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Volume 26 No. 227
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NFL Films' Belichick-Saban Doc Showcases Legendary Friendship

NFL Films' new documentary, "Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching," premieres tonight on HBO at 9:00pm ET, highlighting the "long-standing friendship between two of the most famous football minds of their generation," according to Richard Deitsch of THE ATHLETIC. NFL Films VP & Senior Coordinating Producer Ken Rodgers had "wanted to do a film on both coaches for some time." Bill Belichick and Nick Saban have "met every year in Alabama during the offseason," and Rodgers knew that he would have a "compelling film if the two coaches would ever let someone film the session." In May, a crew of 11 NFL Films staffers traveled to Tuscaloosa to film the coaches. They "shot two hours" inside of Saban's university office before he went to practice. Later that night, they went to his home and "shot in his recruiting room." The next day, they "filmed Saban and Belichick at Alabama's Pro Day." The conversations between Belichick and Saban are the "best part of the film and the awkwardness of the two at times knowing they are on camera gives the conversation authenticity" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/9).

UNIVERSAL APPEAL: In Boston, Chad Finn wrote the documentary is essentially a "conversation between two people who respect each other and each other's achievements, but beyond that seem to have a genuine kinship that extends beyond football." Belichick and Saban had "so much to talk about" that Rodgers was "initially worried how to distill it down to one 90-minute show." But when Rodgers saw the coaches interact, he "knew what to do: Turn on the camera, get out of the way, and just let them go" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/8). NESN.com's Zack Cox wrote "honest self-reflection is the prevailing theme" of the documentary. It includes a "treasure trove of archival footage, much of which is edited to illustrate just how similar its two subjects really are." The result is an "engaging, insightful and often humorous portrait of two men who've helped one another rise to the absolute pinnacle of their profession." It is one of the "best NFL Films efforts in recent memory" (NESN.com, 12/5). In Tuscaloosa, Edwin Stanton noted the opening scene of the film takes place in Saban's office when Belichick "asks the camera crew to leave so the two can just sit down and have a conversation." Stanton: "It's all about football. It's a powerful moment that gives viewers insight on how both of these coaches are the best at what they do" (TUSCALOOSA NEWS, 12/9).

WORTH YOUR TIME: THE MMQB's Albert Breer wrote it is "well worth the watch, even if it does cover a lot of ground that's well-worn." The end was "pretty interesting," with Belichick and Saban "talking about one another." NFL Films did a "great job" (SI.com, 12/9). PATRIOTS.com's Paul Perillo wrote while there is "not a ton of new ground unearthed," the documentary remains a "fascinating experience, bringing the two greatest coaches of the era into focus." Football fans "of all kinds" will "enjoy the ride" (PATRIOTS.com, 12/6).