When he eventually retires from coaching in the NFL, Bill Belichick will go down as one of the greatest of all-time. He has done just about everything a coach can do, leading the New England Patriots to eight Super Bowls (and winning five of them). He has proven his excellence time and time again. However, while he has been called a football genius by many, that doesn’t mean he’s been perfect. There have been several examples of some rather large mistakes that he has made throughout his career. This article will take a look at biggest ones.
12. Bringing in Albert Haynesworth
Haynesworth’s first six years in the NFL were incredible and he was rewarded with a massive seven-year, $100 million contract by the Washington Redskins. However, it seems as if he simply gave up after getting paid, and had two terrible seasons in Washington — especially considering how much they paid him. However, despite those trash years and the fact that Haynesworth looked well past his prime, the Patriots still brought him in prior to the 2011 season. He lasted only a few months with the Patriots and was placed on waivers after getting into it with an assistant coach on the sidelines in November. There was no logical reason to bring in Haynesworth, even though they didn’t give up much for him (only parting with a fifth round draft pick).
11. Letting Patrick Chung Go For a Year
Patrick Chung was drafted back in 2009 and was immediately a solid contributor to the Patriots defense. His first four seasons in the NFL were spent in New England, but after the 2012 season the Patriots let him walk for some reason. He went on to sign with the Eagles, however, he was brought back after one lackluster season in Philadelphia. So while the story had a happy ending for the Patriots, Belichick has publicly stated that it was a big mistake that he didn’t bring Chung back immediately. He recovered well from a series of injuries and played in at least 15 games in each of the last four seasons, and remains under contract with the Pats until the end of the 2020 season.
10. Not Keeping Deion Branch
In 2004, Deion Branch helped the Patriots to a Super Bowl win, as he caught 11 balls for 133 yards and won the Super Bowl MVP, being the first receiver in over a decade to win that award. He played well for them in every year of his three-year rookie contract. In 2006, the Patriots and Branch were unable to come to an agreement on a new contract, so Branch was eventually traded to the Seahawks, where he had a number of successful seasons. Branch was super dependable while playing for Belichick and could have helped the Pats offensively a lot in the years he was gone. Most fans believe the Patriots should have paid him what he deserved and kept him.
9. Losing Control of the Team During Their Near-Undefeated Season
The 2007 NFL season for the Patriots was almost the greatest of all-time. They went a perfect 16-0 in the regular season and finished one game shy of a perfect season when they lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl. However, even while they were in the middle of a near-perfect season, not everything was going great for the Pats behind the scenes. As they got closer to 19-0, there are multiple reports that Belichick was not able to put a damper on the locker room hype and lost a bit of control. Veteran receiver Troy Brown said that those few weeks were among the worst practices he has ever had.
8. Paying Adalius Thomas So Much
Linebacker Adalius Thomas was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. It took him a while to get his career on track but when he did, he was great, making the All Pro team in 2006. In 2007, Belichick and the Patriots decided to sign him to a massive five-year $35 million contract (including $20 million in guaranteed money). His first season in New England was decent enough, but during the second, issues started occurring. He got deactivated in games, sent home from practices, and was eventually cut with two years remaining on his contract. In retrospect, Belichick and the Pats never should have paid him so much money.
7. Trading Jimmy Garappolo Away
Everyone thought that Jimmy Garappolo was being kept on the Patriots to eventually serve as the replacement to Tom Brady, when he finally calls it a career. He was groomed for years, and looked really good during his limited playing time. However, he was suddenly traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 2017 for a second round pick, reportedly the result of a power struggle between Belichick, Brady, and team owner Robert Kraft. In his first five games with his new team, he was undefeated and rewarded with a huge five-year, $137.5 million ($90 million guaranteed) contract. Only time will tell if this was a bad move, but right now, it looks as if they may have traded away the future franchise quarterback in favor of a 40-year-old Tom Brady.
6. Sitting Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl
This decision still baffles NFL fans and pundits to this day. Ahead of the Super Bowl LII, cornerback Malcolm Butler had played over 95% of the snaps in the NFL season and every single snap of their playoff wins. However, Belichick made the decision not to play Butler for a single snap in the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles. It served to be a critical error, as the Patriots went on to lose the game and Butler’s fill in (Eric Rowe) got roasted by the Eagles offense. Belichick still hasn’t released the exact reason why he didn’t play Butler, and Butler doesn’t seem to have an explanation either. The story is even stranger when you consider that Butler literally saved the day with his last-play interception in Super Bowl XLIX back in 2015. After the mysterious benching, Butler signed a five-year, $61 million contract with the Titans.
5. Missing Out on Keenan Allen
Could you imagine if Tom Brady was throwing to Keenan Allen these last few years? Well, it very well could have happened. In the 2013 NFL Draft the Patriots took wide receiver Aaron Dobson in the second round. While he had a solid rookie season with 500+ yards and four touchdowns, he barely played the next two seasons and soon found himself out of the league. Taken in the third round of the same draft was Keenan Allen, who has over 4,000 receiving yards in his career and more than 20 touchdowns. He is one of the best wide receivers in the league. To be fair, every other team missed on him too.
4. Not Kicking Field Goals When He Should
Bill Belichick is definitely a coaching genius. We’ve seen him come up with innovative offensive schemes that exploit loopholes in the rule book, but he’s still not immune from making the wrong call from time-to-time. This is especially true when he skips out on taking field goals in order to go for it on fourth down. There are numerous occasions where he has been unnecessarily aggressive, and it doesn’t always work out. This was especially true when they lost in the 2016 playoffs to the Broncos, as they drove it into the red zone three straight times in the fourth quarter, and opted to not kick field goals on fourth down every single time. In addition to not kicking FGs when he should, he has also gone for it on fourth down on his own side of the field more than he should.
Spygate is the (somewhat dumb) name for an incident back in 2007 when Belichick and the Patriots were found to be illegally videotaping the defensive signals of the New York Jet’s coaches during the game. The team was fined $250,000, Belichick was personally fined $500,000, and the team’s first round pick in the next draft was taken away. While it wasn’t all Belichick’s fault, he basically admitted to doing this for years, though he believed he was operating within the rules. Either way, Spygate (along with various other rule-bending moments and favorable calls from the officials) began a narrative that Belichick and the Pats are among the biggest cheaters in sports. We’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s true or not.
2. Taking Chad Jackson Over Many Future Elite Players
In another draft mishap, Bill Belichick traded up with the Green Bay Packers in the 2006 NFL Draft to draft flashy wide receiver Chad Jackson in the second round. He had an impressive combine and it really impressed Belichick. However, Jackson would go on to catch only 13 balls in his NFL career. By drafting Jackson that early, Belichick missed out on the likes of Elvis Dumervil, Kyle Williams, Brandon Marshall, and Greg Jennings, who the Packers actually got with the pick that the Patriots traded them. Oops.
1. Drafting Ryan Mallett So High
One of the issues that Belichick has had throughout his career is his drafting. See, as the head coach and de facto GM (the Pats do not employ a dedicated general manager), he is in charge of who they draft. He basically holds the reigns to the franchise. While he has made some great picks, others haven’t turned out so well. One of those was drafting quarterback Ryan Mallett so high. They took Mallett in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft. He never started a single game for them, appeared in only four games as a sub, and recorded just a single completion for the Pats — plus no touchdowns, and one interception. He was then traded away for a conditional sixth round pick and still barely plays.