A longtime Patriots chronicler goes inside the brain trust of the NFL’s most successful team.
In the NFL, team building—drafting, trading and signing fee agents—is a multimillion-dollar business with many livelihoods and professional reputations at stake. The widely acknowledged virtuoso of this peculiar blend of art and science is Bill Belichick, GM and head coach of the New England Patriots. Holley (Red Sox Rule: Terry Francona and Boston’s Rise to Dominance, 2008, etc.) traces the genesis of Belichick’s “Big Idea” back 20 years when, as the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns, he began piecing together notions—particularly, the idea of a uniform player-evaluation system—about how best to construct a consistent winner. Working for him then were scouting assistant Scott Pioli and young groundskeeper Thomas Dimitroff, both of whom, after extended apprenticeships under Belichick in New England, would go on to helm NFL franchises elsewhere, spreading the gospel of The Patriot Way. With Belichick as the principal and Pioli and Dimitroff in supporting roles, Holley dives deep into the complexities of the draft and the subtleties of an appraisal system sufficiently exact to rely upon, flexible enough to allow for exceptions. There’s plenty of inside-football, but the narrative soars when the author’s in storytelling mode, drawing sharp portraits of the three very different franchise architects and other prominent NFL figures, supplying behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the Patriots’ glorious run (three Super Bowl championships, one perfect regular season), the team’s infrequent failures (e.g., the notorious Spygate episode), the contributions and departures of key assistants and pivotal players, the abiding brilliance of quarterback Tom Brady and the emerging efforts by Pioli in Kansas City and Dimitroff in Atlanta to reshape the football culture—to replicate, albeit with their personal stamps, Belichick’s master plan.
A deeply reported, thoroughly engaging look at what it takes to succeed in the NFL—and a perfect complement to the NFL Network’s compelling miniseries Bill Belichick: A Football Life.