Bill Belichick’s new version of The Patriot Way is full of inconsistencies
While looking for answers for the New England Patriots, coach Bill Belichick is beginning to look at the past rather than the future.
At the end of every game or season — good or bad — Belichick typically focused on what was to come. After the infamous defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015, Belichick was “on to Cincinnati.” After the Super Bowl win later that year, Belichick was on to 2016.
But this offseason, what is the coach’s message to Patriots fans after an 8-9 season, New England’s second losing season in the past three years?
What message of optimism does he have for the fans? It’s got to be: On to 2023. Surely.
*Record scratches and the bar goes quiet*
“The last 25 years,” Belichick said Monday.
When looking for optimism, fans should look at the past. Not the future.
The comment echoed of something Belichick said after his final game with Tom Brady, a playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans. A reporter asked Belichick for his message to fans who have been through thick and thin in supporting the team.
“We appreciate our fans,” Belichick said in a postgame press conference in January 2020. “I wouldn’t say it’s been all that thin around here, personally. Maybe you feel differently, but I haven’t heard too many fans say that.”
We get it. You’ve won six Super Bowls. You’ve appeared in eight. You are the greatest coach of all time. And in some ways, that should be reassuring to fans, because you’ve pulled the rabbit out of the hat for decades. You’ve built super teams. At times, you also made something out of nothing. But you also had Brady for all those years and all those Super Bowls.
It’s not about Brady, though. These messages sound shrill because of Belichick, who has long discouraged the media, the players and the coaches from looking at the past to determine future success. He is the one who is consistently focused on the future. He is the one who makes his players earn their jobs every single season, because last season doesn’t matter.
Belichick’s message muddles what we thought we knew about The Patriot Way. We are seeing an inconsistent Patriots team on the field. And we’re hearing an inconsistent Belichick off the field.
The Patriots coach is the king of What Have You Done For Me Lately. And yet, New England hasn’t won a playoff game without Brady as the starter in the Belichick era.
Maybe Belichick is getting nervous about his standing. Maybe he’s growing tired of the newfound skepticism about his coaching practices. Whatever it is, the coach needs to tread carefully. His off-tune messages to the media and fans may have come across as a form of evil genius in the past. But those qualities are far less charming on a middle-of-the-league team. (And this year, they could be a bottom-of-the-league team.)
Ultimately, Belichick is going to continue to push back against reporters, because … well, “the last 25 years.” He can stand his ground with a different tact to face new circumstances. If nothing else, Belichick adapts. He changes. Maybe that’s what he’s doing here. And maybe he is working a new angle — one that instills confidence in his players. After all, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster explained a simple reasoning for joining the Patriots: “It was Belichick.”
He remains the main attraction for the Patriots.
“I still believe in Bill,” owner Robert Kraft said Monday.
There are so many who do. Belichick is appealing to that contingent — the “In Bill We Trust” group of fans — to rally around him in 2023, which may be one of the toughest years yet for New England. The Patriots would appear to be the weakest team in the division if Aaron Rodgers joins the Jets. But Belichick had better be careful. His newfound appreciation for his résumé is not as endearing as his previous fixation on what’s next.
He’s playing a dangerous game.
Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.
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Source: FOX Sports