Joint thoughts in final press conference
Patiently, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald waited. The former linebacker and now head coach of his alma mater was early for Tuesday's joint head coaches press conference. He was some 45 minutes early.
So Fitzgerald was a man of the people. He visited with everyone. He requested music and even sang along to some Journey.
Some five minutes after the press conference was slate to start, red-faced Butch Jones hurried in arriving in a police escort directly from practice that rattled a support staff member so much, he didn't leave with Jones after the press conference.
The two coaches arrival mirrors their style of play. Fitzgerald's teams are methodical and patient. Borderline conservative. Jones' team play as fast as possible and that's not fast enough.
On this Tuesday in their final media opportunity, the arrivals were the only thing different between the two coaches other than a few inches of height and a few pounds because once the mics were opened the two crew cut program leaders sounded more like twins than guys coaching against each other.
As John Brice so well documented in his story Tuesday morning, Jones and Fitzgerald have great respect for each other. They have shared their philosophy's with each other for years. Tuesday's press conference from all accounts was boring. No one called the other out. No one tried to be funny. No one took a shot at another coach or program.
Instead the two talked in sync. And when they weren't saying the same thing. They were taking notes on what each other said likely for future use.
When Fitzgerald spoken of losing the “six inch game” in a 38-0 loss to Michigan, Jones appeared to immediately write the phrase down on his daily notecard and a phrase he used later in the press conference.
When asked about what the two coaches saw in each others special teams units. Neither coach made a reference to a specific player. Evan Berry's name and Cam Sutton's name was never uttered by Fitzgerald. And it was not as a slight to them. Instead Fitzgerald spoke of how the other ten players make a return game and spoke of how special teams play shows the character of your program.
Sound familiar. Fitzgerald even talked about the mindset of the right guard being the best right guard in the country on extra point and field goal. Yea, we've heard that one before.
Both coaches did joke about how halftime adjustments are over rated and that the difference is execution only to both talk about how you have to be ready for anything in a bowl game and be able to adjust to it.
As far as joint head coach press conferences go, the content of Tuesday's was pretty normal. Plenty of respect for each other. High praise for the bowl events and excitement about the game.
The difference was a record setting number of “much like” or “just like he said” which made me realize why Fitzgerald told John Brice on Monday that playing Jones wasn't high on his priority list.
And it also makes you understand that Friday will indeed come down to execution as there's likely to be few surprises from the two Michigan natives who clearly could have and in some cases did answer questions for each other on Tuesday.