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.

News
peoplePolice were acting on arrest warrant after actor fled US in 1977
News
Apple CEO Tim Cook
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has been fined £200 by the Electoral Commission
tvNot a nightmare, but the plot of a new TV mockumentary
Travel
<p><strong>15. Plas Teg Mansion, Flintshire</strong></p>
<p>Plas Teg, a Jacobean house near the the village of Pontblyddyn, Flintshire between Wrexham and Mold, is said to be one of Wales' most haunted buildings. One of its late owners was the infamous 'hanging' Judge Jeffries, who is thought to have held court in the home and had people convicted and hanged in the dining room. Reports of paranormal activity include heavy breathing in one bedroom and the spirit of a young girl appearing in the Blue Bedroom.</p>
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
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

SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain