Why The Patriots Media Policy Is The Right One

This tweet from Globe football writer Greg A Bedard caught my attention last night:

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Bedard went on to explain a little bit more of what he was referring to, by saying that he wasn’t talking about the Packers, and adding:

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It appears he was attempting to say that the Patriots should treat their players like adults by trusting them not to say dumb stuff to the media.

This continues a glorious Boston Globe tradition carried on by the likes of Nick Cafardo, Jerome Solomon and others of complaining about lack of access to the Patriots and implying that the Patriots players are somehow held under some sort of bondage and indentured servitude down there at Gillette Stadium.

My first instinct upon reading the above tweets was to reply that the Patriots methods seem to have worked pretty well for them. But why? Is their method of dealing with the media the correct one, perhaps not for all teams, but for them?

I believe it is. Here’s why:

1) They don’t give opponents anything to take and use against them.

Some might believe that “bulletin board material” is overrated. To some extent that is true, but it is also true that professional athletes are a prideful bunch, and very much into “respect.” If they’re not getting it, they’re going to be motivated to prove themselves. Rodney Harrison was the master of this, he used slights, perceived or real, to give himself an additional shot of motivation. The Patriots don’t provide bulletin board material. Tom Brady starting that Terrell Suggs and the Ravens talk a whole lot for only having beaten the Patriots since he’s been there is about as far as they go. In most cases, they go the opposite route and praise the opponent – something that some media members (Bedard included) have complained about as well.

2) They don’t give away information that could be used in game planning against themselves.

In recent weeks, Rex Ryan has given out small details on how his team plans to attack an upcoming opponent. (Including the Patriots prior to their45-3 loss to New England.)  He talked about how they would defend Tom Brady. He said they wouldn’t kick to Devin Hester. He revealed that Mark Sanchez has cartilage issues in his shoulder. Why? Why would you give out any information about your team? Much of this is tied to injury matters, but it applies to general strategy as well.

3) Giving out no injury information is better than giving out incorrect injury information.

So if Bill Belichick goes up to the podium and says that player X has a strained knee ligament and will be out for two weeks, and then those two weeks and more go by and there is no player X on the field, wouldn’t that be pointed out by the media? You bet. They’d wonder if they had been deliberately misled, and speculate about what else they had been sold a bill of goods on. Why would Belichick give an answer about an injury, especially immediately following a game when not all the information is available? Even when the injury is fully diagnosed, different players heal at different rates, so it is unfair to place some sort of artificial deadline on a player recovery. It’s better to give the minimum required (league mandated) information rather than creating an expectation of a return time.

4) Having one voice for the organization prevents conflicting messages and keeps things consistent.

Yes, assistant coaches are now required to be made available to the media. When they get that chance, don’t they sound a lot like Bill Belichick? Of course. Whether he’s speaking or not, the messages coming out are the same. That consistency keeps things simple and protects the players and coaches from revealing too much.

5) The players can stay focused on the task at hand.

The players know what is expected of them when speaking with the media. If they feel uncomfortable dealing with a topic, they know the “pat” answer that can be given. If they’re more comfortable dealing with the media, they have freedom to speak – for themselves, not on behalf of the team. Some players use that freedom and speak more, others stick strictly to the company line.

Mike Reiss had a post today about a Patriots Today clip that showed a sign reminding the players what is expected of them. I think it applies to their media policy as well:

WHEN YOU LEAVE HERE …

* Don’t believe or fuel the hype

* Manage expectations

* Ignore the noise

* Speak for youself

In summary – The Patriots avoid giving themselves a lot of headaches or complications by the way they deal with the media. They keep things simple, and allow themselves to focus on the field. Their job after all, isn’t to please the media, but to win games. If they feel this is the best way to do it and it works for them, then they should keep doing it. I’m not saying it’s the only way to operate, but it works for them. It’s not about letting the players act like adults. It’s about staying consistent as an organization. If the end result is success, I don’t think the players much mind the “shackles” they are forced to operate under.

  • JFP

    It's strange that Mike Reiss has never had a problem covering the Pats. I guess he's just so much better at his job that the rest of the Boston media.

    • Classless

      You are spot on. Reiss must have naked pics of Kraft.

    • TMG

      JFP it should also be noted that Reiss has an office down at the Patriots complex. I am pretty sure no other reporters from the major media outlets have that.

      I don't see what the big deal about Bedard tweeting the differences between organizations.

      • http://www.bostonsportsmedia.com Bruce Allen

        Did you hear that from Felger? The same guy who routinely got his butt kicked on the beat by Reiss. Also worth noting that the company Felger now works for is the flagship station for the Patriots, has a full fledged studio right there at Gillette stadium (AKA an office) there, and yet don't manage to get much information there.

        Interesting how this has somehow turned into an indictment of Reiss. Look at his work…how many major scoops does he really come up with, or get "handed?" I wouldn't say there have been a ton. What makes Reiss so good is how hard the guy works. He puts together the stats on the positional groupings, he gets information and details that others get because he puts the effort into his job. The idea that he somehow is hand-fed scoops is laughable and insulting to the work that he does.

        • DougM

          Bruce you are dead on here.

        • mandb97

          All you need to know what type of person Felger is, listen to his show with Maz and everytime Reiss's name comes up he says the same tired thing, "Oh you mean the Kraft's fifth child?" It's petty and jealous and could all be avoided if Felger went back in time when he first came to Boston and he worked hard to get information just like Reiss. Now he has become good at two things:

          1) He will say one unintelligent thing after another.

          2) He has become as big a blowhard as Ordway.

          Fact not Opinion.

        • TjM

          What I don't get is why Felger always refers to WEEI as a Patriots "Rights Holder" Isn't 98.5 a "Rights Holder" as well?

      • anon.

        Reiss doesn't have an office there. He sits in the media workroom with all the other 'small time' operations. The Globe, Herald, Projo and AP have their own workrooms off the workroom. CSN, Reiss, WEEI and everyone else has to sit with the rest of the second-class citizens.

        Reiss is the best at what he does because he works the locker room better than anyone else. He gets one-on-one's that no one else will get because of his track record and the trust he has built among the players.

        And if you look at where 99 percent of the stories generate from, it's from the Globe or Herald. They get those calls. But really, who cares about that stuff besides the people in the workroom? I don't really think readers care about who broke a story first, especially in the internet age. In this era all that means is that person is getting their tweet linked to in every story.

        It's not like the old days where getting beat meant not having the story in your paper the next day.

  • BSF34

    Bedard is fitting right in at the Globe isn't he?

  • JSR

    I agree. To me, there's no question that they do the right thing.

    By the way, not a fan of Bedard so far. And specifically not a fan of that comment. He sounds so whiny and pathetic.

  • Fred West Lynn

    Well-observed, Bruce, and I assume that it was only the spirit of the season (or the joy of new fatherhood) that kept you from calling the true cause of these types of complaints: people like Bedard and Breer and Cafardo and Shaughnessy believe that they are the conduit to the fan. That to fail to give them what they want to print is an insult to the great unwashed who put away whatever money they can to get a ticket and cheer (or grouse). They have long ago lost touch with the notion that being a "sports commentator" – whatever the hell THAT means – is a J-O-B and that to do it well requires W-O-R-K. The truly nauseating part is that because all they do is talk among themselves, they have a huge degree of self-importance about their role in the sports/entertainment world as well as a circular back-patting for how tough it is. Yeah. Going to games for free. Eating on the house. Preferred parking. All the game notes hand-delivered. Key participants herded before you to spit out quotes and then the company-issued laptop to spell check your drivel and enablers, er, editors who print it and praise it. Tough life, dudes. And please don't tell me about all the family stuff you miss. When you're not stinking up the sporting venues, you're whoring on any broadcast outlet that will have you, recycling the same crap you had in the early editions. My, such unbearable suffering for us little people.

    And then there's the ultimate is blinded hypocrisy: loud complaints about the salaries and the "pampering" that athletes get.. I heard that twice last night for mitten-head Ed Harding on WCVB. Can someone please tell the public what Mr. Harding's annual compensation is and then let's head directly into a discussion of what he could possibly do to deserve it? And then let's go down the list, pausing ever-so-briefly to offer a dram of solace for Nick "I already too a pay cut" Carfardo.

  • mandb97

    Bruce, as usual, a stellar post by you. It's a shame but not a surprise that Bedard has taken the view that he has. It looks like he has replaced Albert Breer in every way, shape, and form.

    • Lance_

      I'll second that opinion. Note that from Bedard's recent tweets it's clear he has read this post but so far has chosen not to respond. I wonder if he can.

  • Fred West Lynn

    Well-observed, Bruce, and I assume that it was only the spirit of the season (or the joy of new fatherhood) that kept you from calling the true cause of these types of complaints: people like Bedard and Breer and Cafardo and Shaughnessy believe that they are the conduit to the fan. That to fail to give them what they want to print is an insult to the great unwashed who put away whatever money they can to get a ticket and cheer (or grouse). They have long ago lost touch with the notion that being a "sports commentator" – whatever the hell THAT means – is a J-O-B and that to do it well requires W-O-R-K. The truly nauseating part is that because all they do is talk among themselves, they have a huge degree of self-importance about their role in the sports/entertainment world as well as a circular back-patting for how tough it is. Yeah. Going to games for free. Eating on the house. Preferred parking. All the game notes hand-delivered. Key participants herded before you to spit out quotes and then the company-issued laptop to spell check your drivel and enablers, er, editors who print it and praise it. Tough life, dudes. And please don't tell me about all the family stuff you miss. When you're not stinking up the sporting venues, you're whoring on any broadcast outlet that will have you, recycling the same crap you had in the early editions. My, such unbearable suffering for us little people.
    The truly mind-wrenching aspect is that our local sports commentariat as treated very cushily, even reverently away from this Board. Yet they're the first ones to lead the bloody shirt about "papered" and "overpaid" athletes. People, way back when, Reggie Jackson had it right: People pay to see me play. I doubt that many people would pay directly and specifically to read "Lint in the Back of the Sports Drawer" or endless re-tweets.

  • Sands

    I work in the PR department of a media company and in my media training sessions the first thing I teach is consistency and second thing is avoid speculation. As a PR pro, I love how the Patriots handle things.

    If you pay close attention to Bill Belichick's press conferences you will see a clear pattern. Ask a football question (techniques, schemes, strategy, draft, breaking down plays, football history) you get a well thought out, detailed answer that even a non-football person can understand. Ask a speculative question (injuries, contract disputes, trade rumors), you get the cliches.

    The really good reporters don't complain about access. The bad ones, specially the columnists, always complain as they don't get ready made quotes. They end up used the same old tired story lines.

    • APimpNamedDaveR

      Amen, brother. Amen.

      Does anyone else remember Belichick's "Coach's Clicker" segment on WCVB's Patriots All Access? It was like a football coaching clinic: spot the offense/defense's tendencies, figure out a way to exploit that tendency, position your players to best respond to that tendency. Fascinating stuff. From my observation over the years, he'll ALWAYS talk football with people (other than discussions about specifics regarding upcoming games/opponents, for obvious reasons). It's the BS that he doesn't bother with.

    • DougM

      Very well put..have been observing the same thing for years and have learned a lot from those well thought out answers

  • Sands

    Another Mike Reiss zinger in his weekly chat today. http://sports.espn.go.com/boston/nfl/columns/stor
    ———————–
    Q: What were your thoughts on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre going from "out" to starting last week? — MarkJ (Japan)
    A: Mark, that seemed a bit ridiculous to me. My first thought was "Imagine what the reaction would be if that was the Patriots?" I think it strengthens my belief that anything the Patriots do usually blows up bigger than what the 31 other teams do.
    ———————–
    Imagine if the Patriots had done this with Tom Brady. ESPN would have called for an investigation by the league office.

    • mandb97

      Good catch Sands, Reiss is so good and so correct.

  • 02062

    Nice job Bruce – any response from Mr. Bedard?

  • Tony

    Funny how someone whining like a 6-year old who was denied dessert after dinner is talking about how the Patriots don't treat their players like adults.

  • mandb97

    Bedard is starting to take a beating on twitter. He does not seem to be getting huffy though.

  • Cory Smith

    Do you think Bedard really cares what 7 different people think of him on another media-bating website? Unlike most of the people here, everything he says in print or on Twitter or Boston.com has his name and contact info. He's not another hack using an alias who feels empowered by the anonymity of the Internet. But carry on.

    • EvilStaceyJames

      No one is more thin skinned than sportswriters. You'd think with Bedard's name attached to his work, he would be doing a better job. On the flip side he had to sniff Shalize Manza Young's farts with the windows rolled up from Rochester to Boston. So we need to cut him some slack, given that the tweet could have been the result of methane poisoning.

    • claude45

      I will gladly pass along my contact info. Then Bedard can listen to me complain about the parts of my job that I find difficult and do not enjoy. The media seems to think this is entertaining and worth publishing. I can only assume that he would love to listen to me whine about my workplace. Psst, Bedard, I have a spoon fed scoop for you, the kind the media loves. Fans don't care. Print it. By today's journalistic standards, one unnamed source should be enough. Be first with the info, knock off early, and worry about being right later.

      Cory, he may not be a hack, but he certainly comes across as lazy. This was not a well reasoned description of the differences between two organizations. This was a quick shot at the Patriots treating their players like children for the singular reason that it makes the reporters work just a bit harder.

  • APS

    Neither my wife nor I are allowed to talk to the press in our jobs. If it comes up, if someone happens to call our desks, or if we encounter them away from the office, we have specific people to refer reporters to. We might tell the mouthpieces what to say (and we might not, for reasons of organizational consistency), but we are not allowed to say it or be quoted.

  • Alex

    This guy sounds pretty miserable. I'm glad that's the only thing I've ever read by him.

  • FanSinceThe60s

    I'm in San Diego. If you could watch the day-to-day interaction by the Chargers (players, coaches and management) with the media here – you would never doubt the Patriots' way of doing things. Unless, of course, you have an dog in the fight like Greg Bedard does, or like many of the older beat reporters who still remember being fed their stories by Bobby Grier.

    As a Pats fan since the 60s, with no stake in whether anyone at the Patriots will talk to me, I fully believe in the way the Pats handle their business. And watching the follies here in San Diego just makes me appreciate BB's handling of the team's media interaction even more.It also makes me grateful for what it brings to the team's behavior and success.

    Almost daily in Charger-land, players speak with the media to discuss their injuries at length, to whine and pointing veiled fingers at each other, at management and at departed players) – and blame everything else on injuries. The head coach (whose lack of ability as a HC has been exposed like a perv in a raincoat) clings to his public statements that this season's 8-7 Chargers team is the most talented he's ever had. And the contentious GM blusters all over the place about his confidence in his own performance and that of his coach – it's everything you'd expect from a me-first group of individuals who always underperform expectations, expect to be deified because of their "status" even when they're regularly out beating up nightclub bouncers, being picked up on DUI charges, being stopped on the morning of a playoff game to be found driving on a suspended license, and lots more.

    And the funniest part is that every summer, they all go out of their way to tell reporters "In the past, we didn't get it – we were too full of ourselves and not really paying attention to business 24/7. But we get it now. This year, it'll be a very different story."
    And then they go through another season losing when they shouldn't, getting arrested, talking trash, making excuses – even though at the start of every year they jettison the supposed "problem players" to clean up the bad attitudes. (They then spend half their time during the season, it seems, badmouthing those players – this year it was Merriman and LT, but this it dates back to badmouthing Rodney and Junior.)

    The Pats have always been my team, good years, bad years and embarrassing years. If they don't want to give the media what the media wants —that's their prerogative. And it certainly isn't going to have any negative effect on the team, the management and the fans, at least until BB and 12 ride off into the sunset. The beat reporters and columnists won't like it, and they have every right to bang their heads against the press room wall to protest. The Patriots "silence" makes it hard for them to do their job. But they also shouldn't be campaigning for support from the fans – the fans like things JUST the way they are, thank you very much.

  • Kevin

    The funny thing about Felger's bitterness towards Reiss is that Borges used to say the same thing about him back when Felger was a writer and seemed to care about getting new information out in the Herald, rather than just baiting callers into calling him a douchebag all day on the radio.

    I specifically remember Borges insinuating that Felger had stayed at Belichick's summer house on the Vineyard at times. Of course it was all in the smarmy, semi-veiled "I know something that you don't, caller…" way that Ron always uses on the radio.

    • Jackson

      Spot on. You have a great memory. Disappointed in Bedard. Proving to be lazy like Mazz, Tomase, etc.

  • crackerjack1

    Im trying to reason with him… yet he doesnt get the characterization of treating players like adults vs treating them like children is his opinion and not a 'fact'. The fact that the Patriots control the message is the fact, which nobody would deny or be upste over.

  • Craig

    I find it disappointing that Bedard (whom I enjoy on Twitter and on Boston.com) is complaining about access already. It's not like anything's going to change, and the only thing he'll do is piss his readers off. To his credit, he's taking his beating without fighting back.

    All that being said, the comments section on this otherwise great website is the REAL "Fellowship of the Miserable." For every well-reasoned complaint, there are 10 people hiding behind fake names that wouldn't dare say 1/10th of what they post in person.

    If you want to make a difference, stop reading Bedard, listening to Felger, tweeting Breer, etc. Page views, ratings, and followers matter.

    The thumbs down option is in the top right of the box for you.

    • svn

      Well..he isnt exactly taking it without fighting back if you follow his twitter. he says stuff like ushering injured players,not allowing them to talk, no 1 on 1 with asst coaches are the examples.And that he isnt here to appease 30 % of the pats fans base who cant take any criticsm abt the pats

  • docmichaels

    One of the great Boston media mysteries remains what caused Felger's fall out from the Patriots. I've said it, others have said it, but when Felger first came onto the scene he was like a breath of fresh air compared to Borges and the other Lobel Sunday night guests. Now he's as big a blowhard as there is on the other side of the fence…at times Borges seems more reasoned!

    Maybe someday we'll find out?

  • ben

    I think #4 and #5 along with the fact that conflicts between players or among players and coaches don't heat up in public are indisputable in their logic. FanSincethe60s is spot on.

  • Timbuk3

    1) Plenty of Pats players and coaches have moved on to other organizations and I can't remember any complaining that they were not "treated like adults", certainly not a majority. I'm sure this kind of sarcasm goes over well in the house of Kraft & Belichek.

    2) " Ignore the noise … Speak for youself"

    is good advice for anyone.

    3) What I would love to see is a list of Patriots media predictions from the beginning of the season. You know, all those dudes who claimed they would finish 3rd in their division. I am shocked that those who claim to know the sport and the Pats best are so wrong about them when December rolls around. They lack credibility.

    PS: big congrats on the new baby.

    • Sum Guy

      I don't blame the media predicting gloom and doom for the Pats before this season started. Typically, teams starting the amount of rookies the Pats did at the beginning of the season don't do well.

      They proved them wrong. Great!

      • Jon

        I agree. I didn't think they'd be 13-2. I'm very very happy to be this wrong…

  • NutCracker

    I eat, sleep and breathe the Patriots and I don't think that I'm lacking for information via the media so I don't have a problem with how the Patriots control their message. I do think we're reading too much into Bedard's comment though. I mean it's worth Bruce making note of his comment but it wasn't like Bedard wrote a column complaining or anything; he was asked a question and he offered his opinion. I read the tweet when he posted it and I didn't think it was a big deal. Of course all the Boston media would love the Patriot players to blab away. It would make their job a lot easier. Brady has mentioned several times that Belichick has asked the players not to get into verbal sparring with the other team so it's not a revelation that the Patriots put a muzzle on the players. In fact, I like that the Patriots don't get into pissing contests with opposing players. Much classier and they do their talking on the field. I think we're being overly critical of Bedard though.

  • Anon9

    Football is entertainment. The job of the New England Patriots is to provide entertainment. I happen to think that the best way to do that is for them to win games and that the players' silence contributes to the quality of the entertainment, but I can see how reporters would disagree, given their own part in providing entertainment.

  • Guntfather

    I have no problem with the Patriots methods. They do it that way and it works for them. Indy operates differently, New Orleans goes another way, and Baltimore is different. Teams that talk crap win games, and some teams that don't say anything get drilled. Ultimately it's more about scheme and talent and qbs. Patriots have got that in spades.

  • Jim

    since Reiss started out working for Patriots Weekly isn't it to be expected that he respects their way and is probably given freedoms because of that trust

    • http://www.bostonsportsmedia.com Bruce Allen

      Reiss worked for PFW pre-Belichick, I'm pretty sure.

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