Outworking their opponents has always been what has made Bill Belichick’s team successful, and Saturday proved that he’s not O.K. with people questioning their integrity. (USA TODAY Images)
After a week of hearing reports with accusations and assumptions about how his team intentionally deflated footballs last week against Indianapolis to clinch another AFC Championship, Bill Belichick had clearly heard enough.
As he walked up to the podium on Saturday (fashionably late, 30 minutes past the original announced start time), he led off the press conference by letting everyone know that he had looked long and hard at the situation learning “more than he could ever imagine” about the topic as it pertains to what goes into the process of testing footballs on gameday. ¬†He spoke sternly and with purpose, bubbling with frustration about a week that was likely spent answering questions internally about things that didn’t involve a football game.
Enough was enough. ¬†At some point Saturday a meeting was held and rather than wait for the NFL to get involved, it looks like Belichick decided it was time to fire back and said he felt that as an organization, “we need to say something.”
And off he went, explaining exactly what he thought had happened. ¬†He went into great detail about a¬†study they had done to simulate the same conditions from both before last week’s¬†game and during, trying to figure out how it could have affected the air pressure in those 11 footballs. ¬†He revealed that the majority of focus when it comes to the footballs is the texture of the ball, which typically undergo a relatively vigorous rubdown (Belichick wouldn’t get into specifics on how vigorous, pointing out they’re “not exactly polishing fine China”) to prep them to get them to where Tom Brady prefers them grip-wise. ¬†They talked to people to try and get a handle on how the loss of pressure within a football could have dropped below what the league deems a legal threshold¬†in an effort to figure out accusations that¬†he¬†admitted earlier in the week were shocking, probably not realizing just how out of hand it would all get.
Granted one day removed from his own retaliation, there are already plenty of media outlets dismissing it as rubbish, although one would have to wager that if you asked them if they’ve done their due diligence of running through the same process to see if it matched what the Patriots found, the likelihood would probably reveal that none of them had. ¬†It’s much easier to sit there and continue to throw rocks at an organization that fired back with a cannon on Saturday, shooting down the conspiracy theories that made it seem as though espionage had occurred somewhere deep inside the belly of Gillette Stadium for 11 of 12 balls to drop below an acceptable level.
Meanwhile, while they’ll quickly dismiss it, it doesn’t change the fact Belichick and the Patriots went to great lengths to reach the conclusions they did. ¬†He also wasn’t speaking about theories and what he “believed” happened. ¬†He told the world what they do every week, and simulated it to try and get down to the bottom of it and the results revealed an answer that no one is going to like simply because the outcome doesn’t help the vultures who were waiting – and many still are – to go in for the kill.
This whole situation has been a waste of time and as a result, rather than being able to figure out how to contain Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch next weekend in Arizona, Belichick had to use the same approach he uses to solve every challenge he faces, and that was to educate himself fully on the situation and solve the problem. ¬†He had to waste time trying to figure out exactly what happened in an effort to ensure the organization doesn’t have to endure some ridiculous penalty by the NFL for a crime they didn’t commit.
That’s the most frustrating part of the situation. ¬†All week the league hung New England out to dry, offering up nothing other than “we’re investigating the matter” and little else while both the national and local media outlets around the country tore apart what the Patriots had done, taking what should have been a monumental achievement and tearing it to shreds.
Listening to Belichick as he got deeper into his statement, that’s the part that seemed to upset him the most. ¬†You could almost hear him getting angrier and angrier as he went on, and the normally restrained coach finally let loose, letting everyone know that he believes his team earned everything they’ve gotten and not only that, they’re the best team in the AFC both for what they did during the regular season, and both games they won to get where they are. ¬†Part of the reason why they’ve reached this point is because they’ve trained harder than anyone to get there, and that’s a point he drove home.
They‚Äôre a physically and mentally tough team that works hard, that trains hard, that prepares and have met every challenge that I‚Äôve put in front them. And I know that, because I work them every day.” – Bill Belichick (USA TODAY Images)
‚ÄúAgain, anyone who has seen us practice knows that we make it harder, not easier, to handle the ball and our players train in conditions that a lot of people would recommend that we not drive in,” said an exasperated Belichick. ¬†“That‚Äôs what they do. They‚Äôre a physically and mentally tough team that works hard, that trains hard, that prepares and have met every challenge that I‚Äôve put in front them. And I know that, because I work them every day.
“This team was the best team in the AFC in the regular season. We won two games in the playoffs against two good football teams. The best team in the postseason, and that‚Äôs what this team is and I know that because I‚Äôve been with them every day and I‚Äôm proud of this team.‚ÄĚ
This was a waste of his time. ¬†Anyone who has ever been accused of something they didn’t do knows how infuriating that is, especially in situations where they’re forced to go to great lengths before they’re exonerated, which often times leads to nothing more than getting them off the hook without even a “sorry” for being accused to begin with.
As it stands, Belichick knows they didn’t do anything wrong and it sounds like he believes they did everything well within the guidelines and shouldn’t be in this position. ¬†As a matter of fact, it sounds like he may have some issues of his own that he’ll be taking up with the league, which should be interesting in terms of seeing how that plays out.
“We feel like we followed the rules of the game to the letter in our preparations, in our procedures, and in the way that we handle every game that we competitively play in as it relates to this matter,” said Belichick. ¬†“We try to do everything right, we try to err on the side of caution, it‚Äôs been that way now for many years. ¬†Anything that‚Äôs close, we stay as far away from the line as we can.
“In this case I can say that we are,¬†as far as I know¬†in everything that I can do, we did everything as right¬†as we could do it. ¬†And we welcome the league‚Äôs investigation into this matter. ¬†I think there are a number of things that need to be looked into, on a number of levels, but that‚Äôs not for this conversation, I‚Äôm sure it will be taken up at another point in time. And this is the end of this subject for me, for a long time.”
It’s been a long week full of being fired upon from all directions. ¬†The Patriots are already in a no win¬†situation in that even with a win next weekend¬†there will be whispers, questioning the integrity of an organization that hasn’t had a losing season since 2000. ¬†It’s too difficult to imagine a group committed to sacrifice and winning and outworking everyone to get there. ¬†That makes too much sense.
However, each year Belichick figures it out, much like he figured out what happened last weekend that caused the psi in a football to drop¬†and kicked off this witch hunt. ¬† While¬†the game of football may also be considered a science and one that he’s been able to master pretty well over the years, he ended up having to study science itself to solve one more challenge that he shouldn’t have had to deal with.
But like anything else he dealt with it, and Saturday he wanted to let everyone in the media know how wrong he felt it all is. ¬†This will go down as one of the biggest moments in Patriots history simply for the fact that the coach who has established himself as the one of the best ever fought back like we’ve never seen him do before. ¬†As far as he’s concerned, don’t question their integrity. ¬†Don’t question their desire and what it took to get where they are. His team is in this position because they’ve been the best and deserve to be here, and nothing involving psi in a football had any effect on that.
End of story. ¬†We’re on to Seattle.