Belichick’s pettiness with the press reaches sad new low

Bill Belichick prides himself on stonewalling the media: We’re onto Cincinnati; Seattle, Seattle, Seattle; grumble, grumble, grumble. But his obfuscation reached a sad new low this week.

The NFL mandates that teams must make their assistant coaches available to reporters at least twice per offseason. So what did the Patriots do? They made them available on back-to-back days in the middle of May, without any practices or even a morsel of news to discuss.

How clever. Belichick found a way to circumvent one of the most mundane aspects of the NFL’s Media Access policy.

Put that trickery right up there with his Hall of Fame game plan in Super Bowl XXV.

Belichick is arguably the greatest coach in NFL history; yet, he’s dedicating time towards safeguarding Joe Judge from Mike Reiss.

It’s pathetic.

“How can you be concerned about that after 40 years in the league and six Super Bowl titles?,” Tom Curran asked on “Gresh & Keefe.”

It’s a good question. Belichick’s brilliance is in its ability to eek out the smallest advantages. The Patriots find the most obscure loopholes, whether it’s exploiting the rules about eligible receivers or manipulating the clock† While other coaches are busy with foolishness, Belichick is supposedly devising machiavellian schemes to propel his team ahead.

That is, except when he’s fretting about when Matt Patricia takes questions on Zoom.

These are the actions of a coach who’s embarrassed of his staff. The Patriots never played games with Josh McDaniels’ or Bill O’Brien’s media availability. That’s because they were qualified assistants who could handle themselves. In other words, they weren’t a story.

But hiring the person who did “everything possible to screw up” Daniel Jones (John Mara’s words) and putting him in charge of Mac Jones? Yeah, that’s a story.

Belichick just wants to deflect.

His whole shell game about refusing to give his assistants titles seems to be all about providing himself with cover. It’s hard to credibly criticize an arrangement when you don’t know the details.

Belichick can scoff at questions about his coaching staff all season long, leaving everything in the vaguest possible terms.

There’s no way that having Patricia and Judge compete in some sort of play-calling competition during training camp is what’s best for the football team. Mac Jones is entering his pivotal second season, and instead of working with a real quarterbacks coach, he’ll be receiving tutelage from a guy who called for a QB sneak on 3rd-and-9 from his own 5-yard line.

Last season, the best offensive coordinator in the NFL was in Jones’ ear every game. Now, it might be a slovenly man who’s never called an offensive play in his unremarkable coaching career.

Patricia and Judge went 23-52-1 in nearly five combined seasons as head coaches, and napalmed their organizations in the process. Belichick seemingly doesn’t trust them to handle two real press conferences in an offseason, but he’s entrusting them with the Patriots’ offense.

When you put it like that, no wonder why Belichick is afraid of having them participate in two real press conferences during an offseason. There are no good answers to the questions.

So it’s best to try and prevent them altogether.

Celtics are a ratings draw: The Celtics’ Game 7 win over the Bucks Sunday peaked with 9.5 million viewers in the fourth quarter, making it the most-watched Eastern Conference Semifinal game since 2012.

Locally, the contest pulled in a 15.0 TV rating. It has been the most-watched second-round game in Boston since 2017.

That’s what happens when two superstars are facing off with each other. Giannis Antetokounmpo is an NBA champion and two-time MVP, but Jayson Tatum deserves top billing, too. He’s playing like a top-five player — his woeful third quarter Tuesday aside — and now getting watched like one.

Stephen A. hints he might leave ESPN?: It doesn’t seem like Stephen A. Smith views himself at ESPN for life. The omnipresent talking head said Wednesday on Dan Le Batard’s podcast that he doesn’t want to argue about LeBron James and Patrick Mahomes for the rest of his career.

“I have greater goals,” he said, by Kyle Koster of The Big Lead† “This is not the finish line for me. I got a whole bunch of things that I want to do that have absolutely nothing to do with ESPN and I pretty damn well intend to do it.”

Smith, who reportedly earns $12 million annually, has occasionally appeared on CNN as a contributor over the years. Maybe he has an interest in talking about more political and cultural issues.

But the most likely future for Smith may be a move to late-night TV. There’s a mixed history of sports commentators trying their hands at late-night talk: Craig Kilborn enjoyed a five-year run following David Letterman, while Joe Buck’s HBO show flamed out after one season. But Smith enjoys more cultural cache than both of them.

Between “First Take,” NBA coverage, radio shows and random studio hits, Smith seemingly never stops talking sports. It’s only natural he might want to do something else.

It will be devastating for ESPN if it happens. Smith is their only marquee star right now. Maybe they’ll just pay him enough to stay.

“First Take” ratings are up 22 percent since he booted Max Kellerman last year…

Drew Brees’ sad state of limbo: It’s a little sad that Drew Brees, one of the best QBs ever, is now floating an NFL return to deflect attention from his reported departure from NBC. After an unimpressive year in the studio, Brees and the Peacock are parting ways.

It’s apparent Brees wants to call games, and with his name, he’ll probably receive a chance to do it. But he’s not No. 1 analyst material.

If Brees truly wants to be in the booth, he may have to tough it out for seven figures annually instead of eight. Tough life.

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