Bill Belichick cut his teeth in the NFL as a defensive coach, helping the New York Giants win two Super Bowls in the late 1980s the team's defensive coordinator.
Belichick's defensive acumen continued to serve him well in New England, where the Patriots won three Super Bowls in a four-year span from 2001 to 2004 thanks to a dominant defense and a smart, efficient young quarterback named Tom Brady.
The NFL has changed a lot in the past two decades, however, and Belichick has had much less success in Mac Jones' early years. FOX Sports' Colin Cowherd joined our Tom E. Curran on a new Patriots Talk Podcast to share an interesting theory about Belichick's struggles in the post-Brady era.
"Well, I've been on this for a couple of years: Defensive head coaches can struggle with young quarterbacks," Cowherd told Curran. "I've watched Sean McVay redo (the Los Angeles Rams') offense in one offseason. I've watched (Miami Dolphins head coach) Mike McDaniel transform Tua (Tagovailoa). I watched (San Francisco 49ers head coach) Kyle Shanahan continually coach Brock Purdy. You see it time and time again."
McVay, McDaniel and Shanahan all translated their extensive offensive backgrounds into relative success as head coaches. But as Cowherd points out, several head coaches with defensive backgrounds have struggled to construct offenses without flaws.
"Sean McDermott, five years, can't fix the (offensive) line or the run game for the Bills," Cowherd said. "(Pittsburgh's) Mike Tomlin, a very good coach: five, six years, can't get the run game or the offensive line right.
"Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator -- becomes offensive coordinator (in 2022), completely tone deaf. They can't draft a skill person on offense. I think the last Pro Bowler was Gronk (Rob Gronkowski). I think it's a different language.
" ... I think Bill's brilliant. But even Tom Brady would sometimes joke that he spoke a different language than Bill Belichick offensively."
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While the Patriots were very good offensively in Jones' rookie season (sixth in the NFL in points per game), they've regressed dramatically since then: The combination of Matt Patricia, Joe Judge and Belichick oversaw the league's seventh-worst offense in yards per game last season, and New England is off to an 0-2 start despite holding its first two opponents to 25 and 24 points, respectively.
Cowherd believes that's a sign of the times, and that defensive coaches face an uphill battle in a modern NFL that prioritizes offense.
"I think the league is punishing defensive coaches," Cowherd added. "You put receivers in motion, now they get a head start. There's nothing you can do as a corner.
" ... The league for years and years punished Andy Reid. Now it's punishing Bill Belichick."
Also discussed in this episode:
- Why the Patriots can't count the Jets as a layup.
- The Patriots need to lean into their hurry-up offense.
- What will it take for this team to go on a run?