Matter Chatter

A Tale of Two Press Conferences

rex and bill

Much has been written and said about how New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick conducts his press conferences and interviews. His answers are stale, monotone, repetitive and downright annoying to the press in the room and viewers at home. The “Hooded One” only reveals what he wants known about his football team – no more, no less. The sports media in New England and across the country will complain for years long after Belichick retires about his approach to speaking with the press, but one thing for certain is that the man never shares more than what he wants to say. Some people take it personally, as if Belichick feels that he’s above answering questions, while others see it for what it is: a way to avoid giving any revealing information to competitors or providing any “bulletin board material” to teams on the Patriots’ schedule. 

This media philosophy extends to Patriots players, who very rarely step out of line and say anything negative about opposing teams or players. Again, this drives some of the media crazy, but as far as PR policies go, it’s a good one. The coach and players may not provide interesting sound bites, but they communicate what’s necessary and just about always remain on-message and non-controversial. 

On the other end of the spectrum are the New York Jets and outspoken head coach Rex Ryan. During a New York radio interview in 2009, Ryan famously quipped, “I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick’s, you know, rings.” New York-area and nationwide media drooled all over the quote and were refreshed to have a head coach that would speak his mind. Ryan was cocky, brash and loud – a perfect foil to Belichick. 

Fast forward to last Friday night, when a few controversial coaching decisions left many fans of the Jets scratching their heads. At the post-game press conference, Ryan became agitated with the questions and the persistence of some of the reporters in the room, snapping at them, bickering with them and even turning his back on them to deliver some answers. Coach Ryan let the media get the better of him, and as a result, is now being derided across sports and mainstream media alike for what many are calling a media meltdown. 

Coach Ryan lost control of both his message and his temper and came across looking like pretty silly. Call me a homer if you like, but Belichick would never let a press conference get out of control like this, even if he made a decision as confusing as Ryan’s and was pressed about it. (In fact, Coach Belichick did make a couple of questionable decisions in Monday’s loss to the Detroit Lions.) While Patriots fans may not like how Belichick answers his questions, at least he controls his message, shares what he wants to share and doesn’t make the franchise look bad by turning a simple press conference into a circus. As a PR guy, that method of communication is music to my ears.