NFL

ESPN Analyst Gets Personal While Ripping Bill Belichick

Paul Finebaum is up to his old tricks, and this time the ESPN analyst has invoked Bill Belichick’s name in a bid to remain relevant in a competitive business. Criticizing an NFL coach isn’t out of bounds, but Finebaum is guilty of the kind of stretch that usually results in a pulled groin for elderly gentlemen like himself.

Oh, I’m sorry, was that a gratuitous shot? Well, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

ESPN’s Paul Finebaum thinks Bill Belichick is lazy

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The New England Patriots came into the 2021 NFL draft needing a quarterback, so Belichick drafted Mac Jones. The Alabama star was the last of the five quarterbacks that observers deemed worthy of first-round consideration, and Belichick landed him with the 15th pick without moving up. That’s contrary to strategies that cost the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears future picks.

Belichick presumably watched video of all of Jones’ throws in a national championship season and liked what he saw. The Patriots coach also had the advantage of weighing an honest evaluation from Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, a reliable friend. Somehow, Finebaum equated that with laziness even though the ESPN analyst says he likes Jones as a quarterback prospect.

“I’m also a little concerned with this rather lazy,” Finebaum said on the Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin radio show on ESPN. “’Well, Bill Belichick knows what he’s doing!’ Um, really? Have you guys watched the New England Patriots in the last couple of years? Tom Brady knows what he’s doing, I’m not sure Bill Belichick does. He’s made some dubious coaching hires, starting with his son. He’s made some disastrous draft choices.”

You know what else Belichick has done? He’s coached in the Super Bowl four times in the last seven seasons, winning three of them. Yes, the 2020 Patriots slipped to their first losing record since 2000, Belichick’s first season in charge. But they were also caught without a QB1 because of Brady’s departure and were forced to deal with more pandemic-related opt-outs than any other NFL team.

Finebaum crossed a line, but not unexpectedly

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Finebaum continued his criticism by suggesting Jones has a more secure future in New England than Belichick does, “because I see a coach who was a perfectionist, who did everything right all those years, who was untouchable, and I see him getting lazy late in his career.”

Finebaum’s somewhat fuzzy point seems to be that Belichick is earning praise for doing the obvious — drafting for need, in this case a quarterback.

In any case, calling a coach unprepared or resistant to change is one thing. Calling him lazy is another. That’s slamming his professionalism and all but says he’s stealing paychecks by not putting in the time and effort. It’s also pro forma behavior for Finebaum. Five weeks earlier, Lane Kiffin appeared on Finebaum’s show and reminded the ESPN analyst of a previous cheap shot.

“You still owe me because you did get me fired at USC that Saturday morning by saying I am the Miley Cyrus of college football,” Kiffin reminded Finebaum, referencing the 2013 episode in which the Trojans sacked the coach on the tarmac of the airport after a road loss.

“It was my first year at ESPN, and coach, I was trying to make a name for myself. And unfortunately, you just happened to be the next victim,” Finebaum said. “I do feel badly about that.”

Finebaum is 65 now, so that episode happened when he was in his late 50s. All in all, that’s a pretty lazy way to drum up an audience and keep cashing those paychecks. At the same age, Belichick was in the midst of grinding out 17 straight 10-win seasons.

It’s not as though Belichick suddenly stopped trying

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The Patriots’ rebuild is not coming entirely through the draft. In fact, aside from welcoming back the pandemic opt-outs, Belichick recruited a big free-agent class this spring, laying out more than $160 million.

At the risk of triggering Finebaum, though, it is interesting to note that the Patriots mined the Alabama roster for their second-round draft pick, too. Belichick selected Crimson Tide defensive tackle Christian Barmore with the 38th pick.

If that makes Belichick lazy, then what do we make of the rest of a league that drafted six other players in the first two rounds from the best college program in the country?

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