Mehta: Belichick outsmarts self, insults Jets and Tom Brady

By on December 28, 2015
Manish Mehta


Updated: Sunday, December 27, 2015, 8:17 PM

It turns out that Bill Belichick is not the Mona Lisa Vito of overtime coin toss logic, either.

The greatest football coach of this generation suffered an epic brain freeze Sunday with a decision that will go in the annals of stupidity. Sometimes even the smartest guy in the room outsmarts himself.

Belichick inexplicably took the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands by electing to kick after the Patriots won the overtime coin toss, setting the stage for the cardiac Jets to win a 26-20 thriller to put them on the precipice of their first playoff appearance in five years.

Belichick’s choice was offensive to many on both sidelines. He practically insulted the entire Jets offense with a I-don’t-think-you’re-good-enough-to-score-a-touchdown decision. He also opted not to place his faith in arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of time.

Brady has won four Super Bowls with Belichick in every imaginable way. He has done more with less in his career than any other signal caller ever, but his head coach didn’t think that he and his supporting cast could score a touchdown if they got the ball first in overtime?

Never mind that Brady orchestrated an 11-play touchdown drive less than two minutes earlier to erase a 14-point deficit. Never mind that history will never remember a more clutch quarterback than No. 12.

“It’s certainly not an easy decision,” Brady said.

Bill Belichick's decision to give the Jets the ball to start overtime is as puzzling as it gets.Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Bill Belichick’s decision to give the Jets the ball to start overtime is as puzzling as it gets.

There is exactly a 0.0 percent chance that Brady agreed with the Hoodie on this one. How could he? Why would he? It made no sense.

The Jets — who will make the playoffs with a win over the Bills next week, a Steelers loss next week or two Broncos losses — were as baffled as everyone else in MetLife Stadium when Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater told officials that his team wanted to kick rather than receive.

“I thought there was a big miscommunication there,” Brandon Marshall said. “Then, it was our ball. I was like, ‘What the hell?'”

What the hell, indeed. No Jets player would cop to it, but there were surely a few that covered their faces and giggled at this ridiculous piece of thinking. Slater didn’t realize that the Jets had the choice of which direction to field the kick, which fueled speculation that perhaps he had erred in telling officials that the Patriots wanted to kick off rather than give the ball to Tom F—in’ Brady.

“I thought that was the best thing to do,” Belichick said with a straight face. “There wasn’t any confusion.”

Patriots players are trained to be robots, so it was hardly surprising that Slater saw nothing wrong with Belichick’s move.

The Jets take advantage of Belichick's questionable decision and score a touchdown to win the game in overtime before the Patriots can even get the ball.Peter Morgan/AP

The Jets take advantage of Belichick’s questionable decision and score a touchdown to win the game in overtime before the Patriots can even get the ball.

“That’s what he wanted to do,” Slater said. “You never question coach’s decision making. He’s the best in the business and we fully trust him.”

The In Hoodie We Trust philosophy typically works – heck, the Patriots have been a decade-long juggernaut – but sometimes the sourpuss must be called out for overthinking matters.

Marshall had one question for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who coached him in Denver, moments after the Jets made Belichick pay on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s game-winning 6-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker on the opening drive of overtime: What were you guys thinking?

The Patriots wanted to play the field position game, which, of course, only works if you assume that the first team with the ball doesn’t score. It should have been a slap in the face to Todd Bowles’ offense, which has found a knack to deliver in critical moments down the stretch during the franchise’s first five-game winning streak in five years.

“Nothing surprises you about the Patriots and strategy and what they think,” said Ryan Fitzpatrick, who went 26-for-41 for 296 yards and three touchdowns, including 3-for-3 for 74 yards on the game-winning drive in overtime. “We were excited for the opportunity to get the ball and have a chance to put them away.”

It wasn’t the first time that Belichick took an unconventional approach after winning an overtime coin toss. He elected to take the wind on Nov. 24, 2013 (Week 12 against the Broncos) rather than take the ball against Peyton Manning & Co. It worked as the Patriots’ capitalized on a muffed punt late in overtime to kick a game-winning field goal.

The Patriots inexplicably decide not to put the game in Tom Brady's hands to start overtime.Al Bello/Getty Images

The Patriots inexplicably decide not to put the game in Tom Brady’s hands to start overtime.

The weather, however, was a non-issue on Sunday. Belichick hoped that his defense, which had forced a pair of three-and-outs on three full Jets offensive possessions in the fourth quarter, would keep Fitzpatrick & Co. out of the end zone.

Although Belichick’s depleted offense, which was without two of Brady’s top three weapons (Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola) and tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who suffered a leg injury in the first quarter, the Patriots had just scored their first touchdown late in regulation.

Belichick didn’t care, so he instructed Slater to convey the curious choice.

“I just asked him three or four times to make sure,” Slater said. “He was looking at me like, ‘Are you concussed?'”

That was the exact question that Slater should have asked his coach.

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