Wednesday, November 18, 2009
No second-guessing for Belichick
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Chronicling most of Bill Belichick's 10-year tenure with the New England Patriots gives one a unique perspective into the coach himself. And for those wondering how Sunday's unsuccessful fourth-down call will affect his philosophy in the future, the answer is straight forward.
Not at all.
The answer would be the same for those curious if Belichick regrets the decision. One thing Belichick isn't about to do is second-guess himself or apologize for doing what he truly believed gave the Patriots the best chance to win. He would do it again if the same situation unfolded.
Agree with the fourth-down decision or not, this is part of what makes Belichick the decisive leader he is, and why fellow coaches like Arizona's Ken Whisenhunt and Detroit's Jim Schwartz used the word "courage" when sharing their thoughts on the call. Not many coaches, if any, would go there knowing the potential criticism that could result.
"If I made that decision and it wouldn't have worked, I'd be hanging from the Empire State Building," New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday.
Belichick will take the criticism. Just don't expect him to apologize for doing what he felt was right when all the factors involved were considered.
Knowing Belichick, what bothered him most in the aftermath of the loss was not the fourth-down call, but the breakdown in an area that is supposed to define his team: situational football. From the first day of training camp, Belichick drills his players and assistant coaches on specific situations that could come up in critical moments. That's a big part of the team's identity.
To call two timeouts on the final drive -- one because of a personnel mix-up on first down and the other when the punt team came on to the field on fourth down -- was a major breakdown in situational football by the staff, starting with Belichick. It left them unable to challenge the officials' ruling that running back Kevin Faulk bobbled the ball and came up short of the first down.
So while most focus on the fourth-down call, it wouldn't be surprising to learn that Belichick actually felt that was an easy decision. It was what came before the play that would keep him up at night.
Given the media firestorm that ensued following the fourth-down call, defensive coordinator Dean Pees was asked Tuesday if he's noticed anything different about Belichick. His view was that it was "business as usual."
"Bill is Bill," Pees said. "There hasn't been any change and that's really all I can tell you."
One would expect nothing less.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.