Rarely will you ever get New England Patriots head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick to offer real information in an interview. It’s even rarer to get him to show any sort of vulnerability. On Saturday, we saw both oddities.
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Patriots’ Salary Cap Issues
Belichick almost never gives a peek behind the curtain, but he spoke with former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis on Sirius XM Radio and was as candid as you’ll ever hear him. Weis asked him about playing far more young players this season than they have in the past.
This was the first part of Belichick’s response:
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].
Early in the season, there was a concern as to whether the Patriots would have enough operating cash to make it through the year. Settlements and opt-outs cleared up money, but the situation was less than ideal.
Patriots’ Depth Issues
Belichick alluded to some depth issues but went more into it during the second part of his response.
Then we had some opt-outs, so we lost some players there that would normally have been giving us a significant amount of playing time. And then like every year, a couple of 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 an 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.
This explains why players like Kyle Dugger and others have been on the field so much, but Belichick is also sounding like a man almost ready to wave the white flag, which is out of character for him. Here’s a clip of the interview:
With the team going through a tough stretch, @Patriots head coach Bill Belichick weighed in on the leadership he’s seen from his guys.
LISTEN | #GoPats | @charlieweissr pic.twitter.com/ZOB47Gwaqk
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) October 30, 2020
Belichick Feeling the Heat of the Criticism
Could Belichick be feeling the heat from the criticism that has been thrown his way this season? Many are calling into question his unsuccessful drafts, and underdeveloped players on the offensive end.
Former Jets star Bart Scott suggested Belichick be removed as the general manager, and former Patriots standout Asante Samuel says he hates the way the franchise treats star players not named Tom Brady.
Does Belichick feel compelled to defend himself? It sounds a lot like he’s making excuses–valid ones–but we’re just not used to hearing him speak this way.
“We never make excuses. We don’t make excuses about anything. Period. That’s not what we do. We don’t make excuses.” — Bill Belichick, Oct. 6th
— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) October 31, 2020
Still, Skirting the Blame for Poor Drafting?
It’s hard not to recognize that Belichick hasn’t admitted that he hasn’t drafted a Pro-Bowl player in nearly a decade and that players like N’Keal Harry have been a bust. This is a weird time and Belichick’s comments were strange for him as a whole.
No one can remember the last time we’ve seen the Patriots and Belichick look so vulnerable. A win on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills will shift the conversation a bit, but it’ll take a few more to completely stamp out the doom and gloom associated with the team currently.