You’ve heard it before, possibly beeline from the aperture of New England Patriots arch drillmaster Bill Belichick. Or maybe from one of the abounding players and coaches who accept marched with him over the able 16 years.
It feels like added than a cliche now. Three words aback put calm represent the ultimate in Belichick football accent from a man who says little. But to those who active the aforementioned amusement as Belichick while he created the NFL’s best contempo dynasty, there’s annihilation to cycle your eyes about.
Say them with me then: “Do your job.”
That’s the allegorical assumption for aggregate the Patriots accept able aback 2001. Aback you allege to Belichick’s aloft players, they say those words unprompted. It’s not a automatic acknowledgment but rather a brainy beef twitch, as admitting alone speaking about their time with the Patriots conjures up memories of a apprenticed and atypical mindset.
Each man on the four championship teams beneath Belichick had a job. From first-teamer to fourth-teamer and from punter to quarterback, an acute focus on beheading was durably ingrained.
As Super Bowl 50 approaches, it’s an adapted time to attending aback on the dynasties that accept calm a acceptable block of the 49 championships so far. And with the Patriots, it’s a time to reflect on how the acceptable began, how the analysis and appointment titles started to accumulation up and how a new ability was installed.
Before we do that, let’s ascertain a absolutism in the avant-garde NFL, area adequation rules the land.
That characterization may irk some aback it’s absorbed to the Patriots, abnormally afterwards two controversies catastrophe in “gate.” But no amount how abundant you echo artistic nicknames like “Cheatriots,” they aloof accumulate on winning.
Beyond the four championships, New England has won the best regular-season amateur by a advanced allowance aback Belichick came aboard…
And akin for playoff games…
The Patriots’ alone accident analysis beneath Belichick was his aboriginal one as Robert Kraft’s anew assassin arch drillmaster aback in 2000. Aback then, they’ve absent the playoffs aloof twice, and one of those seasons was an 11-win year in 2008 aback quarterback Tom Brady played 15 snaps afore affliction a broken ACL.
Even added remarkably, a aggregation not alleged the Patriots has won the AFC East aloof three times aback Belichick’s administration began.
That includes seven beeline analysis titles activity to New England and bristles beeline appointment championship appearances. Of the 15 Super Bowls played aback 2000, six accept complex the Patriots. They came aural three credibility of yet addition Super Bowl actualization this year, alike with Brady accepting hit 20 times by the Denver Broncos—and alike with injuries to several key players (running backs Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount absent cogent time, bloodthirsty Brady’s run support).
So, how should we ascertain a dynasty? It’s safe to go with abiding ascendancy over a abiding period.
We can trace the alpha of that arete aback to added than aloof Belichick. The Patriots’ absolutism started with two massive bodies colliding.
A new quarterback
There were bristles minutes, 11 abnormal actual in the fourth division of a Anniversary 2 d in 2001 aback Drew Bledsoe formed to his right. The Patriots trailed the New York Jets by seven points, and the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback at that point was aggravating to accumulate a abeyant game-tying drive animate as he clawed for every yard.
In this case, he bare 10 of them, with the Patriots backed up on their own 19-yard line. To put it politely, Bledsoe wasn’t absolutely accepted for his speed. Throughout a 14-year career, he ran for 764 yards, a bare boilerplate of 54.6 yards per season.
The eight yards he acquired on this run would accept franchise-altering consequences.
How abounding times accept you watched and re-watched that epitomize over the able 15 years? Maybe 25 times? Fifty?
And can you watch it afterwards wincing afterwards Jets linebacker Mo Lewis lowers his boom? The affray of pads has that effect. The complete is article amid brakes squealing for benevolence while aggravating to arrest an 18-wheeler and the bang of a toe barbate on a bootless late-night cruise from bedchamber to bathroom.
But although Lewis—a three-time Pro Bowler himself—made a career out of bang lowering, Bledsoe was in allotment victimized by an adverse about-face of events.
“I was block him, and I bethink diving at him and aggravating to hit the brawl out,” aloft Jets arresting accouterment Shaun Ellis told Bleacher Report. Ellis had the abaft afterward as Bledsoe formed out. He pushed him adjoin the amusement and into Lewis’ crosshairs.
As Lewis bankrupt in, Ellis affective Bledsoe’s larboard arm and afresh poked at the ball.
“I aloof bethink diving, hitting the brawl and aggravating to get him bottomward about his leg,” Ellis added. “Then I heard the army go ‘Oooooh!’ like it was a big hit.”
“You can see that he’s starting to lose the ball. He went to re-grip it, and that’s aback Mo hit him.”
For a cursory millisecond, Bledsoe was absent while aimlessly aggravating to beforehand possession. Did that tiny exhausted anticipate him from appropriately animating for the advancing train?
“I don’t anticipate he absolutely saw it,” Ellis said.
A catholic football brawl was additionally accomplished in that moment.
Bledsoe would eventually accomplish a abounding accretion from a austere abrasion afterwards actuality rushed to the hospital with centralized bleeding. In medical language, he suffered a hemothorax, which after-effects aback the atrium fills with blood.
He was austere to convenance by mid-November, admitting by afresh Bledsoe’s advancement had led the Patriots to a 5-2 almanac in his absence. Ellis would appear to apperceive the name of that advancement well, as we all have.
“I acquaint myself all the time: Maybe if I didn’t accompany so hard, [Bledsoe] would accept aloof run out of bounds, and afresh we apparently wouldn’t accept heard about Tom Brady for a little while.”
That seems like a a certainty. Sure, in a talent-scarce alliance at quarterback, Brady would accept been apparent eventually afterwards Bledsoe’s injury, possibly afterwards a trade. But Bledsoe was 29 years old at the time, and he had active a 10-year, $103 actor arrangement extension the antecedent March. Brady, meanwhile, was a sixth-round aces who hadn’t taken a absolutely allusive breeze afore 2001 alfresco of garbage-time cleanup duties.
It’s not adamantine at all to brainstorm an alternating football cosmos area afterwards Lewis, afterwards Ellis and afterwards Bledsoe scrambling afresh tumbling, Brady doesn’t acceleration in New England.
Although the acclimatized football mantra of “next man up”—a aing accessory of “do your job”—soon took over, there was some antecedent shock amid Bledsoe’s teammates, alike admitting he came aback into the d at first.
“It was like, ‘Where do we go from here?” said bound end Jermaine Wiggins. “This is Drew Bledsoe, our brilliant quarterback who had aloof active a big arrangement and he was the face of the franchise. We were aggravating to amount out what’s the aing step.”
Safety Lawyer Milloy watched Bledsoe crumple on the sideline. His aboriginal thoughts weren’t affable either, but his optimism was bound restored. Milloy already had claimed acquaintance with Brady’s accuracy afterwards accepting austere by him in training camp.
“One time in training camp, I bethink vividly he looked me off and I went in the administration he was looking,” said Milloy, who spent seven seasons in New England afterwards actuality a second-round aces in 1996. “Then he completed a canyon bottomward the acreage aback I was at the chargeless assurance spot. I went over to him afterwards and said, ‘Hey, you’re accepting better, kid. Aloof don’t do it again.’”
Brady did do it again. And again, and afresh afresh to opposing defenses. Remember, we apperceive who he is now: a abiding All-Pro who’s one of the best quarterbacks to anytime brawl the game. Aloft his retirement, Brady will artlessly delay for his first-ballot admission to Canton.
But aback then, he was a angular nobody, and none of his teammates could accept predicted aloof how bound the then-24-year-old would rise. His assignment belief was acutely evident, though, forth with his admiration to be a blot by acquirements from legends.
“He backward backward in the offseason and watched old films of Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Phil Simms and all these guys from aback in the day, aggravating to apprentice altered aspects of the game,” said aloft bouncer Joe Andruzzi, who blocked for Brady from 2001 to 2004. “He absolutely acicular himself in the appropriate direction, acquirements the breach from advanced to back.”
Brady aing a aggregation alloyed with longtime amount players in the prime of their careers (like advanced receiver Troy Brown), castoffs from abroad (like linebacker Mike Vrabel) and adept administration that had aloof been added (like linebacker Bryan Cox).
A compound for success was already in place, but article was still missing.
“Just like annihilation you’re aggravating to build, a lot of times you can accept all the capacity you want,” said Milloy. “But if you don’t accept that added birr of salt, it still doesn’t aftertaste right. Cipher knew Tommy was that aftermost additive for us to not alone be acknowledged that year, but additionally giving the Patriots a bequest over the aftermost 15 years.”
The Patriots absent alone three regular-season amateur with Brady as their starting quarterback in 2001. His baking band kept Bledsoe relegated to advancement duties alike afterwards he healed. As the wins mounted, so did a newfound confidence.
The season’s axis point, however, didn’t appear with a win. No, it came afterwards a loss.
A new confidence
Even afterwards aboriginal success beneath Brady, the Patriots still had a aperture to ascend out of. They had started the 2001 analysis with two losses. Branch into Anniversary 10, their almanac was a characterless 5-4.
Their Anniversary 10 opponent? The St. Louis Rams, the aforementioned St. Louis Rams who produced a account abhorrent carnival ride abundantly dubbed The Greatest Appearance on Turf.
“We anticipation we were accepting an identity,” said Milloy, who cited Anniversary 10 as one of his axis credibility in the season. “And what bigger way to go out and beforehand that by activity up adjoin the Greatest Appearance on Turf?”
Powered by quarterback Kurt Warner, active aback Marshall Faulk and advanced receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, the Rams breach was in addition galaxy while sitting aloft the league. The Rams would go on to boilerplate 418.1 yards per d throughout the 2001 approved season, which was 46 yards advanced of the second-place team.
So outscoring a Patriots breach led by about a amateur quarterback would crave aloof demography the field, right? Nope.
The Patriots were set to either booty the advance or at affliction tie the d with aloof over two account larboard in the additional division and the account 10-7 in favor of St. Louis. Afresh active aback Antowain Smith fumbled on the Rams’ 4-yard line, and because Warner was at his early-career superhero peak, he trotted assimilate the acreage to accidentally advance a 97-yard touchdown drive.
Just like that, there was a 14-point swing, and a Patriots aggregation still afterwards Bledsoe should accept been bottomward on the mat afterwards demography a abandoned haymaker. But New England crawled aback to accumulate the d bound adjoin a contempo best it would eventually accommodated afresh in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots still absent by a touchdown, bottomward the d 24-17. But strangely, the accident acquainted like a win, admitting not adjoin the opposing team. In this case, they had defeated adversity.
“That was the aboriginal d I anytime played in the NFL area I acquainted like alike admitting we lost, we still acquainted abundant about the progression of our team,” said Milloy. “We went out there and gave them hell and saw it in their faces that they were in a dogfight.
“They set the bar high, and we acquainted like we akin it. Our aggregation became stronger and stronger afterwards that.”
How strong? The Patriots didn’t lose again.
After that beverage of aplomb in Anniversary 10, the Patriots won nine beeline games, including the playoffs and Super Bowl. During that stretch, their aegis acclimatized aloof 13.8 credibility per game, while an breach still led by an amateur quarterback gutted out four wins absitively by a acreage ambition or less, including Super Bowl XXXVI.
“It got us to see that if we do what we’re declared to do, assassinate and don’t about-face the brawl over, we could brawl with any team,” Wiggins said of the Rams game. “From that point on, that’s aback we ran the table. Afresh aback we saw the Rams afresh in the Super Bowl, we knew we could adhere with them.”
Linebacker Willie McGinest recorded six of the Patriots’ 41 regular-season sacks for a aegis that ranked sixth all-embracing in credibility allowed. He said there was a acute drive during the late-season run and the adversary was anonymous.
“We didn’t absolutely affliction who we were playing, because we aloof looked at them as numbers,” he said. “We had the mentality that we able so able-bodied during the anniversary that we would be accessible for the game, so we didn’t anticipate anyone was activity to out-tough us or go in and advance us around.”
“The affliction activity for our aegis was aback we gave up a big play, or if you had a brainy error. We captivated anniversary added accountable. Aback a guy didn’t accomplish or execute, you had to face the added guys, and that was the affliction activity for us.”
There was a beginning ambience about the Patriots, complete with rebuilt aplomb afterwards Bledsoe, a authorization icon, went down.
But assertive in yourself is alone the aboriginal step. Accepting the league’s account is addition matter.
A new account and a new champion
The obstacles kept advancing afterwards an 11-5 season, which was the AFC’s second-best record. Afterward a first-round bye, New England hosted the Oakland Raiders.
Massachusetts acclimate in mid-January usually makes you appetite to adumbrate beneath abounding blankets for days. And on this accurate evening, there was an Antarctic feel to the proceedings.
The d was played in a snow globe. At kickoff, the mercury had alone to 25 degrees, with abundant blast creating a sloppy, field-goal-filled mess. Brady still managed to canyon for 312 yards adjoin the Raiders in an ambiance added ill-fitted for the Iditarod than a football game.
A scattering of playoff amateur or plays aural them are accepted alone by a simple name. In aloof a few words, you apperceive absolutely what happened, and depending on your fan affiliation, there’s either an actual cornball joy or a blench as anchor meets table.
There are The Immaculate Reception, The Drive and The Ice Bowl, among abounding others. The Patriots and Raiders added addition one: The Constrict Aphorism Game.
“It was a bifold aegis play,” Andruzzi said, absorption on what led to the constrict aphorism call. “If they brought two guys, it was a hot read. They both can’t be best up. They brought the boilerplate linebacker and cornerback, two guys off the appropriate side. I stepped out, and Charles Woodson concluded up accepting to Brady.”
We can all accede that, with the account of hindsight, the constrict aphorism bare a abundant quicker death. The aphorism was still in use until 2013.
The non-fumble created by Woodson wasn’t the aboriginal or aftermost time an cabalistic account active at the aback of rulebooks acquired abashing and rage. But it was the best cogent blanket off of the constrict rule, one that generally overshadows aggregate abroad from the Patriots’ overtime win.
Take Wiggins’ contributions, for instance, as he’s still an absurd snowstorm hero. Throughout the approved season, he was acclimated sparingly and accomplished with alone 14 receptions for 133 yards. But on that day adjoin the Raiders with white actuality swirling, he served as a short-passing antecedent of abundance for Brady, communicable 10 assurance for 68 yards.
“I didn’t accept massive numbers throughout the approved season,” Wiggins said. “That wasn’t my role. My role was to accomplish a brawl aback I had an opportunity. I did my best to accomplish abiding I was accomplishing my job. Whatever my role was, I was aggravating my best to accomplish abiding I was executing.”
There it is again: Do your job.
When the Patriots acclimatized in Pittsburgh the afterward anniversary for the AFC Championship Game, article a little abortive greeted them.
“It was a bearings area no one gave us a adventitious to win,” said Milloy. “When we absolved into the aisle appropriate afore the game, we saw a allowance with all the Steelers’ accoutrements labeled with their names and spouses’ accoutrements to go bottomward to New Orleans afterwards they won the game.
“It was the aforementioned affair aback we got bottomward to New Orleans. They were demography bottomward some Steelers stuff. Anybody predicted a Steelers-Rams Super Bowl. So it was the ultimate disrespect.”
Respect was adamantine to acquisition for the Patriots, alike on the game’s grandest stage. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas were abnormally aweless and set a final action band on Super Bowl XXXVI that advantaged the Rams by 14 points.
The Rams’ point absolute at halftime? Three points, a atomic achievement from an breach that had averaged 31.4 credibility per d throughout the approved season. Afterwards two quarters, St. Louis produced alone a loud bang because of the Patriots’ arresting focus on two key elements: acceptable with animality over acumen and eliminating Faulk from the casual game.
“We bare to booty them into a apple that they weren’t acclimatized to actuality in,” McGinest said. “We had to be concrete and hit aggregate that moved. They were a acumen aggregation and apparently way added accomplished than we were. If we played that blazon of acumen football, we couldn’t accumulate up with them, and we knew it.”
Faulk accomplished the 2001 analysis affective forth agilely with 153.4 yards from flat per game. He accomplished 23 yards beneath that boilerplate in the Super Bowl, and Milloy remembers arresting frustration.
“There was a focus on Faulk absolution out of the backfield,” he said. “If he was on your side, as an edge-rusher you were to stop what you were accomplishing and dent him. That created a three-man rush, but Faulk was not activity to get the ball. I anticipate that absolutely balked him, and you saw him bandy his easily up a few times. That was the accessory acclimation we made.”
But safe leads aloof weren’t a affair adjoin the Rams, which the Patriots apparent aback their 17-3 absorber branch into the fourth division bound evaporated. A 26-yard game-tying touchdown canyon from Warner to advanced receiver Ricky Proehl with 1:30 actual in the final division seemed to allowance history.
The Super Bowl was about to get its aboriginal overtime. Or maybe not?
The Patriots were out of timeouts, and afterwards Troy Brown’s abbreviate acknowledgment on the afterwards kickoff, they took control on their own 17-yard line.
Up in the advertisement booth, John Madden had some admonition that, thankfully, Belichick didn’t follow.
“I’m animated John Madden wasn’t our coach, because from what I heard, he said we should booty a knee and go to overtime,” Andruzzi said.
In candor to ol’ John, he wasn’t wrong, and his words are alone a antecedent of brawl now because we apperceive what comes next. Every accessible obstacle—from the alarm that apprehend 1:21 to the 53 yards advanced for alike reasonable field-goal position and the aught beneath “timeouts” on the scoreboard—was acutely slanted adjoin New England during a season-deciding moment.
But aloft artlessly absent to, you know, win the Super Bowl, there was addition affective agency influencing Belichick’s decision: the overtime bread bung and that perilous brawl with luck. Like best arch coaches until the overtime architecture afflicted a few seasons ago, Belichick absolutely acquainted bigger putting the game’s aftereffect in the easily of his breach rather than allure a date with the overtime bread and the ability it captivated over a sudden-death situation.
Even if that meant authoritative his quarterback be acutely absolute aback he had to assignment the boundaries, which narrowed Brady’s throwing options and added the achievability of an interception.
If the exact aforementioned book played out today, we ability be beggared of late-game excitement. The arch drillmaster complex would be added acceptable to chase Madden’s advice, because now during overtime you can’t lose the d on a acreage ambition afterwards your breach accepting an opportunity.
But maybe Belichick had alike added and simpler action to break ahead. He had planned for this situation, aloof like he affairs for appealing abundant everything.
“The way he coaches, our practices were situational practices,” said active aback Kevin Faulk, who spent 13 seasons in New England and was a pass-catching colonnade in the backfield on three championship teams.
“He makes practices harder than d situations, so aloof in case we get into a d aback a bearings comes up, we apperceive how to handle it. That was aloof addition one of those situations we went through so abounding times in practice. So afresh it became addition situation, and we thought, ‘Let’s aloof go do it.’”
The drive started artlessly enough, with two abbreviate assets on completions to active aback J.R. Redmond for a absolute of 13 yards. Then, with 41 abnormal left, Brady hit Redmond again, this time for 11 yards. Now, the Patriots were at their own 41-yard line, and a blink of achievement was animated aloof a little brighter.
That’s aback Brady affiliated with Brown for 23 yards. The Patriots were on the bend of article Adam Vinatieri’s ambit but not absolutely there. They alleged aloft a lumbering, hardly acclimated bound end already afresh for the final push.
“I knew the brawl was activity to be advancing to me because of the avenue I was running,” said Wiggins, who bent the six-yard canyon that gave Vinatieri 48 yards to go for his game-winning field-goal attempt. “I had the central route, and Tom had mentioned in the ataxia to me, ‘Hey, get accessible on this play, because I’m activity to try to get you the brawl quick.’”
The way Wiggins explains what followed sounds so accepted now. About as accepted as ambience the table for banquet or demography out the trash.
“So it was like all right, I’m activity to get open, Tom is activity to bandy me the ball, I’ll t it, get what I can afresh get up, accord the brawl to the official, we’ll fasten it and afresh Vinatieri will appear out to hopefully put it through the uprights.”
Yeah, that sounds about right.
The 2001 analysis started with a adverse blow for the Patriots and concluded in triumph. That year functioned as article abundant larger, though: a springboard to assorted pieces of Super Bowl jewelry, anniversary a bit shinier than the last.
A new culture
Belichick offers alone glimpses abaft the blind of his creation. He’ll acquiescently accord you an 820-word address on some abstruse rule…
But giving up alike a adumbration of admission to appearance how he’s installed a acceptable ability is rare. Which is why I acquisition myself aflame aback to aback NFL Network’s cameras followed him about for his appropriate two-part about-face on their documentary series, A Football Life.
Plenty of alluring nuggets emerged from the backstage canyon Belichick decidedly granted, including his accent on d situations alike during the aboriginal hours of training affected in backward July (3:49 mark of the video affiliated above). He’ll burglarize through them accelerated style, assured not aloof an actual acknowledgment but additionally the actual one.
“They accept no timeouts and the brawl is on the 1-yard line,” he’ll bawl out. “Tell me what’s activity to appear here.
“Forty seconds, no timeouts and we charge a acreage goal.”
Maybe that’s not decidedly out of the ordinary, and maybe you can see a agnate arena at abounding practices. But what’s arresting is the adverse amid the coldly artful drillmaster who has advised every apprehensible book and the abecedary who keeps minds aciculate by bond age-old aesthetics into his aggregation meetings.
The aforementioned guy battlefront off those d situations in convenance additionally acquaint a adduce from Sun Tzu in a Gillette Stadium hallway. It reads, “Every action is won afore it is fought.”
And the aforementioned drillmaster who can be a hollow, blank bore during columnist conferences urges his players to bless and accurate pride afterwards a acceptable play.
“There’s annihilation wrong; in fact, you should be aflame aback you accomplish a play,” Belichick told his aggregation above-mentioned to the 2009 home opener, per A Football Life. “Hell, attending at all the assignment you’ve put into it. All the time you spent and convenance you put into it. And afresh to go out there during a d competitively and assassinate able-bodied to accomplish a play. You should be aflame about it. And your teammates should be excited, too.”
Those two elements—pride and an acutely acid absorption to detail—form the foundation for a anxiously crafted acceptable culture. Installing his ideal ambiance has been a assiduous action for Belichick, one that began 16 years ago.
“He afflicted the way we practiced, he afflicted the way we prepared, and he afflicted the way we watched film,” McGinest said. “He afflicted everything. He affectionate of put his brand on the way we did things as a team.”
There’s been a focus on the alone and afresh the aggregate throughout the Patriots’ success. As an individual, you do your job. Afresh as you go, the aggregation goes.
“The ones who were able to acclimate to that affectionate of canon are the ones who did able-bodied beneath Bill,” said Milloy. “What ‘do your job’ agency is anybody is captivated accountable. No amount what your paycheck looks like or what position you anticipate you’re in, we’re all activity to compete.”
The action is admirable in its simplicity. The job comes first, and accomplishing it agency winning, and afresh acceptable leads to championships.
Always alive by those three words—“do your job”—and you’ll fit in aloof fine.
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