Bill Belichick has scored more Super Bowl victories than any coach in NFL history. He’s also getting closer to Dolphins legend Don Shula, who holds the mark for most wins as head coach.
And yet, even with a stacked resume, Belichick enters the 2021 season and feels pressure to bring the Patriots back off the mat.
He has to convince Patriot Nation that last year’s 7-9 record was a one-off, minor blip on the screen, contrary to the ongoing trend. The thing is, he has to prove he can win without Tom Brady.
Fair or not, this is one of big picture fiction, and it’s going to haunt Belichick and cloud over him like a dark cloud until he can get the Patriots back on the contenders circuit.
Even after a somewhat pass for last year, given all the unforeseen circumstances resulting from the pandemic, Belichick won’t dodge bullets this time if the Patriots flop for the second year in a row.
With Brady winning the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay in his first year, it piled up, and made the train wreck in Foxboro even worse.
Only $316 million was later spent on new contracts in free agency, including an NFL record $175 million fully guaranteed on more than 25 free agents, and more recently used ones for Belichick and the Patriots. To borrow the phrase “put on or put off” involves time. Cam Newton.
At least, that’s the backdrop for the 2021 season.
“When Tom was with the Patriots, the question was, ‘Is it more Tom, or is it more Bill?’ Well, Tom went to Tampa and won a Super Bowl in his first year, and people are like: ‘Hmm, maybe it was Tom,'” ESPN analyst Damien Woody said, referring to the success he found in New England. “And I think with what the Patriots have spent this year, there will be more pressure on the Bills to at least make this Patriots team viable against some of the AFC elite Kansas City, Buffalo, Cleveland. . . So I think there’s a little bit of pressure on the bill to make some noise this year.”
In short, Belichick had to spend the kind of money reshaping a roster that was full of holes, in large part due to a succession of bad drafts he made as the team’s de facto general manager. That, and the fact that she no longer had Brady to hide problem areas.
Not even owner Robert Kraft so subtly pointed out that it cost a fortune to try and perfect the ship, thanks to a less than fruitful draft.
Kraft and Belichick have never been fans of buying championships, so with the unprecedented amount of guaranteed money spent, Hoodie has opened the checkbook for the right players to get the job done.
Because expectations have been created from all the new employees.
“Whenever you go out and spend money, and get quality players, there’s expectations and pressure on everyone,” Patriots Hall of Famer and NBC analyst Rodney Harrison said. “Cam (Newton) is under pressure. Bill is under pressure. What can he do without (retired mentor and confidante) Ernie Adams?
“So yeah, there’s pressure on him,” Harrison said of Belichick. “You can’t spend all that money and go 7-9 all over again.”
Newcomer Matt Juden, who signed a mega-deal in free agency, offered Belichick’s support during an appearance on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” Monday morning.
“Arguably the best coach to coach any sport; That’s what we have.” Judon said of Hoodie. “So with him leading a group of hungry, willing men, it’s nothing more than last year. We’re going to start putting this together in a week, and then see where the chips are. ”
Though he won’t admit it, Belichick must have felt some heat, or else he would have settled on a top tight end in free agency, instead of paying two to come to New England. He may not have paid more for some of the free agents he signed, namely receiver Nelson Agholor.
Belichick really doubled across the board, whether it was the tight end, the receiver, the defensive lineman, the linebacker, etc.
All told, the defense looks like it will once again be a force to be reckoned with with the revived Front Seven Belichicks. But he still needs to find a way to get Stephen Gilmore back, and settle his contract with him. The team will have a tough time without a shutdown corner of Gilmore’s caliber in the stable.
Offensively, tight ends Hunter Henry and Joanu Smith turn out to be the game-changers. Belichick also upgraded the receiving corps, and was selected quarterback in the first round of the draft, landing Alabama’s Mack Jones with the 15th overall pick.
The way it looks pre-camp though Belichick is going to stay with Cam Newton as his starter.
If Newton flops, and Jones resurrects the team, but it’s too late in the season and the Patriots miss the playoffs, Belichick will get even more beat from fans and the media.
On the other hand, there is also the possibility that Newton would improve to the point of being able to support the Patriots to run legitimately.
It’s not entirely out of scope, and will add another feather to Belichick’s cap, but it’s still tough as Newton passed him over the final hurdle as his issues were thrown footballs.
Time will tell.
Patriots boss Robert Kraft said in March that he expected to contest every year. He also has confidence in Belichick to do so.
“In the end, I have confidence in Coach Belichick’s ability to build a team and put the right players in the best position to succeed,” Kraft said. “They’ve done fine over the past few decades. I’ve had the privilege of good managers. . . We give those people autonomy and let them do their jobs.”
Belichick will be doing his job, but once again, Brady’s ghost pops up.