As much as I enjoy seeing the entire New England Patriots organization dragged through the mud as the focus of this year’s annual NFL debacle, I’d like to take a moment to throw some praise in the direction of Bill Belichick. For years, Belichick has been a model pro coach in countless facets of the game; from scouting and drafting young players no one else seems to notice to signing supposedly washed-up veterans with hidden reservoirs of talent, organizations all across the NFL try to emulate the actions of the man at the helm in Foxborough. But, surprisingly, the rest of the NFL coaches are missing out on taking up the most noteworthy Belichick coaching move outside of cutting the sleeves off their grungiest sweatshirts: shrugging off the media.
Perhaps “shrugging” isn’t the correct word for just how aggressively Belichick stiff-arms reporters at a press conference. Belichick, who comes off as an inexplicably grumpy old miser for someone in possession of four Super Bowl rings, has turned his press conferences into nothing short of an ESPN special every time someone forces a microphone in front of him. For those who haven’t seen the NFL’s very own Eeyore in action yet, I can assure you it is television arguably as entertaining as the action that took place in the game 20 minutes prior to the press conference. Just this past July amidst the heat of Deflategate, Belichick answered six straight questions in his signature low, grumbling growl with either “that’s already been addressed” or “we start the 2015 season today.”
Yes, it makes an infinitely more interesting story to write about the Richard Shermans and Kanye Wests of the world grabbing the microphone and blurting out the first group of cohesive syllables that come to mind, so perhaps it’s considered blasphemous for me to praise a coach who is less likely to give my fellow writers a headline and more likely a migraine. But in a time when some of the bigger names in the sports world will tell you, unsolicited, how many times they passed gas in their latest contest (see Howard, Dwight), it should be seen as refreshing to turn on SportsCenter and see Belichick’s saggy mug staring back at you, mumbling softly about nothing else other than his team’s practice that afternoon.
Not only is it a nice change of pace to go from hearing celebrities live-tweet their trip to Chipotle to watching a star coach fit an entire speech into 140 characters or less, it’s also a fantastic coaching tactic that others should pursue. Dating all the way back to Vince Lombardi, the best coaches in football have always seemed to be the ones who told the media the least. One needs to look no further than the Patriots’ own AFC North, where Belichick’s counterpart Rex Ryan spent each preseason announcing to the media that his team would win the Super Bowl during his time with the Jets. Rex Ryan simply made a lot of headlines while the cantankerous Belichick quietly won two more titles.
What Belichick is doing with his disgruntled attitude towards the media is just flat-out good coaching. He isn’t just sauntering up to the podium and mumbling, “I’m here so I won’t get fined” like Marshawn Lynch — rather, what Belichick is doing is benefitting his team. As a player, there’s nothing worse than having to deal with a coach who makes whatever issues you’re dealing with the center of the media’s attention day in and day out (my condolences, Robert Griffin III). Belichick’s players love him because they know their team business is going to stay just that — team business — under his Soviet-esque method of media relations.
Every sports fan can openly admit that the media have overall hurt his favorite team more than they’ve helped it — it’s the nature of the TMZ-era sports reporting that goes on nowadays. Additionally, with the advent of social media, pro athletes are more than capable of getting themselves into career-jeopardizing situations without a coach who’s willing to talk to the media for days on end. If I were an NFL coach, my press conferences would feel like the Department of Motor Vehicles’ waiting room, too. And if I were the coach in New England, with all the ridiculous media scrutiny and disruptive NFL investigations over the last year, I’d tell the media to forget about it — I’ll take the fine.
Jimmy McLaughlin is a sophomore in the College. Upon Further Review appears every other Tuesday.
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