Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Belichick Derangement Syndrome Strikes Again

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 21, 2015

Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano watches his team play the New England Patriots during an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.  (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

1. Another BDS victim

My favorite Bill Belichick story goes like this:

When Belichick was head coach of the Browns, an official from the league office came to the team's facility for a planned visit. Belichick was supposed to have gathered the team for the visit. The official found him in a dark room, watching film. The door was open, but the official knocked anyway. Courtesy and all. Belichick didn't move. Knock, knock. Still nothing. Anyone there? Finally, Belichick looked away from the monitor, but only momentarily—just long enough to tell the official he didn't have time to get the team together. Then he went back to watching the film.

I don't think much has changed since then when it comes to the hours Belichick puts in and his desire to beat his fellow coaches. If anything, Belichick is more obsessed. Wants to be the best more. Wants to outwork the next guy more. Outsmart, outwork, outlast. That's the Belichick way.

(No, not out-cheat, as some of you will say.)

Sitting in that film room. Making sure no one sees something he doesn't. That's the essence of Belichick.

And this is why when coaches face Belichick, so many tend to overreach. They know he always has something for them. It could be a weakness he figured out, or it could be a trick. Coaches know that Belichick probes their teams the way hackers search for weaknesses in a firewall.

They panic. They change. They begin to do things that aren't really themselves. This is called Belichick Derangement Syndrome. BDS.

There is no better example of that than the already infamous SwingingGateGate fake punt the Colts tried to pull against Belichick's Patriots on Sunday.

BDS is highly contagious. Chuck Pagano caught it.

Louis Riddick, a former front-office executive who is now an analyst for ESPN, played for Belichick. His words about BDS are the best you will ever hear on it. He spoke this week on ESPN.

"This is what happens with coaches when they go up against him," Riddick said of Belichick. "They try to overthink things because they think he may have something up his sleeve. 'So let me see if I can jump to the front of the line and pull something on him...' He gets inside the heads of some opposing coaches and you try and do something like this, and it just backfires."

Ding, ding, ding!

I've written about BDS before regarding certain rules changes. But there has never been a better example of how the virus works than what Pagano did. There may never be one.

The main thing about Belichick is that he's comfortable with who he is. I think this is why Tom Coughlin is one of the few coaches who can beat him in huge spots; Coughlin is the same way.

What I mean by saying Belichick is comfortable in his own skin is that he doesn't care if you don't like him. If you don't invite him to that coaches' party. If you call him names.

Because he's in that film room, studying. And looking for your weaknesses. And guys like Pagano are shaking in their boots, wondering what Belichick has in store for them.

2. Bill Belichick in the film room

Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

Read this breakdown from Belichick about the swinging gate play. It's from his press conference Monday. It's a gem—a window into how Belichick and his staff operate:

Well, I think the play was a version of the swinging gate play. I don't know exactly how it was supposed to work. That's something you'd have to ask them about. They brought the gunner in to snap the ball so he would've been an eligible receiver, so we had to cover him. I think basically you want to try to, on punt formations you like that, it's just a numbers game. You want to have enough guys to match to the smaller numbers, and as many guys as you can to match to the larger number where they were over-shifted.

We certainly knew that the punter could throw. He's done that before. He's thrown passes to uncovered guys on punt formations, and we saw him run against Tennessee, so we were aware of those things. So it's just kind of everybody making sure that they take care of their responsibility on the shift and make sure that we can defend the formation and know who is eligible. I think it's something that every special teams coach goes over. The same thing could happen on field goals with the swinging gate. You see teams line up for an extra point with everybody over on the hash mark and if you don't have it covered they flip it out to him and if you do then they come back in and kick the extra point. It's that type of a play. 

We certainly knew that the punter could throw.

Now, many staffs would prepare their teams by telling them to watch the hell out for the throwing punter. But a lot of teams would still have screwed that up. Watch that historic play again from the Patriots vantage point. The players are perfect. They don't flinch. They don't screw up. It's beautiful to watch.

Belichick doesn't even call a timeout because he's so confident the players will get it right.

3. Does Chuck Pagano have to make the Super Bowl to save his job?

John Minchillo/Associated Press

I despise talking about coaches' jobs this way. I rarely do it. It's cruel, but the fake-punt failure with the Colts makes this a unique situation.

In speaking with a number of people around the league, the general consensus is that Pagano now has to make the Super Bowl to save his job.

What helps Pagano is the crappy division the Colts have dominated in the Andrew Luck era. What hurts Pagano is the already dicey relationship between him and the front office. Oh, and that play. That play doesn't help him either.

4. No college for Chip Kelly, no pros for Jim Harbaugh

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Chip Kelly isn't leaving the Eagles for college.

Jim Harbaugh isn't leaving Michigan for the pros.

No amount of money or power is going to change either of those things this year. It won't happen.

So stop with the rumors about both leaving after this season. It. Will. Not. Happen.

5. The MVP race could be closest in decades

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 18:  Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half at CenturyLink Field on October 18, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Panthers defeated the Se
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The number of legitimate MVP candidates is pretty impressive. There are the top two candidates: Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. That's a tough enough decision.

But Cam Newton is legitimately right there with them. So is Andy Dalton.

Just those four alone and it's hard to pick one at this point. This is the best Brady we've ever seen, and that's saying something. Rodgers is playing the position as well as anyone despite having lost a number of receivers over the past few weeks. Dalton is throwing with great accuracy and confidence. Newton has one weapon on offense, his tight end, and that's it.

If you remove any fandom and just look analytically, it's incredibly hard to choose. I'd probably go Rodgers, but there's no argument with any of the others.

6. Peyton Manning struggling, but...

David Richard/Associated Press

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning looks like a player who has lost his fastball. He looks, frankly, shot.

But there's one thing Manning is still doing a lot of: winning. Manning and the Broncos are 6-0, and according to the NFL, "It marks the sixth time [in his career he] has led his team to a 6-0 start, the most of any starting quarterback in NFL history."

7. A growing weapon in Martavis Bryant

Martavis Bryant has always been a sort of hit-or-miss player. He has great speed, for sure, but he's more the occasional big-play guy. That might change. The Steelers might not have a choice but to get him far more involved in the offense, because he continues to show great explosion.

Against Arizona, he had six catches for 137 yards and an 88-yard touchdown. Last December, he had a 94-yard touchdown against the Bengals. The NFL says Bryant "is the second player in NFL history with an 88-plus-yard touchdown catch in each of his first two career seasons."

The last guy to do it? Gus Tinsley of the Chicago Cardinals in 1937 and 1938.

To show how much the NFL has changed, Tinsley's 675 receiving yards in 1937 was a season high. So were his 41 catches in 1938.

Six weeks into this season, DeAndre Hopkins has 52 catches for a league-high 726 yards.

8. QB consecutive starts

Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

This past week, Philip Rivers started his 150th consecutive game, making him only the fourth quarterback in history to accomplish that. Eli Manning just had his 173rd. Peyton Manning had a streak of 208 earlier in his career.

All impressive. Then you look at the record-holder for consecutive starts. Brett Favre had 297.

9. Jets can make huge statement

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 18:  Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets is congratulated by his teammate Calvin Pryor #25 after intercepting a pass during the third quarter against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on October 18, 2015 in East
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

I think the Patriots will destroy the Jets when the two meet this week. But if they don't, it could signal just how real the Jets are.

One NFC assistant coach put it to me this way: "A Jets win would shake up not just the division but the entire conference."

10. Two undefeated teams?

Could the Packers and Patriots go undefeated in the regular season?

The short answer is probably not. But I think the chances of it happening are not hell no.

I think there's a good 20 percent chance. The reason why is both the Packers and Patriots have the quarterbacks who can pull it off. Brady's obviously already done it.

But the real potential catalysts would be weakness in the division. Both divisions are fairly putrid. Not AFC South putrid, but close.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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