Bill Belichick looms over today’s Super Bowl perhaps more than anyone involved in the game. There are plenty of narratives that the media look for during the two weeks between the conference championships and Super Bowl Sunday. As Belichick looks to tie Chuck Noll as the only head coaches with four Super Bowl victories, the New England coach has certainly been a first topic of the coverage this week, including a blog post of a comical old Starter ad in which he dons a classic Browns coat.
Despite his shortcomings and relatively unsuccessful time in Cleveland, I’ve always found Belichick completely fascinating and someone I am constantly interested in learning about. Those days in Cleveland bred a stable of NFL and college coaches, as well as personnel evaluators. The Patriots’ current head personnel man, Nick Caserio, is a Cleveland native and of course we’re all familiar with Josh McDaniels Northeast Ohio roots.
I thought the two-part NFL Films documentary (Bill Belichick: A Football Life) on Belichick last fall was likely the best thing I’ve watched over the past year. This week’s media features have only added to the fascination, adding new tidbits about a complex contrarian who people are saying has sealed up the title of greatest coach of all time.
First was Dan Wetzel’s piece on BB’s refusal to conform. Wetzel explored the coach’s refusal to join the NFL Coaches association, the derivation of his hoodie outfit, and his disdain for the process of publicizing NFL injury reports.
As the story goes – a story that’s taken on legend around the franchise since a number of players retold it – Belichick wasn’t pleased when the NFL signed a clothing deal with Reebok that required coaches to wear approved clothing during games. This was some executive in New York telling grown men how to dress. Since when did football coaches become clothing models?
There was no way to opt out of that deal so Belichick considered the fashion options laid out in front of him, and selected the most unstylish outfit, a grey hooded sweatshirt. He began wearing it each week. Only not before having the sleeves cut off to make it even less attractive.
It was a fascinating read, but Saturday, on a local level, Mary Kay Cabot penned a wonderful feature on her complicated past covering Belichick during his time in Cleveland. It was a riveting piece, detailing how concerned he was with his image in the Cleveland press. Cabot was one reporter who was able to get close to him, and describes some behind-the-scenes moments on the beat with Belichick.
Once, Belichick invited me on a draft visit for a private workout with a prospect. We flew on a small private jet, just me, Belichick, General Manager Mike Lombardi and Coleman. Belichick gave me first dibs on the lunch entrees — there was one of everything — and he dropped an F-bomb when I picked the salmon. Guess that’s the one he wanted.
On the trip, I saw a different Belichick than the stone-face that greeted us at news conferences. He blared some headbanging rock in the car and stopped at his favorite barber for a haircut. He seemed just like a normal guy.
Cabot writes that her access has been cut off, and that the relationship is now frosty, as Belichick refuses to even acknowledge her at NFL press events. Both pieces, particularly Cabot’s, are worth reading in their entirety.
Belichick was up to it again last night, releasing Patriots wide receiver Tiquan Underwood just 24 hours before kick off. Why such a late, cold-hearted move? Apparently, Belichick was concerned that the Giants may claim him last minute and get additional gameplan insight before the game. With the last minute release, the earliest a team can claim him is now Monday.
It’s that paranoia and attention to detail that I’ve come to love and find so fascinating about a man who deliberately tries to establish a bland public image. For me, he’s the most interesting part of today’s game. I’m hoping the former Browns coach wins his fourth Super Bowl.