The notion that Belichick is a football God, a man amongst boys, a strategical guru and undoubtedly the best coach in the NFL used to be an accepted fact in New England households. There were only a few comparable Patriots — one took a famous ride through the streets of Boston and the other was the first to smack his name down on the Declaration of Independence.
Yet, as the Patriots continue to look eerily similar to the team that went 14-2 during the regular season last year before falling to the Jets in a divisional playoff game, we're left with a heightened sense that everything isn't so rosey anymore.
To say that the "Belichick Way" no longer equates to a winning formula would be a gross, knee-jerk reaction to the Patriots' loss in Pittsburgh. But to continue to give him a free pass amidst increasingly questionable personnel moves would be equally as unjust.
Watching the Patriots' defense get burnt by Ben Roethlisberger time and time again on Sunday, while the Patriots fielded the likes of Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams, has to make you wonder what the future holds for a team with so much offensive talent, yet so many defensive questions.
But that really hasn't been the case, as we consistently fall back on the idea that Belichick will make everything alright.
In fact, Belichick's situation is somewhat similar to former Red Sox manager Terry Francona's, in that past success is always going to cloud how he's perceived. Just as Francona didn't win a playoff game since the team's 2008 run to the ALCS, Belichick hasn't led the Pats to a playoff victory since the team's undefeated regular season and subsequent run to the Super Bowl in 2007-08.
Francona was let off the hook for some time, and Belichick continues to be let off the hook — which is to be expected when you win three Super Bowls, just as the case is when you win two World Series titles.
Belichick's coaching style hasn't quite fallen out of favor to the extent that Francona's did before he departed Boston, but his decision-making hasn't yielded the success that Pats fans became accustomed to during his early years with the team.
It once seemed like Belichick could do no wrong. But recent history shows that he's very much human — from his personnel moves all the way down to his coaching decisions.
Since being given complete authority over the team's football operations when New England's former player personnel director Scott Pioli joined the Chiefs in 2009, Belichick has been especially human. And nowhere has that been more evident than on the defensive side of the ball, where the Patriots simply aren't built for playoff-style football.
The Patriots' historic 2007 run will be most remembered for the team's prolific offense and how unstoppable the Pats were until running into the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. But their defense ranked fourth in the NFL in yards against per game and points against per game that season.
After a couple of mediocre defensive seasons in-between, things have taken a turn for the worse. New England was unable to overcome its defensive inefficiencies last season, and if things don't drastically change this season, New England will be looking at a similar fate come playoff time.
The game has changed a great deal recently, as the air-it-out approach has officially replaced the more traditional ground-and-pound approach when it comes to NFL offenses. But you still need to be able to grind out wins.
Just ask the Packers, who despite riding their potent offense for most of the season, turned to their defense in last year's NFC Championship game to preserve a 21-14 victory over the Chicago Bears.
But the Patriots lack that "it" factor on defense — as well as a number of other factors. That wasn't the case during their years of Super Bowl glory, though, and it's all seemed to have been lost under Belichick's supervision the past few years.
It's easy to look back on the Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel trades and imagine that one of those guys could have played a major role in helping the Patriots maintain their defensive swagger. But considering both veterans were entering the final year of their contract (and the Pats ended up drafting Patrick Chung with the pick acquired for Vrabel), it's just as easy to understand where Belichick was coming from when making both transactions.
But there have been some other transactions regarding the defense that have simply bombed, especially when it comes to the secondary, which is in stark contrast to the days when Belichick could plug in an Antwan Harris, a Hank Poteat, an Earthwind Moreland or a Randall Gay and still succeed.
Whether that plug-and-win technique no longer works because of the current league-wide focus on passing (thus finally exposing weaknesses that have long been there), or because of some other flaw in the Patriots' current defensive system, Belichick has consistently tried to address the issue, only to come up empty-handed.
Free-agent defensive signings like Shawn Springs, Leigh Bodden, Paris Lenon and Adalius Thomas didn't pan out. And dating back to 2007, when Pioli's input was still in the fold, decisions to draft players like Brandon Meriweather, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite, Darius Butler and Tyrone McKenzie can be considered less than stellar.
Perhaps Belichick is trying to do too much. He's one of only three NFL coaches (along with Philadelphia's Andy Reid and Washington's Mike Shanahan) who possesses both head coaching and general manager duties. He's also seen his share of changes when it comes to the Patriots' coordinators over the years, prompting him to take on added duties.
Whatever the case may be, it might be time that we take Belichick off his mythic pedestal.
Is he still a great coach? Absolutely. Is he still the best in the NFL? He might be. But is he perfect? Absolutely not.
Hey, even Paul Revere and John Hancock had their flaws.