When opportunity arises, Belichick goes all out to assist his assistants

When opportunity arises, Belichick goes all out to assist his assistants

When Bob Quinn got the GM job with the Detroit Lions last January, there was one thing he believed carried the day.

Bill Belichick’s recommendation. "Above and beyond" is how Quinn termed Belichick's effort to get the Lions' search committee to see Quinn as a valuable addition.

This is the Belichick that’s rarely discussed. The one who rewards employees who dealt with merciless expectations, year-round, round-the-clock demands and drone-like existences by doing whatever he can to help them advance.

I asked Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday morning about using Belichick as a sounding board as McDaniels goes through the interview process for head coaching vacancies with the Rams, 'Niners and Jaguars.

"He's the best," said McDaniels. "He's very unselfish. He cares for us all and if there's something that we need or that we'd ask of him I’m certain that he would do it, whether it’s advice, wisdom, counsel, what have you. He's not only somebody that we take our cue from in terms of getting ready for the next opponent, but he's a mentor in a lot of different areas of our lives. And this would be no different."

Belichick is obviously an old hand at this. During his New England tenure, he’s said goodbye to advancing coaches Charlie Weis (Notre Dame), Romeo Crennel (Cleveland), Bill O’Brien (Penn State), McDaniels (Denver) and departing personnel men like Quinn, John Robinson (Titans), Scott Pioli (Kansas City), Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta), Jason Licht (Tampa Bay) and Lionel Vital (Ravens).

The one messy departure Belichick experienced came with Eric Mangini, who took over as Jets head coach in 2006. Mangini -- like Belichick, a Wesleyan grad -- went from Cleveland Browns ballboy with Belichick to Crennel’s successor at defensive coordinator. Mangini and Belichick had an interesting relationship, almost akin to the one Belichick had with Bill Parcells. Mangini gave Belichick more pushback than other assistants and, in 2005, Belichick elevated Mangini to defensive coordinator rather than lose him to Cleveland where Crennel was considering hiring him. After the 2005 season, Mangini interviewed during the playoffs with the Jets and accepted the job while the playoffs were still ongoing. A no-no. Mangini also recruited fellow Pats coaches and players to go with him to the Jets. The cold front turned into an Ice Age after the 2007 opener between the Patriots and Jets . . . from which, of course, Spygate was spawned. 

That one instance of rancor -- while easily recalled -- is an extreme outlier. Belichick busts his ass to help guys get ahead. As long as the effort is rewarded with focus and effort through to the finish line.

"I couldn't ask for people to mentor me any better than he's done, [owner Robert Kraft has] done or [team president] Jonathan [Kraft]. They are there to offer anything they can as a resource to help the people that are working for them and I hope they know how much we appreciate that," said McDaniels.

McDaniels did acknowledge that one doesn't want to overdo it with asking for advice. Asking Belichick if he had an opinion on the public schools around San Francisco, for instance, might be pushing it.

"Yeah, you just want to be careful how much you're doing that because there's a balance," he said. "But they are always there for us and I really appreciate that. It's not an easy thing for anyone to be involved in because you're totally invested in this team and this year and that’s where I’m at now.”

The process, McDaniels said, is easily handled.

"We've been trained to switch gears and really tie our focus into the thing that's at hand," said McDaniels. "If it's a work day then we know where our focus is gonna lie. It's gonna be on the Texans this week and we're looking forward to getting ready to go."

Steelers Brown sells out team with Facebook Live video from locker room

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Steelers Brown sells out team with Facebook Live video from locker room

Showing a knee-buckling lack of self-awareness, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown put up 13:35 of footage on Facebook Live after his team’s 18-16 win over Kansas City on Sunday night.It was a weird betrayal of the team’s privacy by one of its star players. Brown, allowed viewers to see live (and on tape until it’s inevitably taken down) that, while head coach Mike Tomlin was around a bank of lockers addressing what Tomlin presumed was his entire team, Brown was mugging in front of his phone for a growing online audience.The video starts with Brown and teammates having fun in front of their lockers. As the team is called together for a postgame prayer, Brown keeps the camera rolling. After the prayer, Tomlin made a statement.“When you get to this point in the journey, not a lot needs to be said,” said Tomlin. “Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s start our preparations. We spotted those a******* a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We gonna  touch down at  4 o’clock in the f****** morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for that ass. But you ain’t gotta tell them we coming. Because some of us might not like the damn (woofkisses?) The chest pounding.  Keep a low profile.”While Tomlin was issuing that low-profile request, Brown rolled on. Another Steeler then spoke up saying, “Keep cool on social media, this is about us, nobody else.”Finally, what sounded like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger addressed the team saying of Foxboro, “That’s a lion’s den we’re going into this week. It’s a lion’s den. Ive been there, a lot of us have been there. Keep your mouth shut.”While people might fan themselves over Tomlin calling the Patriots a*******, that’s benign and likely will be matched in private by Patriots coaches this week.What’s staggering is that a player of Brown’s ability and seeming intelligence would be so self-absorbed as to be agog at putting on a video show for Facebook followers at the expense of his coaches, teammates and franchise.  

Steelers survive, advance to visit Patriots despite red-zone woes

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Steelers survive, advance to visit Patriots despite red-zone woes

For the third time in the Belichick-Brady Era, the Patriots will be trying to step over the Steelers to get to a Super Bowl.Pittsburgh went into Kansas City on Sunday night and outlasted a breathtakingly sluggish Chiefs team 18-16.If you spent the day stewing about the Patriots adequate-against-Osweiler-but-probably-nobody-else offensive performanceSaturday night, maybe Sunday night calmed your nerves.Despite having a more than 2-to-1 edge in total yards entering the fourth, Pittsburgh had managed just six field goals from kicker Chris Boswell. Their best chance at getting six on the board was squelched when Ben Roethlisberger got picked at the goal line in the first half.That Kansas City was even in the game with a chance to tie it in the final three minutes has to be humbling for the Steelers. They dominated every statistical category of consequence while the Chiefs played aimlessly behind Alex Smith, who may be a cut above Brock Osweiler but is definitely a cut below every other quarterback in the Divisional Playoff round.  On this night, Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t much better.Still, Pittsburgh’s got the best 1-2 punch in the NFL at running back and receiver -- LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown were both at 101 yards after halftime -- and New England’s entire defensive game plan will revolve around corralling those two and getting them horizontal.The Patriots beat a Roethlisberger-less team in October, 27-16. Landry Jones was at quarterback that day.The Steelers were in the Patriots’ red zone four times. They came away with 10 points. They were inside the Patriots’ 40 six times and finished with 16.“In an offense like that with a bunch of very explosive players, one slant can turn into a touchdown so you have to be really careful in your coverages,”defensive end Rob Ninkovich told me after that game. "There’s not just one go-to guy. They got a running back that can catch it out of the backfield and make plays (Le’Veon Bell). [Antonio Brown] can catch it anywhere on the field and make plays. You just have to make sure with a guy like [Landry Jones] to have him make the throws. It’s hard in this league to be perfect. So to have him sit back there and try to make all the throws was what we chose and the secondary did a great job.”Bell and Brown combined for 268 yards from scrimmage against the Patriots. The Steelers scored one touchdown.The ever-dawdling Bell, who practically walks to the line of scrimmage then skips around like a little kid with a full bladder before finding a crease to exploit, is where it will start for the Patriots.If the Patriots are going to go to their seventh Super Bowl since Belichick’s hire, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Donta Hightower and Elandon Roberts – their two best interior linemen and their two inside linebackers – will be the ones who start the bus. The overwhelming majority of Bell’s runs are between the guards so building a wall and out-patienting him as he probes for a crease is Job One.The Chiefs weren’t stout enough at the line of scrimmage and Bell brutalized them. It will, of course, fall to more than just those four. Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, Vincent Valentine and Shea McLellin will also be in focus. Run-support from safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty will be a part of it as well, but that’s where the Steelers become tough to deal with.Once Bell’s established himself, the Steelers can start to work play-action and get Brown into space. Creep too far and the numbers on the back end could wind up being insufficient to deal with one of the NFL’s fastest players.That’s why you can expect the Patriots to not overexert themselves with pressures and blitzes against Ben Roethlisberger. They’ll want as many back in coverage as possible to deal with Brown and some of the other Steelers speed merchants.The Patriots have dealt with Pittsburgh’s defense enough to know where to attack. LeGarrette Blount ran for 127 yards on 24 carries in the first meeting and Tom Brady went 19 for 26 for 222 with two touchdowns.The Patriots had Gronk that day and the Steelers didn’t have Roethlisberger. That tips the scales some when measuring the differences. But after watching Pittsburgh kick six field goals and keep afloat an underperforming Chiefs team, the issue that dogged them in October -- red zone offense -- looks like its still around.And they are going to visit a team that does that led the NFL in preventing points.