An awful lot of time is spent analyzing what we see in the NFL’s pre-season, and most of it follows someone saying: “Even though the pre-season doesn’t really tell us anything, I still think….” That would be a good time to stop talking, but not many ever do. So allow me to chime in.
Even though the pre-season is a predictor of nothing, I still think Bill Belichick’s reaction to the Patriots third pre-season game tells us something fairly significant. Forget that his post-game press conference was hysterically funny, and that his behavior would have been embarrassing for a 6-year-old, the very fact that he said almost nothing tells you, perhaps, that he had no explanation for how poorly his team played. That alone should worry Patriot fans.
Belichick didn’t lead the masses in making convenient excuses. He didn’t talk about vanilla defenses and the absence of game-planning. He didn’t say it was only a pre-season game, or that they were only trying to get a look at different players. He didn’t consider this a glorified practice. He was livid! He was also despondent.
Optimistic fans reminded themselves the pre-season is a predictor of nothing. And then Belichick looked like somebody shot his dog. Granted, he’s never been a good loser, and the Patriots had just lost, but I didn’t interpret his little snit as a reaction to the losing. It was a reaction to the playing. It was the third pre-season game, the only one that almost matters. It was his last good chance to see how far his team has come and how far it has to go. He won’t get much of a gauge in the Meadowlands against the Giants. And what he saw made him feel like a statue in Capistrano when the swallows return.
Belichick told us something in that stand-up routine he did after the Rams game. He let it slip through his tight lips that he’s worried. Maybe he couldn’t think of anything else to say, because he didn’t know what to think. The team he hoped would be further along might be further away. Or maybe the pre-season tells us nothing, and Belichick is just grouchy. That’s plausible, too.