In what can only be described as a misguided and failed attempt to teach a lesson, which remained unlearned all the way until the final bell sounded on the 2021 Patriots season, Bill Belichick might be at fault for where the team’s defense ended up.
Not in the way many assumed, though.
This year’s Patriots defense ebbed and flowed so much that diehard fans and casual observers both felt misled by the end product. Anger turned to disbelief; where could the group that had held the Browns, Falcons, and Titans‘ second string to just 20 points in three games possibly have disappeared to?
According to Evan Lazar’s reporting on the fluctuating captains in New England’s locker room, Bill Belichick’s decision to put his foot back on the defensive gas pedal before removing it midseason and deferring responsibility to his son Steve and Jerod Mayo directly altered the campaign’s trajectory.
The reason for these changing tides remains unknown, but certainly leaves the door open for criticism of the aging Belichick. Can he no longer handle defensive duties, head coaching duties and GM duties bundled together? If not, should he bring in a more experienced defensive coordinator and dismiss Steve entirely/allow Mayo to seek an official title elsewhere?
Patriots HC Bill Belichick trusted Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo with his defense far too much in 2021.
According to Lazar’s reporting, Steve Belichick and Mayo held strange, dueling responsibilities during the season. Mayo would make large-scale presentations, but the younger Belichick would be responsible for in-game calls, something his father has admitted publicly.
Clearly, the hierarchy for both men — neither one a defensive coordinator officially — was confusing. It also reportedly left players lost as questions piled up.
And then, of course, there’s the reporting that Bill himself stemmed the tide and turned things around, only to disappear down the stretch:
"Bill Belichick took a more hands-on approach with the defense during their seven-game winning streak, leading to a dominant stretch with the unit in complete unison at all three levels.As was the case in the first six games of 2021, Belichick let his assistants take the lead after the Patriots bye week, and the results speak for themselves.There aren’t clear-cut answers as to why the Patriots’ head coach put the defense back into his assistants’ hands, but players were searching for a leader to follow and never found one."
Why did Belichick briefly lead when he saw the team struggling, then choose to shrink away when the lights got brighter in the wake of his masterpiece in the wind and frigid cold in Buffalo?
It’s anyone’s guess. Perhaps he believed he’d left Mayo and Steve Belichick with enough of a foundation, only to realize he hadn’t once it was too late for a second pivot.
Regardless, the way the legendary Belichick orchestrated his defense did not translate to his underlings, and that messy transfer of power helped end the Patriots’ season.