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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.
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on October 1, 2004
I liked the book, I thought Michael Holley did a decent job, but it should've been better. He said on a couple of occasions that No one from the Patriots interfered with the book, So I expected him to go deeper. For instance, The combine section, the stuff he wrote about was great (about Brandon Lloyd and the overall process)but giving us examples from the interview of players that the Pats actually did draft and the things they liked about them would've been a logical and more meaningful addition to the section. I felt that the sections of the book that dealt with the 2002 and 2003 seasons were filled with generalities. Other than in 2002 they were old and not focused and in 2003 they were more prepared, I didn't get that much out of it. Instead of just telling us a quick blurb on the scouting of Brady, and how much they loved him, maybe enlight us as to why they didn't draft him sooner. It may sound like I'm nitpicking, but as I was reading I was expecting to read some of these things as natural extensions of what I was already reading and time and time again it didn't happen. There are other examples of this, but it might unfaily portray this as a bad book which it absolutley isn't. Belicheck's issue with Tom Jackson, his relationship with Parcells, Pioli, His coaches, Lessons he learned, his playeer evaluation process the stuff on the 2001 Super Bowl, Belichecks relationship with the media in general, all great stuff, but it just should've been better.
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on November 22, 2011
Michael Holly's PATRIOT REIGN is essentially the exegesis of Bill Belichick's coaching methods in building the great Patriot teams that won three Super Bowls in four years. Having failed in his own eyes during his five years as head coach of the Cleveland Browns (1990-95), Belichick did things differently from the start with the Patriots. First, his relationship with the owner had to be different than it was with Art Modell, who fires Belichick with a phone call. The anti-Modell is Robert Kraft. Always engaged and yet respect of Belichick's coaching decisions, Kraft was the one who allowe Belichick to be Belichick. Second, the players had to be fearless and smart, selfless and mentally tough. Tom Brady and Mike Vrabel might not have fit the perfect descriptions of an offensive and defensive player around the NFL, but to the Patriots they were the prototypes for success. They took in everything the coaches said, but they were always able to adjust in the moment. Third, the coaches understood Belichick and supported him, but realized that failure would be on them as much as the players. Fourth, always, always take away the strength of the other team. May the other team beat you in a way that they are not comfortable in doing. Holly weaves these four story lines throughout and the result is one of the best football books ever written.
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on February 4, 2015
Mostly about BB but offers insight to the Krafts and the front office. Sprinkled with some players experiences and anecdotes. Actually had some good snorts/laughs at some points. All in all a good short read for any Patriot football fan. Only three stars because a lot of time spent recapping games. I would rather more time spent on how they prepared and 'deconstructed' a team. I did not know Scott Pioli married Bill Parcells' daughter. Good stuff like that in here too. I would recommend this book to a casual reader Patriot fan.
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on June 5, 2016
This is really a great read. I flew through it. As a Patriot fan it's incredibly interesting to get such insight of Bill and the organization. It's fun to read about all of these coaches now and how the patriots own the coaching landscape with all coaches coming from Bills cabinet. It's also extremely interesting to read the player profiles and what the coaches and Bill thought of certain players. Some of the players they were so highly on are all time patriot greats. The book is a good look back on the early history of Krafts Patriots and the first two super bowls. As a patriots fan now, it was fun to read about some of the players that have become patriot legends that were merely just players who the patriots and Bill thought would become great. Bill is a great coach and Holley does a great job at actually bringing the patriot fan, or even just a football fan, even closer to what makes Bill so successful. An easy but really fun read. Before you know it I had finished the book and was left pleased and thankful for Bill and the success of the patriots. FREE BRADY
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on May 5, 2014
Michael Holley is a writer that lives in Boston and covers the franchise so I was confident going in that the book would be well written and fact checking done accordingly. I read the book in about 3 days and just couldn't put it down. It covers Bill Belichick's start with the Baltimore Colts, through his split with Bill Parcels in NY and then culminates with the win over the Carolina Panthers, my favorite team by the way, in the Super Bowl.

I used to despise New England and Tom Brady and Belichick. Mostly because they were always good and I was sick of seeing them win. But after delving into things and finding out the kind of program they run I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. This book is flat out wonderful and for the prices you can get it for on Amazon you can't go wrong.

I'm getting ready to read Holley's second book "War Room" that covers Belichick and the personnel he surrounded himself with. Buy this book, you won't regret it!
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on December 10, 2012
Seriously, you have got to read this book if you are a Pats fan and you lived through the 90's and the first two Super Bowl victories. This book gives you a great understanding of what makes Bill and Bob tick. You even get some detail about Brady and Pioli. Mike Holley immersed himself and it shows. I knocked this book out darn quick. If there is any knock, its that he didn't do the 2004 season too, though he couldn't have known at the time that the roll would keep going. For all you other football fans out there - you want to see what is necessary for your franchise to win? - read the book.
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VINE VOICEon November 11, 2004
Michael Holly, a former sports writer for the Boston Herald, followed the New England Patriots through the 2002-2003 National Football League seasons. He describes himself as a "fly on the wall" in team meetings, coaches meetings, and seems to have been literally everywhere with the Patriots for those two years. The result is a well done, inside look at the inner workings of what is now considered one of the preeminent sports organizations and teams.

New England Patriots fans have suffered a lot of losing seasons over the years. Painful losing seasons. The organization, the players, and coaches were just atrocious and there was no hope in sight during stretches of the 1980's and early 1990's. That is why the 2001 Super Bowl victory over the St. Louis Rams was so gratifying to Patriots fans. The team's failure to reach the playoffs in 2002 was a big disappointment because it appeared maybe the Patriots where just a lucky underdog with a good run. Michael Holly actually started following the team at the start of the 2002 season and decided to continue on in 2003. He was rewarded with another Super Bowl run that not only legitimized the Patriots as an elite team in the NFL but legitimized the 2001 championship season as well.

So how did the Patriots do it? Holley tells us. It's through a very well organized sports team from the top down. And it all centers around coach Bill Belichick, who sets the goals and responsibilities of all parts of the organization and then, as a team, working toward that goal, which is of course winning championships. It relies on team work from the owner, the scouts, the trainers, the coaches, the administrative staff, and of course, the players. And it's important to note the importance of owner Robert Kraft. He has given Belichick the authority to run the football operation as he sees fit and Belichick responds by keeping Kraft fully in the loop and the communication channels open with the owner - something Bill Parcels refused to do.

Probably the two most important functions that are necessary to win championships is finding players in the draft and free agency that fit the system and managing the salary cap. Belichick and the Scott Pioli, Vice President of Player Personnel, and of course the coaches and scouts, have had outstanding drafts and free agent acquisitions since Belichick's reign. And Belichick and Pioli have done a fabulous job managing the salary cap - a task that led to the release of fan favorite Strong Safety Lawyer Milloy prior to the 2003 season. Belichick and his staff have found players with the character to fulfill their roles on the team with a winning attitude and play team ball. Being introduced as a team instead of individually prior to Super Bowl XXXVI was not a gimmick - they really do play that way.

Holley's book also includes a lot biographical information about Belichick and how grew up in a football family, his father being an assistance coach for Navy, and his intense study of the game and what it takes to win. He explores Belichick's decision to leave the New York Jets after being hired as head coach to get out of the shadow of Bill Parcels and run his own show. And we discover that the team won, despite the drama and negative feelings surrounding the trade of Drew Bledsoe to the Buffalo Bills and the release of Lawyer Milloy.

While most of the book focuses on the coach and the organization, Holley does provide the players' perspective. While Belichick is a bit aloof with his players, the players themselves understand that the system works and winning (and losing) as a team is what they are all about. Of course it's easy to buy into the system with two Super Bowl rings on their fingers.

This is a very short book and a quick read but is full of insight into the Patriots organization. This is a must read for Patriots fans. Avid football fans probably would also enjoy the book to see how a winning team operates.
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on November 29, 2005
I was very disappointed in this book, but it's not terrible. If 2.5 stars were an option, I would have chosen it, but I couldn't justify rounding up. The reviewer who wrote "Two years and this is it?" hit the nail on the head. I've read Michael Holley's column before and liked it, so I'm surprised he couldn't derive more insight out of his tenure as a fly on the wall in Foxborough. The book is an easy read and has some good anecdotes, particularly about the departures of Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe. There are some good stories about Belichik (I loved the unprintable comment Belichik made to Tom Jackson after the Super Bowl). But I expected a little more analysis about what really sets Belichik and the Patriots apart. If that's what you're looking for, you'll be disappointed. This book contained the startling insights that Belichik is very smart, works very hard, and expects the same of his players and coaches. I could get that from reading any random column by Bob Ryan or Nick Cafardo, and they don't need two-year sabbaticals to figure it out. The book isn't very well-written either. It reads like it needed one more draft before publication. There were times when I had to re-read a paragraph to figure out to whom pronouns were referring, which shows some lazy writing and editing. Overall, it's not awful but it sure could, and should, have been better.
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on October 29, 2004
This was a fun book to read if you are intrigued with the inner workings of professional football. It was gratifying to see how everyone from ownership to coaches and players learned and corrected past mistakes. This book also brought to light some common misassumptions the average fan has for pro football. For example, it was funny to read Belichick's perspective of half time adjustments and how the organization looks at the combine and prepares for the draft. If you really like pro football, you'll really like this book.
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