Bill Belichick is arguably the most successful coach in the history of the NFL, but anyone who’s kept tabs on him over the years knows he’s also kind of an odd guy. A winner? Yes. A little bit of a weirdo? Also yes.
That’s not necessarily a knock on Belichick, as his quirks make him one of the most fascinating people in all of sports. He’s a guy who simply eats, breathes, and sleeps football to the point where he doesn’t seem to have time to really care about anything else.
It’s hard to argue it hasn’t worked out pretty well for him when you consider he’s racked up six Super Bowls as a head coach (and secured another two rings while serving as an assistant with the Giants). You don’t have to be a Patriots fan to appreciate what one of the greatest football minds in history has been able to achieve, and it’s hard not to respect him for marching to the beat of his own drum.
Belichick has spent close to 50 years working in the NFL in various capacities, and the 2023 campaign marks the start of his 29th season as a head coach. You’d think he would be a member of the NFL Coaches Association, but as things currently stand, he has no association with the de facto union that’s responsible for licensing the likeness of head coaches for the Madden video games.
As a result, EA Sports hasn’t been able to officially include Belichick in any installments of the annual franchise since the mid-2000s, which means the company has had to think outside of the box when it comes to handling the virtual coach tasked with patrolling the Patriots sideline.
Here’s a look at how it’s handled that issue over the years.
How Madden has dealt with the absence of Bill Belichick over the years
That screenshot is from Madden NFL 2002, which marked the first of the handful of games Belichick was featured in before the plug was pulled in 2005.
It’s kind of unclear why those installments were the exception, but it seems like EA Sports has decided it’s easier to simply make up an imaginary coach than repeatedly negotiate with a guy who could probably not care less about being in a video game.
As a result, we’ve been treated to some interesting alternatives, like…
1. “NE Coach”
A+++ for creativity here.
This obviously leaves a bit to be desired, but this is what Madden opted to go with when Belichick initially linked up with New England.
With that said, I feel like Belichick would love to go through life as a nameless, faceless coach if there was any realistic way he could pull that off.
2. Chad Masters
Ok, this is a step in the right direction!
This particular screenshot is from Madden NFL 13 (which was actually released in 2012), and while it’s not perfect, we should be happy that we at least got a human being who actually sort of looks like the real thing.
Also, going from “NE Coach” to “Chad Masters” is a very, very solid upgrade.
3. Josh Moore
I can’t find a photo confirming the existence of Josh Moore, but that was apparently the route Madden decided to take for the title that was released in 2011.
If we’re positioning “NE Coach” as Belichick’s ideal moniker, I have to assume a wildly generic name like this one would be a close second.
4. Griffin Murphy
Alright, here we have Griffin Murphy. By this point, the world was having fun with Belichick not being in the game and started to make a mockery of it. Someone went as far as creating a LinkedIn profile for Griffin in case he was fired like some of the fake coaches before him.
Griffin Murphy is a good fake name. You can’t really tell from the screenshot, but he’s a pretty good-looking coach as well—and by that I mean he just sort of looks like a football coach; a fit nerdy dude with glasses (Mike McDaniel anyone?) who just screams “Football Guy who sleeps dreaming of Xs and Os”
5. Hal Ophamer
Aaaaand we’re back to nothing at all!
I really don’t know why Madden keeps flip-flopping between a face and not. If you had the technology to create a fake dude before, why not do it now?
Maybe the coders at EA got lazy (which wouldn’t be a huge shock based on how the franchise has declined over the years) or maybe they thought that no facial recognition would push Bill into finally agreeing to be put in the game.
Regardless, this was a step back from Griffin Murphy.
6. Peter Gaffney
In 2023, we were treated to the new and improved version of Fake Bill Belichick in the form of Peter Gaffney.
I will say this guy legitimately looks like an NFL coach. He’s got the glasses to indicate he can’t see as well anymore due to his years of studying the playbook. He’s a little on the chubbier side, because when you’re focused on defenses you can’t worry about calories.
Then, to top it all off, we’ve got the bald head from the stress of his career and the shaggy beard to show he’s unkempt when it comes to hygiene but fully prepared when it comes to game strategy.
That might be hard to top, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.