- Bill Belichick is the NFL’s top coach – and he’s started the 2019 season dominant, as always.
- Belichick outsmarts his opponents by turning his final round draft picks into stars, and making in-game adjustments that lead to championships.
- Here are 10 ways Belichick outsmarted all his opponents.
But don’t count out Belichick’s dominance.
Through smart decision making and personnel moves, the couch has outfoxed his opponents time and time again. He’s already showcased some of his brilliant decision-making this season, after routing the Pittsburgh Steelers in their regular-season opener.
Here are 10 times the NFL’s best coach outsmarted everyone else:
2000: He drafted Tom Brady with the 199th pick.
Belichick has earned a reputation as a brilliant talent scout.
That includes what might be the greatest draft pick in history: taking Michigan quarterback Tom Brady in the sixth round in 2000.
“The thing with Brady was really the traits: his work ethic, his intelligence, his decision-making,” Belichick said in a 2010 interview. “I think a lot of the draft process is [about] not where the player is right now, but where the player will be a year from now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player improve as much as Tom did. That’s certainly a big credit to his work ethic and his determination.”
It paid off: Brady has three league MVP awards, six Super Bowl wins, and 14 Pro Bowl selections.
2003: He gave up points — to get more in return.
Flash back to November 2003. The Broncos are up 24-23 on the Patriots with 2 minutes 51 seconds left in the game. The Pats are in the perilous position of 4th and 10 from their own 1-yard line.
“Belichick was unwilling to give the Broncos strong field position, so he ordered his long snapper to air one over his punter’s head, giving the Broncos two points on the safety and possession,” John McTigue reports for ESPN.
The Patriots forced the Broncos to go three-and-out, and Brady had over two minutes to come back and score the winning touchdown.
2008: He waged the information war — even with the injury report.
Belichick listed Brady on the Patriots’ injury report for three years straight.
During that time, Brady played 127 straight games.
Crazy, right? Anything to confuse opponents.
Unfortunately for him, Belichick’s trick had a lasting effect on how the league operates.
“The NFL has altered the format for the injury report, in part because of the Patriots,” the Boston Globe reported.
2008: He showcases top tier talent, then trades it away.
In 2008, Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first week of the season. Matt Cassell stepped in as the starter that season, passing for over 3,500 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Belichick promptly traded him away to the Chiefs for a second-round pick.
Five years later, Belichick used another Brady backup as trade-bait: Ryan Mallett was sent to the Houston Texans for a late-round draft choice.
In 2016, Jimmy Garoppolo started two winning games, and the Patriots later traded him to the San Francisco 49ers for a second round draft pick.
The underlying story: Belichick maximizes value every time.
2012: Embracing the no-huddle offense.
When the Patriots are rolling on offense, the game looks more like basketball than football.
By turning up the tempo, Brady can find and exploit weaknesses in the defense – and force them to stay that way.
As Deadspin writer Chris Brown detailed:
Modern defenses want to match offenses in terms of strength and speed via personnel substitutions. They also want to confuse offenses with movement and disguise. The up-tempo no-huddle stymies those defensive options.
The defense doesn’t have time to substitute, and it’s also forced to show its hand: It can’t disguise or shift because the quarterback can snap the ball and take advantage of some obvious, structural weakness.
And when the defense is forced to reveal itself, Tom Brady can change into a better play. The upshot of this tactic: Brady, of all people, sees defenses that are simpler than those most other NFL quarterbacks go up against.
2013: Coaching his players on how to deal with media.
In 2013, the Patriots had a public-relations catastrophe when former tight end Aaron Hernandez was indicted for murder. He later died of suicide in jail, and his attorney said he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
But Patriots players knew how to handle the media intensity.
Take it from former Patriots lineman Ross Tucker:
Quotes from the players when asked about the Hernandez situation in the coming days will be almost identical because that is what they will be told to say. I spent seven years in the NFL with five different teams, and I had never had a coach spend as much time talking about the media [as Belichick] and there was no close second.
Again, Belichick knows the power of information – and teaches his players to respect it, too.
2013: He took advantage of weather conditions.
Late in the 2013 season, the Patriots were hosting the Denver Broncos. The game went into overtime.
The Pats won the toss. They then elected to defer.
The reason? Winds were gusting at over 25 miles an hour at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
Instead of taking the ball, Belichick took the wind.
It worked. Former Denver kicker Matt Prater didn’t think he could knock in a 37-yard game-winner with that much wind in his face, and the Pats won with the winds at their backs.
2014: He doesn’t give away any information.
In September 2014, the Patriots were struggling.
When reporters asked him about the team’s perceived weaknesses, he said some version of “We’re on to Cincinnati” five times in a row.
The transcript is gold:
Reporter: Do you feel like the talent you have here is good?
Belichick: We’re getting ready for Cincinnati.
Reporter: Do you think you’ve done enough to help Tom Brady?
Belichick: We’re getting ready for Cincinnati. That’s what we’re doing.
2015: Using defense-destroying formations.
On Jan. 10, 2015, the Patriots came back to win against the Ravens with a little bit of cunning.
For three plays, Belichick’s offense set up with only four offensive linemen and a wide receiver lined up in the traditional left-tackle spot.
After the game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh objected to the tactic, saying, “It was clearly deception.”
“We had six eligible receivers on the field, but only five were eligible,” Belichick retorted.
2017: He stuns the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI after being down 28-3 at the third quarter.
The Atlanta Falcons finished the regular season with the NFL’s top scoring offense, led by MVP quarterback Matt Ryan. At the start of Super Bowl LI, their prowess was on display once again. Ryan and the Falcon defense dominated in the first half, securing a 21-3. They came back in the third quarter and scored another touchdown, which was seemingly a final nail in the Patriot’s coffin.
And yet, the title fell, once again, to Brady and Belichick.
While the Falcons’ inexperience led to costly mistakes, key Belichick coaching moves kept the Patriots in the game. For one, he switched up his defensive strategy to slow Atlanta’s offense by double-teaming Julio Jones and putting pressure on Ryan. He also made a bold decision to go for it from the 46-yard line in the 3rd quarter, leading to points on the board.
In the end, the Patriots made the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history and took the championship to its first overtime.