January 7, 2017


Why do Patriots keep winning? Hall of Fame coaches explain Bill Belichick's success (Tom Pelissero, Sep. 29th, 2016, USA Today)

Two of the seven living coaches enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame got to know Belichick from opposite perspectives, yet their initial response is almost identical when asked about the Patriots starting 3-0 this season with two young quarterbacks in place of suspended star Tom Brady.

"It certainly doesn't surprise me," Parcells told USA TODAY Sports. "I think one of Bill's great strengths is to take what he has momentarily, figure out who he's playing against, and then devise something that gives his team the best chance to be successful against the opponent -- that week, in that moment."

Said Dungy: "They do a great job of getting the players to adapt and understand that they can do different things. Those kind of situations, they don't bother them. He's the best adjustment coach in football, in adjusting to the strength of his players and masking the weaknesses of their team. It didn't surprise me at all." [...]

No matter who's at quarterback -- even Matt Cassel, with whom the Patriots finished 11-5 in 2008 after Brady blew out a knee in Week 1 -- certain traits carry over with Belichick teams.

-- They'll try to take away what you do best: "If you're a blitzing team, he's going to come up with things to take away the blitz," said Dungy, who's now an analyst for NBC's Football Night in America. "If we're playing them, he's not going to let Marvin Harrison have a 200-yard day. You know that -- but you don't know how."

-- They'll surprise you schematically: "We always told our team, the big thing is survive in the first quarter," Dungy said. "You don't know what you're going to get. You can't practice for what you may get. You have to just be able to adapt. But you could count on not having things be exactly the same as last time you played them, even if they had success with it."

-- They'll play whatever type of game Belichick thinks can win: "His system is flexible," Parcells said. "It can be complementary if it needs to be, as you saw last week. And you're not talking about someone who doesn't have a lot of experience in these endeavors. So there's a good chance, as he approaches these things, he has points of reference of games gone past."

--They'll make you beat them: "That's what I admire about the Patriots more than anything else," Dungy said. "I see seven or eight teams beat themselves every week. And then you watch (the Patriots), and they'll lose a couple games, but it's never because they self-destruct or they don't know what they're doing or they don't play situations right."

...is the recognition that football coaches are so inept that they won't be able to make counter-adjustments--Dungy being exhibit A. The only meaningful loss Belichick ever had to him was with the distinctively unbelichickian 2006-7 Pats (average age of team 27.4 years*), where loyalty to Super Bowl winning players left his squad exhausted in the 2nd half, especially the LBs his defense relies on--Bruschi (33); Vrabel (31); Seau (37); Colvin (29).

Of course, being Bill he learned the lesson, as the average age the last 5 seasons shows:

Patriots26.07 (15)25.95 (13)25.76 (11)25.88 (11)25.81 (9)

Posted by at January 7, 2017 9:45 AM