Belichick won’t tolerate “below-the-line” mistakes


While he’s often terse, there are times when Patriots coach Bill Belichick will open up to reporters, and pull the curtain back on their process.

Friday was one of those days, as he spoke for more than 25 minutes, including a long discussion of how many mistakes he can tolerate.

In the context of the fumbling of running back Stevan Ridley, he talked about the “below-the-line level” at which things cost teams games.

“When it’s below the line, we can’t live with it. It hurts the team,” Belichick said, via Mike Reiss of “ Now we’re all going to make mistakes, and nobody makes more of them than I do. I understand that mistakes are part of the game. I’ve been in it long enough to know there’s no perfect player, no perfect game or practice. If you go out there and compete against high-level competition, they’re going to make some plays, too.

“But there’s a below-the-line [level] and we just can’t live with that and expect to win. That’s the bottom line. Things are going to happen that are below the line that we have to correct, but we have to stay above the line. It’s as simple as that. That line is drawn at every position with various criteria. It’s not scientific, there’s no textbook on it, how to handle each situation. . . .That’s a critical part of coaching in any sport. Particularly football, but any sport.

“The things that cause you to lose, you have to eliminate. Before you can win, you can’t lose. When you do things as a coach or as a player that cause you to lose, then you won’t be in this job long.”

He went on to talk about how Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome corrected himself as a player.

“When he was rookie, he fumbled, lost the ball, team lost the game, [then] never fumbled again the rest of his career,” Belichick said of the Ravens General Manager. “Why is Ozzie Newsome in the Hall of Fame? That’s why. That kind of commitment, that kind of performance. It was important enough to him. Fumbled once, didn’t fumble again the rest of his entire [13-year] career. Now think about that. Want to know how a guy gets in the Hall of Fame? That’s one reason.”

While Ridley’s not likely to join Newsome in Canton, Belichick’s thoughts do indicate he’s willing to let a guy out of the doghouse — provided he proves that he’s trying to work his way out.

27 responses to “Belichick won’t tolerate “below-the-line” mistakes

  1. Watching Ridley run into 4 tacklers while holding the ball in one arm makes me queasy. You can set your watch to his fumbles. Or sync your iPad with the cloud, I guess? I find the 21st century strange and disturbing.

  2. “Now we’re all going to make mistakes, and nobody makes more of them than I do.” –Mike Shannahan, never.

  3. Belichick unlike most coaches won’t hesitate to bench a player that screws up badly.

    Whether its fumbles, stupid penalties like Talib drew made against the Panthers, doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter who the player is either with the sole exception of Brady. And nobody will beat up on Brady for making a mistake like he does himself anyway.

  4. The mistake here is for readers to think Belichick was talking to either us the fans or the media. Belichick does not talk to the media. If he opened up, it is because he was talking to the team through the media.

  5. marvsleezy says:

    Why is he talking so openly these days? Is he getting soft? Is getting ready to retire?

    Lol no he’s not getting ready to retire.

    Belichick has always been willing to talk about the actual nuts and bolts of coaching and running a football team at length.

    What he never ever does is give details about injuries, game plans and a few other things and does not consider it his job to be nice or cater to the media.

    Especially the 4th or 5th person in a row who rephrases the same question about say Gronk’s injury and pretends like its a brand new question that BB hasn’t already said he’s not giving details about 3 or 4 times.

    To review: Nuts and bolts of football good, media dummies bad.

  6. This is why people just don’t get BB. Fox, Harbaugh, Tomlin, Ryan, Name the coach just doesn’t compare to BB. They can x and o. They can motivate, celebrate and lead. But no one else can coach like this guy.
    You and the media crucify this guy cause he wont go into the details you want when you want. But when you ask a real question he’ll elaborate til your ear falls off. This is exactly the coach I want. He has his mistakes, but the guy is amazingly brilliant at breaking down any situation and applying his solution.

    Hate away! I love this guy as my team’s coach. You may never see another like him.

  7. BB doesn’t need to cheat. The guy knows how to do it better than anyone else. Coaches complain about injuries but BB just makes no name players step up and win. He is the best Coach in the NFL by far. I don’t like the Pats but I sure wish my team had their coach.

  8. .

    ” I surely would like to hear him critique his own performance ”

    Just listen to his press conference after a loss. The guy is way harsh on himself. Most end quickly because the reporters decline to pile on. It’s like a Belichick on Belichick crime.


  9. Lenny they won 11 games with Matt Cassel who isn’t horrible but is hardly elite. Even some good but not elite HCs have won with just decent QBs or QBs who just got on a good playoff run.
    Top level HC>>> importance wise than top level QB any day. See Payton, Sean.

  10. 6ball:

    But if he makes a mistake, and then repeats it, why is he doing that instead of learning from it? Being hard on himself isn’t helpful. He should be looking to improve.

  11. I wish he’d open up like this more often. As funny as it is to watch the media get upset when he gives them the finger, I enjoy it when he gives good football talk like this.

  12. When one of the best coaches of all time reveals a pearl of wisdom… pay attention and learn. If you’re thinking more about a witty comment than what Bill just said, you’re making a below the line mistake.

  13. @patswinagain
    I’m a Broncos fan, but I absolutely agree that BB is among the greatest coaches, or arguably THE best coach ever! I’m nearly certain that if he spends 7 – 8 more yrs, there will be no doubt he’ll go down as the Greatest! Truthfully, I can’t stand the Pats, & as the playoffs approach, as a true Denver fan, I worry most about NE. They have the least talent they’ve had in awhile, yet they manage to win through coaching & Brady being Brady! See ya in a few weeks in Mile High….

  14. .
    @strategy expert

    “why isn’t he looking to improve ”

    Since 2001 here are Belichick’s win totals : 11, 9, 14, 14, 10, 12, 16, 11, 10, 14, 13, 12, 10

    It’s by far the best win total in the NFL.

    Just another jets troll…. List your coach’s win total since 2001 and we’ll compare them side by side.


  15. I don’t know if he is the best coach ever. He is the best of his era for sure. We will know how great he really is when Brady leaves.

    I think his record is greatly helped by the fact that the other 3 teams in his division have pretty much sucked for this entire century, minus a year here and there. The Patriots are almost guaranteed 6 divisional wins every year because of the ineptitude of their divisional opponents. That might change.. They lost 2 games this year.

    That being said, he has maintained a very high standard with incredible turnover, except at QB.

    Curious – wonder if the “fumble” wasn’t overturned if things would have played out the same for Patriots and Raiders. What a call that turned out to be… Raiders have the worst record since and BB stands as “the great man”.

  16. There are many coaches out there who are great personalities. The history of the NFL is full of coaches who were interesting, funny, quirky, and entertaining–real media darlings. In the grand scheme, though, none of that really matters. Ultimately, there are only a very select few who deserve to be called true coaching legends. Halas, Lombardi, Shula, Landry, Noll, Walsh, and Belichick head up that very elite group. Like him or not, there is no denying that as true fans of professional football, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to watch one of the truly great ones operate in our era.

  17. The Patriots this season got decimated by injuries… and still have a 10-4 record… Haters hate… and even the worst of them will not find anything (reasonable) wrong with how he goes about his business…

    Coach of the year…

  18. BB’s approach is not unlike Jimmy Johnson’s in the 90’s. Do what we want to do better than the other guys! AND, if the plan isn’t working at halftime, change the plan. Parcell’s was pretty good at this simple approach too. Do your job! THe genius is in the simplicity of what they do.

    That’s it! Now back to hating the Pats.

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