Coach Bill Belichick imposed his will on Super Bowl week.
He might have done it with his New England Patriots, who will meet the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday. But he certainly did it with the nation’s media covering the game.
When the Patriots arrived in Arizona on Monday, all the buzz was over the so-called Deflategate scandal. But Belichick’s first answer to the first question went like this: “I appreciate the question. I’ve spent, as you know, quite a bit of time. I’ve had two lengthy press conferences about that. My attention is totally turned now and focused on the Seattle Seahawks and our game Sunday, and that’s where it’s going to stay for this week.”
And it did.
A second question followed, and got the same deflection: “My attention is focused on the Seattle Seahawks.” Then a third. And a fourth.
And then the questions switched to the game ahead, and have mostly stayed there through the week.
On Friday, in Belichick’s final interview session before the Super Bowl, Deflategate wasn’t mentioned.
Of course, getting people to do what he wants is part of Belichick’s job description. And his success is quantifiable: his six conference titles tie him with Don Shula for the most during the NFL’s Super Bowl era. His nine conference championship appearances are one behind only Tom Landry. His 21 postseason wins are the most by any NFL coach. His .700 postseason winning percentage is fifth among coaches with at least 10 postseason appearances. His 30 postseason appearances are third behind only Shula and Landry. His nine Super Bowl appearances as either a head coach or assistant are the most by anyone.
“Just everything he does, he’s so consistent with it,” said defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who has played for Belichick for 11 seasons. “You know what you’re going to get from him each week. You’re going to get his best, and he expects our best, and I think that is the one thing that makes him so special because he’s been so consistent. He’s a hell of a coach. I’m glad I’m playing for him.”
Not everyone is — at least not from the start.
“Before I came here I was like, ‘That’s one guy that wins a lot of games, but it doesn’t seem like he’s happy winning games,’ ” receiver Brandon LaFell said. “But that’s just the way I saw him in the media. He never smiled. He’s always short with the media: give them one, two answers, and frowning.
“But when I got here, we closed those meeting doors and we joke around, we have fun, he smiles, he laughs. We play jokes on him. I was like, ‘Man, this is not the guy I saw in the media.’ He’s a great coach to play for.”
There were moments this week when that Belichick showed his face. When asked about recent favorite movies, he gave a reply, maybe even a revealing one: “Unbroken” and “American Sniper.” When asked specifically about his favorite Joe Pesci movies, he turned about as close to giddy as seems capable: “Home Alone,” “Home Alone 2” and “My Cousin Vinnie.”
He cited his father as his No. 1 coaching influence. He mentioned that his 84-year-old mother won’t be able to attend the game and will be missed.
Amid all the compliments thrown his way this week, he went out of his way in his final press conference to remind everyone that he was once fired by the Cleveland Browns.
And he was unfailingly complimentary to the Seahawks, and especially coach Pete Carroll.
But there are some places he will not go. He doesn’t like making comparisons. He doesn’t like talking about matters not clearly in his job description.
And he was unwilling or unable to explain how he and his system have been so successful for so long.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We just try to do what we do and do the best we can. That’s all. I can’t really speak for other teams and what they do and why they change or don’t change. I don’t really know.”