Q&A with Coach Belichick

All Things Bill Belichick
August 28, 2009

I am Laura London, the creator and webmaster of this site. I’ve been watching Bill Belichick coach since 1991 (I was living in Cleveland when he was hired by the Browns). When he became head coach of the New England Patriots, I wanted to do something to separate fact from fiction – reality vs. distortion. In September 2000, I created what would later become this site. Coach Belichick has graciously agreed to answer a few random questions I’ve accumulated over the years.

LL: OK, let’s get a few things out of the way first. How tall are you?

BB: 5’10”.

LL: I often see this question in the search logs. Where do you live?

BB: Hingham, Massachusetts.

LL: What is your religion?

BB: Non-denominational.

LL: Please set the record straight on this subject once and for all. Do you have a Twitter account or a Facebook account?

BB: No, no, and don’t intend to in the future.

LL: When will you retire?

BB: I don’t know. I don’t plan on it any time soon.

LL: I’ve been asked many times if you’ve seen this website and if we’ve ever met. Would you like to comment on that?

BB: Yes, I’ve seen the website and yes, we’ve met. I know you love football and take it seriously. As far as the site goes, you are committed to showing the other side and not buying into the media hype. You focus on the facts and are committed to the truth, and I really appreciate that.

LL: Many people who visit the site and have written to me over the years are coaches. They look to you and learn from you. What would you tell them at this time of year?

BB: One day at a time, one meeting at a time, one practice at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a football team. It is the work of many over a significant period of time – both individually and collectively. Try to get better individually and as a team every time you walk onto the field.

LL: People are always looking for book recommendations. It just so happens that a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author wrote a book about you, so The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam is definitely first and foremost. What football books would recommend?

BB: Both of Bill Walsh’s books are great for coaching and guiding a professional football team.

[Those are Bill Walsh: Finding the Winning Edge and Building a Champion: On Football and the Making of the 49ers]

LL: When you say you've had a good week of practice, what are some of the key components to that? What does a good practice look like?

BB: A good practice has everyone alert and hustling, with good communication and execution of the plays. Good preparation leads to confidence and aggressive play, a must for a football team to be successful.

LL: When describing a player, I’ve often heard you say that football is ‘important’ to him. I’m not sure I know exactly what that means.

BB: It means he takes his job seriously, is upset when he makes a mistake or doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t make excuses, but finds a way to be prepared for everything, physically and mentally, week-in and week-out.

LL: I’ve always been interested in listening to your press conferences because I know I’ll learn something more about football. You have 35 years of experience coaching in this league! When I hear people describe them as ‘boring’ I think wow, they just don’t get it. How do you feel about that?

BB: I feel that I offer quite a bit of football information.

LL: You’ve been especially criticized for your postgame press conferences. The way I see it, you just got off the field, you were watching from the sideline, and then you get interrogated by people who had a birds-eye view and the constant looping of instant replays.

BB: I try to emphasize the team victory, not individual performances, especially without looking at the tape. Often, we can be swayed by a couple of plays and rate the overall performance on a fraction of the game. I don't like to do that – I’ve been wrong too often trying to do it that way.

LL: People seem to think you ‘play games’ with the injury report. I paid closer attention to the other teams last season, and I’m not sure why you get singled out.

BB: The truth is, injuries are hard to be 100% right on, even when we are in constant communication with the doctor, trainer and player. There is a difference between being able to do the normal things a person does with some physical limitation and play professional football at the highest competitive level.

LL: I've also heard that you don’t sign autographs. Funny, because recently I started posting a Quote of the Day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and you’ve offered to personalize an autographed photo for the person who correctly identifies the quote. I’ve also posted stories over the years about various charity auctions that have included items that you’ve signed. You also sign autographs after practice at training camp every year!

BB: I probably sign a couple hundred items a month.

LL: There is this epic myth out there that the Patriots organization is shrouded in secrecy. The truth is, fans have more access to the Patriots than any other team in the NFL!

BB: We may have more players on regularly scheduled radio, internet, and TV shows during the week than any other team in the NFL. I meet with the media six times per week, in addition to a weekly post-game radio show, pre-game radio show and mid-week TV show. And all through the spring, we make players available to the media. There is no shortage of ways for fans to connect with the Patriots.

LL: You were fined by the NFL for breaking a rule. When a player breaks a rule, they get fined, pay it and move on. Some people still feel there was no admission of guilt on your part, no apology. Obviously those people have never visited this website.

BB: I took responsibility for our actions in the videotaping situation.

[Here's a reminder, everybody – the statements he made back in 2007.]

LL: I cringe every time I hear someone say you ‘failed’ in Cleveland. That is yet another myth. To me, it was more like Art Modell failed in Cleveland. (Just my opinion.) How would you sum it up, in one sentence?

BB: I am proud that a solid football program was built, that the team went from 3-13 to 11-5 in 4 years in the pre-free agency era, and that so many of the scouts/coaches who worked in Cleveland at that time went on to achieve great success in other programs.

Many thanks to Coach Belichick for his time.

© 2009 Laura London

Laura London