NFL Week 11 Notes from a Wandering Fan
NFL notes from a wandering fan:
Thumbs Up: Bill Belichick’s Happiness Level
One of the unexpected joys of this football season has been imagining just how happy New England coach Bill Belichick must be in the year that he turned 70. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a great affinity for Belichick — I mean, who has? — but I’ve always found him fascinating. I’ve always wondered: What makes him better at this coaching thing than all of the others? It certainly isn’t his charisma. It certainly isn’t his halftime speeches. It certainly isn’t his sartorial splendor. I don’t think he works harder than so many of these other loonies who become head football coaches.
So what is it? My friend Dave Fleming tweeted this out years ago:
Yes, I think that’s a huge part of it. Belichick, more than any coach I think, simply does what it takes to win. As I’ve written before, it’s one thing to SAY you will do it — to SAY you will draft the player you think is best regardless of what the consensus might be, to SAY you will cut a star player the minute that player stops being a net-positive, to SAY you will throw on every down or run on every down or rush two linemen or blitz on every play because you think that’s your best chance.
Belichick doesn’t SAY anything. He does. He asks one question and one question only: Will this give us a better chance to win? And if the answer is yes, he does it and his team does it and that’s the whole story. That’s six Super Bowls, right there.
After Week 7 — when the Patriots got demolished by the Bears on a Monday night at home — I think that light turned back on for Belichick. It had been a tough two and half seasons. The Patriots had gone 20-20 over that stretch and had become this shapeless form of mediocrity. With Tom Brady gone, Belichick desperately tried Cam Newton at quarterback. That was a disaster. They drafted quarterback Mac Jones out of Alabama and shored up the defense, but that team was still pretty blah and then they got absolutely torched in their playoff game in Buffalo.
After the Bears game this year, they were 3-4.
And then — well, you know how in “Black Panther,” T’Challa’s mother shouts out “Show him who you are!” Well, something like that seemed to kick in for Belichick. And Belichick remembered that nothing makes him happier, absolutely nothing, than stealing joy from the world. And since then the Patriots have played three of the most boring games in NFL history.
And naturally, they won all three of them.
— They beat the Jets 19-17 by persuading and cajoling Jets quarterback Zach Wilson to throw three interceptions. At least I think that’s what happened. I fell asleep.
— They beat the Colts 26-3 by sacking quarterback Sam Ehlinger nine times and holding them to 121 yards of offense.
— On Sunday, in the triumphant crescendo, they beat the Jets again, 10-3 this time, in what my buddy and Patriots fan Mike Schur said “might be the worst football game ever played.” He sent this drive chart to prove the point.
Yeah, that’s some unwatchable football right there. Just as Bill Belichick likes it.
Now, there will be those of you who will scream, “No! That’s great football! Defense is super fun to watch! Every game doesn’t have to be 42-41!” And to you, I say: Infidel! No, just kidding, if you like that kind of football, that’s great, hey, you, too, might have spent your childhood getting dragged to Navy-William & Mary games.
The larger point is that Bill Belichick seems to have found his rhythm again. He’s back to torturing young quarterbacks and winning on special teams and stealing joy. I’ll bet he’s happier than he’s been in years.
Thumbs Down: Cleveland Browns
The Browns lost convincingly to Buffalo on Sunday, even though: