I'd like to point you to Will Grubb's article here talking about Bill O'Brien's dealings in press conferences with the media. He talks about how little the first-year head coach likes to say or speculate on any given topic.
[O'Brien] doesn’t have to give information he doesn’t want to give, but it’s a major departure from the last eight years. It’s an adjustment that will take time for many of us [media and fans]. But to quote thousands on twitter, "If they win, no one will care."
Doublespeak and non-speak certainly aren't new concepts for head coaches of pro sports teams, but O'Brien has learned a lot from his former boss up in New England. Bill Belichick who is--on good days--passively belligerent with the media and knows the value of a controlled message. He controls what information comes out from his staff and players alike.
And now we're seeing it here in Houston. Since the beginning, O'Brien has stressed the team mentality. Grubb compiled this list of eerily similar quotes from enough players to establish a clear pattern:
- QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - "The whole goal is to get us playing as one, as a team and we’ll expect good results if that happens."
- DE J.J. Watt - "I come every single day and try to do the best I can, be a good teammate and do my job."
- NT Louis Nix III - "Just working hard and being a good teammate to everybody around. I feel like that is all you can do, just work hard."
"I just want to learn from whatever Coach teaches me and learn from them and do a good job at it. At this point, that’s my job."
- FB Jay Prosch - "I’m just trying to get better and become a better teammate and really just work hard."
- QB Tom Savage - "You just have to compete. You have to do whatever you can to help this team out and that’s all I’m going to do."
- G Xavier Su’a-Filo - "It’s about working hard and trying our best, do our job, be as coachable as possible and be a great teammate here."
Even though he's had this job for almost half a year now, O'Brien has had less than a month of interaction with these players and already he's got them all whistling the same tune. This is in extreme contrast to Gary Kubiak's laissez-faire, "it's on me" style of coaching.
From now on, you get the impression that when a player messes up, it's on them, not the coach. It's actual accountability and not just media lip-service. If this sounds like an uncomfortable environment, then O'Brien is doing something right. An uncomfortable player is either going to improve the team by striving to keep his job or eventually be filtered out as mentally weak. It's a win-win situation.
Kubiak's relaxed style allowed players to express themselves in interviews, seemingly getting to say whatever they wanted. Bob McNair's strong emphasis on character made sure this loose policy didn't backfire with controversy, thankfully. This created some entertainment for us, but it did nothing to help the team win on game days--particularly in prime time.
Remember "On the Nose with Shaun Cody?" It started up in 2011 and ran through the end of the 2012 season. I'm guessing if O'Brien had been the coach three years ago, he would have told Cody two things:
- It's too ego-centric, and it doesn't help the team win.
- I cut you two weeks ago. Why are you still here?
Antonio Smith's beloved ninja antics might have been dampered, too. J.J. Watt playfully mocking Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews with sack celebrations might have earned him an unpleasant earful from his coach...especially since the Texans were crushed on prime-time television.
Other media members have noticed the same thing.
It's becoming more and more painfully obvious that the #Texans aren't allowed to speak any words that aren't cliche rhetoric— Jayson Braddock (@JaysonBraddock) May 28, 2014
Cliché Rhetoric might as well be the title of Bill Belichick's future memoirs. Even members of non-sports media have taken note of its effectiveness.
Grubb goes on to finish, "Limit info and have one clean message. Yes, it’s boring. Yes, it can be frustrating. But prepare yourself because it’s not going anywhere and that’s okay."
He's exactly right. Belichick's success as a head coach goes way past Xs and Os. The media discipline of his players is a symptom of their overall discipline on the field, and it's evident every season. And yeah, having Tom Brady helps, too. Until O'Brien finds his own Brady, he's going to point everyone in the same direction with one message while building the organization into a well-oiled machine that doesn't care what you think of it.
Expect a lot less letterman jackets in the future and, hopefully, a lot more wins. Doesn't sound so bad, does it?