Bill Belichick

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Coach Belichick Endures Criticism
Why We Shouldn't Always Listen to "The Crowd"

Bill Belichick is universally recognized as one of the greatest pro football coaches ever. As I write, his Patriots are headed to yet another Super Bowl after completing an unbelievable perfect season, winning every game and losing none. It's been 35 years since a coach has pulled off that feat. His Patriots are one of only two teams to have won three Super Bowls in four years. No wonder he's been repeatedly voted Coach of the Year. 

But it wasn't always that way. Had he believed the critics during his first job as head coach, he might have never coached again.  When you see the old and new quotes side by side, you'd swear they must be talking about different people. 

What People Said and Did to Belichick Prior to Year 2000

 Belichick After Year 2000

After a disappointing loss to Houston, Belichick had to be escorted by police to the post game news conference. Fans chanted "Bill must go!!" - the kindest of their comments that day.  

During the conference, "the embattled coach barely could be heard over all the booing outside."

"Extra police were called in, and there was some pushing and shoving to keep fans behind crowd barriers."

Belichick's response: "To quote Buddy Ryan, 'If you listen to the fans, you'll be sitting up there with them.' I've got to do what I think is right, and I've been doing that. I know this team is headed in the right direction."

(Source: USA TODAY, 11/22/1993, Monday, Final Edition, Belichick Pelted by Bernie Boo-birds," by Tom Weir, SPORTS section; p. 3C)

"Somebody told me they're not going to another game as long as Bill Belichick is head coach." He received threats and hate mail. 

Belichick has been accused of everything but the collapse of the bond market"..."poor rapport with players. Media unfriendly. Humorless."..."the great uncommunicator." 

Belichick's response: "If you don't keep believing in yourself, you can get crushed by it." "I don't mind not being the flavor of the month." 

(Source: USA TODAY, 12/2/1994, Friday, FINAL EDITION, Browns Fans Still Blue / Belichick Tunes Out Dawg Pound, by Jon Saraceno, SPORTS section, p. 1C.)

A crowd of about 1,000 stood outside a Belichick press conference following a loss and screamed, "Bill Must Go!" for several minutes.

"He is not fan and media savvy. He often mumbles when he speaks. He is as flashy as drywall."

(Source: THE BOSTON GLOBE, 12/30/1994, Friday, City Edition, Not the People's Choice; All the Success in the World Can't Turn the Fans on to Coach Belichick, by Michael Holley, Globe Staff, Sports Section, p. 83.)

Fan Response to Belichick Trading Their Favorite Quarterback to Dallas:

"Holy smokes! Unbelievable! Outrageous!"

"They'd do this in the middle of the season? That is unforgivable. After yesterday, they should all be looking for jobs." 

"They should be getting rid of that (expletive) coach."

"I've been a season ticket holder since the 1950s, but I'm giving mine up."

"I think it (stinks), and I'll never watch another Browns game as long as I live."

"I think Belichick should be run out of town on a rail. If I said what I want to about Belichick, I wouldn't be a lady."

"We have the worst coach."

"I won't go to another Browns game as long as he (Belichick) is there."

"Belichick should have been axed."

"Belichick is ruining my team."

"Belichick is a joke."

(Source: PLAIN DEALER, Cleveland, Ohio, 11/9/1993, Tuesday, Final, The Fans Speak Out: What Callers to the Plain Dealer Had to Say About Bernie, Belichick and the Browns, National Section, p. 13A.)

In the final minutes of one game, "an airplane buzzed the stadium bearing the message 'Jump Art (the owner) and Take Belichick With You.'" Over 100 signs adorned the walls, with sayings such as ''Cleveland Clowns - Art and Bill,'' ''We Support The Athletes On This Team But Not The 2 Nuts Who Run It.''

(Source: COLUMBUS DISPATCH (Ohio), 11/22/1993, Monday, Fans Get Ugly in Browns' 27-20 Loss to Oilers; Belichick Hears It During, After Defeat, by Marla Ridenour, Sports Section, p. 1e)

"a miserable head coach"  "too unpredictable" "paranoid and schizophrenic." 

(Source: FOOTBALL DIGEST, Sept., 2000)

Bumper sticker in Cleveland: "Belichick is an Idiot."  

His children couldn't ride the bus to school because of other students' cruel comments.  He received so many death threats that the police had to stake out near his home. Eventually, he was fired. 

(Source: The Education of a Coach, by David Halberstam, New York: Hyperion, 2005, p. 177.)

2001, 2003, 2004, 2007 - Wins AFC Championship

2001, 2003, 2004 - Wins Super Bowl (Second team to ever win three Super Bowls in four years)

Record for most regular season wins (12 from previous season + 5 beginning the next season)

Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year (2003, 2007)

Two of his defensive game plans are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

(Source: Wikipedia on Bill Belichick)

"Coach of the year: Bill Belichick, New England. Belichick put together the finest season in NFL history in 2007.... There is no better coach in the NFL today maybe ever."

DALLAS MORNING NEWS,  Rick Gosselin's NFL Awards, 1/06/2008.

"What he accomplished this year is the single greatest regular season in NFL history."

(BOSTON HERALD, 1/03/2008, Boomer Esiason, CBS Sports.)

"For his efforts as a master strategist and motivator, Belichick is FOOTBALL DIGEST's 2003 Coach of the Year."

(FOOTBALL DIGEST, 3/22/2004, Football Digest's 2003 NFL Awards: Coach of the Year)

"The best teams usually are the healthiest teams, but that was not the case with the Patriots this season. New England's starters missed 103 games because of injuries, and the team was forced to start 42 players. The Patriots also did not have a pass rusher among the top 15 in sacks, a running back among the top 29 rushers or a receiver among the top 41 in receiving yards. Yet they finished the regular season as the best team in the NFL, a product of exemplary coaching. New England was managed so well that Bill Belichick was a runaway winner of the SPORTING NEWS Coach of the Year award in voting by head coaches."

(SPORTING NEWS, 1/24/2004, Bill Belichick: Patriots Coach of the Year)

"In January of 2000, I was critical of the Patriots' decision to hire Bill Belichick, who was a bust in Cleveland. I wrote: 'It is possible he has learned from mistakes and is a different coach, but it's also possible that a pig will learn to use silverware.'

Well, Babe is spooling linguini. And I'm eating crow.

Belichick's performance this season truly has been one of the most remarkable coaching jobs I have witnessed."

(Source: THE SPORTING NEWS, 1/21/02 Belichick Deserves Credit for Turnaround - Insider - Bill Belichick of New England Patriots, by Dan Pompei)

Today he's routinely referred to as a genius and one of the best coaches ever. But many don't understand that, as a Milwaukee journalist well put it,  "Long before Bill Belichick became a genius he was the moron head coach of the Cleveland Browns."

(Source: MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, Wisconsin, 11/23/2006, Thursday, PP Edition, by Richard Pufall, Winning Has Made Belichick a Lot Smarter, Z Packer Plus section, p. 3.)


1. If you were Belichick, which criticisms or actions would have discouraged you the most? 
2. Do you think some of the criticism was deserved, or that it was all due to unfortunate circumstances? Why or why not?
3. Do you think Belichick examined himself and changed as a result of the criticism? Or, was the change in perception due totally to new circumstances?
4. Why do you think he kept going forward, in spite of the criticism?
5. How do we know when to listen to critics and when to tune them out?
6. What are some areas of life where we need to move forward in spite of opposition and criticism?
7. What can we do this week to make sure that we don't fold under pressure?

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