The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

Ego of genius

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Here is what I keep thinking about Bill Belichick's decision Sunday night:

He went for a first down rather than punt in Indianapolis because he wanted to show the world that he didn't become one of the three or four "genius'' coaches in NFL history by following conventional wisdom. In the back of his mind he might have been thinking the thought that has made approximately 29 1/2 of the other 31 coaches loathe him: "My teams win because I'm smarter than everyone else.''

And, to put it bluntly. "genius'' is what we'd probably be calling him today if the Patriots had made the two yards from their own 28, run out the clock and handed Indianapolis its first loss.

Belichick has made mistakes before. And in more important games.

Two years ago, he underestimated the Giants in the Super Bowl, never adjusted to their pass rush and ended up spoiling his perfect season with a loss in the only game that really mattered. That same season I saw him needlessly run up scores against inferior opponents and embarrass the likes of Joe Gibbs. Why? Because he could. So I think a lot of the negative reaction to Sunday night's decision came from seeing Belichick get his just reward. Tony Dungy, no slouch as a coach himself, seemed to be chuckling a bit on NBC -- not so much because his former team won the game but because in his quiet way, he may be at the top of the list of guys who dislike Belichick.

My feeling? Same as most people's. Belichick should have punted and made the Colts go 70 yards or so. Yes, Peyton Manning had twice whisked them down the field in the fourth quarter for TDs. But he'd also thrown an interception and Indy receivers were making mistakes -- Reggie Wayne ran a bad route on an earlier pick and the youngsters Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie had a few drops. An added 40 yards certainly would have maximized the potential for error, even with a fatigued New England defense.

But contrast that with what Philadelphia's Andy Reid did Sunday in San Diego.

Trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, he had fourth and a foot at the goal line. He kicked to make it 14-3.

A few minutes later, he had fourth and goal at the San Diego seven. He kicked to make it 14-6.

And in the third quarter, with the score 21-3, he had fourth and 1 at the seven. He kicked to make it 21-6.

The Eagles lost 31-23.

What would those decisions (or at least two of them) have been if that had been Bill Belichick and the Patriots?

I think we know.

By Dave Goldberg  |  November 16, 2009; 10:18 AM ET  | Category:  Indianapolis Colts , New England Patriots Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Yes, but if Brady's pass had completed with one more foot and the Patriots won, you and all other commentators would again be calling him a genius.

Posted by: giyakker | November 16, 2009 2:27 PM

What's great about the game of football (sometimes) are unpredictable moments like this one. Belichick will go down in history as one of the great coaches in our era. Some will hate him. Some will love him. The bottom line is this - watching that kind of play, with so much riding on it - watching a team go for it to win the game. That's drama. That's excitement. So, they didn't make it. Who cares? Sure, Patriot fans do, but how many more people would rather see something dramatic happen than... a punt. Yeah... they punted. Yeah... the Colts score a touchdown in the last two minutes. Wow. We've seen that before. Football is a spectacle, it's bigger than life and Belichick called a bigger than life play. His team didn't step up, but it didn't matter. The result was the same - drama and excitement and the next day we're here talking about it.

Posted by: thesilencebureau | November 16, 2009 6:42 PM

I agree with Goldberg; this Belichick decsion smacks of hubris. Honestly, I am flabbergast by the numbers of people that support his arrogant and flippant style of coaching. Sure he's a great coach, but running up the score, constantly going for it on fourth down, and evidence of tainted Super Bowl victories does not make one an 'all time' coach. It renders one a sign of the times.

Posted by: md_incognito | November 17, 2009 9:21 AM

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