Curran: When Belichick says ‘I got this,' Patriots fans now worry

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PHOENIX -- Monday morning, Bill Belichick essentially told Patriots fans better days were ahead because, well, he’s in charge.

Wednesday, he walked back/clarified/added context to his remark that Patriots fans should be optimistic because of "the last 25 years."

"We’re not resting on our past laurels; that’s not the message to the team or the fans," Belichick told Jim McBride of The Boston Globe. "We have never operated that way and aren’t now."

This was Clarification No. 2 from Belichick this offseason. We’ll revisit the first one in a minute because the owner indicated this week he’s still a little vexed about it.

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As for the "last 25 years" comment, initially it caused arm-flapping from hacks like me, who took it as Belichick essentially saying, "Do you know who I am?"  

But it went beyond hacks all the way up to people whose opinion Belichick might actually value. Patriots Hall of Famer Tedy Bruschi opined, "Right now Coach Belichick is off message. That is something that his players shouldn’t hear, that he is basing some optimism on what I’ve done in the past 25 years."

The thing is, Belichick’s response Monday was organic, authentic and a true representation of how he feels. I don’t know if any of us should be surprised the most accomplished coach in NFL history -- the most accomplished coach in the history of American professional sports -- basically said, "Give me some credit, here. I know what I’m doing and I’ve kinda proven it."

But saying, "Check my record…" now? A little tone deaf.

Everyone but Belichick suspected his plan for the 2022 Patriots offense was doomed to failure, but we mostly sighed, shrugged and deferred during the offseason.

Hell, this was Robert Kraft last year at these meetings when asked about the ambiguous plan for Mac Jones' second season.

"Bill has a unique way of doing things. It's worked out pretty well up to now. It doesn't sometimes look straight-line to our fans or to myself, but I'm results-oriented. I expect (the Patriots to contend for another title) as soon as this year. We've made the commitment as an organization, we have a lot of talent … there's a chance for them to grow and the team to come together."

The reservoir of goodwill Belichick built up from 2001 to 2018 is no longer at record levels. You don’t hear or read, "In Bill We Trust!" as often since March 17, 2020, when Tom Brady grabbed his hat, walked through the door Belichick was holding open for him and went on to immediately win a Super Bowl with a perennial punch-line franchise.

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Bill The Infallible’s been on a cold snap. And even though I understand the sentiment behind his "last 25 years" comment and kind of admire the bravado, it’s clear he either doesn’t understand the ground is shifting under his feet or he doesn’t care.

Shrugs, "dunnos" and "we’ll sees" don’t reflect the level of urgency Kraft is trying to show Patriots fans the franchise is experiencing.

Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, "He’s been like that for 23 years; now it’s a problem?"

To which I’d say … yeah.

The owner’s meetings serve as a "state of the team" address whether Belichick likes it or not.

He spent the 2022 offseason smirking every time he was asked about his plans for offensive coordinator/play-caller. Now, when asked by the ever-earnest Mike Reiss if he had a direct message to fans as to why they should be optimistic this year, he takes a similar tack?

He doesn’t have to channel Tony Robbins but fer crissake, read the room, Bill.

As I said, that’s Clarification No. 2 for Belichick this offseason. Clarification 1? In January, he added context to a remark that the Patriots were 27th in the league in cash spending from 2020 through 2022, saying that wasn’t an insinuation that ownership was being overly frugal.

"We spend to the cap every year. What I said has nothing to do with ownership’s commitment to spending fully," Belichick said, also to McBride. "To take it as any kind of slight, when Robert and Jonathan (Kraft) have done nothing but support my recommendations on contracts, couldn’t be further from the point."

In case anyone missed that from Belichick, Kraft made a very specific point Monday of calling a few media together to say, "I've had the privilege of having Bill as a coach for 24 years. He has never come to me and not gotten everything he wanted from a cash spending (perspective). We have never set limits.

"You know, think about it. We're the only team in America who built a stadium 100 percent private, no public money. We're even reimbursing for the infrastructure. Bonds were taken out. And we had no personal seat licenses. I remember being a fan and so we've committed tremendous capital just to the stadium.

"The team is more important to me. We have never had a situation where we didn't commit the cash capital needed. And I don't know how that got started. But Bill in 24 years has never come to me and not gotten every dollar he's wanted."

Moments later, Kraft pulled the pin on the Meek Mill/Lamar Jackson grenade, rolled it quietly over at Belichick and closed the door.

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