Bill Belichick, Therapist of Last Resort

The New England Patriots coach believes he can make Antonio Brown a positive.

Posted Sep 08, 2019

News item: Extremely talented if troubled wide receiver Antonio Brown—he is second among active players in career receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns—after missing preseason practices and threatening his general manager for fining him, was released by the Oakland Raiders. He was immediately picked up by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, led by coach Bill Belichick.

Many commentators feel that this move dooms Belichick’s fabled "Patriot Way" dynasty — i.e., It’s the beginning of their end:

Madden went on to direct his criticism right at Patriots coach Bill Belichick, expressing surprise that the Patriots would take on a perceived diva player like Brown. Madden then doubled down on the idea that Brown’s presence will wind up dooming New England.

Harm Reduction therapist or coach believes that someone who has had great accomplishments, but who has become trapped in a negative set of behaviors, can rekindle his positive motivation and the practical and emotional rewards it entails. Otherwise, the therapist or coach would have to give up on every individual who showed up with a substance use or addictive disorder.

Here are the principles that such a therapist or, in this case, a coach follows:

  • Let bygones be bygones. What's past is done. We’re only looking forward.
  • Don’t guilt trip. This isn’t about assigning blame.
  • Remember past successes​​​​​​. The individual has had positive experiences and rewards that he or she can revive.
  • Precipitate new rewards. Allow the person to act so as to generate new rewards they can savor.
  • Recreate a positive identity​​​​​​. Replace the image the person has of themselves as causing problems with the self-image of being a positive contributor to his or her team, family, or community.
  • Help the person to feel his/her power. The coach is sure that Brown has the ability to do this; he just has to remind his client that he has this power.

Bill Belichick knows how to work with people in this way based on his 45-year coaching career, including winning six Super Bowls in 19 years as head coach of the Patriots. Belichick— like any secure coach or therapist — isn’t worried that the person he’s working with is going to undermine his skills and achievements. Rather, he knows how to create a positive feedback loop with any person who has had positive life experiences — which, after all, includes all of us.

Addendum, September 11:

A woman has filed a civil complaint against Brown for sexual assault, including rape.  Coach Belichick has refused to answer questions about the charges, which he would likely say is not his responsibility, and which the league is investigating. Nonetheless, the first two bullets above do not apply to these charges; they must be judged by the court and the NFL and appropriate penalties applied.