New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick joined CNBC’s Power Lunch (shown Monday through Friday from 1:00-3:00 PM EST) to discuss “his career, family, leadership style, Super Bowl wins and his relationship with Tom Brady, among other topics.” You can watch the whole interview video here.
I’ve highlighted some of the best questions and answers below, and included links to shorter videos when applicable. Belichick also speaks about Super Bowl LI, his father, and his kids in the video.
Welch: You’ve had a long and unbelievable partnership with Tom Brady what are your thoughts on him?
Belichick: Really special player to coach. Tom works very hard he is very smart, he’s trained hard, he’s worked hard on his throwing mechanics, he’s worked hard on his mental understanding of the game and process. He’s earned everything that he has achieved, but wasn’t always there he’s not a great natural athlete. He is a very smart, instinctive football player.
Welch: But he may end up being the greatest of all time
Belichick: Yeah absolutely. It isn’t all about talent. It is about dependability, consistency and being able to approve. And again if you work hard and you are coachable and you understand what you need to do you can improve.
On halftime adjustments
Belichick: People talk about halftime decisions and all that but really at halftime the game is two-thirds over because the fourth quarter is really situational football, so you have to start figuring out way before then and that’s what we try to do is start to make those end game adjustments as soon as we can see the game has started to declare a certain way.
I’ve never actually thought of the game this way before, but it makes a lot of sense. There is back-and-forth for three quarters and then both teams have to figure out how to approach the fourth quarter. Are you trailing and need to throw the ball? Are you winning and want to drain the clock? Are you trying to maintain possession in a tight game?
It’s all situational football in the fourth quarter.
Welch: Do you foresee yourself coaching for the indefinite future retirement does not beckon apparently?
Belichick: Again I am kind of short sided here so I’m good certainly good here this year, good for a while I like what I am doing I enjoy all parts of the game the team building, training camp, game days, the excitement of Sunday.
Welch: So it is still fun?
Belichick: Yeah it really is, it beats working.
Belichick ain’t retiring anytime soon.
Suzy Welch: If you had to describe the tenants or the principles of your leadership style or approach, what would they be?
Bill Belichick: Four things that we look at every day when we walk into the building. Do your job, be attentive, pay attention to details, team has to come first. Even though we all have individual goals and preferences. We don’t talk about last year, we don’t talk about next week, we don’t talk about next year. We talk about today and we talk about the next game. And that is all we can really control. The rest will take care of itself.
It’s great how Belichick sticks to his own rules because every single player adheres to this mind set. They always talk to the media that it’s never about the past or too far into the future, it’s always about the upcoming week, and Belichick’s response stays true to that approach.
Suzy Welch: Alright, now let’s talk about mistakes. Ok? Leadership mistakes. Your career mistakes. Any stick out?
Bill Belichick: After every game, I look at the mistakes that were made in that game by me, by the coaching staff. And you know, we need to address those and correct those. Good players can’t overcome bad coaching. It is impossible.
On a personal level, I’d say the one thing that I have definitely learned is you’ve got to count on your most dependable people. Might not be your most talented person, but you count on your most dependable people. So, there have been times when I have put, I would say, too much responsibility on people that weren’t dependable and they didn’t come through. And so, whose fault is that? Mine.
When you are the head coach, you can only do so many details. And I’d say, at times, I was too detail-oriented in some of the tasks I was on and didn’t have enough breadth or give enough leadership in other areas. I mean, look, every team has young players and they have wives and girlfriends and they have babies and they have parents that are sick. All of that, somewhere or other, you know, all runs in together. So the more you can handle those, the more that you can help take care of those as an organization, as a head coach, then, you know, the smoother the ship runs on the football end.
If we had to highlight the “bad” seasons under Belichick, they would be 2000, 2002, 2005, and 2009. That’s probably it, right? I wouldn’t say that 2008 was bad with Matt Cassel and I wouldn’t say that 2010 was “bad” since that team was great, but suffered a total choke job in the playoffs.
2000 has an easy excuse since it was Belichick’s first year. 2002 has an excuse, too, because it was just year three of the tenure and it was Tom Brady’s first full season under center and the team was still working towards its identity.
2005 and 2009 are different stories.
In 2005, the Patriots lost both offensive and defensive coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel to head coaching jobs, creating a vacuum of leadership as Josh McDaniels and Eric Mangini were rookies at their roles.
On defense, Tedy Bruschi suffered a stroke, while Ty Law and Roman Phifer were released and Ted Johnson retired. On offense, Corey Dillon fell off a cliff, while David Patten left in free agency. There was just a distinct lack of talent on the roster, relative to other seasons and a lot of coaching and playing experience was taken off the field from the prior year.
In 2009, the Patriots faced a similar problem. Scott Pioli left the front office to become the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, opening the door for Nick Caserio. Josh McDaniels left to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos and special teams coordinator Brad Seely left for the same job with the Cleveland Browns. There was yet another vacuum of experience in the coaching staff and front office.
On the field, the Patriots were a laughable 2-6 on the road in Tom Brady’s first season back from his ACL injury. The Patriots defense lost Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, and Ellis Hobbs over the offseason; they combined for 63 starts for the 2008 Patriots.
The Patriots rely on continuity for their success over the years and it’s no coincidence that the two worst years under Belichick involved big shake-ups in the front office and on the roster. That’s why Belichick has tried to build depth at every segment of the franchise- roster, coaching, front office- to best prepare for eventual departures, and so there will always be dependable persons waiting in the wings.
Suzy Welch: Football.
Bill Belichick: More sport than business. But it is a business. That I respect the game for the game and the sport.
Suzy Welch: The media.
Bill Belichick: It is how a team connects to its fans.
Suzy Welch: Winning.
Bill Belichick: The goal. There’s no medals for trying. This isn’t like eighth grade where everybody gets a trophy. We are in a professional sport and it is competitive to win. That’s what we do.
Suzy Welch: Deflategate.
Bill Belichick: Ridiculous.
Suzy Welch: Aaron Hernandez.
Bill Belichick: Tragedy.
Suzy Welch: Heartbreaking.
Bill Belichick: Yes. That would be another word.
Suzy Welch: Next year.
Bill Belichick: Is this year.
Suzy Welch: Perfect day.
Bill Belichick: Nantucket.
On Belichick’s legacy
Suzy Welch: Last one. Legacy.
Bill Belichick: For another day.
Suzy Welch: Don’t think about it?
Bill Belichick: No. Right now, 2017. Trying to have a good team this year. There will be another day to talk about it.
Suzy Welch: Just another day at the office for you?
Bill Belichick: No. I mean, look, I’m aware of it, but I can’t sit and think about it. Look, this year is going to be part of it. So, try to have a good year this year and you know, we will figure out the rest of it later.
There goes Belichick, not worrying about his legacy, and assembling the most talented roster the NFL has ever seen since the 2007 Patriots took the field. Belichick’s clearly hoping the 2017 squad will have better luck when it counts most.