Aqib Talib: Sean McVay, Bill Belichick are ‘totally different’ but share ability to lead
The New England Patriots fell short of reaching the Super Bowl when Aqib Talib played for them in 2012 and 2013.
But the Rams cornerback was exposed to coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots culture that has helped produce five Super Bowl victories in eight appearances.
So Talib has experience working under Belichick and Rams coach Sean McVay, the football minds that will try to outmaneuver each other in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Belichick, 66, has the Patriots playing in the Super Bowl for the third year in a row. McVay, 33, guided the Rams to their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2001 season.
“Two totally different guys,” Talib said Tuesday.
When asked for specifics, the usually loquacious Talib sounded as if he were channeling the Patriot Way — that is, saying something without revealing too much of anything.
“Hard to explain,” Talib said. “They’re different guys. … Something they got that’s the same, they got great leadership qualities, man.
“You give them a group of guys and both do a great job leading those guys.”
The Rams acquired Talib last March as part of the team’s plan to improve the defense and make a Super Bowl run. Less than two weeks after they traded for cornerback Marcus Peters, they dealt for Talib.
The 11th-year pro played a major role despite being sidelined for eight games while recovering from ankle surgery. The secondary struggled at times during his absence, but it improved upon his return for the final five regular-season games and playoff victories over the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints.
“The best thing about Aqib,” McVay said, “he’s not trying to be somebody who is a charismatic presence where people are drawn to him — he’s just that because of who he is.”
Talib, 32, won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos during the 2015 season. Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was the Broncos’ coordinator.
After last season, Talib nixed a trade that would have sent him to the San Francisco 49ers. He welcomed a trade to the Rams so he could rejoin Phillips.
Talib played this season for $11 million. He is scheduled to earn $8 million next season.
“You’re close to a lot of your players, but I’m really close to Aqib,” Phillips said. “He’s certainly helped me get a ring, which is important.
“But, the friendship part has been really special to me. I think, maybe, and it’s not all money, but I think he came partly because I was here. That really means a lot to you as a coach — that somebody would like to play for you, or at least does to me.”
Super Bowl week kicked off with Opening Night featuring the Los Angeles Rams, the New England Patriots and a few thousand media members and fans inside State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
Talib is not surprised by the Rams’ success. It began, he said, with hard work in April during offseason workouts.
“I thought if everybody bought in in April, and everybody worked hard in April, I thought we’d have a great chance of being the best team in the league,” he said. “We’re leaning toward that goal.”
Talib is one of four Rams who have played in the Super Bowl. Cornerback Sam Shields made it with the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 season, running back C.J. Anderson with the Broncos in 2013 and 2015, and receiver Brandin Cooks played for the Patriots last season.
Talib said he had shared with teammates tips on how to handle various elements of the Super Bowl run-up, including hotels, family, tickets and the media.
The media session Tuesday was the second in less than 24 hours for Talib. Players also will attend news conferences Wednesday and Thursday.
“I don’t think it’s hard or anything,” said Talib, who made guest appearances as a studio analyst for NFL Network during the season. “Just sit down and answer a bunch of questions.
“We do a lot harder stuff than that.”
On the field, Talib said he’d curtailed much of the talk he did with opponents earlier in his career.
“I do more thinking in the game,” he said. “I’m really trying to think, help people out on the field. I don’t got no time to talk.”
Not with Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady trying to win another Super Bowl.
“Probably the best coach-quarterback combination ever,” Talib said. “Man, both future Hall of Famers. So I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is, it’s working for ’em.”
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
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