Bill O’Brien is the latest opposing coach to do the Foxborough fold

Bill O'Brien is now 0-5 against Bill Belichick.
Bill O'Brien is now 0-5 against Bill Belichick.(steven senne/AP)

What was true last year, and the year before that, is still true today. Nothing has changed. The Patriots are going to get where they want to go this year on the merits of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, plus the unwavering buffoonery of their opponents. Like death, taxes, and the first penalty in the old Montreal Forum, you can depend on the guy on the other sideline throwing up on his shoes. Every week.

Sunday’s easy Patriots victory over the Texans was a great case in point. It was more of the same stuff we’ve been telling you for the last 15 years. Smart, accomplished football men lose all of their grid acumen at the very sight of Belichick and Brady. It is a certainty.


As the years have unfolded, the Patriots have become less talented, less deep, and less dominant, but it does not matter. New England can no longer overwhelm teams on sheer ability. But the coaching disparity across the league is greater than ever.

The Patriots can always rely on the kindness of the strangers and friends who come into Foxborough with the misguided mission that they can compete based on sheer physicality and football ability.

The Patriots know all they have to do is . . . wait. Stand around and the opponent will self-destruct.

Remember the words of these leaders:

Napoleon: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.’’

General Sun Tzu (“The Art of War”): “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.’’

Houston coach Bill O’Brien: (The Art of Losing): “That’s not my job to call a timeout, to make their job easier . . . Whatever you are going to write, you are going to write . . . These are questions for Al Riveron and the NFL, not for me.’’


O’Brien’s skull-imploding stupidity is just the latest example of the “Gillette panic” syndrome that takes hold of just about all grid bosses who try to match wits with Belichick.

It has gotten worse over the years. From Gary Kubiak to Marvin Lewis to Jack Del Rio to Pete Carroll to Mike Tomlin to Andy Reid to Dan Quinn. The torch is passed with trembling hands. Tinker to Evers to (No) Chance. Spit the bit. Take the apple. Choke at the sight of the Hoodie.

I have no doubt that O’Brien is a fine fellow and a good football coach. He worked here as Brady’s quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. But like all those before him, he lost his mind Sunday in Foxborough. He is 0-5 against Belichick as head coach of the Texans, and if he plays him 95 more times, he will be 0-100.

Given six months to prepare for this game, O’Brien drew up a scheme that resulted in his quarterback putting the football on the ground on Houston’s first offensive play of the season. The Texans simply rolled over and gave the Patriot the football on the Houston 19. How’s that for game preparation?

Let’s fast-forward to the final minutes of the first half. O’Brien worked in Fort Foxborough. He knows what the Patriots always do at the end of the half. The Patriots always score in the final two minutes and break your back. So when O’Brien’s team had the football in a still-winnable (14-6) game in the final four minutes of the first half, you would think he would do everything in his power to make sure the Patriots don’t somehow get the ball back and score on him before halftime.


So what does O’Brien do? He panics. He loses his football mind. He drives his team backward. He watches Belichick calling time out after just about every aimless Houston play. He sees the blood drain from the faces of his helpless players. He knows where this is going when he punts the ball back to the Patriots with a minute and a half left. Then he stands helplessly as the Patriots put the game away. The way they always do.

When Brady completes a dubious, drive-making 28-yard pass over the middle to Rob Gronkowski (we’ll never know whether it would have been ruled a catch) with 1:05 remaining, O’Brien does nothing during the chaos after the questionable catch.

Knowing exactly what the Patriots will do (Brady will rush to get off another play before the officials have time to review the play), O’Brien does not call a timeout to force a review from Riveron and the league officials in New York. Even though he has three timeouts in his pocket!

He lets the Patriots have their big gain, then sees them steamroll his team and score another touchdown to put the game out of reach before intermission.

Instead of going into halftime down 14-6 or even 14-9, the Texans trail, 21-6, and the game is effectively over.


And when it is over — like Kubiak, Lewis, Del Rio, Carroll, Tomlin, Reid, Quinn, and all the others — O’Brien defiantly says he would do it the same way all over again. Even though he once worked for the Patriots and learned to exploit the dunces who could not beat New England.

O’Brien still says it was not his job to call time to help the officials get it right.


Patriots win. They always win.

There was a time when the Patriots won simply because they had better football players. Now they win because they are better coached and prepared, and other coaches forget everything they know when they see Brady and Belichick.

A lot of Patriots fans despise this narrative. “Why do you keep writing the same story?’’ they ask.

Because the same thing keeps happening.

Game after game. Year after year. Decade after decade.

In 2018, the Patriots players are not that much better than other NFL players, but the coaching disparity has never been greater. It is the ultimate weapon in NFL warfare. Opponents are spooked. They lose their minds. And they lose almost every game against the Patriots.

Next week: Jacksonville.

In last year’s AFC Championship game, the Jaguars blew a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter in Foxborough. They were stupid. They were tagged for six penalties for 98 yards, including pass interference calls of 37 and 36 yards. The Patriots were flagged once for 10 yards.


Your turn, Doug Marrone. Keep the barf bag handy in your back pocket.

Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy