Before Bill Belichick became the coach of the New England Patriots, he earned his reputation as a defensive mastermind with the New York Giants. And before Belichick's alleged rift with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, he had his own temporary rift with Giants quarterback Jeff Hostetler that stemmed from a practice incident that involved Belichick taking a football to the face.
Just what is it with Belichick and backup quarterbacks?
During an appearance on the "Three Guys before The Game" podcast on Monday, Hostetler -- a quarterback for the Giants from 1984-92 -- shared a story about the time he accidentally hit Belichick -- the defensive coordinator of the Giants from 1985-90 -- in the face with a football and in the process, earned the respect of the Giants' defense.
His story is below (thanks to Pro Football Talk for transcribing it):
"My rookie year, I am a rookie quarterback with three other veterans on the roster. I've got Bill Parcells as a head coach, who did not want to draft me, and so I wasn't one of his guys. I had Ron Erhardt as a quarterback coach, who had been in the league forever. His offense is still being run by [the] Patriots, by the Steelers. It's probably the best offense that I've ever been involved with as far as being consistent, verbiage, all those things. And so I'm involved with all these guys that are all veterans, and I'm thinking, 'This is a tough situation for me to come into.' And so I'm scared, basically. I'm thinking, 'If I make a mistake these guys aren't going to have any patience with me.'
"Well, I would run a little bit of the seven-on-seven for the defense. And Belichick would always have these cards out and he would show us what he wants us to do. And then he would turn where the center would be, he would turn and he would watch his defense. And so we were running all these crossing routes . . . and so all of a sudden, we're running these crossing routes, and he stands right there where the center is. I drop back, and it's a two-yard crossing route. And I drill it to the guy.
"Well, all of a sudden, Bill's head is right in the way. It hits him in the head. His papers fly everywhere. The ball flies everywhere. Everybody stops and it's like, everything just went quiet. It's like, 'Uh-oh.' And then he starts ripping into me and yelling at me and grabbing his papers. After that was over with, I had almost every defensive player come up to me and say, 'Hey, great job, Hoss. Great job.' And it was like, I was accepted. . . . Belichick hated me after that, but my only response to him was, 'Well, don't stand there.'"
OK so, calling it a "rift" is probably an exaggeration given that Belichcik and Hostetler, who replaced an injured Phil Simms, helped the Giants win Super Bowl XXV with a combination of Belichick's Hall-of-Fame worthy game plan, Hostetler's steady play (20 of 32 for 222 yards, one touchdown, no picks, and a 93.5 passer rating), and luck (the Giants' one-point lead was preserved when Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood missed a field goal wide right).
A year ago, the quarterback and coach reconnected. As ESPN's Mike Reiss documented at the time, Belichick connected Hostetler and Brady after a practice last August, which marked Hostetler's first appearance at a Patriots practice since 2008. Hostetler revealed that the two don't speak often, but when they do talk, it's almost always about their personal lives and less about football.
"Most of it nowadays is more, 'How are you doing? How are you handling it? What are you doing?' Two of my adult sons work with me and he's got two sons that are coaching with him. I was asking him about that -- the ups and downs of that. It is extremely rewarding, but it's also tough to do," Hostetler said at the time. "So it's more on a personal level. It's great just to reminisce a little bit with him as far as his family and where's he's at.
"I congratulated him. I've been following him. I'm awfully happy for him, because that's hard work. He has a tough job, a tough profession, and to be as successful as he's been takes a lot of hard work."