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An Enlightening Look into the World of Pro Football
on September 27, 2004
I am neither a Patriots fan nor a Bill Belichick fan. But, because of this book, I have an immense amount of respect for the organization and the man. My favorite parts of the book are when Michael Holley, the author, goes into detail about game plan and scouting strategy. Here's one example.
When the Patriots played the Rams in the 2002 SuperBowl, they were expected to get steam-rolled, especially since the Rams had blown them out earlier in the season. As Holley explains, Belichick's strategy in the first game had been to do everything possible to pressure the Rams QB, Kurt Warner. It didn't work, and Warner picked the Patriots defense apart rather easily. Before the SuperBowl, Belichick began thinking that maybe the real key to containing the "greatest show on turf" was to disrupt Faulk, not Warner. So, instead of having his d-linemen and linebackers go all out after Warner, Belichick instructed them (over and over again) to first hit Faulk (if he was in the vicinity) in the backfield and then rush. Also, Belichick and his staff told them never to assume that Faulk was staying home to block--it was always a decoy. The Patriots were also taught that the Rams never run the same play out of the same formation. Even if it looks like the same play they saw 15 minutes ago, it's not. The strategy worked, and Belichick's defensive genius trumped the offensive genius of Mike Martz as the Pats won their first SuperBowl.
Holley also does a good job of describing Belichick's desire and tendency to challenge commonly held (but not well though-out) football assumptions. During the 2002 post-Championship season, the Patriots were right around .500 and playing poorly. At one point, one of the Patriot players told a reporter that the team's problem was that they had lost their swagger. When Belichick read about this, he went berserk. In an intense, profanity-filled speech (common with Belichick) given during a team meeting, he let them know that the reason they won so much last season was not because of any swagger, but because they played smart, disciplined football, and did not deviate from the assignments they had been given. Belichick challenges the goofy cliches that you hear from the ESPN, Fox and CBS pre-game guys.
One word of warning to unsuspecting dads or moms: I wouldn't let my kids read this because it is filled with profanity. It is difficult for Belichick (and many of his coaches and players) to get through a sentence without using the f-word, and Holley doesn't edit their words.
With regard to the substance of the book, my only complaint is that I wish Holley had devoted even more time to specific plays, coverages, schemes, etc. But that's a minor gripe. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I suspect that anyone who is football fan will also find it to be an enlightening and entertaining read.