Bill Belichick doesn’t need an iPad, a Microsoft tablet or the NBC “See-It” replay camera.
Often all he needs to do to win is to show up.
Sun Tzu told us “every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”
Sunday, the Patriots visit Pittsburgh, which will be without QB Ben Roethlisberger.
One thing the Patriots head coach will be without: His NFL-issuedMicrosoft tablet. The tablets are used to provide images of plays. From now on, Belichick will be using paper images for that information.
While Belichick was ridding himself of one major nuisance, Steelers coordinator Keith Butler tried to create another – and did his best to prove the ancient Chinese General and all-knowing sage Sun Tzu right again.
Butler lamented to something called Coodinators’ Corner that the Patriots were using plays and formations that are barely legal. It was a sad reference to the way New England toyed with Baltimore in the AFC Divisional playoff game in January 2015.
“I don’t think they’re doing anything special,” Butler said when asked why so many teams are unable to successfully prepare for New England’s offense. “I think sometimes they do things outside the box sometimes, you know, that might be on the edge of being legal or not legal.”
Ah, there go the Patriots “cheating” again. There’s nothing “illegal” with what Belichick does with his formations. Nothing “illegal” that is until you have to game plan for Tom Brady in the midst of his 2016 Revengeance II/Obliterate The NFL Tour.
“The Patriots cheat” is the go-to excuse for teams, coaches, players and fans who recognize the general futility of facing a team that lost its starting QB for four weeks and now has the best record in the AFC.
Not only is there no evidence (ever) the Patriots have cheated in game with formations or other schemes – except when Brady and Belichick employ a two tight-end set that features Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski.
If anything, Belichick has willfully put himself at a disadvantage by ridding himself of the aforementioned Microsoft tablet last week and forever forward. Those tablets, along with his new granddaughter, appeared to be the topics of choice this week in and around Gillette Stadium.
It is a remarkable turnaround in tone and tenor given how Brady’s Deflategate-driven absence was the all-encompassing topic all spring and summer.
His detailed loquaciousness on tabletphobia does offer a glimpse into the way he evaluates talent – whether it be mechanical, digital or human.
“I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me. I’m going to stick with pictures as several of our other coaches do as well because there just isn’t enough consistency in the performance of the tablets, so I just can’t take it anymore,” he said.
When Belichick was asked about his aversion to this particular piece of technology, he gave a 728-word answer spread out over nearly 6 minutes.
This was the same coach who turned “we’re on to Cincinnati” into the unofficial motto of Massachusetts.
And while Belichick’s boat is now called “VI Rings,” he still can’t program the digital clock in his car.
The NFL’s technology failed New England last week during Sunday’s 35-17 brawl/victory with Cincinnati. The Surface tablets also malfunctioned during the AFC Championship loss against the Denver Broncos, along with Stephen Gostkowski, Brady and the offensive line.
“Inevitably something goes wrong somewhere at some point in time. I would say weekly we have to deal with something,” he continued while ripping into sideline technology in general. “During the game sometimes something happens and it has to be fixed, and first of all, you have to figure out what the problem is. Is it a battery? Is it the helmet? Is it the coaches’ pack? Is it the battery on the coaches’ pack? I mean you know, again, it could be one of 15 different things. So, I would just say there are problems in every game. There were problems last week but there were problems the week before that, too. … There is a lot of complexity to the technology. There is complexity to multiple systems and there are a lot of failures. … It was a problem last week. It’s basically a problem every week. … I’m done with the tablets. I’ll use the paper pictures from here on because I’ve given it my best shot.”
The heat got so bad that Microsoft saw fit to respond.
“We respect coach Belichick’s decision, but stand behind the reliability of Surface,” a company spokesperson told CNN. “We continue to receive positive feedback on having Surface devices on the sidelines from coaches, players and team personnel across the league. In the instances where sideline issues are reported in NFL games, we work closely with the NFL to quickly address and resolve.”
At least Bill Gates hasn’t called Belichick a cheater.
Bill Speros is a columnist for the Boston Herald and an assistant editor at SEC Country. He Tweets @RealOBF.