David Halberstam’s look at what Bill Belichick learned from the coaches he worked with is the closest anyone has come to penetrating Belichick’s view of the game.
Reticent, blunt and famously secretive, Bill Belichick does not seem like someone who would collaborate on a biography but he did talk to David Halberstam for The Education of a Coach. Belichick had read some of Halberstam’s books and respected his work, so he was receptive when the author suggested a book about how Belichick had learned his craft, in particular what he had learned from his father, Steve.
Steve Belichick was a lifelong coach, primarily known for his 30-year stint as a scout for Navy. During this time he wrote Football Scouting Methods (1962), which has become known as a scouting bible. Bill was nine when he started watching film with his father, which created a lifelong passion for coaching. Halberstam traces Belichick rise through the coach ranks, beginning as an assistant with the Baltimore Colts in 1975 and ending 30 years later with Belichick a multiple Super Bowl winner at the Patriots. Belichick would go on to set the record for most Super Bowl wins by a head coach.
Halberstam looks at what Bill learned from the coaches he worked with, and how he developed his own skill as a teacher. The result is the closest anyone has come to being schooled in Belichick’s view of the game.
David Halberstam made his name reporting on the Vietnam War for the New York Times, work which won him a Pulitzer Prize. He also covered the Civil Rights Movement, US foreign policy and the media. In 1961, he published his first of more than 20 books and developed a reputation as an insightful historian of American power and culture.
Starting in the 1980s Halberstam began writing books about sport, almost as a hobby. The Education of a Coach was his only football book, though he was researching another, about the 1958 NFL Championship Game, when he was killed in a car accident in 2007. The book was later completed by Frank Gifford.
- Excerpted in NFL 100, by Rob Fleder (editor), Abrams, 2019
- Pro Football Journal’s Top 100 Pro Football Books, #42
- Featured in Chris Wesseling’s 10 Must Read Football Books
- Featured in The Scouting Academy Football Books list
- New York Times bestseller (Nonfiction, 2005)
“In the 2001 training camp Brady would come off the field after an offensive series, and Belichick would question him about each play, and it was quite remarkable: Brady would be able to tell his coach what every receiver was doing on each play, what the defensive backs were doing, and explain why he had chose to throw where he had. It was as if there were a camera secreted away in his brain. Afterward, Belichick would go back and run the film on those same plays and would find that everything Brady had said was borne out by film.”
“He was not a man of charisma, as one expected of coaches but rather a quiet man of chalk.”
Although Belichick is not known for his openness with journalists, there have been plenty of books written about his career, particularly his time with the Patriots. There’s plenty here that overlaps with other books, but the fact that this is drawn from interviews with Belichick gives it an authority other titles lack. Where the book really shines, however, is in the story of Belichick’s relationships with other coaches, from his father to Bill Parcells, and what he learned from each of them.
Shane Richmond, Pigskin Books
“Definitive on the topic of Bill Belichick and his relationship with his players, particularly his quarterback.”
Charles P Pierce, in Moving the Chains (2006)
“Thanks to the brilliance of writer and subject, the chalk spins the 21st century’s dominant football dynasty into a defining story.”
Chris Wesseling, NFL.com
“In describing the triumph of “an unadorned man,” a coach without artifice, Halberstam has created a tale of excellence, but not an especially moving book, except perhaps to Patriots fans.”
New York Times
“Halberstam brings to his seventh sports book an encyclopedic knowledge of football, a firm grasp on the inner workings of effective coaching, an understanding of the systematic roles of the players and a shrewd psychological analysis of Belichick himself as a man and team leader.”
“It is a relatively short book – less ambitious in scope and length as Halberstam’s basketball masterpieces. As with all of Halberstam’s books, it is superbly well written, incredibly easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable. It leaves with a real sense of a man obsessed with his sport and destined to be successful. Halberstam clearly likes his subject, but the book feels like a fair and honest telling of how Belichick became Belichick.”
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