By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Bill Belichick shocked the football world – and his own players – when he decided to give the football to Peyton Manning at the start of overtime at windy Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Sunday night.
Belichick’s decision to go against conventional wisdom and play with the wind behind his team’s back in the extra session played a key role in his team’s 34-31 victory over the Denver Broncos.
But just as shocking as Belichick’s decision was his explanation of the rationale he used to make that decision.
Belichick actually took the time to explain to the media what his thought process was in letting the Broncos have the ball first.
The Boston Globe’s Shalise Manza Young incorporated these Belichick quotes into her story on the decision-making process.
“You never want to give Peyton Manning and that offense, you never want to just hand them the ball, but I just felt in that particular situation, with the wind being as significant as it was, that we just had to stop them from getting into the end zone,” Belichick said.
“If we could do that, then we would have a significant advantage in the overtime period. We just had to make one stop and keep them out of the end zone.
“Even if they drove down and kicked a field goal, I felt like in that game, the field goal to kick going into the lighthouse, you’d have to get the ball to the 25 to be confident in making it. Depending on how the wind was gusting, you might even have to get it to the 20.
“Whereas going the other way, I think you could definitely get the ball to the uprights from probably anywhere inside the 45-yard line.
“I felt like that was a big enough advantage to try to keep the wind. As it turned out, the punting game also was a factor in that, too. Had we had the ball and not been able to score and be punting into the wind and all that, like I said, with their kicker and his distance, it wouldn’t have taken much for them to be in field goal range.”
There’s the true shocker. That Belichick took the time to explain in detail something he normally would have said was a “football decision that I thought would benefit our team.”
Belichick doesn’t have to answer to anyone and he usually doesn’t, win or lose. That’s one of the benefits that comes with having won three Super Bowls.
Marc Trestman does not have that luxury. He understands that if he is going to win the public relations battle – and that’s hugely important when you don’t have a dominant team to coach – you must explain your decisions in a patient manner.
Trestman was put in that position in Week 11, when the Bears defeated the Ravens in the memorable tornado/wind game.
Trestman did not use his timeouts at the end of regulation that might have helped the Bears get the ball back sooner after the Ravens tied the game.
Trestman knew that he would be questioned the day after the game, and Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald used the coach’s explanation in his analysis of the decision.
“I think it’s a very fair question,” Trestman said. “So, just a little bit of history: When you start a drive from the 16-yard line you have a 13 percent chance, probably in the last five years, to score a touchdown. So, the percentage of them scoring … it’s a leap of faith.”
“If you call three timeouts right there in succession, you’re still only getting the ball back at 18 seconds,” Trestman said. “If you let it run, they’re in a two-minute mode (instead of red zone), and now they’ve got to call 2 timeouts.”
Trestman had an understanding of the numbers and wanted to show off his knowledge. He wanted the media to know he just wasn’t making it up as he went along.
It didn’t matter that Trestman’s logic was faulty. The 13-percent chance of scoring had increased dramatically once the Ravens had gotten deep into Bears’ territory. The 13 percent had to do with the starting point of the drive, not as the team moved downfield.
Trestman will explain things when he is asked direct questions. Belichick may choose to on the rarest of occasions, but that is not his standard procedure.
Trestman is fighting a battle on two fronts. It’s one that he must continue to engage until he establishes himself as a successful NFL head coach.
Then he can go all Belichick if he chooses.