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Bill Belichick

In case you are wondering if Tom Brady has lost the common touch

His $20 million mansion has a moat.  Of course it kind of makes sense as Yahoo! Sports puts it.

And the moat should keep the mounted infantry attacks on the Patriots quarterback to a minimum, which should help Bill Belichick sleep better at night.

While Brady is extremely well paid, Gisele makes even more than he does (some have called her the last of the supermodels) so I am assuming the mortgage payments are going to be made.  That being said I remember being in Boston when he was first starting off his career and they had this magazine article about how he was just like everyone else.  I am just assuming that this is no longer the case, unless moats are much more common in your part of the world than they are in mine.

What went wrong in Denver

Michael Lombardi writes that ownership didn’t buy into McDaniels plan

When Belichick was hired in Cleveland, Modell had no idea what he had, or what Belichick could eventually become. He never thought in three dimensions, or hired with a plan; he just hoped for success, in large part because Modell based every decision on what the media and the fans thought. Modell had a wonderful heart. He wanted to make his fan base happy, therefore hiring Belichick after winning a Super Bowl with the New York Giants was great, and firing him after the fans revolted was also great — never mind he just extended his contract.

Belichick’s success in New England was due to his experience in Cleveland — that Modell financed and Patriots owner Robert Kraft now enjoys. Any time a team hires a young coach or a young executive, one must think in a three-dimensional way. Does he have the aptitude to be a successful leader? Does he have the willingness to grow? Do we have the strength to handle the turbulent times?

Modell paid for Belichick’s education as a head coach, an education that has to be lived, not learned. There are no schools to attend to be a successful coach in the NFL. And just because an assistant works for a successful coach does not ensure success when it comes time for a promotion to the head coach’s chair.

When the Broncos hired McDaniels and turned over all the power to him, they had to understand there would likely be tough times. But did they?

As an outsider looking in, when the Broncos hired McDaniels, I thought they were willing to change the direction of their organization. Having spent a brief time volunteering my services as a consultant to Mike Shanahan, I saw firsthand Denver’s ridiculous spending on players, the failure to have a personnel department, and the constant approach to repair as opposed to rebuild. Therefore, when the Broncos fired Shanahan following the 2008 season and decided to change the course, eliminating the free-spending of the past, the move signaled to me that they wanted to try the Patriot Way, which centers on building a total team through the draft, cut spending in free agency and develop coaches and players from within.

Initially, it made sense to me, as most owners tend to hire the opposite of what they just fired. Firing McDaniels 28 games into his tenure as the head coach is bad for both parties. It wasn’t enough time for the team to be fully developed, or enough time for McDaniels to grow into the job.

And therein lies the problem — the Broncos wanted to change, but were not committed to change. Once they slipped into a different world, they longed to be back to their old ways of doing things. They really love the Bronco Way.

Never mind they have only won one playoff game in the last 12 years. Never mind they lack talent on the field, or are going to be paying three head coaches as a result of McDaniels’ firing. Never mind they might have to take two steps back to move forward. Clearly, this move means the Broncos long for their old days, and potentially bringing John Elway back into the organization signals how much they miss those days.

‘We love you, this won’t change a thing’

This is a great story in ESPN about Brendan Burke telling the rest of the Burke family that he is gay.

Brendan and Brian Burke Your dad thinks through everything. Dad is big, confident and continuously radiates a persona that is rough, gruff, unrelenting and unapologetic. He has a cold, expressionless poker face straight out of a Clint Eastwood movie. Yet, he does this all with the most subtle of Irish smirks that says there is more behind this thick skin. And there is. He calls you "Moose" because you have always been a big kid. He cares very deeply about you and your happiness. You say he has always been there when you needed him. And he has a great sense of humor. Imagine that.

But on this night in 2007, you are petrified of your dad. Because you, Brendan Burke, at 19 years old, are about to tell your dad, Mr. Testosterone, that you are gay.

This is how he told the family.

It is Dec. 30, 2007, and you are in Vancouver with Dad for the holidays to break the news. His new family lives in Vancouver, and his Ducks are in town. You go to the Canucks-Ducks game, and, obviously, Dad is pretty emphatic about wanting to beat Vancouver, his former employer. You root like hell for the Ducks to win so he is in a good mood. But the Ducks lose 2-1. Of course, Daniel Sedin scores a goal against Anaheim, and his brother Henrik adds two assists to help beat Dad, the man who traded for the twins’ draft rights in 1999 while he was running the Canucks.

You almost don’t tell your dad and stepmom as a result of the loss. But you are flying back to Boston the next morning and you want to tell them in person. You feel as if you are going to throw up as you pace the hallways of their condominium. Just as your stepmom is about to go to bed, your younger sister, Molly, grabs you by the wrist and directs you where to go and gives you a look that says, "You can do it. Get it done now. I’m here for you."

Just a week before, your older sister, Katie, is the first family member you tell. You had targeted telling your family at Thanksgiving but got salmonella and spent the entire week in the hospital. So you push back your announcement to Christmas.

You are driving home from a family event in Marlboro, Mass., when you decide you want to say it during the car ride. Finally, after a 45-minute ride, you pass the city limits sign of Boston and you know you have to tell Katie. It is incredibly difficult, but your sister is very supportive. Of course she is, you tell yourself, she’s Katie. That same night, you tell Molly and your mom. Everyone is great. Mom tells you she isn’t surprised and had expected it from the time you were a little kid. Moms.

You tell your brother, Patrick, a day or two later. Patrick turns off the car blaring "The Hold Steady" CD, and you tell him as you are walking out to the car to bring in bags. Patrick, like Dad, never one to be fazed, says something along the lines of, "I love you. This doesn’t change anything. Now pick up that suitcase and bring it inside."

But, now, telling your secret to Dad is another story. Molly’s reassuring hand guides you to the couch for the moment of truth. It’s time to tell Dad, a most public example of hockey machismo, that you are gay.

Finally, you say it. Awkwardly. You basically stumble along trying not to make it a big deal before just blurting out, "And I love you guys and wanted to tell you that I’m gay."

There is a brief silence.

Dad is surprised when you tell him that you are gay. He never suspected at all.

Your stepmom speaks first: "OK, Brendan, that’s OK." And gives you a reassuring smile. Then your dad says, "Of course, we still love you. This won’t change a thing."

Your dad and stepmom both get up and hug you and say they love you. You and your dad then sit there alone for about 15 more minutes watching hockey. Your heart rate is still at a snow-shoveling level. You then hug Dad again, and you go to bed.

The relationship never changed after that.

Whatever happens in your life, whatever career path you choose, you know Dad is in your corner. His long shadow of a hockey résumé that once looked like a crutch might now prove to be just the thing you and others need — a powerful and eloquent voice shouting from the mountaintops.

This is far and away more than what you personally expected from your hockey-famous Dad as you prepared coming out to him. When people ask you about your dad’s reaction to your Vancouver sit-down, you initially say, "He’s been great, but I don’t think we’ll see him at any gay pride parades any time soon. But he has been really supportive."

So, you are startled this past summer when you get a call from Dad saying, "Hey, Toronto Pride is this weekend, you should fly up." So, sure enough, you fly up, and you and Dad go to the Toronto Pride Parade together.

If someone had told you before coming out that your dad, Brian Burke, would be attending a gay pride parade with you, you wouldn’t have believed it. You never suspected Dad would disown you or anything like that, but the way he has handled it and the way he talks about it now has, honestly, really moved you. He was a little awkward about it at first. Today, he doesn’t even think twice about it.

It’s a good story and sadly not all parents reacted the way the Burke family did.

I’ll leave the last word to Brian Burke from the story, "I hope the day comes, and soon, when this is not a story."

Kyle Orton will do fine…

For those of us who are trying to tell ourselves that things in Denver will be fine without Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels will be great, here is are some stats to think about.

  • Super Bowl wins for Mike Shanahan without John Elway: 0.
  • Super Bowl wins for Chuck Noll without Terry Bradshaw: 0.
  • Super Bowl wins for George Seifert without Steve Young or Joe Montana: 0.
  • Super Bowl wins for Jimmy Johnson without Troy Aikman: 0.
  • Super Bowl wins for Tom Landry without Roger Staubach: 0.
  • Championships for Paul Brown without Otto Graham: 0.
  • Super Bowl wins for Tony Dungy without Peyton Manning: 0.
  • Super Bowl wins for Bill Belichick without Tom Brady: 0.

Don Shula seemed to be the exception who proved the rule although in Miami, they did not have a RB or much of  a defense.   Not a lot of Super Bowl titles are won with the Trent Dilfers of the world.

Stay Classy Coach

Michael Silver has a great column on the lack of social skills shown by many in the Bill Belichick coaching tree.

It’s the latest testament to Mangini’s apparent lack of tact and people skills, personality traits he honed under his estranged mentor, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Like two other Belichick disciples, new Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and neophyte Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, Mangini has marked his arrival at a new organization this offseason by alienating established leaders while projecting a self-assuredness that borders on arrogance.

With three Super Bowl titles as a head coach and a prior record of success as a brainy defensive coordinator, Belichick, a future Hall of Famer, can get away with his power trip. Whether Mangini, Pioli and McDaniels are able to pull it off will depend upon how many football games their respective teams win, something that often depends upon the men in uniform buying into the program.

In the meantime, in Cleveland, Kansas City and Denver, the new guys in charge seem to be consumed with winning mind games, a strategy I’m not so sure will serve them well over the long haul.

In Denver, McDaniels’ sloppy handling of his interactions with Jay Cutler after an unsuccessful attempt to trade him at the start of free agency led to the loss of a franchise quarterback, largely because the 33-year-old coach was obsessed with demonstrating his unquestioned authority.

In K.C., Pioli’s arrival as the all-powerful general manager after years as Belichick’s right-hand personnel man was soon followed by a less-publicized incident involving a star player. According to Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock, perennial Pro Bowl guard and locker-room leader Brian Waters  asked to be traded or released after becoming offended by the arrogant attitudes of Pioli and his newly hired coach, Todd Haley.

Waters, a source told Whitlock, flew to Kansas City in February specifically to meet with the new GM and coach in an effort to become familiar with their leadership plans. The source said Pioli told Waters he had no interest in meeting and that Haley began a hallway conversation with the player by proclaiming that 22 guys off the street could win two games, as the Chiefs had in ’08.

Mangini, fresh off a 1-4 finish with the Jets that got him fired after three seasons – he had a 23-26 overall record (including a playoff loss) in New York – arrived in Cleveland with a similar swagger. One of his first moves was to orchestrate the firing of director of pro personnel T.J. McCreight, the highest-ranking personnel man remaining after Lerner’s dismissal of general manager Phil Savage, and one of the people who’d interviewed to replace Savage. (Mangini, hired while the GM job was still open, successfully lobbied Lerner to choose Ravens personnel executive George Kokinis.)

McCreight, a source said, was called into the office of team president Mike Keenan, who pulled out cell-phone records showing that McCreight had engaged in conversations with reporters – an act frowned upon by the paranoid Mangini. McCreight explained that speaking with the media was among the duties with which he’d been entrusted by Savage, but he was nonetheless terminated; he has since been hired as the Cardinals’ director of pro personnel.

I hate defending Bill Belichick but he has always treated players well.  Before he learned how to do this, he flamed out in Cleveland and left there with not many Christmas cards from the organization or the players.   It may work in the short term but players play for a coach they respect and who they think respects them.  Witness the success that Mike Smith had in Atlanta doing the exact opposite that the Belichick coaching tree is trying to do.  He respected the veterans, listened to their input, and when the going got tough, they believed in their coach.

Looking outside football, contrast this with how Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Motorsports treats people

In 25 years of racing in NASCAR’s top series, Hendrick has built a powerhouse organization of 500-plus employees who have a fierce loyalty to their boss. They love working for “Mr. H.” and put 100-percent effort into job performance. If the grass is possibly greener elsewhere, few ever bother finding out.

Steve Letarte started as a high schooler stocking the parts room and grew up to be Jeff Gordon’s crew chief. Gustafson came aboard in the chassis shop when he was 24 and was Busch’s crew chief six years later. Chad Knaus started as a tire changer on Gordon’s original “Rainbow Warriors” pit crew, left briefly for a bigger job elsewhere, then returned to build Jimmie Johnson’s three-time championship-winning team from scratch.

Even Tony Eury Jr. has come full cycle. He spent childhood summers sweeping floors and polishing cars at Hendrick with his grandfather, Robert Gee. When Earnhardt chose HMS in 2007 over every other team in the industry, Earnhardt used this example to demonstrate his affection for Hendrick: When Gee, one of the first employees at All-Star Racing (now Hendrick Motorsports) had aged well past his ability to perform as a fabricator, Hendrick let him continue to work.

He treats his employees as family – firing Casey Mears, a close friend of Hendrick’s late son, Ricky, was a gut-wrenching business decision – and goes out of his way to offer a helping hand.

Sidelined several weeks with a fast-spreading sinus infection that kept him away from the track, Hendrick returned for last week’s All-Star race on a scaled-back schedule. Thursday, he was still making his rounds at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, reconnecting with people he had not seen in several weeks. When an industry veteran updated Hendrick on an ailing family member, Hendrick said to him, “Tell me if there’s anything I can do to help.”

That kind of attention is what separates Hendrick from the other car owners. Of course Joe Gibbs and Richard Childress and Jack Roush have good employee relationships, but none have established the kind of companywide adoration that Hendrick receives from his race team, his automotive organization and virtually everyone inside the Cup garage, including his competition.

Who would you rather work for?

A New Era Starts in Denver

Charles Robinson writes in Yahoo! Sports about new coach Josh McDaniel and new QB Kyle Orton.

kyleorton1 “The distance you throw the ball down the field, to me at times it can be very overrated,” he said. “I’m worried about accuracy. I’m concerned with them reading the plays the right way, getting it to the people that need to have it on time. For the amount of times you throw the ball 60 yards in a season, I think that’s significantly overrated, unless you’re a team that’s going to throw 10 of those passes a game, which we’re not.”

McDaniels doesn’t say this in a cocky or naïve fashion – two labels that were tattooed on his forehead by some media during the Cutler fallout. Instead, he says it with a few core beliefs when it comes to Orton.

First, in four years in the league, Orton has been given the chance for realistic progress only twice: first as a rookie in 2005, and then again last season as Chicago’s primary starter. And both times, areas of his game became appreciably better. Second, Orton is still young (26), and McDaniels sees room for every area of his game to grow – be it mechanics, decision-making, defensive recognition and so on.

“We think we can make him better,” McDaniels says. “We think we can make him a really competitive, solid quarterback in our system. I’m never going to think otherwise. Everything can get better. He can improve in every area. If [a quarterback] ever stops believing he can get better at something, then he’s lost an edge.”

He says this with supreme confidence. He never lacks for that. It’s a byproduct of being the son of legendary Ohio high school coach Thom McDaniels, and then shimmying up the coaching ladder during his 20s under the tutelage of Nick Saban and Bill Belichick.

He has stolen volumes of knowledge from all of them. Preparation and detail from his father, like knowing that when a player watches film, he should be just as concerned with everything going on in the picture as he is with the activity surrounding himself. Relentless work ethic from Saban, who expected almost scientific precision in practice and games. And the ability to mold and tie together all aspects of coaching, motivation and leadership from Belichick.