Patriots trust in Bill Belichick’s words of wisdom
HOUSTON — Bill Belichick has deserved the right to boast the singular authoritative voice within the Patriots football operations.
It’s an alteration from the early 2000s when cornerback Ty Law could demand a coverage assignment, as he did with Isaac Bruce prior to Super Bowl XXXVI. Certainly, the current crop of Patriots can have their say on certain matters, but their roles are clearly defined and they trust that process.
When asked what the give-and-take is like with Belichick, captain Dont’a Hightower replied, “More of taking, not really giving. Bill has obviously been around for a long time, and he might say that he doesn’t have all the answers, but in reality he has obviously been successful in every aspect that he has been a coach, whether it’s special teams or whatever. He has been around success, and he has brewed success. It’d be very wrong to not listen to such words of wisdom.”
In December, after returner Cyrus Jones fumbled for the fifth time this season, Julian Edelman was asked if he’d lobby to return to that role given his overwhelming success since entering the league in 2009. Edelman replied, “No, you don’t do that around here. You kind of just do what you’re told.”
As it were, Edelman resumed his role as the punt returner anyway, so all sides were on the same page. But the response revealed the way the players view their assignments.
The trust is the greatest factor, and Belichick’s credentials are vastly superior now than they had been a decade and a half ago. With a win Sunday against the Falcons, Belichick would break a tie with Chuck Noll for the most Super Bowl victories as a head coach, and he is already set to lead his Patriots into a record seventh Super Bowl. Those are merely the highlighted portions of his long resume.
“Bill is the best coach of all-time,” linebacker Rob Ninkovich said. “Obviously, he is the best ever, year in and year out, and that’s getting a group of guys from all areas of life to come together for one goal. That’s through information early on. We understand that it’s not easy. We understand that more games are lost than won, all through situations. He coaches us through situations, how teams lose games, and he explains that so you understand it.”
The implementation of each week’s game plan as well as the roles within it might be quietly questioned, but no one butts heads over the matter. That stretches across the board, as the players were universally miffed over the Jamie Collins trade but didn’t stage a coup.
There are some adjustments on the fly, though. Six-time captain Devin McCourty voiced the need for some halftime adjustments against the Bengals in Week 6, and Belichick praised him for making the smart call. And in Week 7, when the Steelers stacked the seams against Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady preached patience on the sideline, so they took the short stuff and waited for the Steelers to stumble.
But other than that, the Patriots take Belichick’s words to heart because of the consistency of his message and the authority that he has earned.
“If it insults me, that’s the way it is,” Ninkovich said. “That’s football. If Bill comes to me and tells me I’m not a good football player, I have to take that and say, ‘OK, I’ve got to be a good football player.’ I’m taking the coaching to try to better myself. You can’t take it as an insult. You’ve got to answer the business of football. Coaches are trying to get us in the best position to win.”
It’s a similar dynamic with the assistant coaches, too. And even though Belichick has an extensive defensive background, there’s plenty of value in his perspective on the offensive side because he recognizes vulnerabilities in a game plan.
“Things he has recommended, whether it be a game adjustment or something over the course of the week, really, they’ve worked,” wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea said. “He’s got such great vision and knows the game so well, and I think there is a tremendous amount of confidence we as coaches have in the information that he is providing us. This is quality information, and it’s information the players know if they execute the things (the coaches) ask them to do, they’ll be successful.”
It all boils down to one component — Belichick has the respect of everyone in the building. So if he makes a call, the Patriots run with it.
“We take our jobs seriously,” safety Patrick Chung said. “When Bill puts us in situations, we take pride in that.”