Patriots coach Bill Belichick has come under heavy criticism in recent days for his failure to speak and/or his failure to say anything when speaking.
Curiously, the loudest voices come from analysts employed by CBS, which is widely perceived in media circles to be the official network of the New England Patriots. It started on Sunday night, with Shannon Sharpe sounding off on Belichick’s refusal to give a post-game interview to Steve Tasker of CBS. It continued on Monday, when Boomer Esiason explained that Belichick’s approach to the media gives those inclined to “hate” him a strong reason for doing so.
But Brian Billick of FOX, who coached the Ravens for nine years, goes the other way. In a video posted at FOXSports.com, Billick says criticism of Belichick should end.
“Let this thing go, guys,” Billick said. “This is the way he rolls, this is what he’s about. I want you to take the clip from last year’s AFC championship game where they won and look at his postgame news conference, then I want you to look at the one he did [Sunday], turn the sound off, and look at the two. It’s the same thing. This is what this guy’s about. It’s what he’s about. It’s his personality. It’s not going to change. You can’t fault the guy for being true to his personality. And when he does finally say something, we rip him for not saying something interesting, he says the same thing. . . . Quit ripping him for being who he is.”
It’s a fair point, but Belichick isn’t consistent. At a Monday press conference, as Tom Curran of CSN New England explained during PFT Live, Belichick was more expansive and less perfunctory. Last year, in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, he was loose and jovial.
And what’s wrong with criticizing someone for being who they are? Plenty of folks who do objectionable things are simply being who they are, and we don’t look the other way. People are capable of changing their behavior, and they often are more inclined to do it when bad behavior is pointed out to them.
Though Belichick indeed would have said nothing of value to Tasker, refusing to say anything creates the impression that Belichick is a sore loser. And while his motivation for saying nothing when he talks (he often comes off as a bad ventriloquist, trying to get the words out without moving his mouth or any other part of his face) could be rooted in strategic objectives, it that’s just the way he is then he should be that way all the time, without moments when he decides that he doesn’t find the process irritating and/or he lacks disdain on that specific day for those who make a living asking him questions.
The one thing Belichick either doesn’t realize or refuses to accept is that he gets paid millions every year not because there’s any inherent value in the service he provides but because people find entertainment in watching the games that his teams play. If he were a professional lacrosse coach, he’d be doing basically the same thing but making pennies in comparison, because no one would care.
And so the people who justify Belichick’s salary want to hear from him. Press conferences and interviews are the conduit for that. He’s smart enough to know it, and he presumably has enough self-awareness to realize that, if he says nothing or says something while actually saying nothing to an audience that expects the men who play and coach the game to periodically say something while actually saying something, he will be criticized.
So it’s fair to rip him for being who he is. Though he works for the Krafts, his customers are the folks who choose to watch his team’s games — and who in turn want to hear him say meaningful things while projecting slightly more charisma than a cinder block.