An ode to Bill Belichick

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Here at jeffpearlman.com, where dreams come true and bribes are accepted, I like having up-and-comers speak their mind. Hence, the following was written by Yaron Weitzman, a junior at NYU, an aspiring journalist and the pride of New Rochelle.

Oh, he doesn’t care much for the Patriots …

Very few people hate Bill Belichick as much as I do.

I hate how he screwed over my Jets by resigning on a napkin before even completing one day as head coach. I hate his arrogance. I hate the way that he treated Eric Mangini when Mangini first took the Jets head coach job.

Really I just hate how good he is.

My hate for Belichick, however, has never been stronger than it is right now. Because now I hate Bill Belichick for making me defend him.

We all know the situation: Fourth and two for the Patriots on their own 29 yard line. Instead of punting the ball to Peyton Manning and the Colts, like every other NFL coach would do without hesitation, Belichick decides to go for the win and the first down. Patriots don’t convert. Colts go on to victory.

Suddenly, Belichick is a coach too arrogant for his own good. “ I hated the call. It smacked of I’m-smarter-than-they-are hubris,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in his Monday morning column. Former Patriot Rodney Harrison and ex-Colts coach Tony Dungy were killing Belichick after the game on NBC. In a column on espn.boston.com, former Patriot Teddy Bruschi wrote, “[Belichick] is going to have to rebuild the feeling of confidence in his defensive unit.”

As is usually the case, all these so-called NFL “experts” are ignoring the statistical evidence supporting Belichick’s decisions. Without getting too deep into the math (a more in-depth analysis can be found at Advancednflstats.com and Pro-football-reference.com), by going for it on fourth down, Belichick gave the Patriots about a 70% chance of winning, whereas punting would have put a New England victory at around 60%. And even if you tinker with the exact percentages of the Colt scoring or the Pats converting, there is still almost no way that anyone can statistically argue that Belichick made the wrong call.

By going for it on fourth down, Belichick did what every NFL coach is supposed to do—put his team in the best position to win. The fact that the fourth down conversion failed is irrelevant in analyzing the decision. To call this a knee-jerk decision made because of ego is ridiculous (is anything Belichick does knee jerk?). And as for Bruschi’s argument that the defense’s confidence is going to be shot for the rest of the year because Belichick put the game in the hands of Tom Brady … Really? Does Lamar Odom cry that Phil Jackson has no confidence in him when Jackson designs last minute plays for Kobe Bryant?

Here’s my problem. The people killing Belichick are the same “experts” that killed Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano for leaving the Colts too much time in a game earlier in the season. They’re the same people who have been labeling Belichick a genius over the past decade. If you want to kill Belichick for his poor clock management and use of time outs, that’s one thing. But to criticize Belichick for going for it on fourth down is hindsight analysis that ignores the fact that Belichick’s decision was a classic case of a coach using a good process, just getting a bad result. The public lambasting that he is taking is ridiculous.

That said—I’m not loving every minute of it.

3 thoughts on “An ode to Bill Belichick”

  1. Jeff,

    I agree with you 100%. Bill’s biggest mistake was his clock managment. He left himself with no timeouts. He should’ve run on 3rd down…regardless, a loss is a loss. If he made the 1st down, he’d be praised as brilliant on Monday.

  2. This post just underscores the problem with statistical models in re: sports, particularly football. I personally abhor the ultra-conservative play calling prevalent in the NFL. But football isn’t played in a vacuum. The models don’t take into account the 22 individuals on the field, the field itself, etc. That was the wrong call.
    And Derek Jeter is a good shortstop.

  3. 1. The biggest problem wasn’t this particular call but the poor decisions which led to this call.

    2. Football, unlike baseball, cannot reliably be explained by or understood in terms of statistics. The variables in a football game are far too inter-related.

    3. Peyton Manning.

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