There's been every increasing chatter among the football intelligentsia that Bill Belichick is different this year. No one's really gone into details about the how or explained the why. They've just repeated the conventional wisdom that says he's just ... different. Whether it was going up and down the sideline at the end of the Jets game shaking hands with all his players like he was a local politician walking a parade route or kicking back behind the south end zone afterwards knocking back beers like he and his coaches had just tarred the roof of the Shawshank license plate factory, he has, generally speaking, come across with a more congenial, user-friendly demeanor than we've been accustomed to.
Make of it what you will, but it doesn't sit well in these Old Balls. If there's one thing about me that has been consistent throughout the years, it's that I don't much cotton to change. If it were up to me, we'd all still be wearing comfortable and practical cargo pants, listening to peak Springsteen and Phil Hartman would still be doing his Reagan impression on "SNL" every week. That was dadgum living, by cracky. And while I've been forced to accept a lot of change I did not ask for (especially giving up my handy side pockets and beloved room in the crotchal area), I draw the line at a sweet, affable, jovial Belichick. His mission is to continue to increase the height of the pyramid of skulls from which he gazes down upon the world, not try out for the timeslot after Drew Barrymore's show.
So it's good to know that some things have stayed the same. Belichick might be metaphorically adding smileyface and hearteyes emjois to his public persona. But between the opening whistle and the game clock running down to 0:00, still beats the heart of a Dark Lord of the Sith, pumping liquid nitrogen through his veins. The proof was there on Sunday, when he was up by four touchdowns with 10 minutes to go and called this:
That did it for me. That's what Daddy likes. It brought me comfort that, in a world gone mad, I still have this to count on. The GOAT is still with us. And still inventing new fucks not to give about anyone's feelings.
And if that wasn't enough to bring me back to the glory days of a 2007 Tom Brady hitting Wes Welker in the end zone to go up 45-0 on the way to a 52-7 win over a doddering, hapless, in-over-his-head, unretired Joe Gibbs, there's always this:
The Jets are pissed Belichick was still chucking bombs with the game hopelessly out of reach.
According to The Athletic (paywall), Robert Saleh got on the high road for mile or so before taking the first exit he came to:
“It’s the NFL, it’s not like Alabama vs. William & Mary. It’s the NFL. We’re all professional athletes. If you don’t want to get scored on, you gotta stop ‘em. Is it something I would do? Probably not, but to each his own.”
It's not about sportsmanship or class or being a good winner any of that idealistic claptrap you read in the email from your kid's youth sports league just before the coaches play their own kids full time and call other parents' 11-year-olds "pussies." This is about Belichick doing whatever is in the best interest of his own team. Period. Hard stop. It's about that and nothing else. Your hurt pride be damned.
Do you know why Mac Jones was dropping one 40 yards upfield into Kendrick Bourne's bucket? Or the reason Brian Hoyer was tossing up a 50/50 ball for N'Keal Harry? Because they needed to. They've got a rookie quarterback who hasn't thrown deep enough (the way he did at Alabama), a free agent wideout who needs to establish himself as a deep threat, and a draft bust who's desperately trying to salvage his career before it becomes unsalvageable. More broadly, they've got a team that has been microns close in losses to Miami, Tampa Bay and Dallas. Those losses have topped off the gas tanks of all the doubters and haters. And these players not only needed a convincing win, they deserved it. Belichick likes this group. A ton of these guys signed here in spite of the fact everyone said no one wanted to play for Belichick and the only appeal all these years has been Brady.
That 50 burger was a reward for how much trust they put in this organization, how hard they've all worked, and how great their collective attitude has been all year. Besides, every time this franchise has failed or seemed like it was down and out, the world bathed in its blood. The time to win Good Sportsmanship awards went out the window a generation ago. Maybe when the league started making rule changes specifically designed to stop this one team, accused them of cheating, took draft picks away and reduced all it has accomplished as the product of dumb luck (see: Tuck Rule).
So thanks to all involved for bringing the hatred back. I've needed a good "running up the score" controversy more than I'd realized. Let's hope there are many more where this one came from.