Chris Long didn't experience all that much losing during his one-year stay with the Patriots.
Back in 2016, Long only lost twice en route to his first Super Bowl championship: once to the Bills in Week 4, when Jacoby Brissett was the starting quarterback; once to the Seahawks in Week 10. But the memories of what it's like for a Patriots player following games like those haven't left Long, who retired after last season.
Long joined the Ringer's Ryen Russillo Podcast and explained that most of what we've heard of Bill Belichick in those meetings is true. He doesn't hold back. And so what the team went through on Tuesday following a loss to the Ravens would've been the unvarnished, tough-to-hear truth.
"It's just straight up," Long said. "That's what you miss a lot in pro football. You want your head coach to get up there and call it how it is and do it in front of the entire team. No favorites. Don't sugar-coat it. And that's what's done. In a room full of everybody that's relevant in that building from a football standpoint. Your mistakes are up there on the big screen for everybody to see and they're addressed head-on. That can be ugly, but it needs to happen.
"Too many coaches . . . split the team up. Offensive coordinator handles the offense. Defensive coordinator handles the defense. You would think, you assume, that everybody's watching you every snap anyways. But to have that point hammered home, it really helps. That room is big and dark. There's no windows in the building. Lotta coffee. Lotta guys with, like, big cups of coffee. Lotta guys shuffling in, no talking. Then there's, like, the awkward quiet moment when you're like, 'OK, when's Bill coming in,' when the small talk stops. Then Bill comes in. And it can go for an hour."
And no one is safe. Tom Brady has been skewered. Rob Gronkowski had moments when he was torn apart. Even coaches hear it in those moments. (Except for maybe Dante Scarnecchia, as I understand it, who is at the point in his career as an assistant where he's essentially on his own level.)
"That's the thing about playing in the NFL," Long went on. "In the NFL, when you don't play well, it's the emasculation factor. When you screw up at work . . . in most corporate situations you can't be talked to that way. You're really going to be demeaned pretty heavily. You want that as a player, though. You want to be demeaned accurately.
"I don't want to hear I played well when I didn't because I'll stop trusting you. You don't want to hear you played bad when you didn't and make me the scapegoat . . . I don't want to see a coach do that because I'll stop trusting you. But if you give it to me down the middle with the criticism, your team might not like it all the time, but they're going to trust you."
Patriots players might not like it. But they'll appreciate it, by the sounds of things. And there will certainly be plenty of them to, um, appreciate as they go through their bye week coming off of their only loss of the season. They'll meet with Belichick for the second time in as many days on Wednesday, getting a little more tough love, before a few days off.
"In New England," Long said about the days following a loss, "it was just that, 'We're gonna meet it head-on.' "
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