National Football League
Inside Bill Belichick's Friday pressers: When monotone Bill becomes monologue Bill
National Football League

Inside Bill Belichick's Friday pressers: When monotone Bill becomes monologue Bill

Updated Jan. 26, 2024 12:37 p.m. ET

Imagine getting the chance to enroll in a course called "Football’s past, present and future with Bill Belichick." That’s how it feels to serve as the New England Patriots coach’s audience during his Friday press conferences.

With rumors swirling that Belichick might be fired as soon as next week, this Friday’s press conference might just be his last as coach of the Patriots. So there’s no better time to celebrate Friday Bill.

There might not be a better living football historian than Belichick. When he wants to be, he can be an incomparable football history teacher, which makes sense because his mother was a teacher and his father was a football coach and scout. That side of Belichick only appears on Fridays, the day when — occasionally — a question will crack the otherwise steely coach.

And he’ll turn into Monologue Bill.


You know Monotone Bill. He deadpans. He mocks reporters and, often when their questions are entirely fair, does what he can to make them feel stupid. Even before Belichick had his Super Bowls, it wasn't always easy for reporters to ask questions.

"It took me a good year and a half to ask one," ESPN's Mike Reiss said. "So I literally went almost a year and a half without asking a question. Because I was feeling it out."

It's intimidating. I asked a question during my first training camp about a catch by a roster-bubble receiver in the end zone. Belichick mocked the idea — I think he targets new, inexperienced reporters he doesn't recognize to put them in their place. He couldn't believe I had the audacity to ask about a specific highlight play during an unpadded practice. And, for a few moments, I couldn't either. 

He has also shamed me for asking questions, including when I asked Belichick to share how he was feeling when Cam Newton fumbled in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills in 2020, effectively ending the Patriots' playoff hopes and leading to their first postseason miss since 2008.

"How do you think we felt, Henry?" he asked. 

I didn't answer. The press conference was over Zoom and the silence that followed did not make the question seem any more reasonable. (Though I contend it was fair.) 

Belichick has his moments of frustration in the aftermath of a loss. His most famous press conference — "On to Cincinnati" — came after a game. By Monday, his analytical side has taken over, and if you have questions about film study, that's the time to ask. He might not have an answer for you, but that's your best shot to hear how he saw a play unfold. By Wednesday, he is actually on to Cincinnati (or whomever the Patriots are playing that week). 

He will kill his opponent with kindness, finding nice things to say about quarterbacks like Zach Wilson, Sam Darnold, Bryce Petty, Mitchell Trubisky, Colt McCoy and Vince Young, among others. When the topic strays from the upcoming opponent, he will mock, deadpan or shame the reporter.

Then Friday rolls around.

TGIF, right?

And while fans have enjoyed the entertainment value that monotone Bill brings to press conferences, reporters enjoy monologue Bill. It doesn't happen every week. It might not happen in a season. But on occasion, he will take the podium with a smile. Or maybe it's even less perceptible — it's atmospheric — and Belichick's step up to the podium decreases the pressure in the room. He might even say: "Happy Friday." 

And everyone in the room will know that it's on: Monologue Bill has arrived.

"I would actually save nerdy football stuff that I was just wondering for Friday," said NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who spent three years on the Patriots beat. "I actually looked at his opportunity like, can Bill explain something to me that I wouldn't previously know."

This is a longstanding tradition for Belichick. Back when it was beginning in the early 2000s, Reiss remembered reporters joking that the "hay was in the barn." And perhaps those are the days when Belichick would open up — after a week of satisfactory preparation. But in the early days, when the Internet was not yet king, Reiss and the rest of the reporters would answer trivia from Belichick and sometimes they'd even prepare questions for him in response.

"He would come out with a question and we would sort of banter back and forth about the answer," Reiss said. "I guess you could do that today, but think about how many people would have their cameras up, filming every move. It felt like a more intimate environment where maybe he was more comfortable to do that."

Those days are done. Now, good-mood Belichick will deliver a lecture.

It's likely his dissertation is similar to the ones his players get on the history of schemes or the league or the sport itself — though this is the abridged version. Most recently, ahead of Week 16, Belichick went into a deep dive about the history of the 3-4 scheme after a question about the coach's (mostly forgotten) tenure with the Broncos in the late 1970s. Belichick offered more than 900 words answering three questions about the beloved 3-4 defense — that, of course, played a massive role in winning New England's Super Bowls.

NBC Sports Boston's Tom E. Curran remembers asking about Paul Brown, the man Belichick believes is the greatest coach of all time. "It had to be a Friday," Curran said, "because it was such a long answer." (It's a common comment from reporters made, remembering an answer that "had to be on a Friday." Belichick only gets into this mode on that day.)

"It gave Bill a runway to talk about somebody who was really important to him, that he was able to salute for the platform that he had," Curran said. "He would use Fridays as his platform to make whatever historical, technical or overarching points that he thought were important to share."

Some topics are Belichick's kryptonite: anything about punt protection, particularly referencing the long snapper or the protector — the quarterback of the punt unit — and anything about how kicking is like golf. He froths over those topics. His greatest Friday answer of all time is definitely a contentious topic. But everyone agrees that one of Belichick's best answers — ever — was a question about whether a long snapper was a necessary position. 

Can't you just teach another player to snap the ball and save yourself a roster spot?

Sometimes you get surprises. A simple question about weather conditions could send Belichick into an impassioned rant on meteorologists — and their unreliability. One reporter asked Belichick about whether the run-pass option, at the time one of the trendiest "new" schematic wrinkles, resembled the wishbone offense, a scheme that has long been dead and buried at the NFL level. And Belichick clarified that the RPO was, more or less, a version of the triple option. It was history repeating itself in a new form. 

Belichick once provided a history of the Army-Navy game on Thanksgiving, including in 1963, when the game was moved due to the John F. Kennedy assassination. The coach also went long about the ball's rotation on punts and Belichick explored how playing center field in baseball can apply directly to fielding a punt.

"Everything is an art form," Curran said. "And he's just so passionate in explaining it."

Belichick has an appreciation for the minutiae of every part of football. The media talks often about how this obsession with the little details has led him to Super Bowl wins. Well, you can listen to that detail in the video above about long snapping, between history and scheme and technique. It's all there in tremendous detail.

And what's most clear: Belichick's love for the game. For coaching. For teaching.

It's no wonder why he's so comfortable talking for minutes at a time about niche schemes, the Naval Academy, Chuck Noll, rule changes through the decades, system trends and left-footed punters. (Boy, does he love left-footed punters.) It's because it's no-stakes journalism. It breaks his own rule of focusing on his team and his opponent. But he'll allow these exceptions because they won't make headlines. They won't interfere with his and his players' success.

"He will never do anything that is going to hurt his team in any way, and that's the only thing he cares about," Rapoport said. "So, like, he speaks as if his team is watching the press conference, which I think for players, a lot of them either are watching it or reading about it. I do think there's a part of him that just likes to talk about football and share knowledge."

Bill Belichick tight-lipped on future: Is this the end for the Patriots HC?

With Belichick facing the possibility of a parting of ways with the organization in the coming days or weeks — whether it's a firing, a mutual separation or a trade — I doubt we'll get Monologue Bill this Friday. Belichick may want to focus solely on the week's opponent — which is what the coach has done when asked anything remotely concerning his future. But don't mistake this for a lack of passion. 

Whether Belichick lands on a network another team's sideline next season, the coach clearly wants to keep teaching people about football — about its past, present and future.

So, maybe, just maybe, someone will ask him a niche special teams question or a question about the 1975 Baltimore Colts, his first NFL employer. And perhaps he'll humor the media contingent for old time's sake with minute after minute of history. 

And for at least that period, maybe Belichick can find his happy place in the annals of NFL history and minutiae.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @henrycmckenna.


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