The second part of NFL Films’ excellent documentary on Bill Belichick premieres tonight at 9 on NFL Network, and it’s another good look inside the Patriots’ head coach as he led his team through the 2009 season.
I’ve already gone into a lot of detail about the first installment, but one of the strengths of Part Two of Bill Belichick: A Football Life is that it doesn’t just paint him as a genius coach who makes all the right moves. Two of the key moments in Part Two are decisions that Belichick, in hindsight, would like to have back.
First, there’s Belichick’s infamous decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Patriots’ own 28-yard line late in a game against the Colts. The Patriots’ offense was stopped just short of the first down, the Colts took advantage of their great field position and scored the game-winning touchdown, and Belichick was pilloried for that call. But Belichick didn’t seem particularly bothered by any of the criticism, saying privately more or less what he said publicly: He thought going for it on fourth down was better than punting, and so he made the call he thought was best at the time.
Belichick appeared to feel more regret about another decision he made that season: Playing Wes Welker, who led the league with 123 catches that season, in an essentially meaningless Week 17 game at Houston. Welker suffered a torn ACL in that game and the Patriots lost in the first round of the playoffs without him.
The most fascinating part of the documentary is that NFL Films recorded Belichick in meetings during the week of the Texans game discussing which players he’d hold out to keep them healthy for the playoffs. During the week, Belichick seemed to be leaning toward keeping Welker inactive because he was worried about an injury.
“Maybe Welker, too,” Belichick said when listing players who would be inactive for the Texans game. “I don’t know how smart it’d be to put him in there to get lit up another eight or 10 times like he usually does.”
Later, Belichick is shown in another meeting suggesting that Welker and Randy Moss would both play but get only limited action.
“Even if Welker’s healthy, I think there’s a point in this game where you can just back off,” Belichick said, before adding of Moss and Welker, “Those are two guys we can’t really afford to lose.”
Sure enough, the Patriots did lose Welker, and Belichick is shown in his office afterward looking devastated about it. This great look at a great coach also includes the coach’s mistakes.