PHOENIX — Winning his fifth Super Bowl title gave Bill Belichick the most championships of any head coach in the NFL’s Super Bowl era.
It also, apparently, gave him a case of laryngitis.
Belichick is here at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel to take part in the league’s annual meetings, which run from Sunday to Wednesday. He took in a spring training game Sunday, then arrived at the hotel with Falcons coach Dan Quinn. But he won’t be here for long.
While his fellow AFC head coaches will participate in a media breakfast Tuesday morning, Belichick will be out getting ready for the 2017 draft. A team spokesman said Belichick has a scouting conflict that will prevent him from appearing at the media event. Though we don’t know exactly what the conflict is, there’s a good bet that Belichick will be back east in the Sunshine State, as both the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles are holding their Pro Days on Tuesday.
Of course, the other head coaches will be skipping those Pro Days to fulfill their media obligations, but none of them have five Super Bowl rings, either.
Belichick also didn’t talk at the NFL Combine last month, making the Patriots one of three teams that didn’t hold a news conference (the Saints and Redskins were the others). We pressed Belichick to hold a quick, low-key media gathering with just us and the Boston Herald at the Combine, but he declined.
And that’s fine. We’d love to hear his thoughts about the Stephon Gilmore signing, and the Brandin Cooks trade, and what’s going on with Malcolm Butler and Jimmy Garoppolo, but we all know how those questions will go.
Probably something like this, from last year’s breakfast:
“We’re happy to add all the players that we’ve added to our team.”
“When we’re out there, we’ll see how it goes.”
“Any contract discussions will be between myself and the player.”
So those topics will have to wait for another time.
Belichick has never enjoyed the media breakfast, where he gets peppered with questions from Patriots writers and national media alike. The most interesting thing we learned last year was that he’s on a first-name basis with Kid Rock.
But his laryngitis extends to the actual meetings this year, too. For the second year in a row, the Patriots didn’t propose any new rules for the owners and the competition committee to consider.
This wouldn’t be newsworthy, as Belichick’s disdain for the competition committee is well established.
Except his icy contempt for the committee began to thaw in 2014 and 2015. Perhaps thinking about his legacy and wanting to improve the league that gave him so much, Belichick took an active role in proposing rules. In 2014 he delivered a passionate speech about the need to make the extra point a more competitive play, which led to the NFL moving the extra point back to the 15-yard line last season.
He also got the conversation started about expanding instant replay and adding cameras. Of course, the NFL adopted only one of his actual proposals — adding 5 feet to the top of the goalposts — but he had several bright ideas, and the league has warmed up to many of them, eventually. Belichick even appeared in the annual coaches’ photo in March 2015, a rarity for him.
But we all know what happened shortly after that. The NFL handed down its heavy-handed Deflategate penalties in May 2015, and Belichick checked out.
He has declined to propose any new rules for the past two years. He skipped the coaches’ photo last year, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t skip it again this time.
Belichick roamed the hotel grounds last year while Roger Goodell gave his keynote speech. He was especially bland at last year’s media breakfast, showing up 15 minutes late and saying absolutely nothing of substance. And now, he’s not even hanging around for the entirety of the meetings.
Belichick has never been a part of the competition committee, or on any of the coaches’ subcommittees. It’s a shame that the NFL’s brightest and most successful coach has such a rocky relationship with the league.
Eventually, we’ll hear from Belichick again. It might not be until the NFL Draft, when he typically holds press conferences at the end of each night. The Patriots currently don’t hold a pick until the third round, so we might not hear from him until Day 2.
Or we might not hear from him at all. Belichick has been writing his own rules this offseason. It’s part of the reward of winning a fifth Super Bowl ring.