Sunday, February 5, 2012

Belichick, the Day After the Super Bowl

There are teams that come very close to the championship game in so many sports, but lose in the playoffs. Every major sport has a playoff system and very good teams often get eliminated right just before the championship for any number of reasons. Regardless of how good a team played during the season, the other teams are not going to let them walk through the playoffs. They need to be at their best at just the right time. This is certainly true of NFL football, where one playoff loss means you are out.

In the NFL, the games are often compared to military battles with strategies, plans and execution. Yet, in some circumstances elimination seems to come down to luck. In others, maybe it's a bad call or two. Sometimes it seems that the losing team was just having an off day.

There is so much angst involved in a playoff loss, fans and pundits go to great lengths to try to pin down the reasons for the failure. It can turn into a witch hunt with the requisite negative hyperbole. But at some point, a clear-headed analysis will generally point out that the game was the same length as other games, the same number of players were on the field, the same conditions prevailed for both sides, and perhaps most importantly, a team win or loss is always...a team win or loss. There were plenty of opportunities to score points or stop the other team from doing the same.

New England's Successful Coach

If you study Bill Belichick, one thing you know for sure is that he is no Knute Rockne. His Super Bowl wins as head coach of the Patriots do not seem to be the result of great speech-making and impressive camaraderie with his players. Also, I don't think people are writing books on his innovative defenses or offenses. He is not so much an innovator as much as someone who stresses the importance of blocking and tackling, throwing and catching, pressuring and defending. He is studious, of course, and certainly responds to successful new strategies and tends, but more importantly he is also tireless and never satisfied. His mantra has remained the same every season: "Just do your job."

Bill the Builder

Belichick's strategy is to take away the opponents strengths—something he learned long ago from his father who was a scout and coach. How can his team neutralize the opposition’s strengths? He likes to see his opponents set up for one defense and then give them something unexpected.

His team lives by pressure that he unceasingly provides, but he wants them to understand the only thing that’s important is to “do your job.” When things get tough, he turns up the pressure on opposing teams and he is confident that his own team can perform under it. Teamwork is critical.

Mostly, Belichick is a team builder and his team is always under construction. He is always looking ahead. Even when he has a Super Bowl team, he is looking ahead to next year. He runs his team like a business—one that keeps improving and moving forward in an affordable way. He watches his boss's money, he hates to overpay; it leaves less for others.

Belichick will not get hung up on the reasons for New England's win or loss in the Super Bowl tonight. If the Patriots lose, he will stand there in front of the cameras, in seemingly deep pain and admit to everyone that his team did not play well enough. If the Patriots win, he will smile and try to live in the moment for a short time. But win or lose, the day after the Super Bowl, Belichick will be thinking about how his team can become better next year. For Belichick, the quest has to be one for perfection. He will never stand still. His strategy will never be focused on how he can keep his team together as other champions often do. It will be on adding better players to improve his team. No player, no coach, no administrator is irreplaceable.

Post Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press. Inc.

Image Attribution: By Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA (Bill Belichick) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Baseball (and Life), Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout, and Maddie Takes the Ice.

1 comment:

  1. This was Belichick's take on the Super Bowl loss: "First of all, congratulations (New York) Giants. Won a championship, they're a good football team and they're well coached. They obviously played well tonight. Very competitive football game, they just made a couple more plays then we did. By the way our guys played, fought, fought all year, fought tonight, and we had our chances. We just couldn't quite make enough plays. Giants made a few more than we did. Really isn't too much more to say about. Can't fault the effort of any of our players. They played as hard as they could, we could have just played a tiny bit better. It was obviously a very competitive football game."