Bill Belichick showed a sense of humor when he led fans to believe that his dog made a pick on his behalf during the NFL draft. However, football fans may have remained convinced that they were witnessing an anomaly since the New England Patriots coach’s reputation is anything but warm and fuzzy.
The jury is still out on one of the most successful – and complicated – coaches in NFL history, but Belichick’s reputation seems to be rallying.
Bill Belichick isn’t timid about making tough choices
Loyalty isn’t a two-way street in sports, at least with some perennially successful franchises. Even before the Tom Brady drama, the Bill Belichick era with the New England Patriots was full of examples of decisions that appeared cold-hearted but were made for the sake of keeping the team from regressing.
Defensive lineman Richard Seymour was a stalwart when Belichick traded him days before the start of the 2009 season. Belichick used the draft pick acquired from the Raiders to select Nate Solder, a seven-year starter on the offensive line before being allowed to leave as a free agent.
Some decisions made sense at the time but don’t look so wise in retrospect. Belichick let Chandler Jones go after four productive seasons, knowing that the defensive end’s next contract would push the Patriots into salary cap trouble. Jones has since piled up 60 sacks in four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
Lawyer Milloy was disgusted by Bill Belichick
Safety Lawyer Milloy recently described the abrupt ending to his seven-year career with the New England Patriots, who had drafted him in 1996. Milloy was coming off his fourth Pro Bowl selection when coach Bill Belichick issued an ultimatum on the eve of the 2003 season: Re-work the remaining four years on your contract at lower pay or leave.
Milloy, who was due $4.5 million that season, refused to sign the revised contract and signed the next day with the Buffalo Bills for $5 million upfront and then an average of $2.5 million a season for four years.
“Guys get released or have these situations come up all the time. It was just the way he handled it, trying to wait until the Monday before the first game, which really disgusted me,” Milloy told radio station WEEI.
Reggie Wayne was forever grateful
Not every former New England Patriot has Lawyer Milloy’s take on Bill Belichick.
Receiver Reggie Wayne had a brief stint with the Patriots during training camp in 2015 after 1,070 receptions in 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Wayne was 36 at the time and looking for a last hurrah with a perennial contender after recovering from triceps surgery.
Wayne agreed to a one-year, $2.8 million deal late in training camp. The contract included a $450,000 signing bonus. But two weeks of work with the Patriots, including a pair of preseason games, convinced Wayne that it was time to move on. He recalls going to Belichick to inform him of his retirement.
“I said, ‘Hey, this is what it is. I know I got a signing bonus. I’ll give it back, no biggie. Bill Belichick told me to keep it,” Wayne said on Dan Hellie’s Helliepod podcast. “I’m like, ‘Hey, you ain’t got to bend my arm back twice.’ He told me to keep it. And that was love, man. And I always had respect for him.”
Wayne said the perception and the reality of Belichick are at odds with each other. “Bill Belichick is not what you think,” Wayne said. “I just think he doesn’t like the media. Every day I saw Bill, he was smiling and laughing. He does have teeth. A lot of people don’t think he has teeth. It was a totally different Bill Belichick.”