decision to have Folk kick the field goal after last week’s high-intensity matchup.

Belichick said: “We converted two third downs in the game. Nick had kicked well. No, that wasn’t any consideration.”

There is a common factor in all of these decisions.

Head Coaches Generally Don’t Trust Rookie QBs to Convert in These Situations

The Patriots start a rookie QB in Jones. The Texans have been forced to turn to a rookie in Davis Mills because of the unresolved Deshaun Watson situation and an injury to Tyrod Taylor. If the Patriots or the Texans had a veteran quarterback, they might have gone for it on fourth down in the situations in question.

With Jones and Mills under center, the decisions of the coaches were more conservative. Both Jones and Mills have been pretty strong in their rookie seasons, but unfortunately for them, it hasn’t been enough to convince their head coaches to trust them to convert crucial fourth downs.

More times than not, in this sort of circumstance, NFL head coaches will almost always lean toward the safer decision.


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