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Belichick's Code of Silence

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  1. mikey

    mikey In the Starting Line-Up

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/18/sports/football/18sandomir.html

    January 18, 2006
    Sports Media and Business
    Assistants Adhere to Code of Silence
    By RICHARD SANDOMIR

    Before yesterday's news conference introducing him as the Jets' new head coach, Eric Mangini was a mystery to the news media. As a branch on the Parcells-Belichick coaching tree, he was ordered not to speak to the press.
    "They all come off as the Great Sphinx because they have marching orders about not talking to the media," Randy Cross of CBS Sports said.

    Phil Simms, CBS's No. 1 analyst, has called plenty of Patriots games during Mangini's six years there but has never had verbal contact with him.

    "I've never said 'hi' to him," Simms said during a conference call. He recalled nodding to Mangini once as they passed each other in a hallway.

    "We've never been allowed to talk to him," Simms added. "When I meet him at a Jets game, it'll be the first words we've ever spoken."

    Simms said he had unusually little to offer about why the Jets were so interested in Mangini, whom Belichick elevated to be the Patriots' defensive coordinator this season. Simms's interpretation of the Jets' hiring him is simple: "I make it out that they like Belichick a lot." For the networks that carry the National Football League, interviewing assistants, especially coordinators, is a standard part of their preparation. They provide extra depth and insight into game plans.

    "Not that the coordinators know more than the head coach, but they have their specialties," Daryl Johnston of Fox Sports said. "The head coach is coordinating the offense, defense and special teams, and dealing with the media, and the coordinators are very specialized in what they do."
    Simms added: "When I talk to coordinators, I understand things better, so when a play or situation comes up, I can be more informative. When things happen on the field, I know, because the coaches told me."

    Besides the vows of news-media silence enforced on assistants by Belichick and Parcells, Miami Dolphins Coach Nick Saban, who worked under Belichick in Cleveland as his defensive coordinator, also keeps his assistants as quiet as Benedictine monks. Giants Coach Tom Coughlin, who worked for Parcells, allows assistants to converse with the press during one day in minicamp, one day early in training camp and one day during the bye week.

    But two rebels with Parcells-Belichick roots have broken from the tradition. Charlie Weis lets five of his Notre Dame assistants speak on designated days during the week, but not after games, while Cleveland Browns Coach Romeo Crennel lets his assistants speak, upon request.

    John Heisler, the Notre Dame sports information director, said, "Charlie felt that he did two things: He took the best of Parcells and Belichick and threw himself in the mix."

    In his news conference yesterday, Mangini appeared genial and chatty, but he offered few specifics. He did not immediately foreclose the possibility of making his coaching staff available to speak to reporters.

    "The assistants' policy hasn't been established," he said.

    Cross said that he had held a few conversations with Mangini during preseason games but never during the regular season. "I'd be talking to other coaches, and he walked up and joined the conversation," he said.

    Cross did have a quick assessment: "He struck me as being not dissimilar from Bill Belichick. Very similar. Young, intense and focused."

    Johnston, a former Dallas Cowboys running back, remembered a few stolen moments on the sideline with Sean Payton, Dallas's assistant head coach. In telling the story, it sounded like a furtive meeting. "Then Bill came out of the tunnel and it was time to stop it," Johnston said.

    Cross said he believed the Parcells-Belichick way would be adopted more and more, regardless of complaints from reporters. "One voice is the only way to go," he said, for coaches who want to spread a message.

    The notion that it would be productive for coordinators to speak to the networks and local reporters to prepare them for the news-media crucible they will face as head coaches is debatable. Had the grim-faced Belichick been chattier during his Giants years, would he have been cuddlier in Cleveland? Perhaps, but being under the Parcells and Belichick cones of silence clearly did not hurt Weis, who showed great news-media savvy in his first year at Notre Dame.

    E-mail: sportsbiz@nytimes.com
     
  2. Mike the Brit

    Mike the Brit Minuteman Target PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Mmm... I'm pretty sure that Mangini did a PC this year. Wasn't Simms there? (Not that it was very informative. He said that he might do some things a bit differently from Romeo. LOL!)

    A more interesting question is: why, after 2 Superbowl wins, did Romeo and Charlie have such difficulties being taken seriously as Head Coaching candidates, but, after a season in which the Pats are eliminated in the play-offs (and the defense is hardly overwhelming) does a team take a DC in his first season as Head Coach?

    First suggestion: Romeo and Charlie were disadvantaged by the "rule of silence" but once those who make decisions in the NFL had seen how successful they were without Belichick opinion swung 180 degrees and NE assistants became the flavour of the month.

    Second suggestion: Romeo and Charlie missed out because teams weren't prepared to wait until after the Superbowl to make a hire.

    In either case, it doesn't say much for the intelligence of NFL decision makers (but then, if they were so smart, why would they be looking for new Head Coaches?)
     

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