American Football: Big fines and video nasty fail to stop the spy who loved NE

Great survivor Belichick should lead Patriots to one-sided win at Wembley today

Fines of $750,000, exposure as a cheat and losing your team a precious first-round draft choice would be more than enough to earn most coaches a P45. But then Bill Belichick, whose New England Patriots face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley today, as the NFL visits London to play a regular-season game for the third successive year, is not most coaches.

He is the architect of the "Patriot Way" – a philosophy of teamwork and exhaustive preparation; a commitment to excellence which has made the Patriots the most successful franchise of the past decade with three Super Bowl wins and playoff appearances in six of the last eight seasons. And all this in an era which was supposed to herald the death of the dynasty. Not bad for a guy run out of Cleveland 13 years ago after his first attempt at being a head coach.

Small wonder Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner who counts Sir Elton John among his closest friends, could not say goodbye to his coach's yellow brick road when the team was caught videotaping an opponent's playcalling signals in 2007. Ironically, it was one of Belichick's protégés, then New York Jets coach Eric Mangini – now in charge of revitalising the Cleveland Browns – who pulled the plug on the "spying" operation.

But perhaps this "betrayal" was not so surprising in the cut-throat business of the NFL. Not least when Belichick's tentacles reach far and wide, and with no shortage of impact. Thomas Dimitroff left the friendly confines of Foxborough to take the general manager's job in Atlanta last year and promptly helped turn a demoralised outfit into a playoff team. This season, Belichick's former offensive co-ordinator, Josh McDaniels, has the Denver Broncos, forecast to be treading water in 2009, unbeaten after six weeks including a win for the apprentice over the master.

The 33-year-old became the NFL's youngest head coach when hired in January, and is not shy to credit his teacher. "Most of the things we do with our team, in some way, shape or form, I get from Bill," McDaniels admits. "His preparation, the way he feels you have got to approach each game a little bit differently."

It is a trait the 57-year-old is renowned for. Known as a great innovator, particularly on the defensive side, his constant overhaul of the team's tactics gives opponents a headache because they know they will face something they have not seen on film. "He's always thinking about where we're going to go, how their receivers are going to attack the things we've done," says Mangini. "Some guys may be thinking one step ahead. He's trying to think of all the contingencies."

Another disciple, Charlie Weis, the head coach of top college Notre Dame, credits Belichick's ability to get players to put aside their egos and buy into the team concept: "It's tough to do today," says Weis. "How he's done it is beyond me. But [it helps that] he's almost always right." Belichick also firmly believes that if a player can "get five per cent better" in any week's preparation then, "by the end of the week that equates to something big".

Unlike many of his contemporaries, the Nashville native's expertise at stopping opponents has not limited his ability to develop a thriving offense. With the help of Patriot missiles from top quarterback Tom Brady, Belichick has a knack for picking up under-appreciated players cheaply and turning them into world-beaters. Randy Moss had a career-low 42 receptions with Oakland in 2006. Hey presto, a year later under Belichick, the once bad boy catches 98 balls and is feared throughout the NFL.

All of which gives the winless Buccaneers an almighty challenge today. If anything they are the antithesis of the Patriots, forced into a major rebuilding operation while New England, season after season, quietly turn over their roster and intelligently use the multiple draft picks acquired along the way.

Tampa's best chance comes in the shape of a rain dance allied to Wembley's sub-standard drainage. Even that is unlikely to be enough to save them. Either way it will not be a surprise if the quality of the contest does not please the NFL suits who continue to talk up an expansion to two games in London, perhaps next season, and a franchise in the capital by 2015. With a players' lockout on the horizon, the latter, like a Tampa Bay win today, looks highly optimistic.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...