NFL

The Reason Bill Belichick Isn’t as Tough on NFL Referees as He Used To Be

Every football fan knows Bill Belichick’s reputation. The New England Patriots head coach hasn’t won six Super Bowls by coming across to the people around him as warm and fuzzy – at least not in public.

Belichick has played hardball in contract negotiations and had his share of run-ins with the league office. But in more than 450 regular-season and playoff games, he has had relatively few dust-ups with on-field officiating crews.

Bill Belichick does work the NFL game officials

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NFL coaches are always looking for an edge. It starts with breaking down video to look for ways to exploit weaknesses in opposing offenses and defenses. It extends to looking to establish an advantage on the field by working on officiating crews. If the call doesn’t go their way in the first quarter, coaches aren’t above planting a seed in the referee’s mind to engineer a favorable ruling in the fourth quarter.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick may have pulled off just such a “win” by making his case to referee Scott Novak last month during an 18-12 loss to the Denver Broncos.

NFL films had a microphone on Belichick and recorded a conversation in which Belichick complained about the way Broncos offensive linemen were manhandling Patriots defenders.

“Scott, you know, we’re getting tackled there on that play-action. I mean, I don’t know how you let that go when they tackle him from behind,” Belichick said, as transcribed by a Boston TV station.

Belichick concluded by telling Novak, “That’s all they do is punch in the face and hold.”

Later in the game, which had a total of just three accepted penalties, the officials flagged Denver lineman Demar Dotson for hands to the face of New England’s Chase Winovich.

Belichick declined the penalty in order to force the Broncos to kick a field goal, but it certainly felt as though working the officials earlier had the intended effect.

Bill Belichick had one expensive run-in with an official

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The NFL fined Bill Belichick $50,000 in 2012 after the New England Patriots coach made impermissible contact with an official after a 31-30 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Belichick did own up to his actions. “It was inappropriate for me to contact the official,” he said in a statement. “I take responsibility for what happened.”

Belichick had explained after the game that he wanted to ask whether the Ravens’ game-winning field goal would be reviewed. That’s when he grabbed the official by the arm.

It’s worth noting that both Belichick and Ravens coach John Harbaugh had problems with calls made throughout the game. The officiating crew consisted of replacements the league hired during a labor dispute with its regular officials.

Perhaps a moment of clarity in 2005

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The $50,000 fine in 2012 may have been a wake-up call to Bill Belichick with respect to learning about the line that can’t be crossed when confronting officials.

However, an episode seven years earlier suggested a moment of clarity regarding just how difficult life is for the team that is neither the home team nor the visitor each week. A 2014 ESPN story recounted an encounter between Belichick and current Fox Sports rules analyst Mike Pereira midway through the 2005 season.

Pereira was the NFL’s vice president for officiating at the time and was attending a funeral wake for New York Giants owner Wellington Mara when Belichick spotted him. Belichick commented to Pereira that he looked worn down.

“I’m looking at you,” Belichick told Pereira, “and I’m realizing one thing. You never win, do you? You have 16 losers every week, don’t you? I was just looking at you and thinking about how as a coach, losses are devastating. But victories are euphoric. And I’m looking across to you and I realize you never get that sense, do you?”

According to the story, Belichick vowed that someday he would call Pereira after a Patriots loss to say he’s doing a good job.