Tony DeMeo

The Education of a Coach by David Halberstram

The Education of a Coach by David Halberstram is a fascinating study of putting together a football dynasty in modern professional football. The era of free agency, parity and salary caps has changed much of the conventional wisdom of the old guard NFL. Whether you are a Bill Belichick fan or not the success of the “Belichick System” can’t be denied. Halberstram is a gifted writer and does a great job of tracing the roots and influences of a very successful NFL coach.

This book is a great source of insight for a coach at ANY level, and also can be valuable to any leader putting together a cost/effective organization. The Education of a Coach takes its place right next to Bill Lewis’ book Moneyball as the manual to get the most with the least. Develop a system that will allow you to compete successfully against those with superior resource.

Halberstram explores the influences that led to the Super Bowl coach we know today starting with his father Steve. Steve Belichick was a college coach who taught young Bill the value of scouting and how to study film. Steve’s philosophy was “make your opponent play left-handed”. He passed the idea that the team always comes first and discipline was not taught but lived. Steve taught Bill the value of hard work and there were no shortcuts to success.,

Al Davis, the long-time Oakland raider boss, passed on the importance a developing a system that utilizes SPEED. Davis was ahead of his time with his emphasis on speed. The 34 Defense put the most speed on the field.

Perhaps the biggest football influence on Belichick was Bill Parcells. Parcells won two Super Bowls with the Giants and took two other teams to the Super Bowl. Belichick was a major part of Parcells success. The Parcells Doctrine was as follows:

1. Bring in new blood. Attitude is everything. Get rid of negativity.
2. Build the defense first. Lawrence Taylor was the key to the defense.
3. Control the tempo and the pace of the game – protect your defense. The Giants beat the Buffalo Bill’s high-powered Red Gun Offense in the Super Bowl by slowing the game tempo to a crawl.
4. Have YOUR guys around you. Bring in high work ethic guys and get rid of lazy ones. Discipline and character count.
5. Eliminate turnovers and penalties.
6. Yards per attempt is the most important passing stat but you must be able to run the ball when everyone knows you are going to run it.

The Patriots were Belichick’s second Head Coaching stint. He was fired from the Browns but by the time he came to New England, he and Scott Pioli developed “The Patriot Way” Scott Pioli was a key piece to this development.

1. Only bring in work ethic guys. Bring in guys who love the game.
2. The Montana Factor – the key to being a genius is the QB position. He must make winning decisions. Tom Brady is great decision maker and doesn’t turn the ball over.
3. Everything must be earned. There are no entitlements. Practice is important and off season conditioning must be competitive.
4. Keep opponents out of the end zone – force field goal attempts. Conversely, score touchdowns in the Red Zone.
5. Rebuild the roster based on price/production. Have a solid system of evaluation. Always evaluate and re-evaluate your roster.
6. Develop depth in the defensive line; you must always keep these guys fresh.
7. You must be able to control the clock.
8. Take away the opponent’s bread and butter. Create doubt in the mind of the QB
9. Always practice with a sense of urgency. Preparation is critical to success.

Belichick strongly believes in eliminating the virus of “I deserve…” and uses the entire off season to upgrade the roster. Team, team, team is Belichick’s theme. The single most important job of a Head Coach is to get the players to believe what you say and to keep that belief during tough times – keep doing what he tells us and we’ll win. Either get the players to believe or GET players who believe.

This is a great read and a valuable coaching and management resource, I highly recommend it. The Education of a Coach will add a positive influence to your coaching background.