By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) You want your president to act in a presidential manner and you want your head coach to act in a head coachy manner.
Try criticizing Bill Belichick and it will have the same impact of throwing an old Twinkie at battleship. He won’t even notice and if he did he wouldn’t care.
Take the same approach with Tom Coughlin and he might stop to dissect the remark, dismiss the questioner and move on.
The two Super Bowl coaches know how to deal with questions and criticisms and keep their focus. They have thick skin because they won’t let what the public thinks influence the decisions they make for their football teams.
If either coach had spent their time worrying about questions and comments from reporters and commentators, they would become distracted from their jobs and not able to run their teams as efficiently as possible. It’s not that the coaches ignore the commentary, it’s just that they are secure enough in their own knowledge of the game and their ability to prepare a team to compete at its highest level that the impact of outside opinions almost never matters.
Both might welcome an intelligent thought about their team from an outsider. It’s just that those on the outside are very unlikely to think of something helpful that Belichick or Coughlin or some member of their staffs have not thought of first.
Now look at the Bears’ leadership. Lovie Smith does a good job of pretending to have the same kind of persona as Belichick and Coughlin. His third-grade type of analysis – “We begin the third quarter of our season…” along with “Green Bay is our top rival…” and the never-to-be-forgotten “Rex is our quarterback” are all statements designed to say absolutely nothing.
Smith is afraid to think about questions and answer them fully. He doesn’t want to consider what is being asked. He’s much happier tending to his team the way Peter Seller’s Chance the Gardener preferred to tend to his garden in the 1979 movie classic “Being There.” Chance was a simple man who only knew what he heard on television and how to garden. He became very influential when he was hired by a Washington decision maker who thought his gardening talk was insightful political advice.
Smith’s platitudes are anything but insightful. He seems afraid to consider answering serious questions with anything meaningful. He doesn’t want to reveal something an opponent will use against the Bears.
Belichick and Coughlin don’t measure their words so carefully because they are fearful of letting go of any state secret. They answer questions or deflect them and move on.
When they move on, they do so in a very creative manner. Both men will be analyzing and diagnosing their own team and their opponent as they prepare for Super Bowl XLVI. The last time this happened, Coughlin got the best of Belichick. The Giants were not only the more physical team in Super Bowl XLII, they were the more prepared team.
By the time that game kicked off, the Giants knew all the Patriots best plays and were prepared to stop them. One of those plays was the wide receiver screen to Wes Welker. Every time Tom Brady threw that pass during the regular season and the playoffs, Welker was able to make the catch and matriculate the ball down the field for a first down or bigger play.
Coughlin’s Giants knew that play was coming and they played their defensive backs tighter to the line of scrimmage and stopped it in its tracks. Welker did not have the influence on that game that the Patriots had anticipated.
This time around, Coughlin will turn most of his attention to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. He may find a way to limit their production based on what they’ve do so far, but Belichick will probably have new plays for them so they can continue their productivity.
The two coaches will play chess much of the next two weeks so they can get their team to perform at peak levels in Indianapolis. They will give the matter their full attention and both are grand masters.
A coach who is more concerned about questions from the media can never be a grand master.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.