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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Brady’


For most of my life the New England Patriots just weren’t very good. They somehow managed to get to two Superbowls but I never expected them to win either of those games.  They showed promise in the late 70’s but Oakland and a few horrible calls took care of that.

For the last fifteen years they have been most successful team, making the playoffs every year but two, six Superbowl appearances and 4 Superbowl victories.

Some people want to “blame” it all on cheating, but that is too easy. In the book Patriot Reign, Michael Holley looks at how this franchise that only frustrated its fans became one that frustrated the rest of the league. He wanted to do a book on Bill Belichick, but at his request it also became about the other coaches, players and the owners who built a champion.

After their first Superbowl victory, Holley decided to write the book and took a year shadowing the team. He sat in meetings and was given pretty much unlimited access (they also did not edit the material). He was disappointed when they failed to defend their title, but the returned to championship form the next year. This was a great “plot” twist and added more material as he could examine how Belichick “rebuilt” the Patriots.

Holley begins his account with Belichick. He offers you the side you don’t see. He doesn’t make him out to be a saint, but simply another side. He does have a sense of humor. He considers press conferences as part of the game plan and prepares for them- what he will and will not say.

“Let’s put it this way: when you’re the head coach, you’re the head coach twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. No matter what happens, it’s on your watch and, to a degree, it’s your problem.”

Belichick’s development as a coach took time. In 1989 when he interviewed for the position as Arizona’s head coach he didn’t quite understand all that it took. He learned from his mistakes in Cleveland, and what kind of owner he wanted to work for if he got the chance again. That is why he picked New England over the Jets (and to get out from Parcells shadow). During his time there under Parcells he would talk with Kraft about any number of subjects (something Parcells didn’t do with Kraft). He knew the man he was, and Kraft knew the man he was. He almost offered the job to Bill instead of Carroll when Parcells left. He faxed the request to talk with Belichick to Parcells before Carroll even had his press conference after his last game as head coach. They have successfully collaborated ever since.

Holley then moved into the reconstruction of the Patriots, including the drafting of Tom Brady. The Patriots were a mess: over the cap, filled with fiefdoms in the locker room and offices. They were like the Red Sox under prior owners. The players were spoiled and didn’t know it.

“Rehbein described him as a winner, a leader with a good attitude. The quarterbacks coach told Belichick that if a decision had to be made between the two, he would give the edge to Brady. Belichick had studied the tapes and felt the same way.”

That first draft was key. But since Holley wasn’t hanging out with them then, he focuses on one player. They were looking for a back up for Drew Bledsoe. Bill and Ernie Adams had listed the characteristics of what they considered the perfect quarterback. They had narrowed the search down to two prospects; Tim Rattay and Tom Brady. So Belichick dispatched his QB coach to work them both out. During the 6th round the draft they saw that Brady’s name was still there. “Brady shouldn’t be there. He’s too good.” They didn’t think Brady would be a starter, much less a superstar when they pulled the trigger on pick number 199. Brady fit the characteristics they listed months earlier.

Soon it was a repeat of his years in Cleveland. The established and (sort of) loved starter was being surpassed by the understudy. In Cleveland it was part of  Belichick’s undoing. In New England circumstances forced his hand so that people weren’t enraged. Bledsoe had the big arm, and big contract, but he was making costly errors- something Bill can’t stand.

“Under Belichick, all Patriot jobs could be classified as temporary. They were earned and held by performance, not status or longevity. Belichick didn’t go out of his way to antagonize stars, nor did he do anything special to accommodate them.”

While externally it was an “easy” transition. The fans were not clamoring for Bledsoe because the team just kept winning. Internally it was a different story as Bledsoe was not a happy camper. Since Rehbein had died the previous summer, Bill was serving as the QB coach. Those were often tense meetings.

“I never want to be on that crawl at the bottom of the screen: ‘Patriots quarterback Tom Brady arrested…’ I never want to look like an ass who let down my family, my teammates, and my organization.”

As an aside, the above quote is part of why I don’t believe Brady would cheat, or ask anyone else to cheat. A fierce, driven competitor to be sure, but one who is also driven by honor. Cheating would make him look like an ass, and that just isn’t an acceptable outcome for him.

Holley takes us to the Superbowl against the Rams. He discusses how the coaching staff dissected their offense. They saw how deception functioned in the offense. Belichick identified their 5 passing concepts, and that Faulk was the most important player out there- no Warner. He boiled it down to applicable concepts for the players. In the midst of this Holley briefly discusses the mysterious Ernie Adams, with whom Belichick went to college.

After the victory against the Rams, Holley became a frequent sight in the complex. As a result, he begins to write about how they evaluate the team, players, free agents and draft picks. This is the real strength of the book. Particularly after the 2002-3 season. In some ways they were drunk on success, thinking they could just turn it on again but they couldn’t because they were too old and too slow. They needed to reload one year after winning it all.

“The essence of Belichick is that he is a problem solver.”

In all of this there are small sections on players like Vinatieri and Fauria, and key figures like Pioli. He talks about the Lawyer Milloy situation which led to the silent feud with Tom Jackson.

All in all this is a very interesting read. You can learn, not only about the Patriots, but football through the anecdotes. You find overall commitments to process that work more often than they don’t. I enjoy learning how people approach their work. That is what make the recent Parcells biography so interesting. I am eager to read Holley’s 2012 follow up, War Room, as a result.

This isn’t a book for children. Unless you are Tony Dungy, football culture is quite colorful and crass. As a result there are more than a few curse words, and slang for sexual acts. This is unfortunate. While it adds to the realism, I wouldn’t want to give it to my son for quite some time.

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Unlike many Patriots’ fans, I try to be reasonable. I know they can’t win every year. Therefore, while I was disappointed with the outcome of the AFC championship game, I thought they had a good season. A successful season. Until that game they had not lost by more than 2 points in 3 of 4 their loses (and the other was only by 7- all one possession games).

I thought this was a better team than last year’s Super Bowl team. They had a MUCH improved running game. They had a pass rush that they used inconsistently (part of that was injuries to Chandler Jones). They made adjustments to eliminate the big plays that had hurt them early in the season. Part of that was trading for Talib.

The AFC championship game hurts, because I think they are a better team. The Ravens did make a bold move that paid off in changing offensive coordinators. Ray Lewis’ presence was not so much about his ability to play but his experience and ability help his team mates get into proper position. They were a much better team than the one that slid down the rankings mid-season. That does not bode well for them next year without Lewis.

So, what went wrong?

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I have a few free minutes, here are a few thoughts:

  • Some media members are wondering why the Cardinals have a new manager already and the Red Sox don’t. When you lose your GM in the middle of things, it slows down the process a wee bit.
  • You mean his mouth closes?

    Who should be the new manager of the Red Sox? They had each candidate do interviews. In a market like Boston, known for aggressive media, this is an important consideration. Mackanin came off like Robert California from the Office. His playing both sides approach sounded to me like smoke and mirrors. Lovullo came across as the most secure and relaxed of the bunch. I was greatly disappointed when he left for Toronto with Farrell.  I would welcome him back, but I don’t think it will go that way. Sandy Alomar Jr. will probably become a very good manager one day- I just don’t think it will be in Boston.  Reading about Sveum, I think he should be the choice.  I don’t hold the whole 3rd base coach thing against him. Send ’em In Kim would be a different story. But I appreciated his approach, including defensive positioning. I see that as one of the things Tampa does really well. Their defenders are seldom out of position.  The last 2 years the Red Sox have not seemed in position very often except for Pedroia. He understand what each coach should do, since he’s done it all. He coached guys well. I share the hunch that he’ll be the guy unless the Cubs strike first. If so, Lovullo would probably make a great choice.

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In the past week speech and rhetoric has become a hot topic.  Like many people, I’ve been sitting and soaking it all in.  I don’t want to fall into the trap of the knee jerk reaction, as many have.

On the one hand, many have blamed the current political climate for the shootings in Tucson.  Thankfully, after 5 days of hearing this the President rightfully said such speech is not to blame for the actions of the shooter.  What is odd to me is that those making such charges were blind to their own use (or that of others sharing their political views) of such rhetoric.  Too many times I heard and seen “XXXXXX’s don’t talk like that.”  The internet is full of examples of people from both sides of the political spectrum talking just like that.  Our inner Pharisees were working overtime!

Sadly, the President, in calling for “healing speech” didn’t disavow his own documented use of such rhetoric.  Such would be the move of a great leader, acknowledging his own failings even as he calls all of us to a better, higher standard.

At the same time, the New York Jets seem to be living in a bubble.  Their coach is an inflammatory quote machine.  His arrogance, not to be confused with confidence, is astounding as he apparently has knowledge of what happens when other teams and their players prepare for a game.  He also, apparently, knows what people say behind closed doors.

But worse than his arrogance (which is pretty bad since God opposes the proud) is the verbal attacks of Antonio Cromartie.  He doesn’t have to like Tom Brady.  He doesn’t have to shower Brady with man love.  But his choice of words denies Brady’s dignity as made in the image of God, and is abusive.  It is the “rotten speech” of which Paul warned in Ephesians.  It is the same root from which all the political rhetoric has blossomed.

Here is where I see idolatry at work.  When your allegiance to a team doesn’t allow you to see their guilt in a matter, it is idolatrous.  When SpyGate erupted, I did not condone the actions of the Patriots.  But I put it in context as well, since this seemed to be a fairly common practice (sort like the steroid era).  The Patriots “only” got caught because then Jets’ coach Eric Mangini wanted a competitive edge.  He most likely engaged in that practice while a member of the Patriots’ coaching staff.  [The lack of impact on the game was revealed by the Patriots finishing that regular season undefeated.]

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Chicken Little is crying up a storm.  People think the world is coming to an end.  Let’s take a quick look at what happened, and what is happening.

Last offseason the Patriots suffered setbacks in 2 areas.  First they lost people due to success.  Pioli and McDaniels left to pursue success apart from B Squared.  This has not worked out well in the past (ask Romeo, Charlie and Man-genius).  The Chiefs may have a chance with Romeo and Charlie as their new coordinators.  The Broncos had a streaky season, and will probably do better this year.  Second they lost some key locker room leaders to trades and retirement.  Fans were shocked at the trades of Vrabel and Seymour.  They were sad to see Tedy retire.  The defense took some serious hits.  Those showed up at critical moments.

The Patriots’ defense has been vulnerable to giving up leads under Dean Pees.  Without Mike, Richard and Tedy this problem multiplied.  Mayo’s injury limited there key game changer on the defensive side of the ball.  Pees is gone, and many feel that one problem was too many voices in the players’ ears.  Different messages.  Pees was pushed out, and the remaining guys are solid coaches who share the same philosophy as B Squared.  The “problem” of not having a defensive coordinator seems to be one of politics.  Patricia is the guy they would probably name, but didn’t want to upset Pepper Johnson (who they definitely want to keep) or Bill O’Brien who has not been named offensive coordinator.  This was a bad year to evaluate O’Brien’s work, so he may be given the title after a good season.

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I’m slowly working my way through The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders.  It is a book I wish was written years ago, I could have benefited from it.  I have been busy, and actually read the chapter Applause Lasts for a Moment, but Leadership is for a Lifetime last week.

The chapter carries over some ideas from the previous chapter on ego.  One aspect of that is hogging all the credit.  Some leaders, or people in leadership positions, are driven by ego and want all the credit for success.  They want the applause.  But this ultimately undermines a leader’s ability to lead.

“giving away the credit never hurts a leader in the long run, but hoarding credit always does.  Good leaders share or better yet totally give away credit for the positive things that happen, knowing it will circle back around to strengthen their own worth to the organization.”

What often gets in the way is our insecurity and need for recognition.  This drives away others, particularly those who helped make us successful.  This insecurity also refuses to accept any blame for failure.  Insecurity dumps blame on those it refused to honor for success.

“Your coworkers will become more committed and more mission focused when their leader values them as God values them and doesn’t weigh them down with the burden of blame for their mistakes.  … The motivation, creativity, and commitment of workers increase dramatically when they feel they are valued.”

My mind went to a work situation I endured.  The organization was shifting directions and models every few years.  There was not a stable, consistent vision or process.  At one point they brought in a new CEO who looked good on the outside (he talked a good game) but was what I called “a small man”.  He was insecure.

During a called organizational meeting he yelled at 2 departments for what certainly sounded like uncharacteristic mistakes.  Those departments had been very busy lately, but there had been no word of thanks for handling the extra workload.  I made the mistake of going to his office to encourage him to encourage them for the hard work they have been doing since they were all discouraged after his tongue-lashing.  He wasn’t there but the message was passed on.

Soon there was another meeting in which any unhappy employees were invited to place their resignation letters on his desk by 5 pm.  The organization was walking on eggshells for quite some time.  People were demotivated.  I couldn’t wait to get out.

This person was driven by his insecurity: he was not able to share credit or blame.  He took all of the first, and none of the second.  He was a poor leader.

“It is remarkable to me how many ministry employees say about their supervisor, ‘If you’re waiting to be thanked, you’ll wait a long time.'”

I’ve also been in organizations where some departments were seemingly invisible.  The leaders spent all their time with other departments, neglecting others.  It created a great sense of disconnect, envy and discouragement.

But another person came to my mind.  That person was Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady.

Brady has always shared his success with his teammates.  Not just privately, but publicly.  This past weekend was no exception, he talked about how the offensive line worked hard to give him the time to find the receivers who worked hard to get open.  The team worked for that win.

This is also evident in the nationally run commercials he has done.  Unlike other star QBs, he includes the members of the offensive line.  He honored them with some of the spotlight (and some extra cash).  Don’t you think they are extra-motivated to protect him?

Earlier in the year the Patriots were struggling, particularly on offense.  Tom Brady took the blame.  He didn’t throw anyone else under the bus.  He said he needed to work harder and make adjustments.

Tom Brady is a secure leader who remains successful because he takes the long view.  He needs everyone else to succeed.  So he consistently shares the credit and accepts the blame.

Roger Parrott lays out 6 principles to help guide leaders in this:

  • Be Purposeful– if you don’t periodically set time aside to do this, it will get lost in the busyness of leading.  Check yourself by spending a day thinking of each act of appreciation you offered.  You’ll find you miss many opportunities in any given day.
  • Be Poignant– it must be from the heart and be credible.  Hollow credit undermines your leadership.
  • Be Personal– regular awards are rather impersonal.  Instead personalize it, and offer it when it is not expected (before the project is done, perhaps).
  • Be Pure– don’t do it for publicity, or a photo op.  People will see through that, and it undermines your leadership.  Join in the tough jobs, not just the visible ones.
  • Be Prerequisite-Free–  Yes, no strings attached.  You aren’t trying to obligate people to you.  Give of yourself, not just things.  Gifts can often “accentuate(s) the power differential between the leader and others.”
  • Be Prayerful–  This will help you see them, and their needs, more clearly.  Respect their boundaries, neither purposely making a show of it in the hall or by summoning them to your office for a private word of prayer.  Offer to pray with and for them where & when they are comfortable.

He also gives some direction for delivering bad news- direct, disclosing & discreet.  How we share credit and address failure will greatly impact our ability to influence others as leaders.  Too often we are driven by our insecurities or the tyranny of the urgent.  Both of those problems can be addressed, and solid leadership can develop.

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First it was Tom Brady.  His knee injury ended his season and their hopes for a return to the Super Bowl.  Prior to Monday’s game it was announced that Laurence Maroney was done for the year with a shoulder injury. His injury is not as crippling to the team since they have plenty of running backs.  If Sammy Morris did a bigger number on his knee than he did on the Bronco’s defense (racking up 138 yards in the FIRST HALF), then New England is in trouble.  But if he bounces back, Jordan comes back, and they don’t have to rely on an undrafted rookie free agent, the Patriots’ running game can still be very productive.  That means that Matt Cassel can be productive despite his superb ability to take a sack instead of dumping the ball off.

During the game Rodney Harrison was carted off the field.  Word today is a torn quadriceps, and he’s done for the season- and perhaps his career.

Football is a brutal sport.  The Patriots are not the only team to suffer so many season-ending injuries.  They can quickly put a cap on championship hopes (unless that player is Jeremy Shockey).  There are no guarantees in life, and especially in sports.  Injuries are part of the game, and affect the outcome of many a game or season.  They humble us, or should.  They display the fleeting nature of life, and the precarious nature of success.  They also provide obstacles that can build character, or reveal weakness of character.  Injuries also allow someone else the opportunity to rise to the occasion (think Tom Brady or Lou Gehrig).  Life is just as unpredictable of those sports we follow.

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