In 1970 Ed Sabol convinced Kansas City Chiefs coach Hank Stram to wear a microphone throughout Super Bowl IV, and the result was an NFL Films documentary that gave fans an unprecedented appear inside the mind of a coach. It took 4 decades, but NFL Films may possibly have lastly topped itself.
Bill Belichick: A Football Life, an NFL Films documentary that premieres on NFL Network Thursday night, is structurally diverse from the Super Bowl IV video but comparable in the level of insight it provides: Unless you’ve been on an NFL coaching staff, you haven’t seen an NFL coach like this prior to. In the course of the 2009 season Belichick gave NFL Films access to everything — the locker room, the sideline, team meetings, discussions with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, quiet moments with Belichick’s son, almost everything — and the resulting documentary is fairly extraordinary.
Among the most interesting moments are the ones when Belichick talks to or talks about opposing players. At one point in the course of a Patriots-Ravens game, Baltimore receiver Derrick Mason approaches the New England sideline and says something to Belichick, to which Belichick replies, “Why don’t we speak after the game, alright? Just shut the f-k up.” But with footage from game-preparing sessions, viewers can see how considerably Belichick respects certain opposing players, notably Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and Ravens safety Ed Reed.
When Belichick gets angry on the sideline, it is typically simply because something he addressed in those game-planning sessions does not get executed correctly on Sunday. Footage of Belichick telling his staff in a meeting that the defense has to be prepared for passes to the Jets’ Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller in the seam are interspersed with the Jets successfully passing to Cotchery and Keller in the seam.
“That’s two down the seam,” Belichick barks soon after the Jets’ large plays. “That’s what we were talking about all week.”
But Belichick is also surprisingly funny on the sidelines, ribbing Wes Welker about Julian Edelman becoming the Wally Pipp to Welker’s Lou Gehrig (a reference Welker didn’t get), and telling officials who had been wearing orange-striped AFL throwback uniforms, “You should have seen the s-t they tried to put me in.”
In a moment from 2009 that feels particularly compelling in light of the Patriots’ surprising decision in 2010 to trade Randy Moss, Belichick can be heard complaining to his coaching staff that the team’s wide receivers do not have a powerful sufficient work ethic. Belichick said he wished his receivers would have taken it upon themselves to remain after practice to do added work with Tom Brady.
“Wednesday practice is over and where do the receivers go? Straight in,” Belichick said. “‘We’ve got it all down. We do not require additional function.’ That sums it up for me.”
Not almost everything about Belichick is challenging-nosed, nonetheless. Belichick is shown fighting back tears when he reminisces about his years as an assistant with the Giants, saying, “It’s tough not to get choked up about it.”
It is challenging not to love access like that. NFL Films delivered in a huge way with Bill Belichick: A Football Life.