PHOENIX -- Bill Belichick didn’t break character during his 43-minute media session at the NFL Coaches Breakfast Tuesday morning at the Arizona Biltmore.
It was a painful shrug-a-thon that, thanks to the intrepid calculating of The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, we know included 116 questions, 1,790 words, 21 “We’ll sees” and 13 “I don’t knows.”
Bill Belichick fielded 116 questions over 43 minutes this morning (2.7 questions per minute). He said 1,790 words, an average of 15.4 per response. His most frequent phrases were “we’ll see” (21 times) and “I don’t know” (13 times).— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) March 26, 2019
It’s a rite of early spring for Belichick and the media that covers him regularly. The most accomplished coach in NFL history, the guy who forgets more about football in a night of sleep than we will ever know, dummies up.
It’s tedious, it’s not productive but, as Belichick himself would say, it is what it is. And it’s not worth anyone taking personally.
My theory on why expansive, forthright, candid and insightful Bill Belichick can show up for the week of the Super Bowl but not for this event is that he regards that week as an earned privilege that -- at its core -- is about the game on the field, the players and the coaches.
The owners meetings are a week of schmoozing and gasbagging in which economics and initiatives are ceaselessly discussed NFL suits who are “around” the game but not “in” the game. The game is the product. And this is where the product is tinkered with.
It’s as if Belichick’s the lifelong resident of a neighborhood that’s being incrementally gentrified every year and he’s then summoned by the people who are doing the gentrifying to say a few words at the association meeting.
He’s not going to play along.
That’s one theory. Another is that offseason conversation is generally about speculation and hypotheticals. The only thing Belichick hates more than speculation and hypotheticals is the Jets.
So questions about how much longer he’ll coach or when Tom Brady’s contract might get redone or how the loss of one player or another will be mitigated are summarily cuffed down one after the other.
Belichick never sat down during his session. My theory on that? He doesn’t like having a pile of tape recorders, phones and microphones set up under his chin and he likes even less when people swoop in, drop a tape recorder in front of him mid-session then, after a few minutes, pluck it up and walk away. It’s rude.
The image of Billy the Bulldozer clearing recording devices out of his way in 2016 remains an all-timer.
So Belichick standing back from the table and speaking in a normal voice in a crowded room with about 300 other chattering people ensured amusing optics and bad acoustics.
When the session ended and we all headed for the buffet, reporters from other markets would stop us and shake their heads sympathetically.
“Why does he have to be like that?” is a general question.
The general answer? Because that’s how he is sometimes. Does it make the job a little harder? Sure. But we’ll live.
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