The craziness over the Patriots signing of their new 3rd string Quarterback Tim Tebow has died down a little after reaching the high water mark (for now at least) on Tuesday when it seemed that the tiny burg of Foxboro, Massachusetts became the hot spot for news in the United States.

The Patriots, more precisely Bill Belichick went into the typical “Belichickian” mode of giving curt, totally unsatisfactory (for the assembled media guys at least) answers that the seasoned beat writers of Foxboro are well used to. Most probably already had the various answers written because they’ve heard them all before.


Bill Belichick and former Bruins coach Pat Burns share a sense of history of their sport and more. (FILE:USPresswire)

From the bemused smirk upon entering the room, “in honesty, we’ve been in front of bigger crowds than this,” to the bland description of Tebow, “He’s talented and smart and works hard,” Belichick was doing his level best to put a damper on the circus that engulfed the New York Jets last season.

Asked about how Tebow would be used, Belichick gruffly answered, “I don’t know, we’ll see what happens”. He finally said, “I’ve answered that question twice.” And best, “we’ve already talked enough about him.”

This led to a multitude of stories stating that Bill Belichick doesn’t care what you write or think about him, that he only cares about making his team better.

Bunk I say.

Belichick for sure will put his or any of his players interests second to the team’s at all times but don’t think for a second that he doesn’t care what is written about him.

Right Tom Jackson?

Parallel With Hockey’s Burns- Belichick is a huge fan of the game and ask any media member who covers New England regularly and they’ll tell you that on occasion when Belichick talks about the history of the game, his answers become longer and much more interesting.

He is well aware of his legacy in NFL history, just watch the NFL Films clip when he visits Giants stadium for the final time.

While I don’t know Belichick and have never spoken to him, I did know – and was good friends with – the late former Boston Bruins coach Pat Burns who was much like Belichick in the manner that he was perceived by the press. Burns, like Belichick, was thought of as a curmudgeon, a gruff, dour nightmare to deal with in terms of the media.

Like Belichick, Burns early in his coaching career had some issues with the press and it shaped his attitude towards them right or wrong for the remainder of his career. Also like Belichick he deflected praise from himself to the players when they won and took the brunt of the criticism when they lost.

He would always protect his players publicly but could cut them to the quick with just a glare and took no nonsense from anyone. Once at a pre-game skate in Raleigh while coaching the New Jersey Devils, he and I chatted at the bench while the team was going thru drills. Sensing his momentary distraction, the players let up, ever so briefly and future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur let in a couple of easy shots. “Excuse me a moment,” Burns said.

BB-Burns.jpgBurns shared a similar personality as Belichick and a similar way in handling the media.

Blowing his whistle and skating to center ice, Burns glared at his team at both ends of the arena, to sheepish glances at the ice from the players. He never uttered a word, he didn’t have to. Brodeur finally looked up and said to the silent Burns, “I can hear you yelling all the way down here.” Play then resumed with a heightened sense of urgency. If any Patriots fans have taken in a training camp practice, you’ve seen Belichick do much the same thing.

Love of the League History- The only 3-time Coach of the Year with three different Original Six teams, Burns was well aware of how he was viewed in the press but would never change his manner in dealing with them exactly like Belichick does.

Did it bother him? Most definitely, although very few people were allowed to see it. However, I know he saw and heard everything that was written about him. But another thing the two coaches shared was a love of the history of their respective sports.

He was never one to speak about himself, but ask a question on hockey history and be prepared to sit for a while and be regaled with stories of players and times and some hilarious anecdotes.

Pat Burns funny? You bet, he was the nicest friendliest guy in the room. He was a practical joker of epic proportions and would laugh even louder when he was the butt of the jokes. Think Belichick is any different? Watch the same NFL Films piece in “A Football Life” and see him show up to Randy Moss’ Halloween Masquerade Party dressed as a pirate.

Burns loved the passion for the sport here in Boston and loved talking hockey “about the Broons” with average fans he came across in Laconia, NH not far from his house in Gilmanton.

Indeed, after finally winning the Holy Grail of hockey, the Stanley Cup with the Devils, I – like hundreds of family and friends that night – left him a voice mail with congratulations. Early the next morning, a slightly groggy Burns called. “Hey buddy, WE DID IT!”

Surprised, perhaps shocked is a better description, I asked him if instead of talking to me if he should be off doing a ton of press interviews? “Nah, they can wait. This morning it’s about thanking family and friends for sticking with us through the season.”   Not wanting to hold him up, I asked one more question, “So how does it feel to know your name will be on the Cup?”

He laughed, “Going to be written up there with all the greats…” he said. “Forever and ever. Pretty cool eh?”

After his coaching career was cut short by the cancer that eventually would take his life, I asked him once what he thought his chances were that he’d eventually find himself in the NHL’s Hall of Fame. He sighed, “I certainly hope so, but I don’t have control over that.” Asked if he would change anything in his career, he said, “Not a thing.”

So while many people may think that Bill Belichick doesn’t care what’s written about him, I doubt that is true. He’ll put it on the back burner, and put the team first as he always has, but if you believe that, then look towards history.

I’m sure he’d probably say, “We’re going to do what’s in the best interest of our team.” I’m guessing, like Burns, a thought like “Pretty cool eh?” will probably be somewhere in the back of his mind as well.


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