The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam

Education of a Coach

Summary
  1. Halberstam details the career and life of the New England Patriot’s coach, Bill Belichick. How his background, beliefs, work ethic and process have helped him become one of the most prolific football coaches in history.
Key Takeaways
  1. Bill is extremely anti-media as it creates a me world whereas he pushes for a “we” world. Has no inclination for the spotlight and zero artifice. Looked for players without a propensity for big displays of ego. Bill has a big ego but was about the doing, about the team winning. Not a man of charisma like most coaches, but a man of chalk. To push away fame, he dressed as gray as possible and drives a Volvo station wagon
  2. Coaching was almost an end in itself, preparing his players to the best of his ability. Loved the bigger stage because it was a bigger challenge. His attention to detail is second to none
  3. The Patriots coaches have no trophies or other signs of success in office – don’t want any trappings of the past and complacency
  4. Reading film, ability to adapt and work ethic is why set him apart from everyone else
  5. Constant evaluation of players and adaptation key 
  6. The little things aren’t the little things
  7. The key to success is being organized as being organized lets you save time and focus on what you’re it’s about doing what you’re supposed to do
  8. The Patriots are a team without an ego. All they want to do is win
What I got out of it
  1. Very interesting book on Belichick the man, why he acts the way he does and how he has risen to the highest echelon of the coaching world.

  • Belichik’s father, Steve, was a scout at Navy and analyzed film like few others. Ancestors came from Croatia
  • Born in Nashville in 1952 when dad was a coach at Vanderbilt but was soon fired and they headed to UNC where he got another coaching job. Soon fired again and got an assistant coach at Navy. Also became a physical education coach and ended up staying at navy for 33 years. Coached Bill on how to play center, break down film and scout players
  • His 3 Super Bowls (now 4) is so impressive because the NFL actively tries to make dynasties very difficult and because of his ability to create a team out of often selfish players
  • Steve and his family grew up in Ohio and lived very poor and tough life. The Croatian culture focused on hard work, discipline and not wasting anything. This was ingrained in Steve at an early age
  • The 2002 Super Bowl win against the Rams one of his finest displays of coaching as the talent gap was pretty substantial
  • Ernie Adams is a long time friend and assistant coach to Belichick. He was the masters master at reading film
  • Belichick went to Wesleyan and played football his first two years and senior year but didn’t get along with the coaches. Also played lacrosse and excelled
  • First job out of college was with the Colts. Was hardly paid but soon showed his worth and gained salary and responsibilities.
  • Mastery of the grunt work essential
  • Considered himself a football outsider since didn’t play at a big time program but determined knowledge more than football skill brought forth respect between player and coach
  • Went to the Lions after a year for a better salary
  • Learned early that coach couldn’t be players friend or else you’d lose authority
  • Drawn to defense but also mastered offense
  • Football isn’t about heroics
  • Always struggled with reaching his players emotionally but believed that to be a short term fix as you could only go to the “emotional well” so many times
  • Worked a long time with Bill Parcells and although they worked very well together, they weren’t good friends. Parcells was a tough guy and made it very clear he was in charge
  • Had a very successful stint at the Giants and was part of 2 super bowl winning teams
  • Amazed him that certain coaches had zero interest in the other side of the ball. Made it a point to master both offense and defense, although preferred defense
  • After winning second super bowl, was hired by browns. Struggled there as it was a different set up with the owner and the media was much more involved which he was not used to and not very good at. Later fired the start QB, Kosar, and with that pretty much sealed his fate with the Browns. Learned from then on that there would only be one set of rules for the players, regardless of position or talent
  • After being let go by the Browns he joined Parcells again at New England. Left with him to the jets a couple years later and was then rehired by Robert Kraft to be the head coach at New England. Was not a fan of lying huge sums for super star players but rather have a very deep team that is interchangeable. Got lucky in choosing Tom Brady in the 6th round as he quickly showed he was one of the best QBs in the league and a perfect fit for the system. Brady was motivated by his low draft choice and out worked everyone. No coach knew how good Tom was at the time. Every second of practice was if he was on the field in a pressure situation. Was a fourth strong QB who was acting like a coach. Brady had the very rare ability of being able to read the defense instantaneously and react accordingly. He also knew what every single one of his receivers was doing
  • Drew Bledsoe was the Patriots poster boy but Belichick had his doubts about how far he could take the team. Bledsoe got injured and that gave Brady his chance. He immediately showed poise under pressure and won a crucial game. He led the patriots to the super bowl that year and beat a “better” Rams team. Belichick considers it one of the best games he’s ever coached
  • Belichick and his coaching crew signed a lot of relatively obscure players who were hungry and would fit into their system even if not the most talented. By 2003 was beginning to build a team around him – coaches and players – that fit his mold
  • Returned to the Super Bowl in 2003 and beat a good Panthers team in a very tight game
  • Belichick amazing at forcing teams to do what they didn’t want to do
  • Back in the 2004 Super Bowl after beating very good Colts and Steelers teams. Was 15-0 against teams he had played during the regular season and later got to play a second time. Beat the Eagles for their third Super Bowl in 4 years. However, Super Bowl victories did not lead to complacency. That is not in his system
  • Had to make a lot of difficult roster decisions, often letting older players go before they had really aged in order to make room to groom younger players
  • He never plays games and there is no artifice. With him, you get him and nothing else

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