Column: What can we do to stop Belichick and the Patriots?
New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) dives into the end zone for a touchdown past Houston Texans linebacker Max Bullough (53) during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Take away draft picks. Suspend their star quarterback. Nothing seems to faze the New England Patriots, who just keep on winning no matter what obstacles are thrown their way.
OK, it's time to get serious.
Let's come up with something, anything to bring these guys down.
All suggestions accepted.
Clearly, these are desperate times for the rest of the NFL. The Patriots are off to a 3-0 start even though Tom Brady is stuck at home with his perfect family, serving out a four-game suspension for an unhealthy obsession with football air pressure and hastily downgrading his cellphone before the contract was up.
New England didn't even have its backup quarterback for Thursday night's game against the formerly unbeaten Houston Texans. Jimmy Garoppolo was sidelined with a shoulder injury, so Bill Belichick – surely thumbing his nose at the rest of the league – sent out somebody named Jacoby Brissett to run the offense.
While the rest of us were surfing the web, trying to make sure this supposed third-stringer wasn't just Brady in disguise, Belichick installed something resembling the wishbone with only three days to prepare. Brissett, naturally, guided the Patriots to a 27-0 shellacking of a team with one of the NFL's top-ranked defenses.
''Look, we just try to go out there every week and win,'' Belichick said during a conference call Friday, his voice droning somewhere between contempt and superiority. ''Try to go out there and put the best game plan together with the players we have against the opponent we're playing against and win.''
Not long after Belichick hung up the phone came a report that Brissett injured the thumb on his throwing hand and may need surgery. If so, we can only assume that Steve Grogan will be suiting up for the Patriots' next game. Heck, he's only 63 and can't be much worse than Matt Cassel, who somehow led the Patriots to an 11-5 mark the year Brady went out with a knee injury.
Since Brady will be back in one more game anyway, time is running short.
Here's a few ideas to get the conversation started:
SPIES, LIES & VIDEOTAPE
In the first of his ''Gate'' scandals, Belichick was caught videotaping an opponent's defensive signals in violation of NFL rules back in 2007. ''Spygate'' led to a half-million-dollar fine against the coach and the Patriots being stripped of their first-round pick. Turns out, that was about as effective as Brangelina's marriage counseling.
Maybe we should allow opposing teams to sit in on Belichick's film sessions, so they at least have a sneak preview while he's formulating his latest Coppola-like game plan.
LETTING THE AIR OUT
''Deflategate'' revealed that Brady is very particular about how much air is in the footballs he throws, and his actions before an AFC playoff game after the 2014 regular season showed that he's not above skirting the rules to get a better grip.
Wonder how he'd do with a ball that is inflated to 0.0 pounds per square inch? He should give that a try when he returns from his suspension, no doubt with the Patriots sitting at 4-0.
The Patriots' roster could be capped at 11 players, forcing everyone to play both offense and defense, just like the good ol' days. Better yet, in football's formative years, touchdowns counted for only five points instead of six. Sounds like a good way to even things up. Oh, wait, the Patriots still would've won their last two games and gone to overtime in the season opener at Arizona. Next.
MISTAKE BY THE LAKE
Belichick wasn't always the evil genius of the NFL. Remember when he coached the perpetually hapless Cleveland Browns? Remember when he got fired? For five seasons in the early 1990s, Belichick and his hoodie compiled a record of 36-44 with only a single trip to the playoffs. It didn't even help to have soul mate Nick Saban as his defensive coordinator. The Browns wound up moving to Baltimore and changing their name to the Ravens, while then-owner Art Modell gloriously decreed that ''to get to the next level, a change at head coach is necessary.''
Maybe it's time to banish Belichick back to Cleveland. It worked before.
GOING TO THE MAILBAG
Actually, since we don't have time for everyone to mail in their letters, let's hit up social media for a few suggestions.
Defensive linemen must count ''one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi'' before rushing. Belichick has to coach in a suit, tie and houndstooth hat, instead of the latest fashions from the Hobo Collection. The training table gets catered by Dunkin Donuts or, better yet, Krispy Kreme.
Field goals can only be attempted after a pile of snow is dumped on the spot, in honor of another New England classic (why wasn't that called Plowgate?). No Patriots player is allowed to use his hands, like that sport known as football to the rest of the world.
Or maybe we could … ahh, who are we kidding?
It doesn't matter what you do to the Patriots.
Belichick & Co. will find a way to keep on winning.
(Corrects that Belichick was not coaching Patriots during snow plow game)
Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL