Perfection the goal for driven Belichick

New England's Sir Alf Ramsey will not suffer Patriots games tomorrow as he seeks to emulate Miami's unbeaten season by winning a fourth Super Bowl

When the Super Bowl was last held in the state of Arizona, 12 years ago, the stock of Bill Belichick, current head coach of the New England Patriots, could barely have been lower.

He had just been fired after five turbulent, disappointing and unsuccessful seasons at Cleveland and few would have bet on him ever getting a chance at being the top man again after he had fluffed his lines dreadfully at his first attempt.

What a difference between then and now. Tomorrow night, Belichick has the chance to enhance his already impressive credentials as one of the greatest coaches in his sport's history, when his Patriots take on the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. If the Patriots prevail, and the Las Vegas oddsmakers would appear to have little doubt about the matter, then Belichick will become only the second coach in history with four Super Bowls to his name, all achieved in a seven-year span.

Of even more significance is the fact that his team will have completed a perfect season: 19 games, 19 wins. In a sport which prides itself on the parity of its participants, that has only ever happened once before, when the Miami Dolphins survived 17 games unscathed in 1972.

The coach of those Dolphins, Don Shula, would go on to enjoy more wins than any other coach in history, and now retired in California, is held in the highest esteem. Don Shula isn't so much respected by those who play and coach the gridiron game as loved.

Bill Belichick is respected – his record demands it – but he is not loved, and it is not difficult to understand why. He makes no secret of the fact that the only thing that matters to him is his team. Outside influences will not be tolerated. He has no interest in his image. If you have nothing to offer him in terms of winning football games, he has little to offer you in return.

To watch Belichick endure a mandatory one-hour examination at Media Day earlier this week was to witness unintentional comedy as a bored-looking Belichick determinedly fended off his verbal assailants.

An innocent request from a Mexican television station for him to say something to New England fans south of the border was met with: "I don't speak Spanish." A British journalist attempted a comparison with Manchester United: "I don't know anything about soccer."

Someone else attempted to get philosophical. Is he different from how he is perceived by the public. "I don't know. Next," was the curt response.

Old-school British sports writers would have noted similarities with Sir Alf Ramsey. He apparently didn't care what anyone thought of him either. All that mattered was the bond between Ramsey and his players, an ethos of us against the world.

Belichick rarely smiles in public, and on the sidelines, he cuts a scruffy, unkempt figure, hunched deep inside a baggy, grey-hooded sweatshirt. This is a hoodie few would wish to hug, unless you happened to be one of his players.

When hired by the Patriots eight years ago, many thought owner Robert Kraft displayed flawed judgement. Not only had there been the failure in Cleveland, which had been marked by a public falling-out with the quarterback Bernie Kosar, who is to Cleveland what Alan Shearer is on Tyneside, but there was also the bizarre 24-hour stint with the New York Jets, Belichick accepting the coaching job one day only to resign the next.

Kraft, however, has been proved shrewd in his assessment of his coach's strength of character. "A lot of people thought I was making an error, but in the end I am into substance," he said. "I am not into lipstick and powder."

There is no magic formula with Belichick. His greatest strength has always been an intense level of preparation, an understanding of his team's strengths and how to exploit opposing weaknesses.

It is difficult to get Belichick to expand on his philosophy, but it is evident that a strong work ethic is essential, with a deep-seated sense of team unity a core value. "It isn't about football," he said. "It's about being professional, and doing the right thing." There is no doubt that Belichick's almost paranoid response to the outside world can act as a source of inspiration to those around him. Earlier this season, he was caught red-handed cheating, by filming the sidelines of his opponents, the New York Jets.

Guilty beyond argument, the coach was personally fined $500,000 (£252,000). Publicly, Belichick acknowledged only a "mistake", apologised to Kraft for the embarrassment caused, and insisted that he would say nothing more on the matter.

And despite repeated attempts to lure him out of his protective cocoon, Belichick has successfully repelled all boarders, with his players happy to man the barricades. This week, the issue has barely been raised. The cheating has certainly contributed nothing to the Patriots' quest for perfection.

Will the occasion affect his players tomorrow night? Will they stumble on the threshold of immortality? Belichick is simply repeating his "one game at a time" mantra, a soundtrack that hasn't changed all season.

Does he feel a sense of history? Is he aware that one day, we might talk about him, rather than Shula, as the unequalled master of his craft? If he is, he's hiding it well. "We're just thinking about the Giants," he said. "The rest of it, maybe we'll talk about it later, but I really haven't given it much thought."

Watching the Patriots brush aside 18 opponents so far this season, including the Giants in a 38-35 thriller last December, the likelihood is that New England will find a way to win once more. Pragmatism rather than romance will make the difference.

Whatever happens, Belichick will start planning for next season as soon as this one has been concluded. "Maybe I was born to coach," he mused in a rare moment of illumination. He might not win many admirers along the way, but if a coach is measured by his success on the field of play, then Bill Belichick is the undoubted master of his craft.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power