It's not very often that we get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in Foxboro so any time the curtain is lifted an inch, it's worth a look.
That's why ESPN's recent story on Bill O'Brien's first week of game prep as head coach of Penn State is so interesting. Just seven months removed from serving as Patriots offensive coordinator in Super Bowl XLVI, O'Brien gave ESPN access to everything -- team meetings, coaches meetings, pregame locker room ... everything -- leading up to their game against Ohio University. (Penn State lost the game, 24-14.)
It's not an all-access pass to Gillette Stadium, but it might be the next best thing. The way in which O'Brien prepared the Nittany Lions showed that he's still very much a product of Bill Belichick's system.
One nugget from the piece told how O'Brien handles his scout team, which he calls the Dirty Show:
What's with the name? O'Brien borrowed it from his former employer, the New England Patriots, where linebackers coach Pepper Johnson is "without a doubt, the best scout team coach ever," O'Brien told the staff.
"Every day, they had a different chant," O'Brien said. "They would intercept Tom Brady and spike it in his face. Pepper called it the Dirty Show. We'll call both sides of the ball the Dirty Show."
The staff comes up with 33 players to take a role in the Dirty Show. Some players will swing between the "twos" -- the backups -- and the Dirty Show. To O'Brien, that also will lessen the blow.
"Make it a fun deal," O'Brien said, "not, 'You guys stink and you're going to the scout team.' We've still got to get more reps and you guys are going to help us get more reps.'"
The piece also noted that O'Brien tries to limit his use of Belichick anecdotes, but recalled one in particular as he was watching Ohio's defense with his offensive coaches.
As O'Brien watched the Ohio defense with his offensive staff, O'Brien told a story from 2008, his first season as a position coach with the Patriots. O'Brien handled the wide receivers.
He said, "Bill used to tell them, 'You got two jobs -- get open, and catch the ball. I don't give a f--- whether you block.'
"And then," O'Brien said, laughing, "I'd have to go in there and get them to block."
As a former honor student at Belichick University, O'Brien has pounded into his players' skulls the fundamental rules that he learned in New England. They are:
1. Know your role
2. Do your job
To read the full article by Ivan Maisel, here's the link.