EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 5, 2008

Time for classless Belichick to eat some humble pie

On Pro Football

Michael Muldoon

He's been deified, and rightly so.

Now it's time to be vilified, and rightly so.

Bill Belichick was badly outcoached and just as disturbing was again classless after the Greatest Team Ever Assembled (GTEA) was pushed around by the presumed sacrificial lambs from New York in Super Bowl XLII.

But the Giants were Giant Killers, thanks to MVP Eli Manning, who came of age on sports' biggest stage, the relentless defensive line play of speedy linemen Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck (Rules), and the subpar performance by the HC of the GTEA.

Belichick has enjoyed a glorious eight-year run in New England — four Super Bowl appearances and three titles is still mindboggling in the salary-cap era. He still might be the greatest coach of all-time (and are you ruling out the Pats next year?), but not as great as we've built him up to be.

At least he wasn't Sunday night.

The Patriots had the talent, the cachet, the perfect record, the incomparable quarterback, the once-in-a-lifetime wide receiver going against a suspect at best defensive backfield, and perhaps most importantly, Belichick.

The great Belichick had two weeks to prepare

... for a Wild Card team!

... for an unproven Eli Manning!

... for a team with six losses!

... for a team coached by Tom Coughlin, who not only had never won the big one, but had never even been to the big one.

Who among us wasn't cockier than Muhammad Ali in his prime that Belichick was going to make all the right adjustments?

The only adjustment he seemed to make was to the drawstrings on his hoodie.

Maybe the look-at-me-America! dapper red hoodie was too tight and cut off blood flow to the brain.

How else to explain the inability to slow down the Giants' pass rush? Worse yet, to even try to slow them down. The Giants sackmeisters were huffing and puffing but no hurry-up offense from the Pats?

How else to explain Randy Moss being such a minor part of the game plan against the aforementioned group of Ellis Hobbs wannabees that comprise the Giants' defensive backfield?

You have to wonder about Moss' future in Foxboro after he made a point to include coaching among the Patriots' problems Sunday night in the desert.

America got its wish, the reviled Patriots layed an egg at the most inopportune time. Of course, it could be argued they were merely stellar, not historically dominant, in the second half of the season.

The most frequently used analogy for this mismatch was Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas, and we all know how that one turned out.

But Belichick was more of an ogre in defeat than Tyson.

Should we be surprised?

He's become too big for his britches and we've become complicit in his often contemptible behavior. This isn't about revealing injuries, or running up the score, or shaking a rival coaches hand, or illegally taping opponents, or refusing to ever give a straight answer ... all things which even the legion of Belichick sycophants refuse to call him on.

As college basketball all-time wins leader Bobby Knight, a person Belichick seems to be morphing into, discovered decades ago, if you win the big one, people will put up with almost anything.

But as Knight also discovered, when you fail to win the big one, which has been the case the last three years in New England, you don't get carte blanche to act like a jerk.

That's the only way to describe Belichick's actions after the game. With referee Mike Carey trying to give him a 15-yard horse collar to get him back on the sideline, Belichick continued to march across the field despite there being a second left to play.

He gave Coughlin an awkward hug, continued on to the locker room and later gave one of his intentionally painfully bland interviews with Fox's Chris Myers.

Just the latest examples of classless behavior by a coach who needs to consume some of his homemade humble pie.

Let's not forget, when Moss, who was then starring for the Vikings, left the field early during a 2004 game against the Redskins, he was fittingly taken to task in the strongest of terms. And that was a regular-season game.

In this his darkest hour for his coaching and his classlessness, Belichick deserves the same treatment.

Michael Muldoon is sports editor of The Eagle-Tribune. E-mail him at mmuldoon@eagletribune.com.