They start in the spring. They being practicing as a mass, knowing that in a few months their numbers will be whittled to 53.
The summer comes along, and it’s time for cuts. Every day, the players but their asses to make the NFL. At the end of the month, some do, some don’t. The ones that do have one charge: win football games.
In an average football game, there are 125 plays, on average. You can lose the game on almost all of them, but you cannot win the game on most of them.
So when you get to 4th-and-”2″ (really 1) against the best team in football, in their stadium, with the statistics in your favor and an all-time great staring you down, and you finally have a chance to win the game*, do you take it? For months, you’ve practiced and practiced and been taught to execute. Would you take that one chance?
I would, and Bill Belichick would. I’ve heard talking heads say he “disrespected” his team and that he “didn’t trust” it. Nothing could be further from the truth. He trusted his team to make 4th-and-2, and win them the game. He played to win the game. He understands what he is there to do.
Too many times in football and outside of it, people make the easy decision to save themselves, to look better. Belichick did what was right, not worrying about the consequences outside the lines. He ought to be commended.
The one good thing about the Pats’ failure on the play (if they even failed) is it exposed so many football analysts and writers as just fundamentally misunderstanding of the game. The list is long. Bill Simmons. Rodney Harrison. Peter King. Tedy Bruschi. Tony Dungy. Tom Jackson. Keyshawn Johnson. More, more, and more.
Make no mistake — they are wrong. Bill Belichick played to win the game, and he lost.
* Despite what he said, there actually was no guarantee of a win. The Colts take their timeouts after two running plays, and the Pats run a third to move the clock down. That gives Peyton the ball on the 20 or so with about a minute remaining if there’s no first down. That, I could live with.