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I didn’t catch Ben McAdoo’s postgame press conference Sunday afternoon. I was on the other side of Levi’s Stadium, talking to happy, relieved 49ers. But I watched video of his give-and-take.

McAdoo, the New York Giants head coach, looks and sounds like the manager of a not-tidy transmission shop, and he’s really sorry but that clutch pressure plate just isn’t gonna get here by Tuesday. He seemed unprepared for his media Q&A, just as his team had seemed unprepared for the then-0-and-9 49ers.

And as McAdoo was peppered with questions about his defense, his placekicker and his job security, he repeatedly fell back on a coach’s favorite and most time-honored refuge: He couldn’t answer before seeing the game tape.

“We need to go take a long hard look at the tape,” McAdoo said in his opening statement.

“Yeah, again, we need to go take a long hard look at the tape. I’m not going to grade any players up here today. I’m going to make sure we go take a long look at the tape,” he said when asked why his defense had surrendered 31 points to a teetering offense.

His players’ effort? “I’m going to go look at the tape.” Cornerback Janoris Jenkins? “We’re going to go back and take a long look at the tape.” Defensive malfunction? “We’re going to go look at the tape.” Lack of fight? “We’ve got to go take a look at the tape.”

The final question put to McAdoo was: How do you motivate your team at 1-8?

“Again, we have to do one thing first,” he answered. (Can you guess what that thing is? Any wild stabs?) “We have to look at the tape first.”

McAdoo is clearly an aficionado. He was probably watching tape on his tablet during the drive back to the team hotel after that 31-21 loss, more tape in his Silicon Valley hotel room, more on the flight home to New York. McAdoo’s Netflix queue must be remarkable. The company probably had to devise a separate algorithm just for him. I mean, what do you recommend for a consumer who loves both “Boss Baby” and “Chargers 27, Giants 22, Oct. 8, 2017”?

It’s unfair to single out Ben McAdoo, though. He is merely borrowing a page out of the football coach’s (other) playbook. Former 49ers head coach Mike Singletary was a chronic “have to watch the film” guy, maybe the most prolific in history. Samurai Mike couldn’t tell you how much he enjoyed his pastrami sandwich without going to the video first. Chip Kelly used the phrase a lot, too, when coaching the Niners last season.

And really, it’s everywhere. The briefest of Google searches turned up recent examples from Cleveland’s Hue Jackson, Carolina’s Ron Rivera, the Jets’ Todd Bowles, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis and the Chargers’ Anthony Lynn. All of those are from 2017. If football didn’t exist, these guys would be the Roger Eberts and Leonard Maltins of their generation.

It trickles down to college coaches, too, and to players. And it’s no recent trend. If Vince Lombardi had been a member of the Warren Commission, he likely would have told his fellow commissioners that he’d have to review the (Zapruder) film before offering an opinion.

About the only real variation on the theme is whether the coach uses “tape” or “film” in his answer. Makes it easy to spot the real connoisseurs — the guys who prefer the rich images of celluloid over the convenience of videotape. Singletary probably watched his in black and white. (Strangely, these men spend much of their times watching digital images on computers, but as far as I know, no one has started the “I’ll have to look at the GIF” trend yet.)

I found a transcript from the Patriots’ season-opening loss to Kansas City on “Thursday Night Football,” and Bill Belichick responded to a question about defensive linemen Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise by noting, “We’ll look at it on film. If it’s good, we’ll tell them it was good. If it needs to be corrected, then we’ll correct it.” The crazy thing is, the same transcript included no less than five of Belichick’s players claiming they would have to scan the moving images before drawing conclusions. And all of them went with “film.” It was almost like a New England version of “Get Out.”

So many coaches make reference to watching the tape every week that I have started to imagine them gathering for movie night somewhere in the Midwest on Tuesdays — Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians cuddling under a blanket like old times, laid-back Pete Carroll flopping onto a beanbag chair. Jack Del Rio brings the beer. Andy Reid pops massive bowls of popcorn, heavy on the melted butter.

Team leaders in other sports have yet to discover this tool. Basketball teams watch tape all the time, but you won’t catch Steve Kerr using it to deflect an answer unless someone asks him about a single play. Bruce Bochy or Bob Melvin will run you through specific pitch sequences, recalling the pitches thrown and the swings made at them, all without use of a DVD player.

Granted, football is the most complex sport when a ball is in motion. It’s not even close. When someone asks Kyle Shanahan 20 minutes after a game how his left guard performed on run plays, I can forgive him for needing cinematic reference. But “Did your players fight hard?” or “What did you think of your quarterback’s passing?” Come on, Coach. If you can’t answer those without picking up a TV remote, what were you even watching during the game? Tape of the previous game?

The fact is, “I’ll have to watch the tape” isn’t merely an admission. It’s the perfect stall tactic.

Poor Ben McAdoo didn’t want to face those reporters on Sunday and acknowledge that his troops laid down, or that individual Giants were terrible. It’s an unpleasant conversation that is likely to beget other, even more awkward conversations.

It’s so much easier to delay your response. Amazing what 24 hours of contemplation and consultation with management and the PR staff can do for a coach’s answer. And by the time the coach faces the media again, the scribes might forget to re-ask the question, or may simply have lost interest. Better yet, the world could be made uninhabitable by a sudden nuclear confrontation between two grown-up toddlers, and the coach would be off the hook entirely.

I really can’t blame McAdoo for taking this approach. But was it effective? Hmm, that’s hard to say. Dim the lights, turn up the sound, hit PLAY and ask me again in 20 minutes.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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