Part of Bill Belichick's genius is his ability to dupe onlookers into believing that his hobo chic image is anything other than shtick. But early in his Patriots coaching career Belichick had most everybody fooled into thinking that he he was better equipped to live under a bridge than handle the pressures of coaching an NFL team.
After 12 years in New England, Belichick's legend has grown. Three Super Bowl championships in four seasons has a way of earning you respect from peers that inexplicable fashion choices can't.
While the cut-off hoodie, Dockers, and Seinfeld-white sneakers continue to serve as a conversation piece for Belichick's critics, the method to his madness goes beyond comfortable outerwear. He's also notoriously boring during press conferences. In fact, the next interesting thing he says to the gathered media throngs will be the first. But that's by design.
Thanks to former Patriot-turned-ESPN NFL analyst Tedy Bruschi, we get a peek behind the curtain. During Friday's "NFL Live" show, Bruschi said "We had Belichick, so he really wanted us to keep a lot of things close to the vest. It was the interpretation of veterans on what Belichick wanted through that media [so] I formed my own 'Patriots Rules for Media Engagement.'"
1. Speak for yourself. "That's something Coach Belichick always said -- 'Don't worry about anyone else's situation, on another team or your team, always think about your job, doing your job, and commenting on that."Bruschi's joking ... we think, but there's a lot of truth in what he's saying, too. Either way, it comes down to this: laudatory obfuscation peppered with platitudes. No one -- fans, media, players -- puts much credence into anything Belichick or his players might say in the days leading up to a game. But that's the point: don't give opponents additional incentive to beat you. Not only is Belichick a master at boring observers stupid during press conferences, he has the uncanny knack for finding motivation where there isn't any (Rodney Harrison, and later Tom Brady, were often tasked with delivering that message to a usually incredulous media).
2. Never talk about injuries. "Never let them know if you're hurt or not hurt."
3. Pour on the perfume. "This is compliments. You want to spray that perfume on your opponent on Wednesday all the way through Saturday, and then get the job done on Sunday."
4. Fall back on cliches. "When in doubt, use the old safe cliche. You love those -- '100 percent', 'one day at a time.'"
A quick Google search unearthed this 2005 USA Today story about Belichick's love affair with clichés. "Bill Belichick, besides being a head coach, is cliché coordinator," said Don Powell, a psychologist, sports buff and author of the book 'Best Sports Clichés Ever!' Nobody is as good as Belichick. But it's more than just Belichick using clichés. It's also him getting his team to buy into the clichés."
Publicly, Belichick rarely breaks character. But when he does, just pray that you're not the target. Prior to Super Bowl XXXIX, former Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell took some shots at the Patriots. After New England won Belichick spoke frankly: "All [Mitchell] does is talk. He's terrible, and you can print that. I was happy when he was in the game."
Freddie Mitchell was never heard from again.
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