On Thursday Night Football, starting week 3 of the NFL regular season, Coach Bill O’Brien took his Houston Texans into Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots, and failed miserably. I would describe it as an Oedipal Train Wreck, because O’Brien was taking on his master and mentor and football father-figure, Bill Belichick, and I detected signs of O’Brien freaking out. Call it a Buffoon Bill moment.
O’Brien likes to adopt this Big-Brain-Bill persona (did you know he went to Brown?), making a big deal about how complex
his offense is and how hard it is for the players to learn and master (he likes to sarcastically dismiss his players if they ever disagree with him). It looked like Zippy-the-Pinhead stuff against Belichick’s game-plan on Thursday. When the Patriots took away the Texans’ deep passing game with two deep safeties in coverage, O’Brien had to rely on an ineffective inside running game (the Texans are in the bottom quarter of the league in rushing attack). He didn’t seem to have any other counter. You could really see Buffoon Bill freaking out, though, in his misuse of his time-outs and challenges, and especially when he just totally gave up on a third-and-long and ran a draw play that had no chance of making the first down. He didn’t really give his players a chance to try to make a play. He seemed to lose his nerve–fascinating.
Shakespeare wrote a great speech about the Seven Ages of Man (in As You Like It), and I’ve often thought that football appeals to the Seven Ages of Fans. As we get older and more astute in our experience and observation of character, we find ourselves attracted to the drama of coaching competition, and the story of student taking on the master is at least as old as Greek antiquity. On Thursday, Oedipus O’Brien failed to prevail against the master, Old King Belichick. Crafty old men everywhere rejoiced! (But if they are smart, they never ceased looking over their shoulder . . . .)
I write more about Bill Belichick, in several of his Ages of Coach, in my book Farewell to Football? An American Fan’s Examination of Conscience, which is available in paperback and Kindle format. Click here to order a copy.