In Bill We Trust?

Between the grungy hoodies, his grating arrogance, and of course his five Super Bowl rings, anyone who has followed the NFL even vaguely over the past decade is familiar with New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick. With a postseason winning percentage of nearly 72 percent and a record twenty-eight playoff wins, Belichick is undeniably in a class by himself.

So would it kill him to smile once in a while?

Granted, anyone who coached the Cleveland Browns at one point has to be considered a somewhat broken man. But Belichick’s attitude, which could be politely described as “equal parts miserable and arrogant,” belies his success and accomplishments. His arrogance is such an outsized part of his persona that many are openly questioning whether or not Belichick’s personality is interfering with his ability to be an effective coach in the NFL.

The most high-profile of Belichick’s single-mindedness put on full display in front of over 100 million people watching the Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. Early in the game, commentators noticed that starting cornerback Malcolm Butler, whose late interception on the one-yard line sealed the Patriots’ victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, was not on the field. Butler spent nearly the entire game on the bench- he only played one down on special teams and none on defense- despite no evidence of injury whatsoever. To put his absence into perspective, Butler played in 98 percent of the team’s regular season defensive snaps.

“I made the decisions that give us the best chance to win.”

In the aftermath of the Pats’ unexpected fall to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, Belichick said Butler’s benching was a “coach’s decision” and not related to any disciplinary issues. He told reporters, “I made the decisions that give us the best chance to win.” Belichick’s statement would have been more credible but for the fact that his team lost the game, at the hands of the stellar passing performance of Eagles QB Nick Foles. Butler kept mostly silent, noting that his benching was a coach’s decision, but also noted, “I could have changed that game.”

Belichick’s failure to give a thorough explanation for his actions in such a high-profile situation would have likely been a career-killer for lesser coaches, but Belichick will be the first to tell you he is not a lesser coach. Amazingly, Belichick didn’t bother to inform team owner Robert Kraft about his decision to bench Butler before the game, which is about as gutsy a choice as an NFL coach could make.

Belichick is an undisputed villain outside of New England, where high-profile scandals like “Spygate” and “Deflate-Gate” have painted him as an unrepentant cheater who will do anything to win, no matter the cost. His checkered past in NFL circles, coupled with his arrogance, have made him very difficult to root for unless you are a die-hard Patriots devotee.

Fans may be willing to ignore poor behavior when their team is winning, but no one is immune from criticism in the aftermath of a devastating loss in front of the entire world. At a time when the NFL is struggling to maintain its fan base in the face of sagging television ratings, Belichick’s shoddy attitude can hardly be viewed as a positive.

Then again, maybe the old saying is true. If nice guys finish last, it is not hard to see why Bill Belichick almost always finishes first.

Image Source: USA Today

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