11 Hours Alongside Bill Belichick

January 9th, 2020

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At the end of a marathon meeting, we walked out both exhausted and inspired.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame had gathered us together in Canton to select the league’s 15-member centennial class for induction. The results will be announced Jan. 15, adding two head coaches, three contributors and 10 senior players to the NFL’s shrine of excellence.

We examined 38 candidates over 11 hours and the debate was often robust and refreshing. I was joined on the panel by prominent media members and Hall of Fame executives Ron Wolf, Bill Polian and player/GM Ozzie Newsome.

That’s a lot of NFL brain power.

Carl Peterson and Hall of Fame player/coach Dick LeBeau were also on hand and yes, Bill Belichick flew into Canton only three nights after his Patriots were eliminated by the Titans.

Belichick’s love for pro football history was evident as he weighed in on several candidates. It was clear from the start that Belichick had taken his responsibilities on this committee very seriously and watched a lot of old, grainy film.

He spoke with authority on players from the 1930s and 1940s, touching on how pro football evolved into the game we see today.

Jameis Talk

The consensus from the former executives I spoke to was that the Bucs should continue to trust Jameis Winston to be their quarterback in 2020. But none said Tampa Bay would be wise to give Winston a long-term second contract.

Slapping Winston with the franchise tag was the smart way to proceed, they said, noting his penchant for giveaways through his five pro seasons. None of the executives believe an obvious upgrade will be available in free agency, so keeping Winston under center next fall makes sense.

Some suggested the Bucs would be smart to select a quarterback at some point in the 2020 draft to give Bruce Arians more options in case Winston falters out of the gate.

“Thirty interceptions, that’s a big number,” said one former executive. “But so is throwing for 5,000 yards. You don’t move on from that unless you have someone better.”

None of the 38 nominees discussed Wednesday had significant Tampa Bay ties. Jimmie Giles was on the original lengthy list of senior candidates, but he failed to make the group of 20 finalists –despite support from Newsome as an underappreciated tight end who could stretch the field.

Coming Out Smarter

I made the presentation for middle linebacker Tommy Nobis, the first overall pick in the 1966 NFL draft. His No. 60 has been retired by the Falcons and he made the All-Decade team of the 1960s — despite finishing an 11-year career without ever playing in a postseason game.

We left the room not knowing which 10 senior players will be earning busts in Canton. The list of 10 contributors, which included former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, was whittled down to a final three.

Two head coaches are headed to the Hall from a group of eight finalists. There’s a chance that Jimmy Johnson, who built and coached the Dallas dynasty of the early 1990s, will be fitted for a gold jacket, despite winning only 80 regular-season games.

The 15 centennial picks will be joined by five modern-era players in the Class of 2020. John Lynch, a finalist for the seventh consecutive year, will learn his fate at the conclusion of a Feb. 1 meeting in Miami Beach.

Anytime you can be in a room with Belichick for 11 hours, you can’t help but come out a little smarter. He’s not preparing for a playoff opponent this week, but he certainly arrived in Canton well prepared.

It was an eye-opening experience, even for a grizzled reporter who covered Belichick as a special teams coach on the 1979 New York Giants, who were led by Ray Perkins and a rookie quarterback named Phil Simms. Decades later, I covered Chris Simms in Tampa.

Yes, it’s been a long, strange trip.

Click through and show now at Tampa’s first family of Ford, Bill Currie Ford.

Ira Kaufman launched his professional NFL beat coverage in 1979, back when Earl Campbell was the toast of the league and Lee Roy Selmon was defensive player of the year. After a lifetime at The Tampa Tribune, “The Sage of Tampa Bay Sports” joined JoeBucsFan.com in July of 2016. His twice-weekly podcast and three columns per week appear here year-round and are presented by Bill Currie Ford. Tampa Bay’s only Hall of Fame voter is a regular on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio and a part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday show, in addition to his other appearances. 

18 Responses to “11 Hours Alongside Bill Belichick”

  1. LaMarcus Says:

    30 ints is alot? Maybe if that defense wasn’t so soft in the beginning We could of had a better start to the year.

    Resign JW. These ppl harping about cutting JW but as soon as we let him go we gonna be laughed at. I can hear it now: “Only the Bucs would let go the NFL passing CHAMP”

    BUCS DONT BE THAT TEAM even if he throws 50 ints next year

  2. LaMarcus Says:

    I do believe if the scenario plays out of Brady went FA and JW went FA ….Belichick is snatching JW like its nothing

  3. OBP Says:

    @LaMarcus Without a doubt, Belichick would take Jameis and turn him into a star.

  4. LaMarcus Says:

    Just personally I believe it. Belichick think highly of JW. “Winston is a franchise qb. What more do want” or something like that. Then the Goof dont even have a replacement and kicks Brady off the team. I think he has his eyes set on a qb already. Could be JW

  5. Loyaltotheend Section 312 Says:

    The GOAT would never consider Jameis

    Can’t fix stupid, not with a run game defense or legendary coach

  6. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Did any of them call him “America’s Quarterback”?

  7. Steven007 Says:

    Tampa, correction, America’s Quarterback Pro Bowler (alternate). Let’s get it right.

  8. Bucs4821 Says:

    I think Belichick would take a chance on him because I can just hear the comment after the first day of offseason workouts… In a low, mumbled, grumbling, deadpanned voice, “if you throw that ball into double coverage again, I’ll rip your arm off.”

  9. Buc1987 Says:

    Tbbf…that’s funny right there…I don’t care who you are.

    Go Bucs (where I have no idea)

  10. Runnerdoc Says:

    I think the GOAT would take Jameis as he laughed at Bucs Management.

  11. Pick6 Says:

    If Tom Brady walked into the sunset today I would bet money that Jameis would be at the top of their wish list. They probably would balk at the salary but if money weren’t a factor they’d do what smart teams do: pursue the guy with the most ability and upside, and bet on themselves to coach a very hard worker to his best outcomes

  12. BucDan Says:

    Hats off to your career, Ira!

    Always a pleasure to read your thoughts.

  13. WyldKat Says:

    Sure, and five years from now, we’ll all be looking back and blaming the offensive scheme as Jameis wins elsewhere?

  14. ancientasbuc Says:

    Great story to read. Thanks!

  15. tickrdr Says:

    “You don’t move on from that unless you have someone better.”
    2018 Bucs:

    Ryan Fitzpatrick: 164 of 246 (66.7%) for 2366 yards, 17 TDs(6.9%), 12 INTs.

    2019 Bucs:

    Jameis Winston: 380 of 626 (60.7%) for 5109 yards, 33 TDs (5.3%), 30 INTs.

    IF, ………. Ryan Fitzpatrick played as well as he did in 2018,
    AND,…….. he threw 626 passes for the Bucs in 2019,
    THEN,…… extrapolating … 626 divided by 246 = 2.54 as the multiplier.

    THEN: 2366 yards times 2.54 = 6009 yards.
    THEN: 17 TDs times 2.54 = 43 TDs.
    THEN: 12 INTs times 2.54 = 30 INTs.

    But, only if he was allowed to throw that many times without fear of being benched, because “he be ballin'”!

    But you’re right, how could we move on from Winston, and possibly find anyone better???


    BTW: That sort of performance might still lead to losing results, even with 10 more TDs for the year, unless, of course, he didn’t throw SEVEN pick6’s.

  16. Troy Says:

    I love the better argument. It fascinates me. Nobody wants to define it. Joe certainly won’t. Seems like everybody’s scared to. I’m just sitting back and thinking about the Titans. Do you think they knew Tannehill was “better” than Mariota when they signed him? If they did, why didn’t they just start him at the beginning of the season?

    Here’s the thing – I think saying “only get rid of Winston if you can get somebody better” is a way to basically say you don’t want to get rid of him. Unless you can predict the future, you have no way to say what “better” will be.

    Let’s face it, if I look at Winston’s history, he hasn’t won. Other QBs have won in this league with poor defenses and no running games, but Winston hasn’t. Other QBs have made less mistakes and made the playoffs and be let go. Other QBs have made far less mistakes and lost their jobs.

    So what’s my point, we have no standard. None. It’s basically keep him because we’re afraid of door number two, even though door number 1 hasn’t won a thing and makes tons of mistakes.

  17. tickrdr Says:


    Excellent points! Fear keeps many people mired in adverse circumstances, settling for the misery they know rather than challenge their fear of the unknown.

    Every year the draft gurus rank the prospects at each position, and then state emphatically that this year is weak for one position or another, only to have some star develop from not only late in the first round, but even some day 2 or day 3 picks become star players.


  18. tickrdr Says:

    Thank you for moderating my post!
    Please correct any spelling or grammatical errors I may have made.