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The Difference Between Tomlin and Belichick

September 19, 2015 by Palmer Sucks

The Difference Between Tomlin and Belichick
Commentary by PalmerSucks
September 18, 2015
Mike Tomlin plays checkers. Bill Belichick cheats at chess.
When you begin to understand these two statements, you begin to understand the difference between their respective teams. And why the contests between the two usually turn out to have the same result.
More on that later. Let’s get to the game played Thursday night.  
I’m not surprised the Stillers lost this one; I really thought there was too much working against them. The Stillers offense looked pretty much as I feared it would without Bryant. As I mentioned, Wheaton plays much better as the third receiver, and without Bryant, the Stillers were subjected to the inconsistent presence of Heyward-Bum. Both Hey-Bum and Wheaton committed key errors (Hey-Bum’s unforgivable end-zone goof I thought was the turning point of the game) which never happen with Bryant on the field. I believe the Stillers win this one with Bryant in the lineup; he’d have had a career day with the toasty Pats secondary, and the Stillers likely break that magic 30-points mark.
For all the talk of the scoring records New England was going to set, the points avalanche never happened. Brady dinked and dunked his way to a scorching 143.8 passer rating, but a ridiculous 25 of his 32 passes went for 10 yards or less. The New England offense ran exactly as I’d outlined, setting up Gronkowski with the short crossers and comebacks to Edelman. For some reason the Stillers’ best cover guy, Boykin, never saw the field (I guess Mike wants to ease him into the defense), subjecting us to the sight of Antwon Baked trailing Edelman all night.
As I’ve said before, engaging a team like New England in the kind of scoring shoot-out that was being advertised requires the offense to be nearly perfect. When your receiver camps out in the end zone with one foot out of bounds waiting for the football, that’s not exactly perfection. I’ve seen this game before, a few years ago in Foxborough, in another shoot-out where the Stillers were hanging until they made a couple goofs, and broke their scoring momentum.
It really would’ve been nice to see the Tom Brady victory party get spoiled, but things seemed destined otherwise. As I feared, the Stillers played the part of the Washington Generals, the bumbling opponent who’s there because the Globetrotters needed someone to play.
Actually the bumbling started before the game, the Stillers talking about putting hands on Gronkowski then going out and not even putting a man on him. I thought the Stillers would address the Gronk problem either by using Shazier to shadow him, or a scheme that featured focused coverage (a man-zone combo for example). This is something the Stillers have to address, because according to Boykin the 49ers play a similar game with their tight ends. (It’ll be interesting to see how Rex Ryan handles Gronkowski this Sunday; the Stillers should probably take notes.)
Regardless of cause, the result was that a stadium full of the NFL’s most obnoxious fans got to see their favorite TE do his favorite spike thing multiple times. Their thinking is clear: new chip firmly stuck on shoulder, they’re destined now to go all the way and cap off the 2015 Flip-off-Roger tour with a big victory parade in February. Of course they must be stopped.
That’s easier said than done though, and that brings me back to the title of this article. The Stillers made a lot of mistakes last Thursday, and they weren’t all on the field. The coaching staff chipped in huge blunders, beginning with the dumb decision to call a gimmick play on the opening drive when the Stillers were driving the ball down the Patriots throats. Actually I brought up this very play in the pre-game, and was all using it – just not this early, and certainly not when your running back is just plain gashing them.
That’s called “situational awareness” and it also covers the boneheaded brand of clock management that the Stillers practiced right before the half. The Stillers seemed rushed, indecisive, and worse, let a good 25 seconds bleed away even though they had a couple of timeouts in their pockets.
On the other side of the field stands a coach who doesn’t seem to suffer these problems. Chilly Billy Belichick always seems to be on top of things, always a step ahead. He’s been accused, of course, of using some under-the-table methods to gain this advantage, and lately that legend has grown (Bill’s teary-eyed speech last Friday alluding to ESPN’s latest story on Patriots cheating truly rang touching: “what, us dig through trash cans? Sniff!”). Tales have ranged from sending lackeys into locker rooms at halftime to steal playsheets to using secret second frequencies to radio information to Brady past the allotted 15 seconds. It doesn’t help that the team employs the shadowy Ernie Adams, listed as “football research director,” a supposed math whiz with a photographic memory who was allegedly the “Rain Man” behind the Spygate stolen-signals scheme.
So is Belichick truly the Jedi master, or does he simply play dirty and win cheap? I believe the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle: I think his success as a coach owes both to his mastery and his combination approach of both bending and outright breaking the rules. (There’s no question he has broken them, despite the “well you don’t understand Spygate!” ploy that Patriots fans have used to imply his innocence.
Belichick’s m.o. is to push the rules and dare you to bust him, something he pulled off nicely when his defense got away with mugging the Rams’ receivers in his first Super Bowl win. He calculated that the league wouldn’t want its supreme game decided by refs, and won. Thanks to grabbing and holding way beyond the 5-yard mark, the Greatest Show on Turf got stuck in the mud. It was a strategy that was both smart and underhanded, and it succeeded mightily.
The multiple-man line stunt the Patriots pulled on the goal line is a good example of this kind of thinking. The movement caused the Stiller o-line to jump, and despite Roethlisberger’s belief that it was illegal, it wasn’t. In fact it was exactly the kind of thing Belichick sprung on the Ravens last January with that eligible-receiver scheme: both ploys broke “unwritten rules” as Ben claimed, but that’s the only kind they broke. It was a smart move by Belichick, and not just because it likely cost the Stillers the touchdown there.  
It wasn’t just that Belichick pulled the stunt, it was where he chose to spring it: parked on his own goal line. If the call would’ve gone the other way, what’s the worst that could happen? The Patriots would have lost a whopping half yard at most under the half-the-distance rule. That’s a prime example of situational awareness, knowing what to do and when; contrast that with the Stillers decision to run the trick play in the middle of a power drive.
Risk-reward mastery like the goal-line stunt, statistical probabilities – I doubt these are methods employed by Tomlin and his staff. Does Belichick cheat? Hey, is the new Pope Catholic? But it would only be the claim of haters to say that’s all he does.
Yes, Belichick may not play by the rules, but keep in mind that he’s playing chess after all. Think Tomlin would ever think of something like that goal-line shift, or dig up some obscure eligible receivers rule? (Though for the life of me I still can’t understand why Roethlisberger didn’t audible to a sweep when they stunted inside; the back would’ve walked into the end zone.)  
Tomlin may not be a chess player but that’s fine – play checkers the Belichick way. If you know, for example, that the headsets go haywire in Foxborough every time you play there, the time to say something isn’t during the post-game presser; you mention it to the league before the game. Patriots fans still brag about the pre-game whining Belichick did to the refs about Troy Edwards’ tendency to step out of bounds on punt coverage – a sharp-eyed pull off film. Sure enough, Edwards got caught, leading to the re-punt that led to the Stillers demise. That day, the legend of Belichick was born.
The Pittsburgh Stillers are a talented bunch of athletes who win despite their coach’s poor clock management and in-game strategy decisions. They often overcome their coaching to win. The Patriots, on the other hand, are a lesser-talented team that’s put in the position to win because of their coaching. They’re elevated by the man who runs their team.
So for now, the Tom Brady victory lap continues. How complete a week has it been for the chowd’heads? Even Frick and Frack, the twin ball boys, got reinstated by the league, never having to tell us under oath if that Deflator nickname really refers to weight loss. Kraft and his buddy the judge will certainly be laughing about that one the next time they get together in the Hamptons for a cocktail soiree.
The Rooneys are rarely ones to make waves, so when I read this statement off the team’s official site, I took notice:
This is the kind of stuff that happens to the visiting team in Gillette Stadium all the time. From the start of the game through the opening 14 minutes of the first quarter, the Steelers’ coaches’ headsets were receiving the Patriots Radio Network broadcast of the game. The broadcast was so loud that the Steelers coaches were unable to communicate, and the NFL rule is that if one team’s headsets are not working the other team is supposed to be forced to take their headsets off. It’s what the NFL calls the Equity Rule. Strangely enough, whenever an NFL representative proceeded to the New England sideline to shut down their headsets, the Steelers headsets cleared. Then as the representative walked away from the New England sideline, the Steelers’ headsets again started to receive the Patriots game broadcast.  
The NFL’s explanation that let the Patriots skate from blame doesn’t wash. For starters, it didn’t address why the Stillers’ headsets mysteriously started working again whenever the league official was about to tell New England they had to drop their headsets by rule. It also seems strange considering the league’s big investment in a digitally-based communications system which is designed to prevent exactly these kind frequency intrusions from happening in the first place.  
According to an article in super-geek site Gizmodo, the NFL claims its transmissions are insured by “268 million different military-grade encryption codes protecting the frequencies.” That’s what makes their claim of “weather” or “grounding” issues causing the problems seem so unlikely. I did talk to a tech person who said that there are some analog elements such as the old Telex boxes still around, so that could account for the interruptions, intentionally-planned or not.   
The Stillers have said they aren’t going to pursue the matter any further, so we’ll likely never know what really happened. Who knows, this is exactly the kind of cheesy little edge the Patriots would seek. With the resume that “Belicheat” has compiled, it’s gotten hard to sort out what’s actually cheating and what isn’t.
People ask, why do they have to cheat if they’re that good? To which I answer, because it’s the little edge they believe puts them over the top. The NFL isn’t college, and the difference in talent overall between teams isn’t that great. Most games or close, and it’s a little play here or there, little things, that usually make the difference. You can be good and still use methods beyond the rules; if you succeed, you can be great.
I’m all with Coach being so furious after the game. I think I would be too if I had to hear Boston Top 40 radio blaring in my head while I was trying to do my job. But there’s no sympathy for next time. Be prepared for anything, or be prepared to go home. Especially when you’re playing the chess master.
I’d be happy to see the Stillers get another shot at the Patriots, this time with Bell, Bryant and with any luck, Pouncey. For all the talk about Brady’s shining night, the fact is this: New England played about as perfectly on offense as it could, the Stillers made about every goof possible on both sides of the ball, and still they only lost by a touchdown. The Patriots are as I thought they looked this pre-season: a team that can be beaten, provided you don’t beat yourself first.
Watching the Stillers, I saw defensive backs who didn’t make plays because they were confused and out of position. That problem can be addressed. The Patriots defensive backs were in position perfectly; they simply got toasted. Not even the best coaching can fix getting athletically overmatched. (One note though: I was impressed with the play of Jabaal Sheard, and the more than ever the Stillers look like morons for not making a play last spring for this uber-active ‘backer.)
It may shock you to read then that I’m picking the Stillers to represent the AFC in in the NFL’s Golden Super Bowl. I believe they’ll have addressed most of their defensive issues by Halloween, and with the firepower they possess on offense, the defense won’t have to be great – just competent.
I’m picking them also based on what I see around the conference, which more than ever looks wide open and ripe for the taking. I’m picking the Stillers:
--Because the Ravens no longer have Jacoby Jones, but still have Joe Flacco.
--Because the Bengals will still have Andy Dalton come playoff time.
--Because the Cleveland Browns are still the Cleveland Browns
--Because the Indy Colts have Andrew Luck, and a defense with even more issues than the Stillers.
--Because I like the Denver defense, but don’t like Peyton Manning after Thanksgiving.
That leaves the big mountain left for the Stillers to climb up in Foxborough. The CBS Sports game summary headline read “Brady dominates Stillers defense in opener” but in fact the Stillers offense actually well outgained New England’s. Jack Lambert once said, “give me a six-pack, a half hour of rest and let’s go play ‘em again.” The same thing goes for any rematch this season, with Bell and Bryant in uniform. Trust me, this is a mountain the Stillers can climb – as long as they don’t leave the equipment at home.
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