Belichick’s perfect season. Not quite.

The New England Patriots beat the New York Giants last night, making the Patriots the first team in 35 years to go through the regular season undefeated. What’s that have to do with public relations?

Well, the Patriots had a perfect season. Not coach Bill Belichick. William C. Rhoden in today’s New York Times provides the overview and context in his column “Players’ Mark Spotless, Not Coach’s.”

Seems the Patriots and Belichick were caught cheating earlier in the season when they used video cameras to help get an edge in a victory over the New York Jets. That raises issues about character – and ethics — involving management and others that we spend considerable time talking about in our mass communication ethics classes at Kent State. In this regard, Belichick functions very much like a CEO. Why shouldn’t the same standards apply?

We talked about the Belichick misstep in class, and in what was really a lively discussion, all agreed that it wasn’t the right thing to do. No question about it. And it illustrates why organizations get into trouble. Wasn’t there anyone on Belichick’s staff who agreed with my students that this was the wrong, the unethical, thing to do? Or did they just look the other way? Enron, on a smaller, certainly much more insignificant scale, anyone?

David Halberstam wrote an interesting and informative book about Belichick, The Education of a Coach. Halberstam forms a profile of Belichick as an innovative, hardworking coach, with strong family values. Belichick also comes off as someone with a compelling will to win and succeed. (And this is an aside, but if you are interested in good writing – a journalist as historian – read almost anything by Halberstam.)

So if you want to learn more about Belichick, read Halberstam’s book. But if you want to see how ethics apply here – and in public relations and other areas – read a book by Rushworth M. Kidder, How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living. I use that book in my ethics class. And another book by Kidder, Moral Courage, is worth reading as well.

A perfect season? No. But a lesson in ethics that applies beyond the football stadium? Yes.


7 responses to “Belichick’s perfect season. Not quite.

  1. Hey Rob. Congrats on your new blog. Bill S. said I should stop in and say hi and I sometimes do what he says. I am a New Yorker. Giants put up a good fight. What more can you do? Now let’s see how Roger Clemens handles his hardball PR pitch on 60 Minutes Jan. 6. I am going biking now in Central Park. It’s when I do my thinking.

  2. Thanks for stopping by — and for your comment. I used to get to New York a lot — when I was still working. Please don’t tell Bill I said that. New York is a great city, and I recall several enjoyable runs in Central Park, usually in April when BFGoodrich held its annual meeting.


  3. Actually, the thing that infuriates me the most about B.B. is his refusal to take off that terrible cut-off hooded sweatshirt. I just want to rush the sidelines and set it on fire. Not him, but the sweatshirt. And the whole perfect season thing just means we’re going to have to cheer extra hard for the Steelers.

  4. randomburghthoughts

    Hi Rob…great blog!!!!
    It was great seeing you and the family wednesday. Its not the cheating per se that bothers me..that unfortunately has become part of the sport culture ( I think it was Earl Weaver who said “if you ain’t cheatin, you ain’t trying”).
    What bothers me the most is he’s fined 500K and then its found out that he gets to write it off as a deduction. If the punishment won’t fit the crime, and the criminal is never held accountable, then the cycle perpetuates itself and pretty soon its deemed acceptable.
    Keep up the good work…i’ll stop in when I can.

  5. hi, mr. jessica’s father! welcome to the blog world. i think it was jess who told me having a blog is like living with a benign tumor you just can’t seem to cut off. i don’t know diddly about sports or belichick but i do know something about sweatshirts! i will pipe in whenever i can. happy new year! and i’ll link you to my blog (if i can remember how).

  6. Kelly,

    Hi. I hope you come back and read this blog and comment often. Writers are always welcome here.


  7. Pingback: Knight, Belichick and perfect seasons « PR on the run

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