When it comes to football, Patriots coach Bill Belichick is a certified genius. This son of a football coach has built a reputation for developing inventive approaches on both offense and defense.
Former Chiefs defensive end Eric Hicks played five games against the Patriots, and he's come away with great respect for the job Belichick does.
"He puts together great game plans," the 10-year NFL veteran said on a recent visit to KCTV5. "He does a great job of finding your weaknesses and attacking them."
KCTV5 analyst Jayice Pearson spent eight years in the NFL, and has broadcasted NFL and college football games for ESPN, FOX Sports and the Big Ten Network since his NFL retirement. He says he's never seen anything like the way the Patriots treated him and his broadcast team when they went to New England to televise a game.
"The whole atmosphere was completely different. I mean, you come in and everything is locked down!" Pearson said, shaking his head. "They sneak you in the back door. We didn't even go in the front door!"
You would think that meeting with network broadcasters is some sort of strange event, but it happens every week at every level- including all 32 NFL teams. But, it gets even weirder.
"They put us in a little room and we had a couch set up for Belichick to do the interview. The first thing he did when he walked in was move the couch back about 15 feet, to back away from us."
Pearson still can't believe the way the coach acted.
"Everything was just real guarded with him."
Scot Piolli brought many of the same attitudes with him from New England when he took over as Chiefs general manager. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) it didn't add up to successs in KC.
For Pearson, that approach makes for good football, but a weird place to work.
"I think he's a great coach, a fantastic coach," he said, "But that facility is all business. There was no music playing, guys were not laughing or joking."
Over the years, people have questioned whether his succes is th result of Belichick's approach or the fact that he has a future hall of famer at quarterback. The fact is that Belichick has won all of his championships with Tom Brady at QB. Would he have been as successful if he'd had Drew Bledsoe or Matt Cassel under center?
One thing that nobody can question: over the past 16 years, no head coach has been more successful than the man some call "Belicheat."
Chiefs coach Andy Reid has faced Belichick seven times, six while he was coaching Philadelphia, and last year with the Chiefs. He was 2-4 with the Eagles (including the 2005 Super Bowl) and 1-0 with the Chiefs (last season's 41-14 blow out).
Their games feature the offensive mind of Reid versus the defensive genius of Belichick.
For his part, Reid calls the Pats head man "A friend," and he refused to criticize Belichick when information surfaced suggesting that the Pats might have cheated when they faced the Eagles in that Super Bowl game.
On several occasions, I asked former Patriot player Mike Vrabel about coach Belichick.
"Bill's a pro," the former Pats and Chiefs linebacker told me. "He draws up a game plan, and he explains exactly what he wants each player to do. There's never any gray area. There are certain things he demands from his players, and you know what's expected from you. There's very little 'free-lancing' when you play for him on defense."
When I asked about what Belichick was like personally, Vrabel shot me down.
"We were there to play football. That's what I we were focused on."
If you've ever talked to Mike Vrabel, you know not to pursue a subject he's not interested in talking about.
I've had an opportunity to ask Belichick questions at post game press conferences (in 2002 and 2005), but he was one of the few coaches who would not meet with the media during the NFL Combine. I was really looking forward to seeing him when he was more relaxed (if that's possible).
Belichick has never been afraid to take a unique approach. He hired one of his oldest friends and assigned him to breaking down game film.
While the other coaches were meeting and working with the players, this "film specialist" was looking for the secrets that would help Belichick put together his game plan.
When I've been in KSU coach Bill Snyder's office over the years, the most prominent feature has been the huge piles of game tapes all over the place.
"That's how I spent my summer," he said when I asked him about the tapes.
I've often thought that Coach Snyder would have been another Belichick had he chosen to pursue NFL coaching.
They both are incredibly smart game planners, who leave no stone unturned in an effort to succeed.
The biggest difference is obvious: Bill Belichick is all about winning. He isn't paid to graduate players or lead young men to a better life.
Belichick is like a shark, he does one thing, but he does it very, very well.
Let's hope he doesn't do quite a good a job this Saturday.
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