Of all the unexpected developments this season, the glass-half-full outlook of cranky coach Bill Belichick must be near the top of the list. Bottom-Line Bill is no more, replaced by Mr. Bright Side. Crank the band The Killers.
Mired in a .500 season, the legendary coach has adopted a new philosophy regarding his team’s shortcomings. When questioned about play-calling, penalties, an inability to force Josh Allen and the Bills to punt, offensive production, red-zone issues, and electing not to use timeouts, Belichick has taken a defensively positive tone.
Bottom-Line Bill was the Yoda of the NFL. Do or do not … there is no try. Now, he can tout the silver lining in just about any of this team’s or coaching staff’s failures.
So much for the standard is the standard, not in Foxborough, not anymore. If Belichick and his team can’t reach their six-Super Bowl titles standard, Belichick is inclined to just lower the bar, limbo-style.
Let’s run down recent examples:
Following the Patriots’ last victory, a 10-3 slog against the New York Jets on Nov. 20 that featured zero offensive touchdowns, the Globe’s Tara Sullivan asked Belichick about the offense’s lack of production.
His reply: “Well, again, we moved the ball. We just didn’t have enough points. So we’ve got to do a better job of scoring more points when we get down there, and when we get close to scoring points … get the ball closer to get some points on the board. It wasn’t like we couldn’t move the ball.”
So much for the job of the offense every time it goes out on the field is to score points. That’s the only reason it’s out there. That’s what he used to say when You Know Who was here.
What about the red-zone difficulties? The Patriots sit tied for last in red-zone touchdown percentage (37.5 percent) with the dreadful Denver Broncos. Belichick was asked about this following the Thanksgiving loss to the Minnesota Vikings, a game in which the Patriots finished 0 for 3 in the red zone.
“It’s a good thing when you can score from further out, which we had a couple of those,” he said on Nov. 29. “So, we could skip it. It’s always a good thing, but yeah just keep working on it every week.”
If there’s one thing the best coach of all time hates it’s undisciplined, self-defeating football. It’s anathema.
“Yeah, well, we didn’t have any penalties last week offensively in Minnesota,” he said. “We’re one of the least-penalized teams in the league defensively. We’ve had a couple penalties in the last couple of weeks, but we’ve been low on penalties in the kicking game this year … You tell me.”
Belichick also got in his defensive stance about some other issues starting with P.
This week, Belichick was asked about potentially changing the offense and his offensive play-caller, third Belichick son Matt Patricia. Belichick said on WEEI on Monday that it was “too hard” at this point in the season to make a lot of “dramatic changes.”
I understand his point. However, this was a team that in 2016 saw Jimmy Garoppolo go down on a Sunday and then prepped a rookie quarterback in Jacoby Brissett to play a Thursday night game against Houston with designed quarterback runs.
The hallmark of the Hoodie and the Patriots is adapting, adjusting, and evolving on the fly. Nobody does it better.
Why just concede it can’t be done? Unless you know your offensive coaches are incapable of such adaptation.
But nothing to see here with the offensive coaching staff or system, both of which players have questioned since training camp.
“Yeah, again, the system that we have in place, I feel good about,” Belichick said Tuesday. “Which includes the offensive staff, it includes me, it includes whatever the whole process is.”
He all but dismissed a lack of creativity or variety in the offense from inexperienced offensive coaches Patricia and Joe Judge contributing to the problem.
“Any idea can be a bad idea if you can’t execute it,” said Belichick. “So, if you can execute it, then it’s potentially a good idea.”
Belichick is ostensibly punting on changes to boost the offense with 11 days between games.
Speaking of punting …
Before the loss to the Bills, Belichick was asked in his weekly interview on WEEI about being unable to force a punt from the Bills in the most recent two matchups.
“We had them in punt formation on the first series of the game in the second game and gave up a fake punt. So, I wouldn’t really put that on the defense,” Belichick said on Nov. 28.
The Patriots did force the Bills to punt last Thursday, snapping a streak of 23 Buffalo possessions against New England without one.
A curious part of that game was Belichick declining to use any of his remaining timeouts after the Patriots cut the Bills’ lead to 24-10 late. The Bills got the ball with 1 minute, 53 seconds remaining. They ran out the clock.
The Patriots’ football fate was sealed, but Belichick has always preached 60 minutes of football. He’s as Mr. 60 Minutes as Mike Wallace and Andy Rooney.
“I thought that was the best thing to do for our team,” said Belichick of pocketing his timeouts. “We went the other way in the Baltimore game, lost Mac [Jones] for three weeks. I don’t really think that was worth it.”
What have you done with our beloved Bottom-Line Bill? Where is the old taskmaster and impossible-to-please father figure who has lorded over Fort Foxborough for nearly a quarter-century?
It feels like this positive PR campaign from “Yeah, but …” Bill is designed to protect one person — him. It allows him to deflect and downplay any criticisms that might catch the attention of his bosses, the Krafts.
But like too many strategies for the Patriots right now, it’s flawed.