Stephen Belichick wrestles 'all the time' with being a coach

Stephen Belichick wrestles 'all the time' with being a coach

HOUSTON – Stephen Belichick attended his first Super Bowl in 1987 when his father’s New York Giants beat the Broncos.

The younger Belichick had an extremely obstructed view. He wasn’t born until late March, two months after the game.

From that first Super Bowl experience through this Sunday, Stephen will have been to 10 Super Bowls – the 1986 and ’90 seasons when Bill Belichick was the Giants defensive coordinator, 1996 when Bill was Patriots secondary coach for Bill Parcells and the seven for which Bill has been Patriots head coach.


The stakes this time are raised for Stephen. As the Patriots safeties coach, the players under his supervision will be trying to shut down one of the most prolific offenses of the past several years, the 540 points Atlanta scored tie them for eighth all-time in a single season.

In the run-up to this game, assistant coaches are available to the media and Stephen’s been polite but guarded. Anticipated questions related to working on his father’s staff have come and Stephen’s responses are short enough to make it clear nobody’s getting a monologue on what it’s like.

There’s a weariness for the “show” that Stephen has at 29, which has been informed by a lifetime being around the NFL.

The Stephen Belichick that’s seen on the field running routes and throwing passes with his brother, Brian, before pregame warmups is a world away from the Stephen Belichick that warily eyes reporters as we circle.

Coverage of his dad has left dents, as Stephen indicated when he spoke to Kevin Clark of The Ringer earlier this week.

“I don’t know if anyone will understand what those headlines in newspapers really do to families,” Stephen told Clark. “It’s hard, obviously, everyone in the NFL signs up for these jobs and understands the pressures. But some things are more necessary than others...One thing I’ve learned from my dad is we don’t do it for the media, we do it because we love it. We don’t it for the press conferences, which is maybe why other coaches do it...We’ve been labeled every word in the book our whole lives; what’s another [insult] on the list?”

Earlier this season, Stephen and his girlfriend, Jen (who, like Stephen, attended Rutgers and played lacrosse), had a daughter, Blakely Rose Belichick. Speaking with Stephen on Friday he made it clear that, knowing what he knows of the NFL, he’s weighing whether he wants to stay in the family business.

Asked if he wrestled with the decision to get into coaching, Stephen answered, “All the time. Still do. I love what I do. I would never want to do anything different. But things change, situations change, you see the way or hear about how other teams are run, you see some of the stuff that happens and you wonder, ‘Is this the best thing for my family?’ My family has been through a lot.”

Stephen Belichick was eight when Bill was fired by the Cleveland Browns. A police presence was stationed near the Belichick’s house in the days after Belichick’s firing as fans outraged over the Browns move to Baltimore lashed out at anything or anyone that was part of the Art Modell regime. Bill, having taken a job with the Patriots as secondary in February, was in New England while his then-wife Debbie had their kids, Amanda, Stephen and Brian, in Cleveland finishing out the school year. The whole experience left a scar. The idle vilification of Bill Belichick’s personality and integrity over the years has made a mark as well. Sure, there’s been great praise for him as a head coach, but the personal stuff has not gone unrecorded by the people closest to him.

Meanwhile, the stability of the Patriots franchise is unique. For most in the coaching life, uncertainty is constant, long-range planning impossible.

Now that he’s a father himself, those factors have Stephen measuring his steps.  

“I know what I want to do,” said Stephen. “This [coaching] is what I want to do. But it’s not all about me. I have a daughter now which has changed my life. I can’t be selfish and just worry about myself.”

This is the first Super Bowl for Stephen Belichick as a position coach. But he is – as much as just about any coach on the staff – a veteran of the coaching profession. And he’s very clear that, if it’s decided that a life coaching in the NFL isn’t what’s best, he’s gone.  

“I’m confident in my skills as a person,” he said. “If I needed to do something that would take me away from this type of spot, I’m more than willing to do that for my family.”

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

File photo

Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.


Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

Patriots re-sign offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle

The Patriots have agreed to re-sign offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, his agent Scott Casterline confirmed on Twitter.  Waddle hit unrestricted free agency when the new league year began and made a visit to the Cowboys earlier this week. In the end, though, he chose to return to the team that claimed him off of waivers at the end of the 2015 season.

Waddle, who turns 27 in July, appeared in 12 games last season for the Patriots. He was the first right tackle the Patriots turned to when Marcus Cannon suffered an ankle injury mid-season against the Chargers. He ended up playing 51 snaps against the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram without allowing a sack. He then started the next three games against the Broncos, Raiders and Dolphins and held star rushers Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Cameron Wake -- all of whom rush primarily off of the offensive right -- without a sack. 

Injuries forced Waddle (380 snaps on the season) to split the right tackle position with Cameron Fleming (543 snaps), but he was the primary backup when healthy. Waddle started the Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans but suffered a knee injury and was removed for Fleming. 

Both Fleming and Waddle visited the Cowboys this week, and the fact that Waddle has re-signed with the Patriots may impact Fleming's decision moving forward. 

The Patriots went to great lengths to build tackle depth last season, and adding Waddle to the roster helps them retain some of that depth after losing their left tackle, Nate Solder, to the Giants via free agency. Waddle could be an option on the left side, but the vast majority of his work since entering the league as an undrafted rookie in 2013 has been on the right side. 

The Patriots now have Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Cole Croston, Tony Garcia and Andrew Jelks on their depth chart at tackle. Croston, Garcia and Jelks are all headed into their second years as pros. Croston remained on the 53-man roster all season -- an indication that the Patriots liked him enough not to expose him to the waiver system -- but did not see meaningful snaps. Garcia and Jelks both missed the entirety of the 2017 season on reserve lists. 

Once the Patriots lost Solder to the Giants, it seemed to be of paramount importance that the Patriots re-sign either Waddle or Fleming. Behind Cannon, there were simply too many question marks not to have one return. The Patriots could opt to draft a tackle, but this is considered an average year at that position in that there are few ready-made NFL players and several developmental types.

Before the Super Bowl last season, I asked offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia how the team was able to manage offensively with backups at right tackle for much of the season. 

"It's not like [Fleming and Waddle are] not good players," Scarnecchia said. "They are good players. Their skill set seemed to fit that position pretty well. They have the traits that we covet. And they're both really smart guys, very willing learners, and they're both driven to be good and they want to play good. And I think all those things have manifested themselves when they've been out there playing. And we've been very, very pleased with what they've done for us this year, essentially splitting that position."

Asked about the aspects of the game the Patriots worked on with both Waddle and Fleming last year, Scarnecchia said, "For us it transcends everything. Obviously run-blocking and pass-blocking. They're both good at those things. Are they great at those things? No. But they've been able to steadily improve over the last two years to the point where we put them out there and no one's worried. And it's been that way the whole season after Marcus got hurt. Yeah they've done a nice job for us."