Bill Belichick has never been shy about disciplining his players, usually because he wants to prove that nobody is above the team. He has a tendency to take it too far, however, most notably for benching Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII for reasons that are still unclear (and costing New England a championship in the process).
That quick trigger was on display again in Week 2 when Belichick promptly benched rookie receiver Demario Douglas after he fumbled against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday Night Football. Many former players and media members did not agree with this decision, however, especially since the Patriots ultimately lost the game.
Demario Douglas Benching
In Douglas’ case, the punishment didn’t really fit the crime. He was running downfield with the ball after a catch when a Dolphins defender caught up to him from behind and stripped the ball. There’s no way he could have seen the defender or known he was coming.
That type of mistake is much different than simply letting go of the ball when you hit the ground or running into a defender. But Belichick, in his narrow-minded view, didn’t see it that way.
If Belichick was trying to teach the rookie a lesson, he picked a terrible time to do so. Benching a rookie in the middle of a nationally televised game against a divisional opponent is not the time or the place, especially for a rookie who is still trying to build his confidence and get used to playing in the NFL. It was only his second career game, for crying out loud.
With Douglas on the bench, the Patriots were missing a key receiver as they tried to overcome a 17-3 halftime deficit. They ultimately fell short, 24-17, leaving many to wonder what would’ve happened if Douglas had stayed in the game.
In this case, a little more mercy and touch was warranted. You want rookies to learn how to bounce back from mistakes, not be terrified of making them.
Belichick taught Douglas the wrong lesson here, and it might have cost his team a win in the process. New England is 0-2 now, and Belichick can’t afford to pull a similar stunt in Week 3.
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