Steak vs. Sizzle vs. Bill Belichick

I spend a lot of time watching the Patriots. It makes sense that I’d spend a bit of time reading about them, too. The Education of a Coach, a Bill Belichick biography that promised to go behind-the-scenes yet could have gone even more behind for my tastes, would be a great read for someone looking to learn more about the Patriots and Belichick. I guess I already knew quite a bit. Still, some good highlights and tidbits.

contempt for sizzle.

The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam

The following are excerpts taken from David Halberstam’s The Education of a Coach. Bold and italics and notes are mine. The rest is David’s.

***

What position to play—center, because the boy was smart and strong for his size, but he was not going to be very big, not on a football-player scale, and because, even more important, he was not going to be particularly fast.

(Kevan: me, too.)

… heavy ankles—that was the first thing he looked for when he was recruiting, the ankles, because it was a tip-off on speed.

How to anticipate and read a play

… to be able, as a scout, to anticipate the play and read it. No one did that better than Steve Belichick. The key, he decided early on, was to watch the center, for the center almost always told you so much: whether it was a pass or run, and which way the play was going. Then your eye flashed accordingly to the flow of the play, out to the end and the linemen on the side to which the center had tipped you, and you had to do all this quickly, almost before the play developed, because otherwise you would be too late, and then your eye would not see the entire play unfolding.

The owner, said one man who knew both men very well, was in the sizzle business, and Belichick was not only in the steak business, he had contempt for sizzle.

Pioli absorbed more football from two very good coaches than he could ever have imagined, and it made him more determined than ever to become a coach when he graduated from college. This was not entirely welcome news in the Pioli home; his mother wanted him to become an accountant, and she burst into tears when she heard the news, while his father, who worked for the telephone company installing phone lines—often a hard, unpleasant job that he hated—was thrilled, because he wanted his son to find a job that gave him the kind of pleasure he himself had never found in work.

The danger of being Bill Belichick was that there might be a younger Bill Belichick out there, trying to gain on him, a younger, more cold-blooded gunslinger moving in to challenge the reigning gunslinger.

One of the stories that the brilliant, wonderfully obsessed Bill Walsh liked to tell was of taking his wife out to dinner on the Friday before a game, the two of them sitting at a lovely restaurant in the Bay area, and Geri Walsh had looked over at him, seeing him off in that other world, the one that was so hard to penetrate, and said, “What is it, Bill? Third and eight?”

That seemed to sum up the dilemma of the football wife as much as anything: living in a world where it was always third and eight.

You can buy the book here. :)

education of a coach belichick haberstam

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