3 Thing I Learned from Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick, a name that evokes emotions of love or hate depending on your NFL allegiance. He’s a genius, traitor, sulker, or sullen based your relationship.

What no one doubts is that he’s good at his job. Here are 3 things I learned from Bill Belichick in David Halberstam’s book, The Education of a Coach.

Value process over product

If Belichick’s teams won, Belichick thought about how he coached. If they lost, he thought about how he coached. It was always about whether the process was correct.

When he coached Lawrence Taylor, Belichick knew that the product on the field was tremendous. But the process was flawed.

Taylor had a different set of rules than the other players. He came in drunk. He didn’t focus. He did things that would have earned other players a verbal lashing from head coach Bill Parcells. Taylor’s product was more valuable than his process.

After his time with Taylor, Belichick promised himself that there wouldn’t again be a double standard — no matter how great the player. The process would be more important than the product.

Become great at one thing

Belichick is a great coach, but he earned his start because of one thing — he could watch film. It started when he was a kid when he would accompany his dad (also a coach) to break down film. Those early hours counted toward his one thing.

As he got older his friends would do it too. They would spend science class taking notes — about football. When Belichick graduated college he got a job only because he was so good at figuring out other teams through watching film.

And it wasn’t just a familiarity with plays. He got so good at it that he figured out the philosophy behind the play calls. He learned to think like the competition because his skills were soo good. It’s why his teams’ defense was so good, he watched enough film to make it easier to be good.

Think like your competition

This ruined Belichick’s first opportunity.

In 1994 as coach of the Cleveland Browns he knew that hometown hero Bernie Kosar was too old. He didn’t make the best reads. He didn’t have the same arm strength. He didn’t move well.

How did Belichick know all this? He coached against him.

Throughout his time in coaching Belichick was constantly trying to think like the competition. If he noticed a weakness, he was sure others had too. Not only that, they were trying to exploit it.

In doing this Belichick was employing a helpful heuristic, in-box/out-box thinking. It’s always easier to glance over weakness when you are part of a group. This is why ideas like red teaming are so important.


Halberstam’s book, The Education of a Coach was good, but not great. I wanted to hear so much more about Belichick’s process. I can’t see any book including that. He’s a private man not for the sake of privacy, but to be better. He’s a coach, and does what coaches do.

If you want to see more of what I read, subscribe to my monthly email list of books I’ve read. To see more connections to things like in/out group thinking or process, check out TheWaitersPad.com