Since Bill Belichick accepted his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns back in 1991, pro football has evolved quite a bit. Be it the salary cap constraints and free agency, or a rule book increasingly favoring passing offenses, coaches and teams alike were asked to adapt quite a bit over the last three decades. Belichick has been able to do just that, and it helped him win six Super Bowls since joining the New England Patriots in 2000.
However, this adaptation process would not have been possible had the future Hall of Famer not held onto his core beliefs along the way. How do they look like? NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah offered a glimpse into Belichick’s mind earlier this week when he shared a handout on social media that he had received while working as a member of the Baltimore Ravens’ scouting department in the early 2000s:
As is stated on the first of the two pages, the notes originated during Belichick’s tenure with the Browns. And as can be seen, some of his scouting principles apply to this day.
Take the quarterback position, as an example, where Belichick is looking at decision making before anything else: “#1 is to make good decisions — then arm, size, physically tough, leadership, guys look up to and have confidence in, a real competitor. Accurate rather than guy with a cannon. Emphasis on our game will be on decision, timing, accuracy — guy needs to be confident, intelligence is important but not as much so as field awareness & judgment. Can’t be sloppy fundamentally unsound guy with ball handling, tech’s etc.”
Long-time Patriots passer Tom Brady is a perfect example for Belichick’s scouting goals at the position — a player who did not possess the strongest arm or most impressive athletic skillset entering the league, but whose decision making and leadership propelled him from sixth-round draft pick to the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. The traits listed are also likely what prompted New England to bring Jarrett Stidham on board via the fourth round of the draft last year.
Belichick’s core offensive beliefs can also be found at other positions on the current or former Patriots rosters. From looking to the ability to catch the football from the tight end position — “Don’t let the lack of blocking ability eliminate a good player.” — to wide receivers such as Julian Edelman needing to be able to get off the line of scrimmage, to offensive linemen bringing a combination of athleticism and smarts to the table, New England has always followed the guidelines set by its head coach almost 30 years ago.
The same goes for Belichick’s general thoughts on offensive football:
- Run ball
- Pick up blitz
- Pick up 3rd downs
This approach is reflected in his statements on the offense: “Make defense defend the middle of the field first by running and throwing inside — work from the inside out in terms of blocking and protection — when defense commits more players inside then we can attack outside (run & pass). [...] When the defense takes away all the inside stuff then we will go outside with run and pass.”
A lot of what the Patriots are doing offensively and looking for in their players is listed in the document above. Belichick sticking to his core beliefs is something that has therefore not changed through all those years.