Tedy Bruschi calls out Bill Belichick for being "off-message"
BOSTON -- From 2001-18, the New England Patriots sustained a remarkable run of success, displaying a level of consistency that no team has ever matched in history. Likely, no team will match it in the future.
Part of what made the team so successful -- six Super Bowl wins, nine conference championships, 17 division crowns -- over two decades was an extreme focus on the present. Whether the previous season ended in glory or misery, it didn't matter. The focus always shifted to the present.
That's why when Tedy Bruschi heard Bill Belichick offer up a comment on Monday that very much sounded like a head coach resting on his laurels, the three-time Super Bowl champion couldn't believe his ears.
"That's my guy who uh ... had a little slip right there," Bruschi said on "Get Up" on ESPN on Tuesday. "Because I don't know how many times I've been in meetings with Coach Belichick and the very first meeting is, 'I don't care about anything in the past. We win Super Bowls. Last year doesn't matter. Pro Bowls don't matter. All-Pros don't matter. Everything you've done last year doesn't matter, fellas. It's about who we are going forward.'"
The comment that caught Bruschi's attention came when Belichick was asked what message he would send to Patriots fans in terms of a reason to be optimistic for the 2023 season. Belichick's answer was short: "The last 25 years."
In Bruschi's eyes, that type of thought process is not going to fly within the walls of 1 Patriot Place.
"This is what the good teams do. Players hold coaches accountable also when they get off-message. And right now, Coach Belichick is off-message," Bruschi said. "That is something that his players shouldn't hear, that he is basing some optimism to fans on what I've done in the past for the past 25 years. It's really not something that I've heard Bill say in -- I don't know if I've ever heard Bill mention something like that in terms of his whole body of work and how I'll do going forward. It was surprising to me, OK? And that's what happens, I mean, I don't know what's going on in that locker room now, but players can hold coaches accountable. I've done it with Bill before when he said things postgames or during the week that I did not like and we had discussions in captains' meetings or after games or whatever. But I don't know, I'm not in that locker room anymore. I'm hearing it, and now I'm just surprised because that is not the Bill Belichick that I know."
Bruschi then spoke about what he'd feel if he were still a player in Belichick's locker room upon hearing those comments.
"If I'm in that locker room, I want my coach to hold himself to the same standards that he puts on me," Bruschi said. "Because I know the standards that he's putting on those players, how he's putting on the players about past work and past accomplishments and moving forward, so I don't even want to hear you slip. I don't want to hear you slip because I want you on the same message that you're preaching to us in team meetings."
Bruschi then took the issue to a heightened level, saying players being unable to hold their coaches accountable might have been the Patriots' undoing last season.
"And that's the whole thing that players need to also tell these coaches. And that's probably the reason why they failed last year, too. They weren't able to look their coaches in the eye and go, 'I don't think that's right, I want to do this,'" Bruschi said. "Because I've had young coaches when I was there -- a new linebacker coach, a new defensive coordinator. Can you work with those guys to help them become better coaches as veteran players, too? That's what they don't have right now."
Those comments from Bruschi came a day after the retired linebacker said that Belichick misjudged how his team would handle the installation of Patricia as offensive play-caller and Joe Judge as quarterbacks coach.
"He made some decisions last year that were very controversial, in terms of who was calling offensive plays, bringing Matt Patricia over -- a great coach in his own right, but a great defensive coach. And I think that the biggest mistake that Bill made was this: He overestimated his players' ability to handle that type of change," Bruschi said. "That's what I think the problem was, because when they're looking around and they don't know who the offensive coordinator is, they see Judge, they see Patricia, they see confusion. They didn't have anybody in there to say, 'Hey fellas, stop. This is the way it's gonna be and let's all get on the same page' from a player perspective. That's what they didn't have, and Bill overestimated his players' [ability] to do that. I can understand the frustration by Mac Jones, and we all got on him about his antics and his body language and the way that he was constantly complaining, but when you don't know -- I can only imagine when I'm a linebacker and I'm looking for a call and I'm not sure who to go to and there's miscommunication and there's confusion, it's going to happen. I don't think they were strong enough from a leadership perspective on the offensive side of the ball to deal with this type of coaching change."
Bruschi played under Belichick (as head coach) for eight of his 13 NFL seasons, winning three Super Bowls from 2001-04 and earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2003 and 2004. When Bruschi retired in 2009, Belichick called him "a perfect player." Bruschi was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2013, with Belichick speaking at the ceremony and crediting Bruschi for making a play in the Snow Bowl that saved the entire season. In retirement, Bruschi has been a frequent guest on the practice field during training camp in Foxboro. The respect level between Belichick and Bruschi is as high as can possibly be, so the criticism this week carries some more weight than it would if it were coming from the average observer.
Devin McCourty, who was just in that locker room as a veteran player mere months ago, then joined the program and could have offered some more insight on the matter. But with "Get Up" being a national program, the topic of conversation moved on to Lamar Jackson, Meek Mill and Robert Kraft.
Nevertheless, there was plenty of irony in the sight of Bruschi -- a key driver to much of the early glory in that "25 years" of success -- explaining why Belichick calling upon his past accomplishments is a bad scene for the present and, perhaps, future of the New England Patriots.
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