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
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine