There was no way you could manipulate him. And yet the devastating thing about him---which caused the love-hate relationship the players had with him---was the way he used his ability to manipulate you, to make you do whatever he wanted you to do. He could ruin your whole day in a matter seconds. In the morning I'd be starting on my weight program and he'd walk in and scowl. I'd try to speak to him. He'd ignore me, or mumble something, and I hated him even more, and he'd get me thinking: 'What the hell am I doing in this business?' And then ten minutes later he'd walk up and put his arm on my shoulder and say, 'I like the way you work. You're doing a good job, and I'm proud of you,' and I'd die for him! Do anything for him!Remind you of anybody you know in today's game? Here is terrific Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski on Bill Belichik's influence over future hall of famer Tony Gonzalez in last year's Pro Bowl:
Then the realization would come: My God, I'm being manipulated like a piece of Silly Putty. He flattens me out when he wants me flat. He makes me round and bounces me when he wants to bounce me. He makes me. . . .It was somehow demeaning, and yet at the same time it was exhilarating to be a part of all this because you knew---and I don't care what anybody says about him---that you were in the presence of greatness. Anybody who can move men like that.
Gonzalez was mad. Hopping mad. Who in the heck did Bill Belichick think he was anyway? Gonzalez was no kid. He’d played for four different coaches. He knew how they acted. But still … the gall of this guy. Didn’t he have any idea how hard Gonzalez worked to get here to the Pro Bowl. For what? To get treated like that?
Gonzalez stewed, grumbled, kept looking over at that coach. Next kickoff, Gonzalez went out there, and he was still enraged. He didn’t need this. The ball was kicked over his head, and Gonzalez saw the defender coming hard, and … you bet. Gonzalez clocked him. Took him out.
Then, Gonzalez was sure to walk by Belichick. Yeah, what do you have to say now, Mr. Genius? Again Belichick did not even look Gonzalez’s way. Stared straight at the field. That’s right. Tony walked, and Belichick did not say a word. And then, with Gonzalez almost out of range, Belichick barely whispered: “Nice block.”
“How did you feel when he said that?” I asked Gonzalez. He looked sheepish. He’s almost 32 years old. He will soon own every meaningful tight-end record there is. He should have long ago stopped worrying much about what coaches thought of him, especially other teams’ coaches.
“I felt really good,” he admitted.
“So you’re saying that seven words from Bill Belichick got you to block hard on the kickoff unit at the Pro Bowl?” I asked.
Sometimes you get to the heart of something without even trying. Gonzalez smiled and summed up the story that may explain why Bill Belichick is the best around.
“Hey,” Gonzalez said. “I’m coachable.”