Super Bowl: Same Old Belichick

PHOENIX -- It's hard not to admire Bill Belichick's single-mindedness. Belichick has the New England Patriots on the cusp of one of the NFL's greatest achievements, and he can't see beyond Sunday's Super Bowl game against the New York Giants.

He's treating it for what it is, a football game -- nothing more, nothing less, and that may go a long way toward explaining the success he and the Patriots have enjoyed in this decade.

They, and he, won't let themselves get overwhelmed by the moment. It brings to mind something Dick Vermeil said after leading the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl title in the 1999 season.

Vermeil had been criticized nearly two decades earlier for overworking the Philadelphia Eagles, who lost the Super Bowl following the 1980 season to the Oakland Raiders. After winning with the Rams, Vermeil recalled his earlier behavior and observed he learned that it was really just another game once the ball was kicked off to start it.

Repeated attempts to get Belichick to discuss the implications of a 19-0 season, his team's place in history, or for that matter just about anything regarding the potential significance of New England's season, all are met with the same answer.

In different forms, it's simply, "We're only thinking about Sunday," or "We're only thinking about getting ready for the New York Giants."

Give Belichick some credit for this. He doesn't try to entertain the media, and that's fine. Unfortunately, he doesn't try to inform too much, either, but that's his prerogative, even if many in the media wish he would.

I have seen a lot of coaches on this stage over a long period of time and it's hard to recall one who was as single-minded as Belichick or as sparse with information.

For example, when someone asked about quarterback Tom Brady, who practiced with his teammates Monday after sitting out last week to rest his sore right ankle, Belichick would give no hint at all to how Brady practiced. He could have said something like, Brady looked like he always did. Or he threw the ball well. Or he didn't. Or he's rusty. Or anything. But if you were looking for a window into Belichick's appraisal of his quarterback's condition, you came to the wrong place.

"He was out there, along with everybody else," Belichick said.

When asked the question in a different way, Belichick answered, "He was out there, like everybody else."

According to a pool report, Brady had his ankle taped and took part in the entire practice, including jogging the length of the field twice at the end of the workout -- with what appeared to be a slight limp.

To some in the media, it is maddening.


With his right ankle taped, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with coach Bill Belichick while the team stretches before practice began at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., Monday, Jan. 28, 2008. The Patriots will play the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII on Sunday. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

 

Belichick's former boss, Bill Parcells, liked to toss occasional zingers in his meetings with the media. The late Bill Walsh always would be good for some sarcasm or other biting comments. Brian Billick, when he took the Baltimore Ravens to the title seven years ago, used the Super Bowl pulpit to lecture the media about how to do their job.

Not Belichick. The monotone is flat and unemotional. Even a softball question such as what he looks for when he hires assistant coaches went largely unanswered, perhaps because Belichick thought to answer it with any specificity might be too telling and something he didn't want opponents to know.

Earlier this week, someone asked Belichick how he has built an organization that never seems to have leaks to the media, and how he keeps his players on such an even keel.

On the first, he said, "I wouldn't have any way to measure it," adding, "Football is important to all of us. Our jobs are important, the team is important, and our teammates are important."

On the second, he credited "a real good core of players," and finally gave at least some hint into the team's success: A good personnel department that finds good players who work at their job.

What a concept. But it's amazing how many teams in the league don't have a real plan to find players like that.

"Football is important to them," Belichick said. "They take their jobs seriously, and they want to win. I don't know how much of that comes from the organization or the coaches or the team or anything. That's the way most of our players are, anyway. That's the way they would be, no matter what they were doing, as it relates to football.

"That's the way they were in college when we drafted them or we scouted them. It's not like we've felt we've taken too many guys into our program and said, "We're going to have to do a hundred-and-eighty with this guy." ... I think most of that comes from within the players, and I think they deserve the credit for it."

Ira Miller is a Sr. NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange.

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