The other day, when writing my column, “20 Thoughts from Another Saturday in College Football,” point No. 20 was that sometimes, football coaches “Are too smart for their own good.”
However, after spending four days listening to fans of football defend Bill Belichick for Sunday night’s fourth down fiasco in Indianapolis, I can’t help but wonder if the fans themselves are getting too smart for their own good. Either that or they’re going insane.
Look, if the 24-hour ESPNNews, Twitter, Deadspin, blogging world that we live in has done one good thing, it’s that it’s allowed everyone- from the top CEO at Sports Illustrated to the lowest fan on the totem pole (including guys like me)- a voice. Unfortunately, if Sunday proved anything, it’s that after chewing, swallowing and digesting something in the need-for-information world we live in, in some cases there may actually be too much opinion and too many voices out there.
Bill Belichick's Fourth Decision Sunday was
nothing except inexcusable
Because that's the only explanation I can come up with as to why I’ve heard so many people- some I respect, some not so much- say that Belichick’s decision to go for a 4th down and 2 on his own 28-yard line, was a genius and revolutionary move.
Umm, wait a second. No, no it wasn’t a genius move. Not at all.
Now I’m usually not one to criticize Belichick, after all he’s got three Super Bowl rings, and I’ve got, well, at last count none. I also don’t want to turn this into a 2000 word manifesto, because you’ve already read 30,000 different takes on the play, and one more might make you lose your mind. But I have to get some things off my chest.
Here are the facts: Up to that one fourth down play, New England had dominated Indianapolis. They had close to 100 yards more of total offense than the Colts, controlled the clock for 10 more minutes, and forced Peyton Manning into two interceptions. Punt there, and there’s a 57 minute body of work that makes a strong case that you’ll get the needed stop.
But beyond that, here’s what few are talking about, which makes Belichick’s choice so much worse. You can sugar-coat a lot of things, but this you cannot: Belichick grossly and egregiously mismanaged the clock and mismanaged his timeouts.
Although he called a timeout to set up a make-or-break 4th down and 2 play, I cannot believe that no one is chastising Belichick for using the Patriots second time out of the half before the first play of the same drive. I have watched football a long time, and have never seen that, and there’s a reason why. Because there should never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever (Did I mention ever) be an excuse to use a timeout before the first play of a drive (unless one of your linemen is about to faint on his walk out to the huddle and needs a power bar). Never.
Seriously think about it, the Patriots had a full defensive series, a kickoff and a TV timeout to set up that first down play. That’s at the very least 7-10 minutes of real time, for ONE PLAY! Why is no one talking about this!?!?!?!
And once they burned that timeout and another to set up their fourth down play; that was when the decision to go for it went from curious to indefensible.
Had the Patriots had even the original timeout from the beginning of the series, I’d have no problem with the fourth down call. Tom Brady could break the huddle, go to the line of scrimmage, try to draw someone offside, read the defense, and if something wasn’t right he could have called a timeout and they could have punted. I’d have been cool with that. But New England didn’t have the timeout, the Patriots broke huddle, came to the line of scrimmage, and the rest is history.
Also, since the game, I’ve heard the situation twisted and turned around in a lot of ways. One logical school of thought was that Belichick had overwhelming confidence in his offense to get two yards. I don’t agree with the play, but I can buy that explanation.
The other? That he had overwhelming confidence in his defense as well. After all, if the offense didn’t convert, well, old Billy believed his defense could keep Indianapolis out of the end zone from 28 yards away. Umm, wait, what???????
If anything this was an egregious example (Man, you know I’m fired up when I use the word egregious twice in the same column), of NOT trusting his defense. How could anyone see the situation as anything but Belichick not believing that they could get four straight stops against Manning with a 70 yard cushion behind them?
The decision wasn’t genius or revolutionary, it was simply bone-headed and arrogant. Watching Willie B’s postgame press conference, he seemed disinterested in explaining why he went against 100 years of football logic and instead simply repeated the same line over and over: “I thought we could get the yardage.” Yeh, sorry coach, but I’m going to need a little bit of a better explanation than that.
And while an explanation might be nice, Belichick doesn’t owe me anything. What he does owe however, is an apology to the 53 guys in his locker room. He let his bloated ego get in the way of logic, and it cost every one of them who followed him into battle, with a victory they deserved.
Look, go ahead and twist things, turn them and break down the film frame by frame if you want, it’s your prerogative.
But Belichick’s decision wasn’t anything but utter incompetence, rather than the evil genius he’s been known for. For once Belichick was the guy staring out in the distance in disbelief, the exact guy he’s been bullying for close to a decade in his trademark cut-off hoodie.
You can listen to whomever you want, but I can't cut it any other way, it was the wrong decision. And I won’t hear anything different.