Even Geniuses Make Mistakes: The Bill Belichick Story

Craig RondinoneCorrespondent INovember 20, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watches play in the fourth quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 15, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts won the game 35-34. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Nobody is perfect, not even the most intelligent people in the world.

Robert De Niro has made a couple bad movies, like Stardust and Hide and Seek.

Michael Jordan couldn’t cut it as a baseball player, and his decision-making as a basketball executive has been spotty at best. 

And Flavor Flav always chooses the wrong women on "Flavor of Love."

Now another genius has made a misstep. The smartest mind in the NFL picked a bad time to go against convention, and I’m not talking about calling a draw play on a 3rd-and-15.

The talk dominating the water cooler areas this week has revolved around the fourth-down call by head coach-guru-genius-gambler Bill Belichick in last Sunday night’s New England-Indianapolis classic.

As you must have seen or heard by now, Belichick opted to go for it on 4th-and-2 from New England’s own 28-yard line with two minutes remaining rather than punt the ball to Peyton Manning and Co. The rest is history.

While the majority of pundits, experts, former Patriots players and fantasy football owners have decried Belichick’s decision as terrible, there have been some people who have pointed to percentages and said Belichick made a wise move that just didn’t work. Here are a couple problems with the "wise move" movement:


The Play Calling

If you know ahead of time that you are going to go for it on fourth-and-short, then why not run it on third or fourth down, if not both downs? It is not like Indianapolis’ lightweight defensive line was doing much run-stopping throughout the game.

Kevin Faulk is no Gale Sayers, yet he managed to scamper for 79 yards on 12 carries, and New England as a team had 113 rushing yards. Having Faulk run a three-yard route where there is little room for error makes little sense.

Having No Faith in Your Defense

Say the Brady-to-Faulk hookup works and New England runs out the clock and wins. Wouldn’t the young Patriots defense still have been peeved at their head coach for not trusting them? And no doubt the defense in not happy with him now that the idea failed miserably. Former Pats Pro Bowlers Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi echoed that sentiment on television.

ESPN’s Merrill Hoge had one of the weirdest theories this week. He claimed that Belichick showed he had faith in his defense by going for it, because he proved to them that he thought they could stop Manning and his merry men if the Pats handed them the ball at the 28.

Huh? If Belichick had so much faith in his defense, why not punt the ball and make the Colts go 70 yards for a touchdown instead of 28?

Speaking of having faith in your defense, that’s exactly what Indianapolis head honcho Jim Caldwell had in his. Many people could/would have second-guessed Caldwell’s decision to kickoff to New England with 2:23 left on the clock.

The Patriots had no problem moving the ball via land or air all game and all they really needed was one first down to end things, because even if they didn’t get a second there would have been a tiny amount of time for that wizard Manning to create any magic. Yet no one talks about how that decision by Caldwell might have been just as important as Belichick’s in the final outcome.

Run and Shoot

The "Wildcat" offense is getting as popular among teams as Gatorade and cheerleaders. One team that should use it and use it a lot is the Buffalo Bills.

I would rank Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson right up there with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in terms of running back duos that possess the speed, power and vision to pull it off, plus it’s obvious that quarterbacks Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick are not going to turn the passing attack into anything special anytime soon, so why not build your offense around the two most talented players you have?

The New York Jets find more innovative ways to lose games than any other team in the NFL, including the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns. Here is their laundry list:

Week Four—New York lost to New Orleans 24-10 when rookie quarterback/interception machine Mark Sanchez turned the ball over four times, including a fumble and an interception that both resulted in defensive touchdowns for the opportunistic Saints. This wasted a superb defensive effort by the Jets defense, which held Drew Brees to 190 yards passing and no touchdowns.

Week Six—New York lost to Buffalo 16-13 in overtime, even though the Jets rushed for 310 yards AND knocked out Bills starting quarterback Trent Edwards early in the game with a concussion.

This time Sanchez outdid himself and threw five interceptions, and punter Steve Weatherford got into the act with a pick of his own after a botched hold on a field goal attempt, which came AFTER a backup tight end received a 10-yard holding penalty on a simple running play that was just setting up the Jets for better field goal position.

Week Eight—Although their defense only allowed 104 total yards in arguably one of the most dominant defensive efforts of the season, New York lost to Miami 30-25 thanks to two kickoff returns for touchdowns by former first-round bust Ted Ginn.

This is not mentioning the two last-second losses to Miami in Week 5 and Jacksonville last week where the vaunted Jets defense allowed their opponents to drive right down the field in the closing minutes for winning scores.

You could make an argument that the Jets should be at least 6-3, could be 7-2, and would be 8-1 if all three areas—offense, defense, special teams—could play decently at the same time. But the Jets never make the plays in the fourth quarter that winning teams like Indianapolis and Pittsburgh make. That’s why they are the Jets.

Two more questions regarding the Jets:

How hard is it to only be 4-5 when you have the top-ranked rushing offense and the third-best overall defense in the NFL?

Answer: Pretty hard.

What would the Jets record be if Jeff Garcia had been the starting quarterback and Sanchez was allowed to just watch and learn during his rookie campaign?

Answer: The Jets probably would have won the games against New Orleans and Buffalo that Sanchez singlehandedly lost for them, and possibly another close loss or two would have turned out differently with a steadier veteran hand at the helm. Then the Jets would have been mentioned in the same breath as the Cincinnati Bengals as the surprise teams in the AFC.

Having Kellen Clemens as Sanchez's backup instead of a proven commodity like Garcia might have not only cost the Jets a playoff berth, but stunted Sanchez's growth as well. 



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