By Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff)
BOSTON (CBS) -- As long as Bill Belichick is the head coach and Tom Brady is the quarterback in New England, they will be subject to scrutiny from the national media. It doesn't mean Belichick will give them any information (and why should he?), but the questions will nonetheless be there.
National media members frequently book their flights to Logan and craft the "perfect" questions as they prepare their Patriots think-pieces and "Belichick On [insert topic here]" click-holes. The questions are bound to happen - and Belichick is bound to deflect, dismiss, and murder them in his own uniquely compelling way, as only he can do on a daily basis.
Many reporters may ask Belichick things out of obligation, knowing full well that he will not only reject you but potentially sigh and snort you into submission for such meaningless nonsense. The writer who hopelessly pressed Belichick on mid-season grades had to have at least gotten a skeptical look from her editor.
Even so, there are still many reporters and national media personalities who somehow aren't aware of Belichick's behavior at press conferences - either that, or they believe they will be the one to buck the trend. But Belichick is never going to entertain any questions related to stats, records, arbitrary grades and awards, injuries, individual players, the past, or the future. It's astonishing that anyone would think they could waltz into Gillette with these fluff questions and expect a substantive response.
It was hilarious to see so many reporters get fed through the woodchipper in trying to question Belichick at his famous (iconic?) "We're on to Cincinnati" presser. Left with a notepad covered in scratch-marks and a trembling writing hand, you're left with "Um...so...what do you need to do to beat...*double-checks opponent*...the Bengals?"
So if you're looking to write a big national story on Belichick or the Patriots, you should consult this survival guide before entering Gillette Stadium. In order to get out unscathed, you need to be prepared. If anyone knows the importance of preparation it's Belichick, and so should you.
Here are some do's and don'ts for national media taking part in a Belichick press conference...
DON'T Ask: About their record this season
The schedule may actually be on Belichick's mind, but he's not going to tell you. All he cares about at that moment is the team he's preparing for that week. And don't ask him about 2007, either. Because it was years ago.
DO Ask: About winning the next game
What do the Patriots need to do to beat (insert upcoming opponent)? You'll get a generic response typical of any coach, but you'll at least get an actual response and Bill probably won't roast you. He'll say they need a full team effort or something along those lines, and you'll have your quote. Win-win.
Speaking of past accomplishments...
DON'T Ask: About any opponents from the past - OR the future
As the unforgettable "We're on to Cincinnati" presser exemplified, Belichick is not interested in talking about last week's game. He's not interested in talking about any games from the past. Don't ask him if he's looking ahead to a tough opponent, either, because he's not. At least he won't tell you that. Instead...
DO Ask: About the current opponent
You shouldn't be allowed into the media room at Gillette if you don't have at least one question about the upcoming game. There's always so much to talk about off the field with Belichick and the Patriots, it wouldn't be surprising that a national reporter would slither in there expecting a back-and-forth on the whatever -Gate the media shoehorned the Patriots into that week/month/year.
Belichick will have plenty to say about the upcoming opponent, so it's best to just stick with that. If you want to write about anything else, save yourself the time and money and just write that at home.
DON'T Ask: For updates on specific injuries
Belichick could retire solely on the dimes he's collected for every time he's had to tell a reporter that something is "between me and the player". Wondering what's up with someone on the injury report? You won't get it from Belichick.
But you will get some material if you...
DO Ask: How the Patriots can overcome injuries
Of course, when you ask Belichick who needs to step up to replace the production of an injured player, you'll get "Everyone". But at least you'll have something to work with and won't have to hire a therapist.
DON'T Ask: About individual stats, records, or any other trivial matters
When a Newsweek writer tried to press Belichick on midseason grades, he delivered a vintage Belichickian smackdown. Most of the local media probably listened to her question and snickered, anticipating the shutdown that was about to take place.
If you have a question about an award or anything else that doesn't affect the actual game, just cross it off your list. Unless, of course, your goal is to be left bleeding in the moonlight after a Belichick beatdown.
DO Ask: About the only stat that matters to him: Winning
If your question has anything to do with winning that particular football game that is happening that particular week, good chance you'll get some kind of answer. Belichick might love winning football games more than his own kids, so there is always a high success rate when asking about it.
DON'T Ask: About off-field controversy or drama about the team
Reporters try it every time. In fairness, their editor may force them to ask Belichick about whatever off-field controversy surrounds the team at the time, knowing full well that they're not going to get what they want. But if you're a reporter asking Belichick on your own volition about things like deflated footballs, headsets, coin tosses, etc., you are wasting your time.
Belichick may talk at length about how headsets work or how he teaches his players the rule book, but the specific controversy about the topic will not be addressed. You're better off just going with your backup questions.
DO Ask: About anything that happens ON the field
Belichick knows everything there is to know about his team and the upcoming opponent when it comes to X's and O's, so he will be ready to fire away if you simply ask him to talk about the team they're facing that week. He'll list all the things they do well and how challenging they are to face. He's basically a human scouting report.
DON'T Ask: About what other coaches said about him or the team
Especially when Belichick faces a loudmouth coach like Rex Ryan, he has to deal with drama-mining dirt-lickers who want to prod him on whatever sludge Rex let spill out of his mouth this time. Rex is bound to bloviate on the Patriots - he even does it when he's not playing them - and Belichick is bound to swat those questions away Dikembe Mutombo-style.
But, there's an alternative...
DO Ask: About what the opposing coach does as an actual coach
As much of a buffoon Rex can be at the podium, he hasn't been the worst head coach and he's given the Patriots lots of trouble in the past. Belichick could talk for hours about Rex's defense and how he runs his team on the field; just don't even bother with the other nonsense. Unless you want Belichick to bludgeon you with a heavy club that has "Ask This!" scrawled on it.
Leave your suggestions for other do's and don'ts of Belichick pressers in the comments. It's my duty to keep this guide growing so national media can't embarrass themselves trying to pull kicker quotes from Lord Hoodie.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Read more from Matt here. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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