Tedy Bruschi is a New England Patriots legend. Long before he was the an NFL analyst for ESPN, Bruschi was helping Bill Belichick win Super Bowls in New England. On the Sunday NFL Countdown show, Bruschi had several interesting things to say about his former defensive coordinator and head coach.
Tedy Bruschi, Patriots Player
Few players represented the “Patriots Way” better than Tedy Bruschi. He was a two-time consensus All American at the University of Arizona and 1995 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. But at 6-foot-0 and 250 pounds, Bruschi was considered too small to stay at the same position, defensive line, in the NFL. That evaluation did not deter the Patriots from selecting Bruschi in the third round (86 overall) in the 1996 NFL Draft.
Undersized and undervalued, Bruschi made immediate contributions as a rookie on special teams. That first year he was a member of the New England Patriots 1996 AFC Championship squad. It was the final season before Bill Parcells left to coach the New York Jets, taking defensive coordinator Bill Belichick with him. Three seasons later Belichick would be back in New England, now as the head coach.
Tedy Bruschi spent his entire 13-year career in New England, with Belichick on staff for 10 of those years and head coach for nine. He was a member of five AFC Champions and won three Super Bowls. When the Patriots posted the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history, Bruschi started every game at linebacker. He was a Pro Bowl player and was twice named second team All Pro. This body of work landed Tedy Bruschi in the Patriots Hall of Fame when his playing career was done.
And how tough was Tedy Bruschi? After suffering a stroke following the 2004 season, Bruschi returned to playing in the NFL the very next season. He was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
But now Bruschi is a member of the media, and last Sunday he shared some interesting opinions about Bill Belichick. Here were three that really stood out.
1. Bruschi Wants Belichick to Retire After the Season
Here on Patriots Football Now this topic has been discussed several times recently:
- “Patriots Should Not Fire Bill Belichick, Obviously” (Sept. 21)
- “Give Bill Belichick a Break” (Oct. 7)
- “Would Robert Kraft Actually Fire Bill Belichick?” (Oct. 12)
- “Bill Belichick Will Coach in 2024” (Oct. 16)
The job security of the winningest coach is not the most enjoyable to cover on a regular basis, but these things happen with a floundering franchise. And when somebody like Tedy Bruschi speaks about Belichick, it cannot be ignored. Not only did he play for Belichick, but the two seem to have a mutual appreciation and respect always. This is certainly not a case of a former player with an axe to grind. Nor is it somebody trying to make a headline for themselves.
Ted Bruschi was stating his personal feelings on how he would like to see Bill Belichick’s coaching career end. Unlike the options discussed on PFN, it didn’t involve him being fired or moving to a new team in 2024.
“I want him to coach his ass off this season and get six, seven wins, all right? Have them playing respectable by the end of the season, and walk away,” Bruschi said. “That’s what I want my former coach to do.”
It makes sense for Bruschi to not want to see Bill Belichick stumble over the finish line, even if it means breaking Don Shula’s all-time NFL coaching wins record. The former linebacker doesn’t believe that Belichick has anything left to prove, including by breaking Shula’s record.
“Shula doesn’t matter. You’ve got multiple Super Bowls over Shula. You’re a better coach than Don Shula.”
It should be noted that this is what Tedy Bruschi wants for Bill Belichick, not necessarily what he believes will happen.
2. Lengthy Injury List is a Bad Sign
While the discussion of Bill Belichick walking off into the sunset (or boating off to fish with Bruschi on Nantucket) got the headlines from Sunday’s show, it was not necessarily the most interesting aspect of what he said as it pertains to the 2024 New England Patriots.
When discussing the excess of players on the Patriots injury report before their game against the Las Vegas Raiders, it led Bruschi to question the desire of New England players to make themselves available to practice and play. Bruschi said that the “16 or 17” players listed as not fully participating in practice made him question, “how motivated they are to play.”
This is an extremely discouraging sign of how far things have fallen in Foxboro. It is one thing to simply not have enough talent to win in the NFL, but another to not necessarily care about winning. If there are Patriots players who fall into this category and are still getting playing time, it needs to stop. Either those players need to be benched or sent packing prior to the NFL Trade Deadline. Some of the players on the current Patriots roster are going to be back next year. They do not need to learn that a lack of effort or desire will be ignored, or even rewarded, in New England.
3. Belichick is Not Reaching the Players
The day after the Patriots lost for the fifth time in six outings, Tedy Bruschi was a guest on another ESPN show, Get Up! He once again discussed Bill Belichick’s future as the Patriots coach. He said instead of playing for team championships, it seemed the Patriots were now just playing for Belichick’s win total. Bruschi said that after the season Belichick needs to decide if that is motivating enough to him. And Robert Kraft will also need to decide if he wants to trust a potential franchise altering pick in the 2024 NFL Draft in Belichick’s hands.
But those things have been discussed. What was truly interesting was the comment Bruschi made about the Patriots penalties in the Raiders loss. Specifically, what those penalties meant.
“To start the game with two penalties (on their first offensive possession). To finish the game with three penalties. That is a sign that Bill (Belichick) isn’t reaching these guys.”
It is true that the Patriots offense was heavily penalized. Four different offensive linemen were penalized. Hunter Henry had a touchdown nullifying holding call against him. The offense was also penalized for an illegal shift and a delay of game. This does reinforce New England’s offense being incredibly undisciplined.
Does Bill Belichick deserve the blame for the lack of disciple on the New England Patriots offense? Fair or not, when the Patriots were the most disciplined team in the NFL for years, much of the credit went to the coaching staff. “A Bill Belichick-coached team never beats themselves” was a common refrain. But that is obviously no longer the case. Is it because the head coach is not reaching the players? Maybe. Either way, it is certainly interesting to know that Tedy Bruschi thinks that is the reason.