BOCA RATON, Fla. — Bill Belichick was an integral voice at the NFL owners meetings in 2014 and 2015, drafting several rules proposals each season that in his view made the NFL more competitive on the field and a better product for the fans.
He believed strongly in moving the extra point back, and delivered a passionate speech to the owners and general managers in the league’s closed-door session.
He got the conversation started about expanding instant replay, and about adding instant replay cameras to the sidelines and end zone. One of his proposals even got passed — increasing the height of the goal posts by 5 yards.
Before Belichick spoke up in 2014, teams rarely proposed new rules for these meetings; now, every team seems to have one suggestion or another, and the list of rules proposals is three times as long as it used to be. Belichick even appeared in the annual coaches’ group photo last year, an event he almost always skipped.
But this year, it appears, Belichick has developed a case of laryngitis.
Belichick seems content to play the role of bystander at this year’s meetings, which run until Wednesday afternoon at the Boca Raton Resort.
The Patriots didn’t submit any rules proposals this year for the first time since 2013. Belichick was seen roaming the hallways on Sunday night while Roger Goodell was delivering his open address to the league’s owners and executives.
Belichick once again skipped out on the coaches’ group photo, taken Monday. And he put as little effort as possible into Tuesday morning’s AFC coaches’ breakfast, a mandatory event in which all head coaches were required by the NFL to sit at their own table and meet with reporters for an hour.
Belichick appeared 15 minutes late, and proceeded to swat away almost every question like Serena Williams playing at the net.
What do you like about Martellus Bennett?
“We’re happy to add all the players that we’ve added to our team. When we’re out there, we’ll see how it goes.”
Do you take any personal pride in promoting your son to safeties coach?
“I’m proud of all my kids.”
Do you sense any discontent with Rob Gronkowski on his contract?
“Any contract discussions will be between myself and the player.”
What was Dante Scarnecchia doing for the Patriots the last two years?
Belichick has never been Mr. Gregarious at this event, but the last two years he actually gave a few lengthy answers about non-Patriots items. This year, all we learned is that Belichick is on a first-name basis with rocker-rapper Kid Rock. The two hung out in Jupiter, Fla., last week.
“Bobby’s a great guy,” Belichick said of the musician, whose name is Robert James Ritchie.
In 2014 and 2015, Belichick undoubtedly was more involved with the meetings. He showed genuine concern about improving the league and leaving a lasting legacy about how the game is conducted.
“Bill Belichick using his clout at NFL meetings,” blared a headline in the Globe in 2014 when Belichick proposed four new rules in front of the NFL owners.
Several out-of-town reporters took offense to Belichick’s lack of cooperation on Tuesday morning, but the feeling here is the media was not the intended target of his ire.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on. This is the first owners meetings since the Deflategate penalties were handed down (last year’s meetings were in March, when Patriots owner Robert Kraft famously said there was “no smoking gun,” and the penalties came in May).
Belichick has said almost nothing about Deflategate since his infamous “Mona Lisa Vito” news conference in January 2015, but he’s obviously not happy about losing a first-round pick and the prospect of Tom Brady possibly serving a four-game suspension.
Belichick is also probably tired of his good ideas getting shot down by the NFL owners. They did pass the one about extending the goal posts, and they did adopt the longer extra point, although the competition committee tweaked the language so it could take credit for the rule change.
But the concept of expanding instant replay has now been shot down in three straight years. And the NFL still hasn’t added extra cameras to the sidelines and end zone, even after Belichick’s suggestion that the NFL, which raked in approximately $12 billion in revenue last year, hold a “bake sale” to pay for the additions.
So, Belichick has apparently disengaged from the NFL meetings this year.
No more rule proposals for the betterment of the game. No bother with the coaches’ photo. Giving the bare minimum effort at the coaches’ breakfast, which he has long detested and actually skipped in 2011.
To paraphrase Marshawn Lynch, Belichick did just enough to not get fined on Tuesday morning.
“Part of the exciting week of the owners meetings,” he deadpanned about the breakfast.
Belichick has been an NFL coach since 1975. No one in the room — from owners to GMs to coaches — has a better understanding of the league and how to make it better.
He tried the last two years to impart his wisdom. The NFL took a couple of his suggestions to heart, and threw the others back in his face. Now the league has handed down the harshest penalties in league history over deflated footballs.
So Belichick apparently has had enough. He’s taking his clout and going home.