The Secret Of Their NFL Success

<B>Lesley Stahl</B> Talks To Super Bowl Coaches Belichick And Fox

With just a week left in the NFL regular season, coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots is turning in another remarkable performance. And if the Patriots return to the Super Bowl in February, it would be their third appearance in four years.

How does he do it? Correspondent Lesley Stahl got Belichick to share some of the secrets of his success last fall, when 60 Minutes went behind the scenes with him and coach John Fox of the Carolina Panthers -- the man Belichick coached against in the last Super Bowl.
John Fox is a rah-rah kind of guy, full of bluster, who fits the football-coach stereotype.

When we think of "big-time football coaches," we think of them bullying their players. We think of them raging on the sidelines, and we think of them as half a step from out of control.

But Bill Belichick, the stone-faced coach who won the last Super Bowl, is anything but rah-rah. He says he only yells at his team "when things are going well." Even when things aren't going well, you can't get a rise out of Belichick.

Fox and Belichick are proof there is no perfect personality for strong leadership. But Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, says that - whether screamer or stoic - the coach is more the key to winning than ever before.

"The head coach is probably the most important person in the system, and I'm not sure I felt that way when I came into the league 10 years ago," says Kraft.

Bob LaMonte is an agent who represents six head coaches, including Fox. Coaches didn't used to have agents, so it's another measure of their growing celebrity.

"I think the wise owner of a franchise today, if he does one thing, he secures the great coach," says LaMonte. "In the late to middle '80s, salaries were about $100,000 to $150,000 for coaches. And now, they approach $3 million on average."

That's a million dollars more than the average pay for quarterbacks! It took $6 million a year to lure Joe Gibbs back to the Redskins. And after Fox led the Panthers to their first Super Bowl, they tripled his salary.

And it goes beyond dollars. Kraft wanted Belichick so badly in 1999 that he gave up a first-round draft pick so the New York Jets would release him from his contract.

"I had decided I wanted Bill Belichick as our head coach," says Kraft. "And that he was the right man for us. And I was gonna do whatever it took."

And did that ever pay off! Since then, Belichick has won two of the last three Super Bowls. So what sets him apart? Around the NFL, Belichick is known as the league intellectual. He went to Andover Academy and majored in economics at elite Wesleyan College.

"What I like is that he pays attention to every detail," says Kraft. "He cares about the little things."

Both Belichick and Fox are like that. They're complete and utter detail freaks, something a coach has to be to win in the NFL today.

"They have it down to what is eaten on the plane," says LaMonte. "What the player can have on the way home. What the socks look like in pre-game. What the meals are like at training table, breakfast, lunch, and dinner and the snack at night. …Some coaches have been so compulsive, they change the toilet paper to make it right in the bathrooms."

But LaMonte is so impressed with these coaches, he's written a book telling executives they should run their companies the way Fox runs his team.

"There's really nothing, no decision is made that doesn't cross my desk," says Fox.

Coaches have always been field generals, of course. Think Vince Lombardi.

But today's game is far more complicated and strategic, and one reason is that these generals have a weapon Lombardi never had: the computer.

NFL teams have more software engineers today than water boys. The Patriots, the Panthers -- every team spends millions on special video player-super-computers that allow every coach to scout every opponent's every move.

Fox showed Stahl a game the Green Bay Packers played last year. "I could actually pick every game they've played and we can store up to three years," says Fox.

Who knew that Vince Lombardi and his film projector would turn into this? The technology lets you go back, slow-motion, even sort by player. "If I'm evaluating a wide receiver, say his number is 85, I can push that, load it in and basically pull out all the plays he was involved in," says Fox.

Fox spends endless hours at this. And Belichick comes to work at 5 a.m. to fire up his computer, and analyze his opponents.

This instant-replay scouting helps them keep track of a league that's constantly changing. Ever since free agency came into effect 10 years ago, players are always jumping from team to team.

"When I was defensive coordinator with the Giants in the '80s, we had the same defense every year. It was the same players playing the same positions against the other team's players," says Belichick. "They were the same players, so, you know, that's different."

Belichick, the economics major, is a master at managing free agency and another football science, "Capology." The NFL has a salary cap that limits what every team can spend on players. But there's no cap on coaches. Belichick seems to know just when to unload an overpriced veteran and sign an inexpensive young prospect.

"The NFL's really a little bit more like college, because in college, you turn your players over every four or five years," says Belichick. "In the NFL, you turn the majority of your team over in five years. Not everybody, but, you know, a high percentage of it. And…I look back to when I came here five years ago, and there's maybe six players."

"You can't have a team full of Pro Bowlers anymore, because monetarily, you can't keep them all in the budget. So when they have success, there's only so much to go around. They gotta go," says Fox. "Our average game is won by six points or less, so if all of them are close, coming up with that little edge is coaching."

Every coach now tries to find that little edge in the computer. They all have assistants with a new job title -- "quality control coach." They don't really coach at all. They spend all day entering and analyzing data. And consistent winners like Belichick and Fox are just able to do more with that data.

In addition to being able to call up a game on video, they can pull up any statistic to match that play. "What you do is chart the tendency of that coach, so that you can tell your team that 'in this situation it'll always be a run or always be a pass,'" says Fox. "So your team knows what to expect."

Of course, the other coach is probably doing the same thing, so he most likely knows as much about you as you know about him.

"There's a whole lot of the chess-game element involved in this," says Fox.

However, this computerized chess game threatens to get so out of hand that the NFL has tried to rein it in.

"We can't use any of this system on game day," says Fox. "They still want the human element. By game day, the coaches have crammed so many details into their brains and onto their clipboards that they themselves are walking computers."

In the old days, TV cameras rarely strayed from the action on the field. But in the last Super Bowl telecast, 60 Minutes counted more than 100 different shots just of the head coaches. TV is such a creature of close-ups that the networks devote one camera solely to each coach for the entire game.

"I'll bet more people know your name than know your quarterback's name," says Stahl. "There's no way," says Belichick.

OK. Tom Brady is pretty famous, but at the Patriots Super Bowl victory party, the cheers were no louder for the quarterback than for his coach.
  • Rebecca Leung

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