The shady side of Bill Belichick

Most professional coaches fall into one of two main categories. There are the brave, unimpeachable leaders admired by their athletes and their team's fans as victory-minded strategists on par with military heroes. (Think Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, or Vince Lombardi.) Then there are the high-strung guys, the ones who yell and scream and take their jobs way too seriously — Bobby Knight, for example. 

And then there's Bill Belichick. The longtime New England Patriots head coach must be doing something right — he's guided his team to eight Super Bowls since taking the reins in 2000 — but he's also a hard nut to crack. The guy rarely smiles and keeps a low profile, for good reason. Let's shed some light on some of the darker aspects of Belichick's life.

He coached the New York Jets for one day

New York Jets fans probably harbor a special kind of animosity for Belichick. Not only have the Patriots beat the Jets to win the AFC East 15 times in the Belichick era, but there's also an element of "it could have been us" lingering in the air. 

In early 2000, Bill Parcells resigned as head coach of the Jets, but he had plans in place for assistant coach Belichick to take over. According to CBS Sports, Belichick was announced as the Jets' new coach, and the next day the team held an introductory press conference. But instead of taking the wheel, Belichick resigned to the surprise of everyone, including the New York Jets organization. 

"Due to the various uncertainties surrounding my position as it relates to the team's new ownership," Belichick said, "I've decided to resign as the head coach of the New York Jets." He reportedly penned his letter of resignation on a napkin. His reasons were cryptic, but direct: "I've been in situations … where I was the head coach of a team in transition," he said at his hello-goodbye press junket. "Frankly it wasn't a really good experience for me or for them."

He got caught cheating

Belichick's weird rivalry with the New York Jets flared up again during a Jets-Patriots game in September 2007, when NFL security caught a guy on the Jets' sideline area recording the team with a video camera. That dude turned out to be Matt Estrella, New England's video assistant — and the NFL determined he was taping the Jets' defensive coaches' secret signals to players so that Belichick and the Patriots could decode them. 

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fined Belichick the league-maximum penalty of $500,000 (more than 10 percent of his salary for the year) and took away one of the team's future first-round draft picks. Belichick apologized "to every person directly or indirectly associated with the New England Patriots for the embarrassment, distraction, and penalty my mistake caused."

He used mind tricks to beat an already bad team

Belichick will do anything for a win, especially if it's in a game against those pesky New York Jets. Before the teams played in December 2017 on the Patriots' home turf in Foxborough, Mass., Belichick (according to a team official who told ESPN) had thermometers placed in the tunnel from which the Jets would emerge onto the field. Why? 

Psychological warfare. The Patriots historically play well in frigid temperatures, and Belichick reportedly wanted to disarm, discombobulate, and psych out Jets players not used to the cold by telling them exactly how cold it was (15 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of –4.) 

Adding insult to injury, it was the last game of the season, and the already playoff-bound Patriots were looking to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Jets, meanwhile, had amassed a lowly 5-10 record. 

Final score: Patriots 26, Jets 6.

'Deflategate' happened under his watch

The results of the AFC Championship Game in 2015 weren't necessarily shocking. The New England Patriots easily defeated the Indianapolis Colts 45 to 7, but something was amiss. 

The NFL launched an investigation to determine if the Patriots had intentionally underinflated the footballs used during the championship game. Why would they do that? It's  apparently a low-key way to make them easier to throw. (Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson reportedly intercepted a Brady pass, and the equipment manager who grabbed the ball after the play thought it felt too soft.) 

Brady denied any impropriety, although when league officials examined the 12 game balls controlled by the Patriots, 11 of them were significantly softer than they should have been. The NFL suspended Brady for four games, along with two equipment managers believed to have done the actual deflating, and docked the team $1 million and a couple of draft picks. 

While Belichick denied any connection with "Deflategate" and was never punished for any wrongdoing, many have questioned how something so significant could happen without the authoritarian coach not knowing about it, particularly one who'd been caught cheating before.

He dodges questions about head injuries

Sure, watching elite athletes slam into each other is a lot of fun, but the revelations about CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, make the sport increasingly controversial for everyone involved. CTE is a medical condition marked by degeneration of brain tissue brought on by repetitive brain trauma, including the kind of trauma a player might endure playing football. 

After he was sent to prison for murder in 2017, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez hanged himself; an autopsy uncovered a significant case of CTE. On the same day that the autopsy results went public, Hernandez's fiancée sued the NFL and the New England Patriots, claiming both entities "were fully aware of the damage that could be inflicted from repetitive impact injuries and failed to disclose, treat, or protect" Hernandez. 

When a reporter asked Belichick what the Patriots do to warn or protect players against CTE, the coach played dumb and dodged the question"The whole medical questions are, you know, one that come outside of my area," he said. "I'm not a doctor. I'm not a trainer. I'm a coach. So, the medical department, they handle the medical part of it. I don't do that." 

On another occasion, after model Gisele Bundchen reported that her husband, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, suffered multiple, possibly secret concussions, Belichick told reporters that his team files injury reports "in compliance with league guidelines" and that that head trauma stuff is "what we have medical staff for." 

It's hard to believe that one of the most experienced and successful coaches in the game could be so clueless or disinterested about such a serious — and life-threatening — topic.

He got divorced and rebounded with a much younger woman

Despite his steely demeanor and utmost devotion to football above all other things, Belichick has opened his heart on more than one occasion. 

In 1977, he married the former Debby Clarke. Their partnership was long and fruitful, spawning three kids and the Bill and Debby Belichick Foundation, a homeless assistance charity. Then it all fell apart — they separated in 2004 and divorced in 2006. 

But Belichick learned to love again, coupling up in 2007 with Linda Holliday, a boutique owner and television "lifestyle correspondent" he reportedly met at a Florida nightclub. She's also a solid decade younger than Belichick.

Okay, okay. Love is love and who are we to judge based on the number of birthday candles on the cake? Valid point. Besides, the coach seems very happy. Though he keeps pretty much everything close to the vest, Holliday is quite active on Twitter and Instagram, and she frequently posts pictures of herself and her dude having a good time. How good? 

Holliday can actually get Belichick to smile — a rarity. How rare? 

Over the course of nine seasons with the Patriots, wide receiver Julian Edelman claims to have seen Belichick smile just twice.

Was he a sugar daddy?

Somewhere in the midst of his crumbling marriage to Clarke and budding relationship with Holliday, Belichick reportedly had another flame. That shocking tidbit of gossip was revealed in, of all places, the New Jersey court system. 

According to the New York Post, during the 2007 resolution of financial agreements in the otherwise ho-hum divorce proceedings between Vincent and Sharon Shenocca, it came out that Sharon had a large and secret source of income. That income was allegedly from Belichick. For the year and a half leading up to the divorce hearings, Belichick had reportedly been Sharon's "sugar daddy." He supposedly bought her a fancy Brooklyn townhouse, paid for her summer rental on the always classy Jersey Shore, sent her to Disney World on a private jet, and provided her with about $3,000 a month in mad money.

Get this: Among the things Sharon supposedly purchased with Belichick's money were … wait for it … New York Giants tickets — as in the football team that defeated the Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl. Who's the shady one now?