Belichick will fire up troops over Carolina controversy
After the Monday Night game in Carolina I made sure to watch every second of the Patriots 5th Quarter. There is nothing quite like watching the steam come out of Bill Belichick’s ears as he takes the post game podium after a loss. In general, speaking to the press is probably at the rock bottom in things Belichick likes about his job. Coach B is not a man of many words when performing his post game obligation. He’s more like a man about to get a tooth pulled without Novocain. Even in victory he can snarl at what he deems a dumb or inappropriate question.
I’ve been in those post game press conferences for many years. Belichick comes out, makes and opening comment, and if it’s following a loss, there is usually an excruciating amount of time before someone asks the first question. Nobody wants to be the guy humiliated on live TV by asking a question that is answered with an “I don’t know.” Or a “I have to look at the tape.” Or a “You saw the game.” Or a reporter’s worst nightmare, when he answers a question with a question- which Belichick did 8 times last night.
It can’t be easy coming out to face the press just minutes after losing a game on a last second call- or in this case, non-call. Coach B does not like to have the officials decide the game. Here’s how things got started in Monday’s post game press conference.
The usual opening comments paraphrased:
“Well it was a tough game, came down to just a few plays here and they did more than we did. We had our chances, just got to do a better job, came up a little bit short…” (ya da ya da ya da) We’ve heard it a million times before.
Belichick answered 4 questions true to form. Then came 20 seconds of dead air. These awkward, pregnant pauses are nothing new. I liken them to a silent version of finger nails on a chalkboard. It was at this point that the ever polite and cool PR man Stacey James will the ask the press if there are any more questions. If somebody doesn’t step up- it’s usually a quick “thanks guys” and exit stage left.
It was then that a reporter (obviously from Carolina) made a remark, and did not ask a question. He was looking for a comment on “the fact that they played a team with a lot to prove in a pretty good atmosphere.”
Ouch- we all knew what was coming next.
Belichick: “So what’s the question?”
Reporter: “How do you feel about your team’s performance?”
Belichick: “We came up short. It wasn’t good enough. We just came up short. We have to do a better job. We just didn’t make enough plays.”
Another pause, and Stacey James try’s to wrap it up. We are now 3 minutes into the news conference.
Then an amazing thing happened. Belichick turns to James who is off to the right, and say’s “I’m ok. I’m ok.”
It was clear that Bill Belichick had more to say. He wasn’t getting off that podium yet. It was WBZ’s Steve Burton who went back to the only subject that mattered.
Burton: “Did you get a sense of what the flag was for on the final play of the game?”
Burton: “No idea of what the flag was for?”
Belichick: “There was no explanation given to me.”
Burton: “None whatsoever?”
Belichick: “No. The officials ran off the field, I didn’t see anything. I’ve gone through that before, the last time I tried asking an official about a call, that was the wrong thing to do. So I have no idea”.
Hallelujah! Now we got something here. Belichick was letting loose- saying something snippy. Thank God this thing didn’t end a few minutes ago. Coach was having his say.
Burton: “Do you think you deserve an explanation?”
Belichick: “Like I’ve said, we’ve been down that road before. We didn’t get one tonight, didn’t get one at the Baltimore game. Guess that’s the way they do it.”
Batta bing! Belichick with another zing at the officials.
Belichick was just getting warmed up with the good stuff when someone changed the subject with a question about the running game. Buzz kill. A few reporters came in late and tried to ask again about the final play.
Belichick became evasive again. When asked if he would follow up with league, Belichick said, “Sure. It was the last play of the game. I don’t know what happened. There was a flag thrown and then the game was over. I don’t know.”
A reporter too late to the party asked again for an explanation about the final play. Belichick was done.
” Yeah, that’s the fourth time on that,” he said.
My take on this is that Belichick decided three minutes into the news conference he had more to say. It wasn’t just about getting an explanation on what happened last night, it became more about what happened to him last time when he tried to get answers from an official. The situation he was referring to was when he questioned a call vs Baltimore in 2012. Belichick was fined $50,000 for demanding an explanation, and you better believe he is still pissed.
Belichick may not be Mr. Congeniality, but he is a brilliant football coach. He has thrived on convincing his teams that it’s “The Patriots against the world.” The scheme has worked too. Remember Spy Gate in 2007? That only led to a perfect season. Belichick can use this controversy to light a fire under his team from here to the Super Bowl. This was a fairly meaningless non-conference game against Carolina. What the Patriots get out of it is another chip on their shoulders, which could be much more valuable that the “W”.
Bill Belichick now has his fuel, and he is a master at getting his team to respond constructively to controversy. Let’s see how far it plays out.. who knows, maybe all the way to the Meadowlands in February.