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Do Clothes Make the Coach?

If it isn’t already the subject of a blog, just wait, it will be.  There’s a New England Patriots fan site called, “Pats Propaganda”.  It recently posted an entry titled, “Belichick Hoodie History.  Yes indeed, somebody had gone to the trouble of matching the Patriots wins and losses with what Coach Bill Belichick was wearing on the sidelines.
 
Belichick is of course known for the hooded sweatshirts he wears, some with sleeves cut off.  Some even refer to him as “The Hoodie.”  From the results tracked by Pats Propaganda, it’s quite clear that gray is the coach’s color, either with or without sleeves.
 
In 38 games in the gray hoodie with the sleeves cut, he’s 29-9, including 6-4 in the playoffs.  With sleeves, he’s an even better 16-2, including 4-0 in the playoffs.  When Belichick switches to a different color hoodie, the numbers decline.  In a dozen games with the blue hoodie (sleeves cut each time), he’s 7-5.  And it’s even worse in the color red, just 3-3 with sleeves. And the one time he wore red with the sleeves cut was Super Bowl XLII – a loss.  That was the one against the Giants where David Tyree made the miracle “helmet catch”.  It was the first time I’d ever seen him wear a red sweatshirt and actually wondered why Belichick would mess with the football gods and change from his trademark gray.
 
You can bet your Redskin fandom that George Allen wouldn’t have done that 40 years ago.  At a time when many coaches were still dressing like Cowboys Coach Tom Landry in a suit and fedora, Allen wore a Redskins golf shirt when it was warm and a Redskins windbreaker when it was cold.  And he always had on the burgundy baseball cap with the gold “R” on the front.
 
After Allen earned his greatest win as a coach, the 26-3 victory over the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game in 1972, one of the fans who swarmed the field at RFK Stadium grabbed the cap off his head.  He unsuccessfully tried to get it back and failed.  Allen wasn’t happy about that and later said he would have wanted to wear it in the Super Bowl two weeks later.  Wearing another hat he watched his team lose to the Dolphins 14-7.
 
When Jack Pardee replaced Allen for the 1978 season, he also showed up on the sidelines in golf shirts and windbreakers.  However, Pardee who wore his hair in comb over, never wore a hat on the sidelines.  A stiff wind might have had that comb over sticking straight up in the air.
 
By the time Joe Gibbs arrived as coach in 1981, the NFL had wised up to the fact that there was money to be made by selling the same gear coaches wore on the sidelines.  They were encouraged to wear anything with team logos.  Gibbs always had on the team gear including the burgundy cap with the gold “R” made famous by Allen.  Nobody had the chutzpah to try and make Landry trade in his suit for Cowboys gear, but he was out of football after the 1988 season.
 
In 1993 the NFL began requiring coaches to wear team-issued gear.  That became a bit of an issue about 10 years ago.  Mike Nolan was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers at the time.  His dad, Dick Nolan, had coached the 49ers in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  Like Landry, who coached him when he played for the Giants, Nolan liked to wear a suit on the sidelines.
 
With his father suffering from Alzheimer’s, Mike Nolan thought he’d pay a nice tribute to his dad and wear a suit on the sidelines.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  The NFL had an exclusive deal with Reebok to make all their gear and the message back to Mike Nolan was, sorry a deal is a deal.
 
Well, Jack Del Rio, who was the head coach in Jacksonville heard about it and said he too would like to wear a suit on the sidelines.  Discussions followed and finally a solution was found.  The coaches could wear suits, but they would have to made by Reebok.  Perhaps the athletics apparel company thought they could tap into a new suit market.
 
The suit idea and the coaches didn’t last.  Both Nolan and Del Rio are back to being assistants and dressing in team gear.
 
Back to Gibbs for one last story.  As you know, he retired from coaching early in 1993 and didn’t return until 2004.  Much had changed in that time including the popularity of the color black for team gear.  No matter what the team’s colors, the NFL sold black colored gear with the appropriate logo.
 
Gibbs, who’s mind was always on football, never worried too much about colors.  He just put on whatever the equipment staff laid out in his office.  So he began the 2004 season wearing a black Redskins cap – not the burgundy cap he wore during the 12 years of his first go round.
 
Nobody seemed to mind when the Skins opened the season by beating Tampa Bay with Gibbs in the black cap.  But when the record reached 1-4, some fans began to suggest it must be the cap.  That year Steve Czaban and I hosted his weekly show.  Fans called in said, “Coach you gotta change the hat.”
 
Gibbs said he hadn’t even noticed the color, but if it would make the fans happy he’d change back to burgundy.  By December he was back to burgundy and the Redskins won three of their last five to finish the year 6-10.  Over the next two years with burgundy on top of his head, the Redskins made the playoffs twice – the best three-year run since Gibbs first tenure – all in burgundy.
 
Belichick and Gibbs have each won three Super Bowls.  Great coaching is the main reason, but don’t count out the effect of the colors of hoodies and hats.
 
 

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