Winning four Super Bowls in the last 15 years should not surprise anyone familiar with Bill Belichick’s Patriots. He has turned the Patriots into one of the highest performing organizations in history. His model should be adapted not only for all educators, but for all organizations. There are probably more than 5 reasons why the Patriots are a perennial powerhouse, but these five are the most adaptable concepts for any school: Mission, Training, Planning, Collaborating, and Adaptability.
Focus on the Mission
“We tell the players, ‘It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. That’s what they should be concerned about.”
That may be the best attitude for any teacher or coach and should be exemplified in all your actions. His players and coaches focus completely on the mission. Their mission is to win the Super Bowl. That is their long-term goal. All organizations have long term goals, so how do the Patriots differ? One of their biggest mantras is, “Don’t Sacrafice Tomorrow for Today.” They keep their eye on the prize and win one day at a time moving towards that goal.
The world is full of distractions, but the Patriots do not let this get in their way. They avoid distractions at all cost. They even did a decent job with “Deflategate” the past two weeks, even though the media tried their best to knock them off their game. Bill Belichick’s Patriots focus on the present and what they can do in the next practice.
“The only thing we can control is the next practice… What happened in the past, and what could be going in the future, really is irrelevant.” Each day in the classroom teachers must embody this quote and really figure out what can be done that day. Some students may have been disruptive or low performing in the past. It’s irrelevant. The only thing that really matters is what can be done today.
The Patriots train relentlessly. They are in a never ending process of improvement.
“The Patriots follow what the Japanese term Kaizen: a never-ending process of making incremental improvements.”
They train so well, that many of their players are unwanted by other teams. The Patriots know that attitude and motivation are bigger determinants of success than mere talent.
They set high performance standards and do not tolerate slackers. Each player and coach buys in to this or they aren’t around anymore. Bill Belichick surrounds himself with a staff that are great teachers. His coaches and coordinators are constantly being hired away to run their own teams. He hires “detail-obsessed assistants and trains them to provide players with advice and coaching that helps them perform better.” Much like a good teacher, they make sure all the basics are clearly understood before adding complexity. Belichick starts from scratch during mini-camps, puts in basic plays first, and branches off the basics.
Their training includes report cards for every position and player that is updated daily. This closes the performance loop. They get real – time feedback and know where they stand onheir progression towards their goal. Teachers and administrators should be doing the same thing. It may be difficult to create a daily report card, but it should be a priority for you to let students know where they stand on their progression as often as possible.
“No matter how much preparation you do, it’s still going to be different in the game…It’s like going back to Dwight Eisenhower’s quote, (paraphrasing) preparation is everything until the battle starts, and then it doesn’t mean anything. Then you react to what happens in the game. In his case, what happens in the battle.”
Bill Belichick is known for his adaptable game plans. Many coaches try to force their style of football into any game. If they have a great running attack, that is what they rely on most. Not Belichick. His game plans are specific for each opponent. Even after extensive game planning, he is able to adapt based on what his players and coaches are observing on the field.
Teachers need to adapt in the same manner. You have to tailor your game plan to the class you are teaching. You can’t just teach what you want to teach. You have to know your personnel. If he can’t execute his game plan, he makes sure that he puts his players in the best position to succeed. Teachers may not be able to execute their lesson plan they way they want, but planning for this separates good teachers from great teachers.
Planning is a boring, but essential part of the job. Belichick plans every detail, but is willing to change if the players and coaches notice inefficiencies. Teachers need to keep their dialogue open with colleagues and students to figure out where they can make their game plan more efficient and conducive to learning.
“I don’t think you ever point fingers in a team sport, and say, ‘Well that was your idea,’ or ‘That was your fault. You’re in it together, so you cheer for each other. … You’d never say, ‘That was a crappy call,’ or ‘That was a crappy throw.’ Everyone knows we’re trying to get the best out of each other. You’re always dealing with the process more than necessarily the result… But as long as you’re thinking the right thing or seeing the right thing or evaluating the right thing and your process is still the right thing, you’ve got to think that you’re going to win more than you’re going to lose.” – Tom Brady
One reason why football is so popular is because it is the ultimate team game. It takes an immense amount of collaboration and rapport to understand what your other teammates are going to do in certain situations. If something goes wrong, it is very difficult for one person to legitimately take all the blame. The communication and collaboration of the quarterback and offensive coordinator on the Patriots is only one part of their collaborative culture.
Teachers should not only collaborate among the other teachers in their school, but also with the students. Find out what is working and what is not and try to find a better way. Focus on the process of moving toward the goal and find the best people to help you get there. Sometimes that’s your admin team and sometimes it’s the students.
“If you give Belichick an idea and it is sound and he thinks it is a good idea, he will go for it. If he doesn’t think it’s a good idea, he is not going to go for it. He is open-minded. He is flexible.” – Romeo Crennel Former Defensive Coordinator
Everyone now knows the name Julian Edelman. However, it is because of the Patriots flexibility and adaptability that he became a star. Edelman was drafted with the 232nd Pick in the NFL draft. In college, Edelman was a quarterback, but like many Patriots over the years, he changed positions in the NFL. Belichick’s method is acquire “football” players. That is why an offensive lineman caught a touchdown pass in the AFC title game. His players adapt and do what is asked of them.
Belichick, like great teachers, gets the most out of all his players. Just because they have strengths or weaknesses in certain areas does not mean that they aren’t players. He finds their strengths and puts them in situations where they can adapt to their new position. Belichick and the Patriots won’t discount players just because they don’t run a 4.3 40 or have a 48 inch vertical. Instead, he wants players not for what they are, but for what they can become. This is the true measure of a good coach.
 Lavin, J. (2005). Management Secrets of the New England Patriots Volume 2 (p. 11).
 Bill Belichick quoted in: Felger, M. (2004) Belichick Keeps Focus. Boston Herald January 31 2004.
 Lavin, J. (2005). Management Secrets of the New England Patriots Volume 2 (p. 14).
 Ibid p.67
 Curran, T. (2014, December 23). Brady says collaboration with McDaniels is strong. Retrieved from http://www.csnne.com/new-england-patriots/brady-says-collaboration-mcdaniels-strong