I’m trying to figure out why Coach Bill was willing to embarrass himself the way he did last Monday morning in his Day After news conference.
We know he doesn’t care a whole lot about what you or I think. That’s a given.
But what he did with his unsolicited denunciation of Wes Welker’s collision with Aqib Talib was another matter entirely. For what Bill Belichick did was make himself the object of ridicule in his own fraternity. No one in the whole wide world empire that is the National Football League sided with him. No rival player, coach or executive bought his assertion that the hit on Talib was “dirty,” nor anything that would merit being termed “one of the worst plays I’ve seen,” this from the man who employed, and greatly benefited from, the services of Rodney Harrison, who, whether wearing a San Diego or New England uniform, never saw a head he wouldn’t hunt.
It was rampant hyperbole, and it was ludicrous. I’ve seen harder hits in the New York subway. The idea of Wes Welker, mini-assassin, won’t fly, and that’s before we even discuss the fact that Belichick’s own players had done the same thing in that same game.
What the Belichick comment — we can’t say with precision he ever “rants” — did was give America, as if it needed even more reasons, one more reason to hate the Patriots. Coach Bill could have been completely gracious and state what was rather obvious, that while losing Talib hurt the cause, nothing was going to alter the outcome. The Patriots were outplayed from start to finish both offensively and defensively, with their only modest success on offense coming when Denver went into the fabled “prevent defense,” the result of which was to give a defeated and outperformed Tom Brady an opportunity to pad his stats.
Local media types spend a significant amount of time annually attempting to explain Coach Bill to the rest of America, which generally only gets a glimpse of him during those useless postgame news conferences. We explain that there is a little more to him than what you see and hear following a game, that he is actually quite civil and accommodating as the week goes on, that if you push the right buttons and play into his vast passion for, and encyclopedic knowledge of, the game of football that he can be practically spellbinding. If there existed some sort of final exam for NFL coaches, a test that would include such topics as football history and the various technical intricacies of playing each position, there is no doubt that Bill Belichick would earn the highest grade. And he does love to share that knowledge.
What he does not like to share is injury information, which hardly distinguishes him in that profession. He can be spectacularly disingenuous on other matters, all of which come under the general heading of Nuts and Bolts, matters that are of paramount interest to the daily beat reporters. I have always understood their frustration. But after a while you know the drill, and you either cope or you don’t. After all, it is what it is, right?
What’s fascinating about the ridiculous display last Monday is that it was that rare occasion when Coach Bill allowed emotion to interfere with business. We saw a side of Bill Belichick we really have only seen publicly once before, and that was when Eric Mangini had the audacity to take a job with the New York Jets, an organization, I had on good authority, Coach Bill loathed to the extent that he was almost incapable of referring to it without an F-word precede.
Belichick had it in for Mangini, and the whole world knew it. Remember the Great Handshake Controversy?
Now we know that Belichick despises Welker. I guess that’s the simple answer to my question. He apparently hates Welker so much that he dropped his guard and allowed his emotion to overrule his common sense. There is no way a totally dispassionate Bill Belichick could have watched that play on tape had it involved a pair of players on two other teams and arrived at the conclusion that it was “one of the worst plays I’ve seen.” Nah. He’s waaaaaay too football savvy and experienced to believe that. I don’t recall him getting half that upset over the season-ending and conceivably career-threatening hit on Rob Gronkowski, a play on which the perp had options that did not include diving directly at Gronk’s knee. To equate the two plays is preposterous. The Gronk hit was 10 times worse.
What exactly did Welker do to enter into this “he’s dead to me” status? Make a joke about Rex Ryan? Fail to catch a pass in a Super Bowl, a pass that was thrown a bit high, and which, had he made the reception, would have been one of the rare times he had ever gone up for a significant grab, his particular expertise being the diving catch, not the leaping grab? Take innumerable brutal hits while coming across the middle on behalf of his team? Say it’s fun to stick one up part of the coach’s anatomy? Ask for more money after performing at a level that was far higher than anyone, Coach Bill included, expected?
Surely, there had to be something else, right? Please, Coach Bill, give us an explanation, and it had damn well be a good one, because to the rest of us Wes Welker was an exemplary Patriot. Right now, Coach, you look ridiculous.
Let me join in the chorus that has been singing the praises for Coach Bill’s tremendous job coaching the 2013 Patriots. who may have done more with less than any team in the history of the NFL. I do not submit that thought in a carelessly hyperbolic manner. Let us not forget that the Patriots did, in fact, win 12 games and did, in fact, outclass the Indianapolis Colts in the first playoff game. It is what people have come to expect from the Bill Belichick Patriots, and I beg local fans never to become numbed to the ongoing success story that the New England Patriots happen to be.
Of course, I can’t bury the lead much deeper. When Belichick stupidly acts out in public the way he did last Monday it reminds America about Spygate, something he has never owned up to and something that has never been forgotten in the outside world. Patriots losses are greeted warmly across America, and many people love to remind us that it is an undeniable fact that the Patriots have not won another Super Bowl, post-Spygate, a circumstance viewed by many as a form of cosmic retribution. Analysts less spiritually-minded think it has more to do with the lack of a championship-caliber defense all these years, but in any case, this failure to add another Lombardi Trophy to Belichick’s collection makes millions of American football fans happy.
OK, one more time. Bill Belichick is far too hip to the ways of football to believe a word he said with regard to the Welker/Talib play. Yet he risked being regarded as a whiny loser by the entire National Football League in order to get what was churning inside him out in the open. For a man who is generally all business, it was revealing. I think we can call it vindictive. Also human. I guess there is something to be said for that.Bob Ryan’s column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.