If you’re a fan of the NFL, you’re probably familiar with the prevailing perception: that Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick is a shrewd football strategist who guards his team’s secrets with a tight grip.
It often seems like a performance, with Bill adhering to the league’s mandated media obligations while revealing little real significance.
He tends to offer clichés with an air of indifference towards his audience.
However, this perception is not entirely accurate.
Having interacted with Coach Belichick from a media standpoint rather than as a player in meetings or on the field, it’s become clear that his impatience is more directed at those who don’t truly listen.
If you’re interested in understanding what he believes his team is excelling at, where they’re falling short, or what they’re focused on improving, he will share.
He does so in a deliberately ambiguous manner, but when combined with the game footage, there’s ample information to discern the team’s likely direction in their weekly preparations.
There is substance, though it may not be packaged as sensational headlines.
It’s understandable if you wouldn’t immediately recognize that substance if you’ve never been in an NFL meeting room or huddle.
However, there’s plenty there to decipher the actual workings of his team.
Belichick’s press conference from a couple of days ago, on Saturday, serves as a prime example of substance beneath a seemingly mundane surface:
BB: I think there’s a big difference between where any team is now and where they were the first week of September. That’s a big part of it.
It might seem lackluster and straightforward, right? Shouldn’t you be firing Dave DeGuglielmo for not being Dante Scarnecchia?
Or perhaps issuing an apology for trading Logan Mankins? And what about shedding light on how Tom Brady is significantly more 37 now than he was four weeks ago when he was also 37? Nothing to say, Bill? Nothing?!
Jokes aside, the essence of this quote, while unremarkable and straightforward, is highly pertinent to the team’s current situation.
The Patriot’s offense isn’t producing points at the level we witnessed towards the end of last year when they ranked as the second-highest scoring offense in the NFL. But is that cause for alarm?
It seems like we go through this routine every year in New England.
Last year, the Patriots struggled on offense in several early season games as well (against the Jets, Bengals, and Buccaneers).
They engage in self-analysis, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and make the necessary adjustments. Understandably, from an outsider’s perspective, the focus tends to be on individual performance.
If you see one player underperforming, it’s easy to label them as subpar without considering potential shifts in play-calling and strategy to maximize their effectiveness.
Occasionally, players do improve. Other times, it might not be solely about improvement but instead avoiding situations that don’t align with their skill set or current level of development.
Various factors influence the speed at which teams can implement changes—such as the experience of those involved, injuries, and adjustments needed for specific opponents.
However, in the grand scheme, this organization almost always finds a solution.
These adjustments don’t guarantee a championship at the end of the year.
Yet, if we’re being honest, the real surprise would be if the Patriots remained precisely as they were in the first few games. That’s the kind of stagnation that would raise some concerns…
I don’t think the leaves are going to change this fall. Nope. Probably just gonna stay green all winter…
Having spent years in New England as both a player and now a media member, one thing becomes exceedingly evident: the Patriots are incredibly self-reflective and adaptable regarding their strategies.
They’re not afraid to experiment with various approaches, dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to the cause.
However, it’s essential to recognize that the end product in December is never identical to what it was in September; it inevitably evolves.
Indeed, there are instances where the final result falls short of securing a championship, attributed to various factors.
Yet, you’ll be hard-pressed to find moments when the Patriots stubbornly persist in unsuccessful methods when alternative options are available.
\They embrace change, a crucial aspect of football’s complexity. With a talented roster, and barring any catastrophic injuries, the Patriots possess the ability and willingness to adapt.
BB: Can the weaknesses be avoided or, covered up or masked in some way or another so they don’t become a problem so that you can continue to work to your strengths? I think every team in the league is going through those kinds of conversations over the next, I’d say, three, four, five weeks.
Coach Belichick’s comment is quite illuminating because it provides all the answers you need, much like a cheat sheet for an exam – you just need to review the game footage.
Currently, the Patriots’ offense is not performing at its best, and they readily acknowledge that fact.
The insights from an internal perspective far surpass anything observable from the outside; their awareness runs deep.
The process entails revisiting the game footage to identify specific areas in which they excel.
For instance, the Patriots’ offense has shown promise with a 2-tight end running game on the outer edges of their offensive plays.
While they may not have set any fantasy football rushing records in recent performances, within the context of competitive games where running wasn’t the primary focus, they seem to have discovered a formation that offers significant versatility aligning with their strengths and personnel.
This approach will likely play a substantial role in their future strategies. Please refer to the graphic below for more in-depth details:
Conversely, you identify areas where your team is lacking, and then you have two options: either you diligently practice and refine those weaknesses until they become strengths, or you discard them if they prove impractical given the capabilities of your personnel.
The NFL season follows a well-established pattern. September is the survival phase, where the aim is to amass wins to avoid falling behind in the standings and to enter the fall in good health.
It’s widely known that the early-season performances won’t directly correlate with how a team plays later in the year.
This knowledge should be common sense for football fans, yet it tends to be overlooked every season, akin to residing in Northern Alaska and being startled by the cold.
The present performances solely impact the win-loss record and injury statistics, and that fundamental reality remains unchanged.
The primary issue arises when there’s an attempt to force the current team to fit the mold of previous franchise versions.
The objective isn’t merely to return to past glory; it’s about taking the current iteration with its adjustments in personnel and molding it into the best possible, which may entail a different approach.
You’re not pursuing a mirage, like the elusive two-tight end passing offense or an outside-the-numbers go-route fantasy.
In this particular context, it’s become apparent that the offensive line struggles to create an extended pocket, and they lack the agility needed to effectively execute the screen game, which has played a significant role in the past.
However, they do possess strengths: they excel at direct-run blocking, display some pocket mobility through play-action, feature versatile wide receivers, and have talented players in the backfield. It’s a foundation to build upon.
Typically, as they work through these other challenges and utilize a solid running game, the ability to maintain extended pockets for 5 and 7-step pass drops should gradually return.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that many of these offensive linemen have a track record of success in the league. The errors are fixable.
In the interim, anticipate changes within this New England Patriots team, especially on the offensive front, because that’s been the historical pattern. There’s too much precedence here to be taken aback.
So, who can we expect to see tonight against the Chiefs? It’s likely a team that capitalizes on the aspects they’ve excelled at in the past three weeks while dialing down the elements that haven’t been effective, just as Bill Belichick suggested.