The Ultimate One
- Sep 27, 2016
Belichick did / does two things with respect to the refs:One thing about Belichick is for all the complaining in-game about calls you never saw this kind of thing from him - he is always focused on the players and executing. Doc and Morey probably would do well to do the same.
(1) During the pre-game talks that every head coach has with the refs, he identifies things to look for that he's seen with his upcoming opponent and prepares them to better identify and call them. And the man is pretty good at film study, so the few times I've heard this being remarked upon, it's like remarks from anonymous refs saying things like "it's as if he had a crystal ball".
(2) In the actual game, he is relentlessly respectful to the refs. Listening respectfully when they're explaining a call, making sure he keeps a tight sideline that doesn't encroach on the side judge running up and down, telling them "good call" from time to time. He will get a little heated when he feels he's getting the short end of the stick, but that's rare, and exclamations like "what the hell is going on over there?" I can count like on one hand the number times I've seen that directed at an official. At the end of SB46, when the Giants were taking intentional 12-men penalties to run clock in an unsportsmanlike way, he lost his shit over it, but there are just so few of those they stand out in the memory. 19 times out of 20, when he's yelling that, it's to his own players. So the refs basically talk to him as an equal before and during the game, in a very good-natured way.
In short, I don't think Belichick "works the refs" the way we describe NBA coaches doing. The majority of calls in the NFL are obvious must-calls like false starts and offsides, a bunch of the rest are 50/50 judgment calls that he can't really make a case are wrongly decided (e.g. most DPIs), and he goes out of his way to coach his teams to not take penalties like offensive holding such that his teams are usually close to the league lead in fewest penalties conceded.
When I compare to the NBA, there are so many more 50/50 calls happening every game, and it's SO much easier to feel screwed by the general momentum of them, or assume that a good remark or discussion about them will add sympathy or make them more vigilant about calling stuff to your benefit. I don't think it's true - I think a Belichick deferential approach would generally be the right decision - but I'm not sure there's much to learn from how Belichick behaves. If the Celtics players were super zen about every officiating decision, taking everything in stride, would that help them? It'd certainly help Grant "hardwood lawyer" Williams, but I'm not sure it would make much of a difference to the team outcomes in either direction.