Patriots head coach and general manager Bill Belichick is not a technological wizard. He doesn't have Silicon Valley start-up mentality of Chip Kelly, or the kumbaya holistic approach of Pete Carroll.
Most recently, Belichick has become frustrated with the unreliability of these
iPad Microsoft Surface Tablets that every team is now forced to have on the sidelines.
"I'm totally overwhelmed by it," Belichick said to the Wall Street Journal. "There's no way I could without somebody holding my hand and helping me through it."
Belichick is a lovable relic from a different age of coaching and, possibly, time and space. While he's a brilliant tactician, he turns into your grandfather at the drop of a brand new iPhone. He's absolutely clueless.
In 2011, Belichick graced the world with "A Football Life", an inside two-part look of his life over the Patriots 2009 season. This is just setting the stage; Belichick's struggles stem back over five years.
While the movie was a brilliant lens into his world, there's a clip that sticks out due to his humorous and humanizing inability to control his vehicle.
Not the car itself, but the clock.
"That was one of the big challenges that year," he said, referring to the clock in his car. "No, I’m terrible at that stuff, it’s bad. If I didn’t have some younger people in my life that understood that, I’d be at a total loss. Really, why they can’t just put a clock on the car? Why can’t that just be part of the dashboard? Just dumb it down for some of us."
Even better, Belichick turns into Dunder Mifflin's Michael Scott when trying to use a GPS.
"It would be nice if [the GPS] worked. The frustrating thing is when they send you the address and say ‘type this into your GPS’ and then when you put it into your GPS and the thing comes up and says it’s not listed."
For all the bells and whistles that Belichick implements into his playbook, he'd rather not have anything fancy cluttering up his life.
"The more stuff there is, the more stuff there is that can go wrong. But when it works, it’s great. Great line from Curly in the Three Stooges: he gets in the car and says, ‘Hey what’s wrong with this car? I don’t know. it seems fine, the clock is working.’ Back in those days, that really, I mean whose clock worked when I was growing up when you got in the car? Whose clock worked perfect?"
Whose clock is perfect? Ain't that the truth, Bill.
It turns out that Belichick's technological futility extends beyond just his vehicles. When the Patriots acquired receiver Chad Johnson né Ochocinco né Johnson, a player known for his extensive celebrations and social media presence, the media had to ask the normally reticent coach his thoughts on Ocho's possible online disruptions.
"I don't Twitter," Belichick said, probably in the same way a father says that he doesn't need help mowing the lawn. "I don't MyFace. I don't Yearbook. I don't do any of those things, so I'd probably be the last to know."
People laughed. Belichick, like any father, enjoys when people think he's funny. He'll reuse the same joke, over and over and over. Except the humor lies in the truth; Belichick knows nothing about technology.
Weeks after the MyFace comment took the world by storm, and shortly after the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series and coach Tony La Russa disparaged "Moneyball", Belichick was asked how he handles new technology and analytics.
Turns out, it stops at the computer.
"I've probably embraced [the computer] a little bit more now than I did a few years ago," Belichick explained, still in 2011 (1911?). "At least I can turn it on.
"You could put the iPad on the super-duper wizard computer, whatever you want. You could throw all that crap on there and I’m sure it would come out great. I’m sure you could get some statistical analysis that would provide 28 theses for MIT. In the end, you’ve got to go out there and play football.
"There’s so much technology out there...I’m sure we’ve got enough technological equipment in here to put the whole team on the moon."
Although to be fair, it's reasonable that he doesn't have a deep rooted love for technology. When franchise left tackle Matt Light retired, Light shared a prank he played on Belichick back in the day. Apparently, Light attached a computer mouse that shocked the user when utilized to his old coach's computer. Belichick was shocked, twice, and wound up deleting the file he was working on.
Call it a negative Pavlovian response. I wouldn't want to use technology either.
"As you know, I’m not the most technological person in this organization," Belichick said. "I rely on some other people to try to help streamline things or find a way where we can do things a little more efficiently. I understand that the people coming into the organization, that’s what they were brought up on and that’s not what I was brought up on. I understand there’s a difference there. I think there’s a marriage, but at the same time, I don’t think that’s the highest priority."
He'll leave the computers and the iPads and the hovercrafts for the youngsters.
Still, Belichick can have a good time, even if he's afraid of technology. There's the time he told the NFL to "Photoshop [him] in" the coaches photograph because he didn't feel like attending. Or when he told the NFL to "have a bake sale [to] raise some money for [more replay] cameras." He also told them to "do a car wash."
This past draft cycle, Belichick broke out his old humor when reports surfaced of the Patriots draft report on quarterback Johnny Manziel. When asked if the report was actually the Patriots (it wasn't), Belichick had the following response:
With all due respect, I hate to admit this but I don't think I've been online in a couple days or weeks or whatever, so that's not really an important thing to me. I don't even know what's online and what isn't online. But I would say we probably have, I can't even imagine, 10,000 pages of information. It's a lot of information. There's no way I can sit up here and tell you that I've read it all. I've read a fraction of it. But we have a ton of information on all the players that are in the draft. What's online, you should go talk to the geniuses that are online. I don't know. MyFace, YourFace, InstantFace. Go talk to whoever you want that does that stuff. I don't know.
MyFace. YourFace. InstantFace. Yearbook. The Twitter. No internet for weeks. Car clocks. Showponies. Where's the beef?
Belichick is being forced into a new age of discomfort where he'll have to modernize all of his old school tendencies. He can embrace, or at least surround himself by those who understand.
The coach is a pioneer, or at least a figurehead, when it comes to going for it on fourth down, but he doesn't care to hear from the computers why he's always been right. He may not be able to launch his team to the moon, but he's always been able to take them to the top of the world, where the only tablets are stone and hold the football commandments etched with chalk.
Maybe we're seeing the end of Belichick. Maybe this is his demise; the same way that any aging employee struggles to keep up with the new technology. Maybe this is how it all ends.
Not with a bang, but an iPad.