PHOENIX — A question from a Patriots website employee produced one of the rare moments of candor from Bill Belichick Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings.
Bill, do you get a lot out of these meetings?
“These meetings?” the coach replied. “No.”
Belichick doesn’t have much use for these meetings, held every March in a warm-weather locale. The owners shoot down his ideas, as they did Tuesday for the second year in a row when they rejected his proposal to allow coaches to use instant replay to challenge any call by the officials. He has no interest in playing in the coaches’ golf outing, kindly offering me his spot.
“Scratch out ‘Bill Belichick,’ put in ‘Ben Volin’ and let it fly,” he quipped.
He’d rather attend a spring training baseball game and feast on a Dodger Dog — as he did Monday — than schmooze with NFL types.
And he certainly has no use for his media obligations. Required by the league to sit at a table and answer questions from the media during a breakfast Tuesday morning, Belichick swatted away questions about Darrelle Revis, free agent defections, Deflategate, and NFL playing rules with impressive authority, even by his standards.
What went into the Revis decision?
Belichick: “It’s NFL free agency. Players leave teams and go to teams in free agency every year. That’s not a big story.”
Did the team ever consider picking up Revis’s option?
Belichick: “It’s NFL free agency. We do what we think is best for our football team.”
How much will it change the way you play defense with Revis locking down one receiver?
Belichick: “I don’t know.”
Can you talk about the contribution Revis made to the Super Bowl team last year?
Belichick: “I’ve talked about him at length. I’ll talk about the players that are on our team.”
He has been difficult, ornery, and elusive. And frankly, not many people seem to mind it.
When you’ve just won your fourth Super Bowl trophy, you can get away with showing up 15 minutes late to Roger Goodell’s speech on Monday, or 20 minutes late to Tuesday’s breakfast. You can saunter around the grounds of the Arizona Biltmore in jeans and flip-flops. You can get away with saying absolutely nothing in a 40-minute media availability.
It’s Bill Belichick’s world, and we’re just living in it. Losing Revis? Whatever. Deflategate? Nonsense. Rule changes? We’ll do whatever they tell us to do, and keep winning 12 games.
His biggest concern these days is changing the name of his boat from “V Rings” to “VI Rings.”
“Yeah, working on that,” he said.
Some other pearls of wisdom from Belichick’s first media session since the day after the Super Bowl:
What do you like about new pass rusher Jabaal Sheard?
“He’s been a productive player.”
What do you like about new tight end Scott Chandler?
“Productive player. We certainly had a lot of trouble with him. We’ll see.”
Does Brandon Browner’s skill set not fit what the Patriots are doing now that Revis is gone?
“You should ask Sean [Payton] and the Saints about that. He’s not on my team.”
Anxious for Deflategate to be finalized?
“Talk to the league about that.”
Can you reflect upon what you and Tom Brady have accomplished over 15 years?
“I think that’s been talked about ad nauseum. Right now I’m really trying to concentrate on getting our team ready for the 2015 season.”
Disappointed that your instant replay proposal won’t pass?
“We’ve played with a lot of variations of replay. Whatever it is, it is. I’m not losing any sleep over it.”
There was some grumbling among a few reporters that Belichick was showing a lot of disrespect and little class Tuesday. But, whatever. No one should expect much insight from NFL coaches during free agency and the predraft period. Belichick’s curt answers are different in tone but not in substance from the clichés spouted by most other coaches. And talking about Revis’s impact on the Patriots last season won’t win games or help his players and fans get over losing their No. 1 cornerback.
“Don’t think there’s any games scheduled any time soon,” Belichick said.
Besides, there’s really only one guy Belichick needs to keep happy, and that man, Robert Kraft, is plenty happy with his coach.
Kraft sees the side of Belichick we don’t. He sees that Belichick still attacks the predraft process with the vigor of a man half his age, attending pro days all across the country, running the drills, breaking down the film while running on the treadmill.
He sees Belichick deeply involve himself in every aspect of the Patriots organization, even at age 62 and with six Super Bowl rings in his collection (four as a head coach in New England, two as an assistant with the Giants).
“He is so thoughtful and manages the details of the business, which are critical, because there are so many things that can happen,” Kraft said Tuesday. “It’s hard for the public to fully understand how many little things can affect the team’s ability — all the logistics and things that relate to practices, travel, cuisine, conditioning, sleep, support.
“So he’s on top of it all, and at the same time we always have good dialogue and he’s a good listener too, and that’s important.
“I’m just so happy to have him coaching our team.”
Belichick doesn’t bother trying to “win” press conferences with toothy smiles and catchy quotes; he doesn’t seem to care about appeasing his NFL contemporaries; and he doesn’t give out much information about his team.
He’s just worried about one thing, whether it’s out here at the owners meetings or back in Foxborough: winning Lombardi Trophies. And that’s the only answer that matters.