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BWTB: Learning from Belichick

Posted Apr 15, 2014

A look at how then Patriots quarterback coach Bill O'Brien appears in a Bill Belichick documentary.


“I’m going to see Billy for a little bit.”

That sentence, uttered back in 2009, comes at the tail end of a conversation between football royalty.

The words themselves are spoken by Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady, who at that time was returning to action after a year lost to injury.

He’s talking with longtime head coach Bill Belichick, a likely Hall of Famer. Belichick owns a 224-163 career record during a 14-year stint with New England, including three Super Bowl Championships.

Who is Billy?

The ‘Billy’ in that sentence refers to Bill O’Brien, the current head coach of the Houston Texans. Back in 2009, ‘Billy’ was the quarterbacks coach for New England, his first year in that position.

The conversation took place during a scene in the NFL Network ‘A Football Life’ documentary on Belichick. The series has profiled some of the most legendary figures and teams in football history. Jerry Rice, Mike Ditka, Barry Sanders and more have gone under the program’s microscope, which gives unprecedented behind the scenes access.

The Belichick documentary, a two-hour special, chronicled the coach during the Patriots 2009 season. Not only did you learn about Belichick the man, but it gave you an inside look at how one of the league’s signature organizations operates. O’Brien plays a part in that process, and gets plenty of airtime throughout the film.

This is all relevant to the 2014 Texans, as the parallels between Belichick’s way and what O’Brien is trying to implement in Houston are evident as you watch the film unfold.

Prior to this documentary, the Belichick modus operandi was largely unknown. Known for his lack of interaction with the media, the ‘Patriots Way’ remained a mystery to the general public. Other NFL organizations have tried to mimic it, with Belichick’s coaching tree having produced several NFL and collegiate head coaches, including O’Brien and now Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.

Watching the 120 minute film was an eye-opening experience, and gave subtle clues as to what the O’Brien tenure in Houston may look like. At the heart of Belichick’s philosophy is preparation and simplicity, traits immediate apparent the first time you see O’Brien on the screen.

“We can’t spend all day on shifting and motion on every play,” Belichick says to O’Brien and Brady during a training camp practice. “Hey, don’t worry about if we have to make an adjustment. These guys need to be able to do that.”

The term adjustment has come up several times during O’Brien’s time in Houston, both in how the organization is moving forward and also when it comes to their new defensive philosophy.

The new Texans coach has spoken on multiple occasions about the defense being ‘multiple’, meaning the team would adjust during the course of a game. It has also been written in the media that the Texans coaching and conditioning staff have revamped the team’s workout regimen, incorporating mixed martial arts training.

Another scene shows a similar mindset of Belichick’s that O’Brien has brought to Houston.

After players return from practice back into the Patriots facility, a sign is visible on an exit door. On that sign the words ‘When you Leave Here’ are visible, with bullet points underneath it. This is a reminder to players (and coaches) of what is expected of those representing the organization when they leave the building. The sign itself is referenced by Belichick several times during the documentary.

There is a similar sign currently on the door of the Texans locker room, a reminder of what O’Brien’s group wants players to concentrate on as they enter Reliant Stadium. The sign, titled ‘When You Come Here’, includes mantras such as ‘work hard’ and ‘pay attention and focus’.

In addition to the artwork, O’Brien has emphasized wanting players that in his words enjoy “being coachable, being really good teammates and understand that when they leave the building that they represent the organization.”

While that type of attitude isn’t unique to the New England Patriots, the sign itself has a direct connection to O’Brien’s previous stop in Foxborough.

A majority of O’Brien’s appearances on camera are on the peripheral, a silent observer as Belichick barks orders to Brady and the rest of the team. O’Brien is often seen in the company of Brady and Belichick, as the group goes over tendencies and what to prepare for on upcoming plays.

Belichick’s relationship with Brady is also noticeable, as the two share tons of office time talking football and offensive schemes. O’Brien, touted by many as a quarterback guru, saw their camaraderie first hand, and perhaps can look to that duo as a roadmap to Texans success.

The Patriots 2009 season ended in an all too familiar place, as New England traveled to take on the Houston Texans to close out the schedule.

Just five years later, ‘Billy’ is now that team’s head coach.

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