By: Bob George/BosSports.net
October 15, 2002

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Man, this is perplexing.

Julie Andrews bared her breasts in the movie S.O.B.. Leslie Nielson trashed his reputation as a serious actor in the movie Airplane!. Masta Gangsta Jimmy Cagney is perhaps best known as a singer and a dancer in Yankee Doodle Dandy.

From Hollywood we move on to…

Eric Clapton made that delicious slowdown version of Layla. Kiss will rock your socks off with Rock And Roll All Night, but on the same album makes with this sensitive and gentle ballad named Beth, dedicated to the girlfriend of one of the band members (know which one?). Eric Carman has such musical versatility that he can sing with a group called the Raspberries and croon stuff like Go All The Way, then make a hit record five years later based on the second movement of Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor by Rachmaninov.

Now, from the sublime to the ridiculous. In other words, on to Foxborough, Massachusetts.

What was Rachmaninov in February is now P.D.Q.Bach. What was Julie Andrews is now Lili Von Shtupp (Blazing Saddles). What was Eric Clapton is now Spinal Tap.

And what was Belichick football is now…well, use the above as a guideline and come up with your own analogy.

The key word here is "unbelievable". A good subtitle would be "people famous for one thing doing something else you would never think they'd do".

In the case of the Patriots, you have a team playing counter to typecast, and a coach who is coaching against typecast. It is a scenario that is so baffling that even the coach himself can't figure out what to do.

Lots of things have gone wrong with the Super Bowl champs since a 44-7 dismantling of the biggest nemeses of the Patriots, the New York Jets. It all began with Kansas City suddenly figuring out that you can actually run the ball on the Patriots, and it has gone downhill from there.

With lots of things going wrong go lots of things that have to be fixed. Diagnosing a problem is one thing, curing it is quite another. I can sure tell you if your leg is broken, but get someone else to fix it, bud.

But the Patriots have one problem that might be the worst of them all. Worse than Tom Brady and his sudden penchant for dumb picks. Worse than Charlie Weis thinking he's Don Coryell. Worse than the down linemen on both sides of the ball who forgot Vince Lombardi's numero uno rule on how to play football: "You win if you block and tackle better than the other guy!"

The biggest problem of them all? Penalties. Lots of them. Against Green Bay on Sunday, the Patriots were flagged 12 times for 126 yards. They are tied for 5th in the NFL (with Oakland) in most penalties with 46 (averaging just under eight per game). They are 3rd in the league with 444 yards in penalties.

And we're not talking about the clunkers called on Tedy Bruschi and Mike Compton at Miami last week. We're talking about Richard Seymour and his head slap. We're talking about Matt Light forgetting a snap count. We're talking about Ty Law, who still insists on holding a guy if he's got the slightest inkling that his man beat him. We're talking about some lunkhead who didn't line up on the line of scrimmage when he was supposed to.

And we're also talking about a supposed tough-as-nails coach who should have stopped all this stuff a long time ago, and hasn't.

If there is one thing that will always reflect on the coaching, it's penalties. Unfortunately for Bill Belichick, the last two Patriot coaches have given his legion of fans plenty to talk about if penalties become a problem. The last two coaches were literally defined by their tolerance and/or prevalence of penalties. Belichick will inevitably be compared to these two men, either positively or negatively, based upon how he handles the penalty situation that has gripped his team.

Bill Parcells went nuts over penalties. Quite simply, it became one of the hallmarks of his coaching career. Parcells always brought a sense of discipline to his team, and it was reflected out there on the field. Parcells never tolerated stupid mistakes, and more specifically, stupid penalties. The punishment was usually removal from the game for a while, and a face-full of the Big Tuna with some loud and lively vernacular awaiting the poor player on the sideline.

Pete Carroll hated penalties also, we think. We can't find one reason why he'd actually like them. But he was totally unable to prevent his team from becoming a penalty machine during his tenure as head coach.

If you look closely at Parcells and Carroll, you might see that the abatement of penalties is a by-product of respect for the coaching staff. Players will simply not make these mistakes if they are either in awe of or scared to death of their coach. Conversely, players are very likely to play stupid if they either like their coach a lot, or hate their coach and aren't scared of him, either.

As much as Carroll might have tried to abate penalties, his easygoing demeanor likely prevented his having a disciplined squad out there. Quite simply, based upon seeing him in an interview and watching him on the sideline, would you be afraid of Carroll? Going further, which coach would you motivate yourself to play error-free for, Parcells or Carroll?

Which brings us back to Belichick, and what he absolutely must do over these next two weeks.

"It's time to start over." That's the new Patriot mantra. Not too common among defending champs unless you're the Florida Marlins, but we're cool with that.

Belichick is known for his brains, but also for his cold-blooded tactics in handling people in general. Maybe he ought to take this personal quality he possesses out for a spin and see what happens. If frightening these players is what it takes to get them back on the beam, it needs to be done.

But this also helped bring about Belichick's demise in Cleveland (so they say, though this writer blames Art Modell and his ignominious business decision to move that team). Belichick is too smart and too talented to not find men who will play hard and smart for him. The problem is that he has already found them. If Belichick can find the right mix of coming on hard and strong without totally alienating players to the point that they no longer want anything more to do with Belichick, he will likely conquer this problem.

An undisciplined Belichick team? Yikes. You might as well take Clint Eastwood away from his "Go ahead, make my day!" movies and make him sing or something.

Whoops. Go watch Paint Your Wagon sometime.


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