New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick is known for saying almost nothing publicly.
He’s the anti-Rex Ryan. If Belichick were on ESPN, the network would tank in the ratings. If Belichick were to go on Comedy Central with Jon Stewart, Stewart would be the only one talking.
Belichick made grunting, eye rolling and mumbling an NFL art form.
So when we set out to analyze how his team responded to this silly ‘controversy’ from last Sunday’s Pats-Colts game known as “deflategate,” it’s worth looking at how much he said at his news conference today.
Wait, Belichick held a news conference that wasn’t proscribed and required by the league? That in itself screams crisis management, and, good crisis management.
If you don’t answer your critics forcefully, they will take over and run the narrative.
In a Bloomberg news service account of his comments — he denied knowing anything about playing the Colts with advantageous [theoretically, anyway] under-inflated footballs — he said he did not order it, never discussed it with staff or players, and was completely in the dark.
But here’s the TD pass: Belichick gave an 18-game season’s worth of comments in one news conference. He’s quoted on five or six phrases in the Bloomberg story. He’s suddenly President Obama arguing for immigration reform.
A good question is whether this Bill Belichick is an act, or the usual Bill Belichick is. Because they are certainly two different people under the same hoodie. And those who know him, say he’s a funny, thoughtful, witty guy. The public Bill Belichick is the act.
His willingness to speak to reporters today — even if owner Robert Kraft or others suggested it — as well as how much he said, leverages his usual silence in his favor. We’d expect Belichick to fumble, mumble and never answer a straight question with a straight answer.
But today, he was clear, focused and verbose. That shows he’s taking this mess seriously and wants to get past it so he can plan for the Super Bowl.
Whether or not it’s successful crisis management remains to be seen. This ‘crisis’ won’t end until the NFL hands down any penalties resulting from its investigation. But Belichick is nothing if not smart, and he’s trying his best to minimize the penalties and turn off the criticism.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.