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Christopher L. Gasper

Bill Belichick’s genius on display each NFL weekend

Under coach Bill Belichick’s watchful eye, the Patriots are the most aware, best-prepared team in the league.Jeff Haynes/Associated press

Sometimes the remarkable evolves to become routine. Like electricity, you don’t realize how revolutionary it is until there is a power outage and your HD television goes dark while your iPad eventually becomes a paperweight.

The same is true of the unbridled football brilliance of Bill Belichick, a built-in edge the Patriots bring to every game.

You don’t have true perspective and true appreciation for the weekly advantage of Belichick’s brainpower until you watch the rest of the NFL and witness other coaches’ brains short circuit. This was the case Sunday night in the Patriots’ 34-27 victory in Indianapolis, which featured Colts coach Chuck Pagano calling a fiasco of a fake punt that was an illegal formation, a situational football awareness abomination, and a laughingstock rolled into one.


If the NFL coaching fraternity is like the Naval aviator academy in the movie “Top Gun,” then Belichick is Val Kilmer’s character, call sign Iceman. He is a stoic, cerebral, clinical top dog who is nearly flawless in his execution. As they say in the movie about Kilmer’s character, “He wears you down. You get bored, frustrated, do something stupid, and he’s got you.”

That’s Belichick.

His breadth of knowledge, his level of preparation, and his team’s standard of execution allow the Patriots to beat opposing teams and pave the way for other teams and coaches to beat themselves.

Watching the Patriots on a weekly basis, you just assume that every team is as well-prepared and well-educated on the possibilities and permutations. It doesn’t look that difficult to be prepared and execute under pressure. But, in a game, that is a chaotic cocktail of physical and mental stresses under which orderly thinking can quickly evaporate.

Genius is usually startling. But sometimes what’s most startling about genius is its unflinching consistency. That’s Belichick’s true genius — consistently having his teams compulsively prepared and seemingly immune to heat-of-the-moment panic.


The Hoodie is at the head of the class of NFL coaches, whether it’s snapping the ball off the goalpost in Denver to pave the way for a victory or coming up with a baffling formation to turn the tide of a playoff game against Baltimore.

He leaves even highly successful counterparts wearing their headsets like dunce caps. Just ask Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

Even quality coaches seem to lack Belichick’s command of situational football, which is both a buzzword and a way of life in Foxborough.

Now, there will be naysayers who point to Spygate and systematic taping of opposing teams’ signals as part of Belichick’s intellectual eminence. But the Patriots haven’t done that since 2007, and they’re still the most aware, best-prepared team in the league thanks to Belichick’s beautiful mind.

Poor Pagano fell victim to the coaching Iceman. The Colts had strong game plans on both sides of the ball and perfectly executed an onside kick in the second quarter, which was stolen away by a piece of premature officiating that awarded the ball to the Patriots.

Then the fake punt . . .

While Pagano’s brain was buffering, the game slipped away.

It’s bad enough Pagano didn’t display the presence of mind to use a timeout. It’s even worse that punter Pat McAfee revealed that gunner Griff Whalen, who snapped the ball to Colt Anderson in the exploding cigar of a play, had not practiced it all week. Whalen was in because the original gunner got hurt.


Belichick would have had the backup practice that play for that very situation. He would have prepped him on all the options before it was called. He cuts the sleeves off his clothes, but he never takes any planning shortcuts.

This week’s AFC East showdown with the 4-1 New York Jets presents another clear coaching advantage for the Patriots. Jets coach Todd Bowles is one of the bright, young coaches in the league.

He is in his first season as a full-time coach (he was interim coach of the Dolphins for three games in 2011).

“They are very well-coached,” Belichick said of the Jets, praising Bowles’s defense and the work of offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.

That may be true, but on Sunday the Jets had a punt blocked in their 34-20 victory over the Redskins because they had only 10 men on the field.

That’s a mistake you can count on Belichick avoiding.

Poor Jets fans must be crestfallen watching Belichick’s success, knowing he could have been their coach. Bowles will be the fifth HC of the NYJ that Belichick has matched wits with since he reneged on accepting the Jets job in 2000 by offering his resignation on a napkin. Belichick is 22-10 (including playoffs) against the Jets since Robert Kraft brokered Belichick’s move to Foxborough.

Being an NFL head coach is a high-profile, high-blood pressure job. It’s full of late nights, early mornings, and agonizing decisions.


Few in the history of the game have navigated it better than Belichick.

But if any news reporters want to show up this week and ask if Belichick is human, like they did last week with Tom Brady, he is.

The NFL was introduced to the Wildcat in 2008, when the Miami Dolphins sprung it on Belichick and the unsuspecting Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

Fourth and 2 against the Colts will be debated for forever. Belichick’s decision in Super Bowl XLII to eschew a 49-yard field goal when holding a 7-3 lead to go for it on fourth and 13 from the Giants’ 31 early in the third quarter remains an epic head-scratcher. The Patriots lost the game, 17-14, and a perfect season.

Even Michelangelo had false brush strokes.

Watching other NFL coaches implode only increases the appreciation for watching Belichick work.

The guy in the gray hoodie simply has more gray matter when it matters than any other coach.

Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.