WASHINGTON LHC B — WASHINGTON -- There will be two homecomings at RFK Stadium tonight.
Not only will the Washington Redskins be playing their only home exhibition game of the season, but Bill Belichick of the Cleveland Browns also will be celebrating his homecoming as a head coach.
Belichick grew up in Annapolis, where his father, Steve, was an assistant coach at the Naval Academy for 33 years.
Belichick's parents will visit him today at the Browns' hotel before the game. Steve Belichick still isn't sure whether they'll watch the game at RFK Stadium or at home on television.
From his son's days as an assistant coach for the New York Giants, Steve Belichick said he knows that it's difficult to see the game from behind the visiting team's bench at RFK, where opponents' fans are seated.
But Steve Belichick is thrilled to see his son get a chance as a head coach.
"We're very happy for him. He's worked a long time for this. It's something he's wanted very much. He's very happy to be in Cleveland. He's enthused about the situation," he said.
Since he's the son of a coach, it's often been said that Belichick grew up planning to be a head coach, but that may be a slight exaggeration, his father said.
"People say he wanted to be a head coach from the time he was 8 years old, but I never heard him say that. After he was in the NFL for a while, he wanted to move up. He was always interested in improving himself. When he got to be a [defensive] coordinator, that's where the urge came in. What's the next step up? But I don't think he would have jumped at any situation just to be a head coach. He had a real good job with the Giants, and he was happy there," his father said.
There's no doubt Belichick loves coaching.
"I don't feel I've ever worked a day in my life," he has said.
After starting his career as a special assistant to Baltimore Colts coach Ted Marchibroda in 1975, he made stops in Detroit and Denver before he went to the Giants in 1978 as a special-teams coach. He worked his way up to the defensive coordinator's post before the Browns hired him this year.
Describing his son's strengths, Steve Belichick sounded like a proud father. "He has quite a few. I think I know him. He's a very intelligent person. He's a very organized person. He knows priorities. He's very disciplined and a good communicator. He can talk one-on-one and to a group. He evidently has a good analytical mind as far as appraising the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition."
Bill Belichick also appears to be self-confident.
In his first meeting with the players, Belichick told them, "I've waited all my life for this opportunity, and I'm not going to screw it up."
The implication seemed to be that he wasn't going to let the players screw it up, either.
Belichick also shows signs of the secretive nature common among coaches these days. He has closed the locker room at training camp to reporters and won't allow the trainer to talk about injuries. He doles out the injury information, and if a player has knee surgery, he won't announce whether it's arthroscopic or reconstructive.
When a Dallas reporter showed up for a routine training camp interview and asked him whether he'd be as involved with the defense as he was as a defensive coordinator, Belichick acted as if a spy had infiltrated his camp.
"Well . . . [long pause] . . . OK, you've got to understand we open with Dallas. I don't want to be too free with how we're running our team up here, how the operation is run, and so many questions about our team, what we're doing and who's doing it, I can't say much about," Belichick told the Dallas reporter.
Steve Belichick doesn't see that reaction as paranoid.
"[Dallas coach] Jimmy Johnson doesn't have the slightest idea of what he's going to do. He's not going to tip his hand. Paranoid is the last word I'd use to describe him," Steve Belichick said.
Of course, Johnson can watch the videotapes to find out what Belichick is doing in the preseason.
So far, the surprise is that Belichick isn't using the Giants' 3-4 defensive scheme. He's using a 4-3 alignment with the tackle playing at an angle over the center in the old Pittsburgh Steelers tradition.
"I was dumbfounded," said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs when he saw Belichick wasn't using scheme he designed for the Giants.
Belichick is off to a good start. After losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 23-10, in their first game, the Browns upset the Giants, 16-10, last week.
Belichick, of course, sounded wary about tonight's game at RFK Stadium.
"When I was in New York, the toughest games always seemed to be played in RFK, and that's not taking anything away from some other very tough places to win, like Philadelphia and Dallas," he told the Cleveland writers.
Belichick perhaps overlooked that the Giants are 4-1 in their past five games at RFK.
He's only 39, but he's already sounding like a wily, veteran coach.
NOTES: GM Charley Casserly said there was no progress yesterday in the stalled talks with the Oilers about DE Sean Jones. . . . The Redskins will have to make 17 roster moves by Tuesday to cut from 77 to 60 players. . . . Gibbs said the regulars will play "quite a while" against the Browns, but he added he wants to get "quality time" for backup RB Gerald Riggs with the first unit. . . . CB Martin Mayhew, who struggled in camp, strained a groin muscle during a scrimmage Wednesday night, but is expected to play.
Preseason opponent: Cleveland Browns
Site: RFK Stadium
Radio: WCAO (600 AM), WMAL (630 AM)
TV: Channel 5