It was the most surprising statement of the Thanksgiving holiday. During Patriots-Vikings, NBC analyst Jason Garrett said Bill Belichick compared Rhamondre Stevenson to Tom Brady and Lawrence Taylor.
“Coach doesn’t speak a lot in those production meetings, but he probably talked about Rhamondre for 15 minutes, and he compared his growth and his development in a short period of time to both Tom Brady and to Lawrence Taylor,” said Garrett.
Belichick joins the Greg Hill show
While Stevenson is the best player on the Patriots’ offense, Belichick’s supposedly effusive praise of the second-year running back seemed over-the-top. Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history, and Taylor is arguably the best linebacker in league history.
Stevenson is probably a lock for the Pro Bowl this season, but he has a long way to go before he even enters the same stratosphere as Brady and Taylor.
On Sunday, Belichick was asked about Garrett’s comment, and after some prodding, inferred the ex-Cowboys coach embellished his remark.
“Yeah, I don’t really remember it quite that way,” said Belichick.
In response to a follow-up, Belichick said Garrett wrongly recalled their conversation.
“Yeah, I don’t — I mean, not the way you phrased that. I don’t remember it quite that way. No,” he said.
So what happened? Did Garrett misconstrue Belichick’s words, or is Belichick playing a game of plausible deniability?
It’s apparent Belichick loves Stevenson. Last week, CBS analyst Trent Green also mentioned how Belichick raved about the shifty and bruising rusher.
Belichick showered Stevenson with praise Sunday when given the opportunity.
“He’s done a good job, continues to do a good job,” said Belichick. “Pass protection, he’s had a couple of really good plays in pass protection — James White-level plays. Seeing things, making adjustments, that kind of thing. He’s been a big help for us in that area of the game, whether it’s been blitz pickup, flare control, catching the ball, all of the above.”
Being compared to James White, a stalwart Patriot and Super Bowl hero, is quite the compliment. But White isn’t Brady or Taylor.
In the past, Belichick has actually bristled at the suggestion that an active player is at Taylor’s level. Four years ago, Belichick dismissed a reporter who compared Taylor to Khalil Mack, one of the best pass-rushers in the league.
While it’s doubtful that Garrett would outright lie, it’s possible he changed around Belichick’s words. Maybe Belichick invoked Brady and Taylor when talking about Stevenson’s work ethic, or another specific skill.
But a more outright comparison is too much, and Belichick seems to agree.