The 2020 NFL season has been a strange season.Between the restrictions and havoc COVID-19 has caused, the flip in the AFC East, the NFC East being the equivalent to a dumpster fire, the NFL has just been different.
One change that has been the most surprising is the change seen in the New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Usually the tight lipped, grumpy, football over everything coach has been very different this season. From openly complimenting his players, defending his teams performances, putting the safety of his players over winning football games, it’s just been a different public persona.
Belichick has been a closed book for the twenty years that he’s been the face of the Patriots organization, but when Tom Brady left Belichick showed a little bit of his thoughts.
“Tom was not just a player who bought into our program. He was one of its original creators. Tom lived and perpetuated our culture. On a daily basis, he was a tone setter and a bar raiser. He won championships in three of his first four years on the field and in three of his final six seasons with us, while competing for championships in most every season in between. This is a credit to Tom’s consistency and what separates him. He didn’t just perform. He didn’t just win. He won championships over and over again.
“Tom and I will always have a great relationship built on love, admiration, respect and appreciation. Tom’s success as a player and his character as a person are exceptional. Nothing about the end of Tom’s Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was. With his relentless competitiveness and longevity, he earned everyone’s adoration and will be celebrated forever. It has been a privilege to coach Tom Brady for 20 years.
“Examples of Tom’s greatness are limitless, going back even before he was drafted. We witnessed how he prepared when he wasn’t playing, how he performed when he got his opportunity, what he did to continuously improve, his leadership, his mindset, the example he set, and, of course, the person he is. I am extremely grateful for what he did for our team and for me personally.
“Sometimes in life, it takes some time to pass before truly appreciating something or someone but that has not been the case with Tom. He is a special person and the greatest quarterback of all-time.”
Belichick complimenting the quarterback that went to nine Super Bowls with him wasn’t overly surprising, but after signing Cam Newton as the quarterback to replace Brady, Belichick was openly complimentary with the media about Newton.
“Cam does a great job of connecting with everybody, Whether it’s his teammates, his receivers, guys on defense, other people in the organization. I think the captain voting, not that that’s the ultimate final determination of leadership, but I think the fact that he’s been here a pretty short amount of time and earned that type of respect and support from his teammates is pretty impressive. I think it’s across the board. It’s the offensive line, it’s the receivers, it’s all the offensive players and coaches, and it extends into other areas as well like special teams and defense and other people in the organization. I think that we’ve all seen that and it’s impressive.”
“He’s here a lot. He’s in the building and he’s visible. He’s in sight and he’s connecting with people as much as any player,” said Belichick. “He’s in the building more than any player on the team, he spends a lot of time talking and connecting and building relationships with those people. He has tremendous leadership.”
Perhaps this is the pat on the back that Brady was looking for while he was a member of the Patriots. Belichick seems to be taking a different approach towards his players, and whether or not Brady leaving for Tampa Bay gave Belichick some pause, or team owner Robert Kraft had a talk with him, it’s unknown why the public is now seeing this sudden change in Belichick, but it has been a breath of fresh air.
Even though Belichick has seemed to relax on his openness to the media, when he opened up about the Patriots salary cap situation, it was the most surprising comment of the season. Even though Belichick was insistent that he wasn’t making excuses, it definitely was an inner look that most people weren’t expecting.
“We’re playing more young players than we’ve played in the past [for a] combination of reasons. We were pretty heavily invested in our team in the past few years. From a salary-cap standpoint, we didn’t have much flexibility at all. I think that was obvious on the Cam Newton contract [one year, $1.05 million base salary].
“Then we had some opt-outs, so we lost some players there that would normally have been giving us significant amount of playing time. And then like every year, a couple guys are banged up and we’ve missed some guys here and there in certain games. I think when you combine it all together, there is opportunity there; some of that opportunity has gone to younger players.
“This is kind of the year that we’ve taken to, I would say, adjust our cap from the spending that we’ve had in accumulation of prior years. We just haven’t been able to have the kind of depth on our roster that we’ve had in some other years. That’s provided more opportunity for younger players. So it’s a combination of all the reasons.”
Belichick is widely known as the greatest coach in the history of the NFL, and how he has been able to prepare his teams for the past twenty years has been historical. Even though the Patriots are third in the AFC East with a 3-5 record, the 2020 NFL season could be Bill Belichick’s shining moment as the coach of the Patriots, not because of the team’s record, but how he handled the COVID-19 breakout in the Patriots locker room.
After Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19, the NFL decided not to cancel the Patriots game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Patriots flew the team on two planes to ensure that anybody who had close contact with Newton were separated from the rest of the team. After more positive tests following the Chiefs game, the Patriots shutdown their facility as per the NFL’s COVID-19 guidelines. After the NFL gave the Patriots the all clear, Belichick decided to keep the facility closed to ensure the safety of his players. Bill Belichick, the guy that most people believe doesn’t have emotions or feelings, chose the safety of his players and their families over football, and his players showed their appreciation.
“He’s been great,” running back Rex Burkhead said. “He really has just put our safety, our family’s safety first, and he’s been in constant communication with us on doing whatever he can or whatever the team can to put in things in place to keep us safe.”
“When he speaks, it’s from talking to a lot of different people – obviously with the [players association], but I would say most importantly the guys in our locker room,” Devin McCourty said. “I think the biggest thing he said was the guys in the locker room, the guys in the organization, coaches, players – that’s what it’s about. It’s us keeping each other safe. It’s hard to imagine people outside of our building are gonna care more about our safety. I think that’s just a common sense thought.”
This is a different version of Bill Belichick, but some may argue it’s a better version of Belichick. The Patriots road to the playoff is improbable at this point, but Belichick added some players at the trade deadline, and sent a strong message to his locker room that he’s not ready to give up on the 2020 season. The Patriots snapped a four game losing streak beating the 0-9 New York Jets, but they don’t have much time to bask in the victory, New England finds themselves in another must win game Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens, and one would have to assume that Belichick will make sure he does everything he can to get his team ready.Tags: DPN Commentary, New England Patriots, NFL, Patriots, Patriots News, SCN, SCN NFL, SCNNFL, SportsCastr, SportsCastr News Last modified: November 12, 2020