Early Notes from Belichick


A friend of mine recommended Ian O'Connor's Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time, and I've been slowly making my way through it. So far I'm at the end of his Cleveland tenure, so I'm hardly at the most interesting part. But even so, there are some ideas that stand out:

  • Even as a child, Belichick did what he could to flout the game rules and give himself an advantage. O'Connor most notably mentions that Belichick had a trick for secretly loosening lacross strings to better handle the ball. I think this is immoral. That said, if there are bureaucracies that enforce rules seemingly for no reason, I don't think it's a bad thing to find a hack or two to work around them.

  • Belichick's Cleveland tenure was a disaster for many reasons. But what comes through most clearly in the book is that his interpersonal skills were so terrible that few were willing to stand up for him. There's a coaching cliché that coaches "lose the locker room." Concretely, this means that that there's not enough trust, warmth, or credibility left to get grown adults to follow your lead.

  • Like many of the great coaches in the modern league, Belichick was around football his entire life, nearly from infancy.

  • O'Connor emphasizes at several times how important it was for Belichick to have Ernie Adams as a friend and a sounding board for his football decisions. Despite the press and our tendencies to believe otherwise, greatness is rarely a one-person show. (Related: why YC recommends co-founders, and why authors and actors thank their spouses.)