Film on Belichick gives fans a look under the hood


Film on Belichick gives fans a look under the hood

By Jimmy Toscano

Summer vacations in Nantucket.

Kicking it with Jon Bon Jovi.

Trash-talking with the opposition -- and winning.

Golfing with sneakers and jeans.

It really is Bill Belichick's world, and we're all just trying to get a glimpse inside of it.

On Thursday night, we got that opportunity in the first of two parts of NFL Films' look at the on and off-field life of coach Belichick titled "A Football Life".

For a man who has kept his life and personality so secret from not only the media but most of general public, this was just the type of look-in everybody was hoping for -- starting with a laid-back Belichick kicking his bare feet up on his boat, appropriately named "V Rings", in Nantucket.

"Perfect, huh?" he said.

Um, yeah, pretty much.

And that was just the beginning.

Whether it was challenging offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, "Sea bass", to catch a punt that would get the entire team out of meetings and curfews, or playing a little catch with his son, Brian, the personality of Belichick shined throughout the episode -- as opposed to the robot-like one that we're normally forced to endure.

But it wasn't all fun and games.

One thing that wasn't much of a surprise was seeing the competitiveness and drive that Belichick has to win games throughout the season. What was one of the ways he made sure the Patriots looked intimidating? By preaching to them that celebrating is OK, and actually encouraged.

"There's nothing wrong -- in fact you should be excited when you make a play," Belichick said in a team meeting prior to their Week 1 win against the Buffalo Bills. "Hell, look at all the work you put into it all the time you spent in practice . . . you should be excited about it, and your teammates should be excited, too."

Cue the footage of them not being excited.

"Nice play, Ty Warren," Belichick said while watching the footage of a play in a one-sided loss to San Diego in the previous season. "Can't even see one guy saying good hit. Walk back to the huddle and it looks like, 'God, we don't even care.'

"We aren't good enough to play that way, I don't know that anybody is," he continued to say as the footage rolled, this time with a nice hit by linebacker Gary Guyton that, again, drew no congratulations from teammates.

"Gary, you know it's a good play, doesn't really register with anybody else."

Then, a shot of the team celebrating after a TD during a drubbing of the Denver Broncos on an Oct. 20, 2008 Monday Night Football game in Denver.

"Do you think we were ready to play against Denver last year, Monday night?" he said of the game, which the Patriots won, 41-7. "It's so obvious, it's so visible."

As a downtrodden Broncos player was shown on the screen, Belichick said, "It's going to be a long night for Denver."

We also got a look at an emotional Belichick returning to Giants Stadium one last time when the Patriots faced the Jets in Week 2. Cameras followed him around as he reminisced about the times spent with the Giants as an assistant coach -- early Saturday mornings, racquetball games against Bill Parcells (he won more than Parcells did - obviously), Lawrence Taylor's locker and how Romeo Crennel's daughter found 75,000 in uncashed checks while cleaning it out.

Belichick won two Super Bowl rings with the Giants, and to this day has much respect for the organization.

"It's hard not to get choked up about it," said Belichick with tears in his eyes. "I loved it here."

But his last visit didn't end on a sweet note. In the week leading up to the game, Belichick nailed four key points for the Pats in their Week 2 match against the Jets -- all four of which were not executed, and ultimately cost the Pats a win.

Team meetings eventually turn into one-on-one game footage breakdown with Tom Brady. In their conversation: How to deal with Ravens free safety Ed Reed, a player Belichick calls "the best free safety that I've ever seen play this game". Belichick tells that to Reed in a friendly, animated pregame conversation on the field.

That was also the game in which Baltimore wide receiver Derrick Mason taunted Belichick after catching a pass, and Belichick responded with profane insults.

It was also interesting to watch Belichick call out each and every one of his assistant coaches, and himself, for the Pats' lack of preparation in a loss to the Josh McDaniels-led Broncos.

It was an hour that captured the many aspects of Belichick, and when it ended, it undoubtedly had fans wanting more.

Luckily, they'll get it. Part 2 of "A Football Life" airs next Thursday at 10 p.m., and if it's anything like Part 1, it's worth watching.

If you missed Part 1, NFL Network is replaying it on Friday from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday at 9 p.m., and on Sunday at 1 a.m..

Follow Jimmy Toscano on Twitter at @Jimmy_Toscano.

Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks


Curran’s 100 plays that shaped a dynasty: A nice pair of kicks

We're into the Top 10 now.

These are the plays of the Bill Belichick Era you best never forget. And probably can't. They're the ones that led directly to championships -- most for New England, a couple for the other guys. Or they're plays that signified a sea change in the way the New England Patriots under Belichick would be behaving from there on out.

I did my best to stack them in order of importance. You got a problem with that? Good. Let us know what's too high, too low or just plain wrong. And thanks for keeping up!


THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Feb. 3, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 20, Rams 17

THE PLAY: Vinatieri 48-yarder in Superdome delivers SB36 win

WHY IT’S HERE: When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, it was viewed nationally and locally as a cathartic moment for a long-suffering region. Deliverance for a fanbase that resolutely suffered through 90 years of star-crossed heartbreak with a mix of stoicism and fatalism. “Long-suffering Red Sox fan” was a badge of honor, an identity. And New Englanders – baseball fans or not - would self-identify with the hideous notion of Red Sox Nation. There was no “Patriots Nation.” To drag out the forced metaphor, Patriots fans were living in tents and cabins in the wilderness, recluses. Reluctant to be seen in town where they’d be mocked. And suddenly, they cobbled together one of the most improbable, magical seasons in American professional sports, a year which gave birth to a dynasty which was first celebrated, now reviled but always respected. And while so many games and plays led to this 48-yarder – ones we’ve mentioned 12 times on this list – Adam Vinatieri kicking a 48-yarder right down the f****** middle to win the Super Bowl was an orgasmic moment for the recluses and pariahs that had been Patriots fans when nobody would admit to such a thing.


THE YEAR: 2001 (actually Jan. 19, 2002)

THE GAME: Patriots 16, Raiders 13

THE PLAY: Vinatieri from 45 through a blizzard to tie Snow Bowl

WHY IT’S HERE: Two thoughts traveling on parallel tracks were running through the mind while Adam Vinatieri trotted onto the field and lined up his 45-yarder to tie Oakland in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, the final one at Foxboro Stadium. “There’s no way he can make this kick in this weather,” was the first. “The way this season’s gone, I bet he makes this kick. It can’t end here. It can’t end now.” From where I was sitting in the press box I couldn’t see the ball clearly, probably because I was looking for it on a higher trajectory than Vinatieri used. So I remember Vinatieri going through the ball, my being unable to locate it in the air and then looking for the refs under the goalposts to see their signal. And when I located them, I saw the ball scuttle past. Then I saw the officials’ arms rise. Twenty-five years earlier, the first team I ever followed passionately – the ’76 Patriots – left me in tears when they lost to the Raiders in the playoffs. Now, at 33, I was covering that team and it had gotten a measure of retribution for the 8-year-old me.