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Sunday, February 04, 2018

The secret of Bill Belichick

I've been very impressed by Bill Belichick over the years. He is one of the greatest NFL coaches of all time, if not the greatest. But one thing has always confused me about him. He is both a superlative strategist AND a superlative tactician. This is not normal. In fact, this should not even be possible, due to the way that two entirely different types of thought processes are involved.

Now, an intelligent man can certainly perform both functions at an above-average level, but to be better than nearly everyone else at both is so unlikely that it borders on the impossible. However, it turns out that Belichick is not the rare exception after all, that he is merely a great tactician. How, then, has he become known as such a great football strategist as well?

The answer is that there are two Bill Belichicks. Or rather, there is a brilliant strategist who is entirely content to remain in Belichick's shadow. The two best friends have been a team since their year together at Phillips Exeter Academy, but it is Ernie Adams, not Bill Belichick, who is the literal genius. The interesting thing is that neither the sports media nor most of the Patriots players truly understand the nature of their incredibly effective partnership.
Ernie Adams is a man of mystery with the Patriots. He’s been with Bill Belichick for virtually his entire coaching career, but no one knows exactly what he does, even though he is at every practice and every game. We asked a number of Patriots players and coaches at media availability over the course of Super Bowl week what they know about him.

“I think he’s quality control,” rookie defensive tackle Adam Butler said. “He’s like checks and balances. I feel like he just checks and makes sure everyone is on the same page and is making sure we do things the way we want to.”

“Not much,” offensive lineman Ted Karras said. “He’s a guy that is around every day and does his job.”

Added safety Duron Harmon: “Ernie does a lot for this team. He helps obviously the coaching staff prepare for the games. I can’t give you too much information, but that is just what I would say. He does a good job helping the coaching staff make sure we’re prepared for our weekly matchups. Probably one of the smartest people in the building. He knows probably every rule in the rule book. That shows you how smart he is, how in-tune he is to the game and I think he’s a big part of what we accomplish here.”
Unlike the other two, Harmon knows what's up. Belichick is the leader and the tactical genius, and Adams is the strategic brain. He is a statistics quant who "helps the coaching staff" by writing the weekly game plans which Belichick then implements. In game development terms, Adams is the designer and Belichick is the producer. That's how the Patriots are able to completely change their style from week to week. That's also why it has almost been irrelevant who has been serving as offensive or defensive coordinator over the years, and why very successful OCs and DCs have struggled after leaving New England.

I remember I asked him about a play and he recalled a play from like the early 2000s and the game and the score. I was like, ‘Oh my Gosh.’

Bingo. Thanks to Adams, New England has led the way in the statistical analysis of pro football for nearly 20 years, which is why they always seem to be able to counter even the most effective opposition game plans and make adjustments to defeat it. The Patriots have been racing with intellectual turbo technology while all the other teams are normally aspirated. It's a bit amusing to note that the sports media made a big deal about how Cleveland's now-jettisoned management team was going with a quant-heavy approach two years ago when New England has been using it all along.

How do I know this? Well, you see, I have my own connections at Phillips Exeter Academy, both friends and family. And that's why we're not likely to see Brady leave New England before he retires, no matter what scenarios the media happens to concoct. Brady, more than anyone, understands how important Adams is to his historic success.

This also may explain why Belichick never talks much about football strategy. First, it's really not his thing. And second, doing so would almost certainly reveal his unexpected limitations on the subject.

Labels:

97 Comments:

Blogger Lazarus February 04, 2018 6:07 AM  

Interesting. There have been many articles about Adams available, now that one knows who to search.

He was the pivotal piece in the taping scandal. He would study the tapes and do the signal recognition job in the booth.

There is also an article out there about Sean Harrington, computer expert. They won't say what he does with the Pats, but he is probably in charge of hacking into competitor's computer systems.

Blogger Jack Ward February 04, 2018 6:22 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Jack Ward February 04, 2018 6:24 AM  

Why has Trump and company not used executive privilege to hire this guy. For the good of the country and the God Emperor? Answer: he probably won't take the pay cut. I would give a lot to know what his salary is.

Anonymous E Deploribus Unum February 04, 2018 6:25 AM  

I don't know what Jack Ward almost said, but I stand with him.

OpenID markstoval February 04, 2018 6:54 AM  

I had several kids tell me last week that the Patriots only won because they cheated all the time.

There seems to be an American trait where people hate those who are winners. I wonder if that can help explain the lefties who are positive anyone who makes money must be a crook --- unless they are in the "liberal" professions.

The left sure does seem to be fueled envy and hatred.

Blogger Duke Norfolk February 04, 2018 7:09 AM  

I haven't paid attention to football for years. Just lost interest, but used to be a pretty big fan.

So most football stuff these days makes my eyes glaze over. But this is fascinating. Most people really can't appreciate real genius and what it can do. And at the same time they're often quite easily fooled into believing in fakers puffed up by the media/culture.

Blogger Robert Coble February 04, 2018 7:50 AM  

Paraphrasing:

"Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from magic."

Blogger Lazarus February 04, 2018 8:00 AM  

Thanks to Adams, New England has led the way in the statistical analysis of pro football for nearly 20 years, which is why they always seem to be able to counter even the most effective opposition game plans and make adjustments to defeat it.

People have been writing about Adams since 2015. I wonder why other teams haven't clued in and gotten a guy like that themselves?

Blogger rainman February 04, 2018 8:05 AM  

Lol yeah as a Dolphins fan living in NE I find it amusing how much people from all over the country find reasons to hate the Patriots. My team sucks, but at least I can admit that

Blogger Nate February 04, 2018 8:21 AM  

Saban is both. Saban has no man inithe shadows.

Anonymous TD February 04, 2018 8:23 AM  

Partly because the basic structure is usually the General Manager/Head of Operations (GM) hires the head coach (HC) or the other way around. A third party with strategic responsibility could radically alter the balance of power. Most HC and GM are not in that stable of a position to entertain that thought.

Plus, most GM and owners don't think to divide the responsibility between strategy and tactics. Heck, most HC try to handle personnel (logistics) as well. I'm not sure if many HC could cede that much game planning and control over the team.

I recall mentions of Adams after the first three Pats SB wins.

Blogger Nate February 04, 2018 8:24 AM  

Also sometimes I swear connections made at private prep schools share more important than those made at university

Blogger Johnny February 04, 2018 8:34 AM  

It's not just having the quant data, it is also having somebody who can make good use of it. Lots of people draw apparent but incorrect conclusions.

Blogger Chris Lutz February 04, 2018 8:51 AM  

Saban isn't both. His stint with the Dolphins was unremarkable. He's simply a better coach than most college coaches. Tie that in with recruiting and he has maybe 3 or 4 games a season he has to really work.

Another reason for Patriots success is the get smart players.

Blogger Michael Maier February 04, 2018 8:55 AM  

We're NEVER getting that better class of troll that I've oft dreamed of....

Blogger VD February 04, 2018 8:55 AM  

Also sometimes I swear connections made at private prep schools share more important than those made at university.

There is a level of trust that simply cannot be replicated in relationships that start later than those formative years.

Blogger Sam Spade February 04, 2018 9:00 AM  

Great post.

Blogger Bobo #117 February 04, 2018 9:06 AM  

"Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from cheating."

FIFY.

Anonymous might as well excercise free speech once in a while February 04, 2018 9:10 AM  

yeah apparently Belichick is doing something right, seems to keep it simple... when you do something for a long time you come know very well exactly what to do

Anonymous Causal Lurker February 04, 2018 9:16 AM  

It sounds like an optimal sharing of ENTJ and INTJ traits. Both are good at strategy and tactics, but the ENTJ is more into tactical. INTJ handles strategy and diplomacy well.

Adams does the future five years, the season's and game strategy, handles intelligence and threat assessment under his wing, and does diplomatic preparations both on the team and with others. He's the guy that's around, who does checks, and makes sure players and coaches know stuff. No fingerprints left behind.

Belichick does the tactical planning and execution as head coach, for the games and season. He handles operations, player development, training and practice through his coordinators and coaches, and informs management about personnel and logistical needs. He's ... visible, blatantly so.

The GM works with both for drafting, recruitment, and logistical needs (people and equipment).

The field general and strategos working this well together is unusual; two egos get redirected for a greater goal. Teaming them with a good GM is even rarer. It sounds like an excellent general staff situation. It's not cheating if you have and keep your act together. It's smart to win with the head instead of lose with the heart.

Like Godzilla vs Bambi - in the long run, bet on the big scaly one. He'll usually win big, or at least cause devastation along the way.

Anonymous Moneyball Mouse February 04, 2018 9:43 AM  

@TD, Great insight. Everything is personal incentives.

There's something called "the knowing/doing gap." Even when everyone knows about a winning strategy they could adopt, few do it, just because it's hard, people don't like change, etc. But just as important is what you mention--when there are personal incentives not to do something, people won't do it. You are so right about how most GMs/HCs don't feel secure enough to bring in a great head strategist. Especially because the Ernie Adams situation is so rare: he's been there all along and deliberately avoids taking credit. A HC bringing in a more personally ambitious strategic genius in hopes of significantly improving his team's performance probably would be jeopardizing his own job. So he doesn't do it.

Anonymous Looking Glass February 04, 2018 9:43 AM  

@8 Lazarus

The ability to defer to a Strategist is hard for a lot of people. Belichick handles being GM and Head Coach, and he's always delegated the rest of the tasks. Most can't handle that, and you see it blow up every time someone tries to replicate the Belichick Model.

As for Ernie, there's stories that pop up about him every time the Patriots get near the Super Bowl for the last while. Problem is you forget he exists after you read them, which is probably why they keep him in the shadows.

http://www.northwestern.edu/magazine/winter2008/feature/adams.html

Good piece, though I can't find the piece I was looking for on Ernie. I don't think he's on the spectrum, but he's pretty much deployed the first version of "Weaponized Football Autism".

Belichick says he wasn't surprised that Adams, despite his love for the game, could leave it twice. "Those of us who know Ernie best understand that he is extremely well-rounded," the coach says. "He is one of the most educated, well-read and well-traveled people I have ever met. He is extremely knowledgeable in a number of areas, so his decision to pursue another field was perfectly reasonable to me. That said, I'm glad he decided to come back to football."

Though I do think Vox is quite correct. Ernie takes care of the finer preparation details, while Bill deals with the GM and the in-game decision making. It also explains why he can spend so much time being prepared for the Clock Management aspect. Belichick has won a good number of extra games on that alone, and the Patriots always focus on the highly leveraged aspects of play.

If you look closely at the Patriots stats, you can normally figure out the functional aspects of Football Truisms, since that's what the Patriots focus on.

Anonymous Mister M February 04, 2018 9:46 AM  

Halberstam wrote about Ernie Adams in his book about Belichick. The strangeness of this is that the Halberstam book is oddly lightweight. I was expecting a work similar to the 2 great sports books by him: The Breaks of the Game (post Walton Blazers) and Playing for Keeps (Jordan Bulls). Halberstam's Belichick book doesn't even have an index - quite strange for someone so thorough.

Adams is talked about to some degree as a sidekick. What's great about the two of them nonetheless is that you've got 2 smart guys who punched through the system and have shown that intelligence does matter. They lack size, didn't play, didn't come from money, don't have past NFL connections, and yet they reached the mountaintop. This is rare.

John Taylor Gatto has mentioned the power of the private boarding schools here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgNOellI03w

I'd never heard anything like it until I found his body of work.

Anonymous Moneyball Mouse February 04, 2018 9:48 AM  

Vox (and others), what are your thoughts about Sean McVay of the LA Rams along these dimensions? It seems like he's a very talented coach who dramatically turned around his team. What are his key strengths and weaknesses, would you say? And does he retain control over his weak areas? Or does he have any good help? What should his next moves be if he wants to become truly great.

I ask because I find his story intriguing. Really hard working, really young, really impressive so far. But I don't know enough about McVay or, frankly, about football strategy and tactics to really assess the guy. I'd love to know what you guys think.

Is he great? Can he become great? What should he do?

Blogger Out of Nod February 04, 2018 9:52 AM  

Cao Cao had Guo Jia, Liu Bei had Zhuge Liang, and Sun Ce had Zhou Yu. For every leader there was a strategist who willingly played the part of the shadow but was crucial to the success of that leader.

Adams is Belichick's shadow.

Anonymous Broken Down February 04, 2018 10:09 AM  

It is his adherence to White Supremacy. http://www.unz.com/isteve/why-does-bill-belichick-hire-so-many-whites-and-nobody-else-does/

Anonymous patrick kelly February 04, 2018 10:10 AM  

This is the most awesome post and comment thread in my recent memory.

All about NFL football and so much more for anyone who has ears to hear.

Anonymous BBGKB February 04, 2018 10:21 AM  

I had several kids tell me last week that the Patriots only won because they cheated all the time

Did you laugh at them & say Groids Cheat With Roids?

Blogger DonReynolds February 04, 2018 10:22 AM  

It takes a great Architect to make a great Builder.
Where would the great Fighter Pilots be without superb machines to fly?
Where would the winning Quarterbacks be without a winning Team to play for?
You can only be as great as the company you work for.

Blogger DonReynolds February 04, 2018 10:29 AM  

Broken Down wrote:It is his adherence to White Supremacy. http://www.unz.com/isteve/why-does-bill-belichick-hire-so-many-whites-and-nobody-else-does/

And those who hire so many Negroes do so because they adhere to Black Supremacy?

Blogger pyrrhus February 04, 2018 10:38 AM  

@30 Belichick is a consummate games player...He succeeds, not just for the reasons given by VD, but because he capitalizes on the inefficiencies of the NFL...He signs fast or smart white players that other teams have passed up because they are biased against whites...He doesn't fall in love with players (unless they are great like Brady) and is constantly looking for better, kind of like Branch Rickey used to do..He is never satisfied. Think bobby Fischer...

Blogger Phelps February 04, 2018 10:46 AM  

markstoval wrote:I had several kids tell me last week that the Patriots only won because they cheated all the time.

There seems to be an American trait where people hate those who are winners.


Or, it is because Belicheat is one of the most notorious cheaters in history, and Americans hate cheaters. Even if he were brilliant (and he certainly could be) no one knows, because he has also been cheating the entire time (and almost certainly continues to.)

Cheating is just like affirmative action -- maybe you could have done it without cheating, but now no one knows, and you're always second class.

Blogger Brad Matthews February 04, 2018 10:57 AM  

I've always been amazed at their half time adjustments

Blogger Brad Matthews February 04, 2018 11:00 AM  

Vox,
Did you watch/hear about the Impact Award given at the NFL award show last night? Given to teen girl for playing football. NFL has triple downed. #concussourdaughters

Blogger Lazarus February 04, 2018 11:04 AM  

I’ll pay anyone here $10,000 if they can tell me what Ernie Adams does. I know he does something, and I know he works for me, and I know I pay him, but I’d love to know what it is.

Browns owner Art Modell (many moons ago)

Blogger Lazarus February 04, 2018 11:10 AM  

Perspective from a bygone era

Joe Montana: If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying, so the Patriots are trying hard

Anonymous BBGKB February 04, 2018 11:29 AM  

Related to black math/science classes.

I called it last month taxpayer's will pay for black kids to see movie free

"blacks celebrating the free ticket to see the movie (and how the fictional movie will be incorporated in their history and math curriculum)"

http://www.vdare.com/posts/royalty-is-in-our-dna-the-black-hype-for-black-panther-represents-how-blacks-privately-view-themselves-as-kings-and-queens

Anonymous Brick Hardslab February 04, 2018 11:54 AM  

Was it a strategic decision or a tactical one too deflate the balls?

Anonymous Watchu talkin bout Willis February 04, 2018 12:04 PM  

If it hadn't been for the egomaniac dumbass business-failure Art Modell (may his soul burn eternally in the fires of hell, spit, spit) the (old) Browns would not have left and Belichick might have turned them into something akin to today's Patriots. Sure as hell wouldn't be as historically bad as they are now.

Honestly, how can you go bankrupt owning one of the most storied franchises in league history, with the stadium selling out for decades, even during "off" years?

Yes, I still hold a grudge. This new incarnation of the "Browns" sits upon a throne of lies.

Blogger Jack Amok February 04, 2018 12:12 PM  

Belichick, Saban, and Art Modell's hapless Browns have all been mentioned, so it's worth pointing out how bad the Browns are.

They had both Belichick and Saban as coaches (and Ernie Adams too) for four years back in the 90's and only cracked .500 once.

Anyway, I assume it was Adams who realized under-inflating the footballs a little bit would reduce fumbles. That would explain why Belichick was so detached and clueless about it.

Blogger Josh (the sexiest thing here) February 04, 2018 12:28 PM  

Halberstam wrote about Ernie Adams in his book about Belichick. The strangeness of this is that the Halberstam book is oddly lightweight. I was expecting a work similar to the 2 great sports books by him: The Breaks of the Game (post Walton Blazers) and Playing for Keeps (Jordan Bulls).

He wrote that book when he was 70, that's probably why it isn't as weighty as the other two.

Anonymous Scintan February 04, 2018 12:32 PM  

I think you're reading far too much into a story about a guy knowing a play.

Blogger Josh (the sexiest thing here) February 04, 2018 12:34 PM  


Also sometimes I swear connections made at private prep schools share more important than those made at university.

There is a level of trust that simply cannot be replicated in relationships that start later than those formative years.


Summer camps are another part of that elite ecosystem.

Here's an example from an article about a hedge fund power struggle:

Levin was a counselor and water skiing instructor at a camp in Wisconsin when he first met Och, whose sons spend part of their summers at the facility.

Blogger Josh (the sexiest thing here) February 04, 2018 12:36 PM  


I think you're reading far too much into a story about a guy knowing a play.


Here are two longer articles about Adams.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2015/01/29/mysterious-ernie-adams-patriots-man-behind-curtain/IrNCfgrysUphGpkcIjEaBL/amp.html

http://www.espn.com/espn/eticket/story?page=adams

Blogger Dave February 04, 2018 12:37 PM  

Watching vids of Belichick on the sideline is fascinating. His team can be up by three scores but he's always coaching; berating players for minor mistakes or jumping on guys if they start showboating. It's always about the team aspect and getting the most out of each position on the field as they relate to other positions. Hence the saying "Just do your job". His attention to detail is unsurpassed.

Anonymous SidVic February 04, 2018 12:42 PM  

Very nice analysis. Makes me wonder whether there were other, similar, high preforming partnerships in history. Sherman Grant? Hitler Goebbels?

Blogger VD February 04, 2018 12:51 PM  

I think you're reading far too much into a story about a guy knowing a play.

I'm not reading anything into anything at all. That has literally nothing to do with the information I am relating, it is merely an example of it.

I am simply passing on what people who actually know these people know about them.

Blogger Lazarus February 04, 2018 12:56 PM  

steve sailer:

Why Does Bill Belichick Play So Many Whites and Nobody Else Does?


Our society talks constantly about not overlooking blacks, but it almost never talks about not overlooking whites. So, only the smartest guy in the NFL remembers to not overlook whites.

Anonymous rienzi February 04, 2018 1:04 PM  

Of course, have Tom Brady as your quarterback during all the glory years can't have hurt any. I wonder how great the Pats would have been years after year, if Belichick had had Jay Cutler or something similar as his QB?

Look at GB, world beaters with Rodgers in the game. Can hardly beat anyone with Rodgers out.

Blogger Dave February 04, 2018 1:16 PM  

and why very successful OCs and DCs have struggled after leaving New England.

The relationship between him and Adams has to have some significance in the puzzle of Belichick's barren coaching tree.

Andy Reid hasn't had near the success of Belichick, but there's no comparison between his coaching tree and Bill's. Take a look at this list of active head coaches:
1. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens won SB
2. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers went to SB
3. Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles playing in SB today
4. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills first year made playoffs
5. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears
6. Pat Shurmur, hired by NY Giants
7. Todd Bowles, New York Jets

Presently 25% of the head coaches in the NFL are from Andy's tree.

http://www.kansascity.com/sports/nfl/kansas-city-chiefs/article193570754.html

Blogger Dave February 04, 2018 1:18 PM  

25% including Andy

Blogger Josh (the sexiest thing here) February 04, 2018 1:41 PM  

I wonder how great the Pats would have been years after year, if Belichick had had Jay Cutler or something similar as his QB?

Better question, would Cutler have been a better qb if he had been drafted by NE?

Blogger Jack Amok February 04, 2018 1:47 PM  

I wonder how great the Pats would have been years after year, if Belichick had had Jay Cutler or something similar as his QB?

He was 36-44 with Bernie Kosar and Vinnie Greenballs at QB. He also took over as GM after his first year in Cleveland. He is the HC who presided over the demise of the original Cleveland Browns.

After 1995, the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. Owner Art Modell fired Belichick because he thought Darth Hoodie's sourpuss personality would make it hard to sell tickets in the new town (there's something about being named the "Browns" that must make team leaders stupid, because the new Browns are about as astute as the old ones). Anyway, the Browns became the Ravens, got a new head coach, and five years later won the Super Bowl with one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history.

Blogger Shamgar February 04, 2018 1:57 PM  

Really dumb strategic move by NFL to let one of the teams that could save it be labeled cheaters. Remember Rule 1.

Blogger Jack Amok February 04, 2018 2:03 PM  

Presently 25% of the head coaches in the NFL are from Andy's tree.

But is that Andy's tree, or just a branch of Bill Walsh's tree? And since the NFL is focused on Minneapolis today, let's point out Walsh was a disciple of the most innovated NFL coach ever, Minneapolis-born Sid Gillman, the creator of the modern passing attack as well as using motion to disrupt defenses and tip off the defensive scheme (some people also credit him with the idea for the Super Bowl itself).

Gillman's coaching tree is:

Bill Walsh
Don Coryell
Chuck Knox
Chuck Noll
Ara Parseghian
Bo Shembeckler
Bum Phillips
Al Davis
Dick Vermeil
John Madden
-and all the guys on their trees...

Pretty funny that both Air Coryell and Ground Chuck came out of the same guy's coaching tree.

Anonymous Scintan February 04, 2018 2:21 PM  

VD wrote:I think you're reading far too much into a story about a guy knowing a play.

I'm not reading anything into anything at all. That has literally nothing to do with the information I am relating, it is merely an example of it.

I am simply passing on what people who actually know these people know about them.


Belichick makes the game plan, with input from others. On offense, McDaniels, Belichick and Brady all work on it. Brady and Belichick meet on Tuesday each week to get it set.

Anonymous Deadlocked February 04, 2018 2:37 PM  

Presently 25% of the head coaches in the NFL are from Andy's tree.

That's it? :) 31% of the current NFL head coaches come from Belichick's tree:
- Dan Quinn (Atlanta)
- Jason Garrett (Cowboys)
- Vance Joseph (Denver)
- Bill O'Brien (Houston)
- Anthony Lynn (LA Chargers)
- Adam Gase (Miami)
- Todd Bowles (NY Jets)
- Pete Carroll (Seattle)
- Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco)
- Mike Vrabel (Houston)
That's 10 out of 32. Assuming that McDaniels and Patricia move on to Indy and Detroit (and adding Belichick himself), that'll make 13 of 32, or 41%.

Bill Parcells' tree is even scarier - only 3 of the 32 current NFL head coaches are not on his tree.

(source - http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/22235093/connecting-all-2018-nfl-head-coaches-bill-parcells-bill-belichick ; they may define coaching tree a bit differently from you, Dave.)

As for Sid Gillman, that is a name I did not know. Thanks for the pointer, Jack Amok.

Finally, VD, thanks for the extra confirmation about Ernie Adams. I've always seen him as Belichick's wartime consigliere. (Pink stripes!)

Go Pats!

Blogger Dave February 04, 2018 2:54 PM  

they may define coaching tree a bit differently from you, Dave

I didn't define it; just as ESJWPN doesn't define it. Rather they were more about promoting their "The Two Bills" show. If we're gonna say every coach that had a cup of coffee with another coach is on his tree, there's no point in even debating it.

Anonymous Moneyball Mouse February 04, 2018 2:54 PM  

Serious question for VD, OutofNod, and others. Off topic, but synthesizing this post and another big topic on this blog, the God Emperor.

I think Trump is an all-around genius, but the question is, is he more a strategist or more a tactition?

@Out of Nod said: "Cao Cao had Guo Jia, Liu Bei had Zhuge Liang, and Sun Ce had Zhou Yu. For every leader there was a strategist who willingly played the part of the shadow but was crucial to the success of that leader."

And the God Emperor Trump had Steve Bannon?

Bannon aside, Trump seems like an interesting case study of how strategy and tactics interact. From a distance, Trump seems extremely instinctive and seems to operate in the moment. Arguably he internalized some great strategic rules early on and then instinctively and tactically deploys them consistently. Negotiating strategy rules like "extreme anchoring" and "find two ways to win," fighting rules like "when hit, hit back harder," general life rules like "fame is power," etc.

But Trump is SO GOOD on his feet and in real-time combat that it's hard to imagine him as also a strategic genius. He seems to consistently deploy good strategies, and even to improvise some good strategic adjustments, but it's hard to imagine him sitting in a back room constantly devising new strategies.

And yet. His election strategy seems to have been almost flawless. His strategy of red-pilling the normies is working. His strategy of simultaneously weakening and using the mainstream media is working. And his strategies in the ongoing war against the deep state seem very impressive.

So how does Trump compare to Belichick on the tactics vs. strategy dimension? Trump is well above-average on both, but which is his genius? And if Trump is more a tactician, who are Trump’s strategy shadows? Bannon? Kushner? Adelson? The Red Empire? Deep State elements rebelling against the globalists?

Any thoughts? We're mostly Trump fans here. When it comes to strategy and tactics, which of Trump's strengths is the stronger one?

Blogger Dave February 04, 2018 2:57 PM  

Bill O'Brien (Houston)
Mike Vrabel (Houston)

Houston has two head coaches? Co-head coaches?

Blogger VD February 04, 2018 3:12 PM  

Belichick makes the game plan, with input from others. On offense, McDaniels, Belichick and Brady all work on it. Brady and Belichick meet on Tuesday each week to get it set.

You're wrong. He works from a plan created by Adams. He's the genius, not Belichick.

Blogger VD February 04, 2018 3:13 PM  

When it comes to strategy and tactics, which of Trump's strengths is the stronger one?

Strategy. Look up how long ago he came up with MAGA, and why he did so.

OpenID phenixrising16 February 04, 2018 3:14 PM  

Yeah, this whole coaching tree thing is overblown. F'r instance, Steve Wilks of the Cardinals is on the Parcells coaching tree because he worked for Norv Turner from 2009-11. Hunh?

Turner is on the list because he worked for Mike Zimmer from 2014-16 -- after Turner had been a head coach for 15 seasons with the Raiders, Redskins, and Chargers.

MSESPN (thanks Clay Travis) was doing everything it could to tie everyone who ever drew breath on an NFL sideline to Parcells and Belichick.

You want a real coaching tree? How about Jim Lee Howell? Who where his two coordinators with the Giants in the late 50's? Their names escape me....

Anonymous Baseball Savant February 04, 2018 3:17 PM  

steve sailer:

Why Does Bill Belichick Play So Many Whites and Nobody Else Does?

Our society talks constantly about not overlooking blacks, but it almost never talks about not overlooking whites. So, only the smartest guy in the NFL remembers to not overlook whites.


There is quite a bit to this. Guys like Edelman, Hogan, Amendola, Walker, Stokely and now the emergence of Adam Thielen and Cooper Kupp strengthen the argument. I'm not saying you don't go out and get an Antonio Brown when you can, but I know more than a few scouts that see this trend & are now starting to evaluate the "headache" aspect of players.

I'm not saying New England never goes vertical, but 6'1 black guys who run 4.3 40s don't make as much sense with the Patriots dink & dunk approach. If the NFL is a copy cat league, then who do you want? Julio Jones or Danny Amendola?

Anonymous Baseball Savant February 04, 2018 3:19 PM  

Belichick makes the game plan, with input from others. On offense, McDaniels, Belichick and Brady all work on it. Brady and Belichick meet on Tuesday each week to get it set.

I think this is backwards. Adams makes the game plan (strategist) while Belichick implements the plan (tactician).

Blogger Dave February 04, 2018 3:26 PM  

Deadlocked gives a perfect illustration of why many people detest the Pats and their fans. Not content that he has one of the greatest if not the greatest head coaches of all time; he has to embellish Belichick's coaching tree to an absurd level.

Just three examples from his list above, undoubtedly there's more:
>Jason Garett; never hired by or coached under Belichik
>Dan Quinn; never hired by or coached under Belichick
>Mike Vrabel, never hired by or coached under Belichik

Blogger Josh (the sexiest thing here) February 04, 2018 3:27 PM  

I'm not saying New England never goes vertical, but 6'1 black guys who run 4.3 40s don't make as much sense with the Patriots dink & dunk approach. If the NFL is a copy cat league, then who do you want? Julio Jones or Danny Amendola?

They've almost always had a vertical threat--Moss, Stallworth, Cooks, etc

Anonymous Moneyball Mouse February 04, 2018 3:30 PM  

.Thank you for answering the off-topic question, Vox. I appreciate it and I like your answer.

So I'm guessing that you would say that what looks like tactical genius to me is really a combination of above-average tactics, good improvisational skills/charisma/oratory, and consistent tactical applications of the right strategies. Is that a fair assessment?

Strategic genius does seem to have more explanatory power for Trump's outsize success in all arenas. Especially his ability to outmaneuver his enemies.

OpenID phenixrising16 February 04, 2018 3:33 PM  

@66 Dave

Disagree about all three of those guys. Quinn and Garrett were on Nick Saban's staff with the Dolphins, and Nick was DC for Belichick with the Browns. That's legit. And Vrabel not only worked for the Texans under Bill O'Brien, who also was a coordinator for Belichick, he played for years with the Patriots.

Blogger Josh (the sexiest thing here) February 04, 2018 3:38 PM  

You're wrong. He works from a plan created by Adams. He's the genius, not Belichick.

I don't know if you'd call it genius, but Belichick's self awareness and willingness to stay in his lane is rare among head coaches and a competitive advantage.

Anonymous Baseball Savant February 04, 2018 3:43 PM  

They've almost always had a vertical threat--Moss, Stallworth, Cooks, etc

Nobody said they didn't.

Blogger Dave February 04, 2018 3:44 PM  

Now we have to consider if they played for Belichick? What's next: 23andme?

Let's make it simple: was the coach in question hired at some point in their coaching career by Bilichick?

Blogger Akulkis February 04, 2018 3:45 PM  

@38

"Was it a strategic decision or a tactical one too deflate the balls?"

It's a tactic, so it's a tactical move. But can be incorporated into strategy.

OpenID phenixrising16 February 04, 2018 3:48 PM  

@72 Dave

The coaching tree considers did one of his main coaching influences call Belichick one of his main coaching influences. Saban certainly qualifies, as does O'Brien.

Blogger VD February 04, 2018 3:48 PM  

So I'm guessing that you would say that what looks like tactical genius to me is really a combination of above-average tactics, good improvisational skills/charisma/oratory, and consistent tactical applications of the right strategies. Is that a fair assessment?

Yes. He's an effective tactician, but some of his tactics are simply strange. The key is that he is comfortable operating in chaos. I have no way of knowing, but I expect he makes very, very quick decisions, assuming that he'll sort it out later if it's the wrong one.

But even thriving on chaos can be a strategic perspective.

Blogger Guitar Man February 04, 2018 3:50 PM  

BB is absolutely ultra high IQ. Ernie is on a different level. They both have autistic tendencies, though.

Blogger Josh (the sexiest thing here) February 04, 2018 3:52 PM  

Nobody said they didn't.

True, but Julio Jones is much more of an outlier than [insert random white slot receiver].

Also I'm assuming Sailer is counting Aaron Hernandez as a White Hispanic.

Blogger Dave February 04, 2018 3:57 PM  

phenixrising16 wrote:@72 Dave

The coaching tree considers did one of his main coaching influences call Belichick one of his main coaching influences. Saban certainly qualifies, as does O'Brien.


Wow, just wow. They definitely were influenced by Belichick alright.

Saban was DC under Belichick for 4 yrs in Cleveland. Saban later said these four years were the "worst of my life".

O'Brien coached in many positions directly under Belichik.

Blogger newbietrader February 04, 2018 4:10 PM  

Adams is the genius, belichek is good enough to make it work most of the time with a good set of players because so many of the other coaches are mental midgets and their teams suck overall.

so if you have really good strategy 90 percent of the time and can make it work 90 percent of the time against inferior coaches/teams, you should have consistent success - easy 11- 13 wins a year

the browns, bills, jets chargers etc have no strategy idiot coaches and poor personnel, and lose consistently as a result and have 11-13 losses every year.

no need to cheat, the averages will put in the SB more often than not

Anonymous RJ February 04, 2018 4:28 PM  

"Saban is both. Saban has no man inithe shadows."

Please. Saban has twice as many "analysts" on staff as any other college program.

Stop being an idiot, Nate.

Anonymous Scintan February 04, 2018 4:41 PM  

VD wrote:Belichick makes the game plan, with input from others. On offense, McDaniels, Belichick and Brady all work on it. Brady and Belichick meet on Tuesday each week to get it set.

You're wrong. He works from a plan created by Adams. He's the genius, not Belichick.



Was Adams also coming up with those game plans when he was working on Wall Street while Belichick was winning SBs as Parcells' DC, and having his game plans given to the HOF?

Blogger Josh (the sexiest thing here) February 04, 2018 4:47 PM  

Was Adams also coming up with those game plans when he was working on Wall Street while Belichick was winning SBs as Parcells' DC, and having his game plans given to the HOF?

How many seasons has Belichick been a head coach without working with Adams?

Anonymous Scintan February 04, 2018 5:14 PM  

Josh (the sexiest thing here) wrote:Was Adams also coming up with those game plans when he was working on Wall Street while Belichick was winning SBs as Parcells' DC, and having his game plans given to the HOF?

How many seasons has Belichick been a head coach without working with Adams?


I'm not sure why you chose to move the goalposts there. Adams was working as a municipal bonds trader while Belichick was drawing up HOF worthy SB winning defensive game plans for the Giants. So the pertinent question is whether it was Belichick coming up with those game plans post-2005, or it was Adams moonlighting.

Anonymous Scintan February 04, 2018 5:15 PM  

Edit: That should have read post-1985, not post-2005

Blogger repent or perish February 04, 2018 5:18 PM  

This was demonstrated on ESPN's 30 for 30 'The Two Bills', where Belichick notes that he was the more detail-oriented coach, while Parcells saw the big picture.

Blogger VD February 04, 2018 5:31 PM  

BB is absolutely ultra high IQ. Ernie is on a different level. They both have autistic tendencies, though.

The first statement is not true according to a definite UHIQ who knows both of them. Apparently the idea is, quite literally, laughable.

Was Adams also coming up with those game plans when he was working on Wall Street while Belichick was winning SBs as Parcells' DC, and having his game plans given to the HOF?

No one said that Belichick didn't write up game plans as a DC. But he doesn't do so as the New England head coach and general manager. He doesn't have the bandwidth. And you don't think it's just a little strange that a defensive coach somehow magically transformed himself into a revolutionary offensive genius who can completely change the offense on a weekly basis?

Belichick is NOT the genius. He's probably in the 130 range, which is why he is an effective leader.

Blogger bob kek mando February 04, 2018 5:41 PM  

49. rienzi February 04, 2018 1:04 PM
if Belichick had had Jay Cutler or something similar as his QB?




you say this as though Belichick couldn't do anything about Cutler.

Cutler's problem is primarily his head. Belichick would either have fixed his head ( today's Jeff George ) OR Belichick would have forced Cutler out by refusing to play him OR Belichick would have left gotten fired/resigned.

just like when the Jets tried to hamstring him into being their Head Coach and he flat out quit on them.

did you know? Belichick has been Head Coach of the Jets *TWICE* ... and never coached a single game for them?

this is a man quite willing to evaluate a situation as "stupid", and cut bait over the stupidity.

Blogger Josh (the sexiest thing here) February 04, 2018 6:01 PM  

And you don't think it's just a little strange that a defensive coach somehow magically transformed himself into a revolutionary offensive genius who can completely change the offense on a weekly basis?

Furthermore, which side of the ball did Adams specialize in?

Anonymous ScarletNumber February 04, 2018 6:33 PM  

@57

You have no idea what you are talking about. Only Bill O'Brien of Houston coached under Belichick. If you want to give him McDaniels and Patricia that's 3. Vrabel of Tennessee would be 4.

Anonymous Eduardo the Magnificent February 04, 2018 6:33 PM  

Ernie Adams went to Northwestern because, in his view, they had the best Latin department in America at the time. He's an off-the-scales genius.

Belichick reminds me a lot of another guy I admired as a kid, Ray Evernham, Jeff Gordon's crew chief back in the 90s. Both guys were excellent at focusing their energies on the one or two aspects that will decide the contest and exploiting them, and they were both good leaders. They also took advantage of once-a-generation talents. Evernham could have had Chad Knaus's resume or better if he'd have stuck around with Hendrick.

Belichick might have suffered from the same symptom (desire to run things rather than merely coach), but he was smart enough to get GM added to Head Coach before he signed with the Patriots. He never had any other itches to scratch, other than win more 'Bowls.

Anonymous Scintan February 04, 2018 7:10 PM  

VD wrote:

No one said that Belichick didn't write up game plans as a DC. But he doesn't do so as the New England head coach and general manager. He doesn't have the bandwidth. And you don't think it's just a little strange that a defensive coach somehow magically transformed himself into a revolutionary offensive genius who can completely change the offense on a weekly basis?

Belichick is NOT the genius. He's probably in the 130 range, which is why he is an effective leader.


Belichick's coached all 3 phases. He started with special teams, then went to offense, and then to defense. He's also the son of a football coach, and grew up steeped in the game.

There's no real secret here. He's just very good at football.

Anonymous ScarletNumber February 04, 2018 7:11 PM  

@82

> How many seasons has Belichick been a head coach without working with Adams?

To answer your rhetorical question, zero.

Blogger Samuel Nock February 04, 2018 8:48 PM  

"Strategy. Look up how long ago he came up with MAGA, and why he did so."

"He's an effective tactician, but some of his tactics are simply strange."

This also makes his incessant A/B testing understandable: he is aware that he doesn't always make good snap decisions, and he uses tweets, off-the-cuff remarks, and various A/B testing methods to "crowd source" tactical decisions, while trusting his own instinct (rightly) on strategy.

Anonymous NFL Fanboi February 04, 2018 10:46 PM  

Despite the Patriots losing tonight, it has been and will always be about Belichick, not Adams, nor his assistant coaches, nor Brady.

Blogger Nate February 05, 2018 12:21 AM  

"Please. Saban has twice as many "analysts" on staff as any other college program.

Stop being an idiot, Nate."

Tard. Saban had a winning record against the Hoodie. Without a QB. Hell he left the NFL for a very good reason. He had no QB. Without a QB he was not going to have long term success. So he left.

Just like the Hoodie.

Oh you do remember the Hoodie before New England right? In cleveland? With no QB?

Anonymous Hezekiah Garrett February 05, 2018 5:07 AM  

Lemme guess, Buckeye?

Blogger Darius February 05, 2018 6:43 PM  

Belichick went to Phillips Academy Andover (MA), not Phillips Academy Exeter (NH). Minor discrepancy but otherwise great article.

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