Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Better Stones Make Better Walls

Bill Belichick has not and never will discuss personnel decisions in public. That assertion is based on what, 17 years of evidence now.

It is the duty of sports media personnel who cover the Patriots to ask about said decisions, even if they know damn well, as they do, they're not gonna get an answer from New England's head coach.

The above paragraphs are a formula for dissatisfaction on both sides, as witnessed by failed dialogues on the trade of Jamie Collins to the Browns and the healthy scratch of Jabaal Sheard for last Sunday's game with the 49ers. Reporters with a written outlet on the Web or print may be able to delve behind the scenes to get at the motives for a Belichick decision. TV and radio folks must get that soundbite, even if it signifies nothing.

Belichick placed the appropriate amount of weight on my advice and counsel back when I covered the team -- none if he thought I had a point, less than none otherwise. All the same, I think the coach is doing himself a disservice by his current all-purpose nonanswer to personnel decisions.

"We're going to do what's best for our football team," Belichick says. This statement manages to be both terse and patronizing at the same time. It implies that the questioners are impugning the coach's motives for any decision when they are doing no such thing. What they want to know is WHY he thinks a decision is best for said team. Given Belichick's record, it's likely a candid explanation would be most persuasive.

But Belichick won't take that road. He believes clamming up best serves his team and the players in it. Again given the record, there doesn't seem to be any evidence he should change that opinion. But there is one problem with the "what's best for the football team" mantra. It makes Bill look like a dick, which he isn't always or even often. It is a snotty brushoff, breeding ill will where there's no reason for it. Belichick is silent on personnel matters for business reasons. He should have a businesslike nonanswer.

Here's one I offer in the spirit of holiday giving. "I will not discuss personnel decisions in public," says some future Belichick who will never exist. It's the simple honest truth. It's not personal and does not contribute to Belichick's supervillain caricature. As a side benefit, it would make further questions on the same topic look like the badgering it would be. Might even cause some reporters to switch to a topic Bill will talk about.

Reporters are going to keep asking Belichick questions he won't answer because it's one big reason they get paid. Belichick will continue to rebuff them because he's sure that helps him keep getting paid. It's a stalemate annoying to all parties, but it could be LESS annoying.

If there's one thing a person ought to be able to be honest about, it's silence.


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