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Rodney Harrison has no problem criticizing Bill Belichick, Patriots

NBC studio analyst Rodney Harrison at the Super

NBC studio analyst Rodney Harrison at the Super Bowl XLVI Broadcasters Press Conference at the Super Bowl XLVI Media Canter in the J.W. Marriott Indianapolis on January 31, 2012. Credit: Getty Images / Scott Halleran

Rodney Harrison did not hold back this past week in criticizing the Patriots’ coaches for last Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the Seahawks. Holding back is not his thing, even though the NBC analyst played for the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick from 2003-08.

“I went back to the hotel and texted [fellow analyst Tony Dungy] like, ‘What the heck are they doing?’ ” Harrison said Monday at an event to promote the network’s coverage of “Thursday Night Football.”

“Why are they outsmarting themselves? We talked all week about the game plan: It’s simple offensively. Spread them out, put the tight ends out wide, put the little guys in the middle and you know they play zone coverage and let Tom [Brady] just pick them apart.

“I was completely surprised that [offensive coordinator] Josh McDaniels just outsmarted himself. He came out and wanted to run the ball and I’m getting text messages, going back and forth with Coach Dungy, like, ‘Why are they doing something that they typically don’t do?’

“That’s the problem with a lot of offensive coordinators: They get to a point where they so-called want to stay aggressive so they feel like hey, we have all these weapons, we want to pass the ball. Just do the simple things. Do what you do best and you’ll continue to have success.

“Belichick, he’s not a happy camper this [Monday] morning, because I believe he and his coaching staff, they didn’t do a really good job of sticking to the game plan. Instead of being so mad and upset at the players, he has to look at himself, because that’s the one time he didn’t do what he was supposed to do to put his team in position to win.”

Yikes! Tell us how you really feel, Rodney!

Harrison established this pattern very early in his TV career — as a rookie in 2009, when he blasted Belichick for an ill-fated decision to go for a first down on fourth-and-2 from his own 28-yard line against the Colts.

After the Patriots lost, 35-34 — blowing a 17-point lead in the process — Harrison called it “the worst coaching decision I’ve ever seen Bill Belichick make.” Harrison said that several years later, Belichick told him he had been “spot on” in his criticism.

NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said he has marveled at the ongoing bond between Belichick and his former safety. He noted how Belichick treated Harrison in the production meetings before NBC’s two Super Bowls that involved the Patriots.

“Bill comes in and doesn’t leave,” Flood said. “He does the interview with Rodney, biggest hug you’ve ever seen, and then they talk about everything and anything. It goes on and on and on and we start missing other interviews because these two can’t stop talking.

“You just see the special bond. But he’ll still call him out. He just did [this week] and he will again if he does something wrong on the field. That’s what’s unique about Rodney. The audience comes first.”

Referring to Harrison’s criticism in 2009, Flood said, “He said, ‘I couldn’t defend Bill on that. If I was, I wouldn’t be wearing the NBC jersey anymore.’ It’s pretty neat, the relationship, that he’s still respected by Bill but will call him out.”

The Patriots had been scheduled to appear on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” on Nov. 27 against the Jets, but that game was flexed into the late afternoon.

Asked what this past week would be like in Patriots Land, Harrison smiled and said, “Misery, especially after a loss like this. He’s absolutely miserable, yelling and screaming. A lot of different things could happen, maybe sitting in a team meeting room for 3 ½ hours watching every single play, calling out guys, Brady, everybody. It’s no fun.

“The week is miserable. He’s grumpy. He’s walking around and has his hoodie up and ignores you in the hallways. So it makes for a long week.”

Still, Harrison believes Belichick has mellowed in recent years. “From when I played with Bill compared to right now, it seems like he’s in a different place in his life,’’ he said. “He’s actually a good man and I have a lot of respect for him.”

New York Sports