There are no more questions about Bill Belichick's coaching ability. Three Super Bowl championships in five years have a way of solidifying one's reputation as one of the all-time great NFL head coaches.
On Thursday night in Boston, Belichick addressed nearly 550 people at the annual Big Brothers of Massachusetts Bay Big Brother of the Year event and talked about, among other things, earning one's reputation.
"There are only two things that anyone has: name and reputation," Belichick said. "It's not style. I mean, look at me," he joked in reference to the hooded gray sweatshirt he is famous for wearing on game day. "It's not what car you drive or what watch you wear. Think about our team. You think about Adam Vinatieri, you think clutch. Tom Brady? Poise. Willie McGinest? Tough. Mike Vrabel? Versatile. Corey Dillon? Dependable. Troy Brown? Team player. Tedy Bruschi? Energetic. All of those players earned that [reputation]. You can't buy that."
You also can't buy the fist full of jewelry Belichick now owns, championship rings that serve as a resume for Bill Belichick the motivational speaker. But if he included himself on the above list, he would have said, "Bill Belichick? Prepared."
From that preparation for which he is famous stems every other element that makes up the foundation of the Patriots recent success. And people want to hear about that winning formula -- one that includes decision-making, leadership and teamwork – all subjects Belichick touched on during his 16-minute speech at the Boston Copley Marriott Hotel.
He was greeted with a standing ovation as he approached the podium following a short video that highlighted the Patriots recent success, including the club's 34-4 record over the past two years. That success has made Belichick more popular than ever on the speaking circuit, and he showed Thursday night that he is quite comfortable addressing a crowd.
"Some of the decisions we make [as football coaches] may seem big, but they're not in terms of life," Belichick said. "Any time we, as adults or as Big Brothers, can help young people with their decisions and to not make bad decisions, [we need to do that]. The ability to make good decisions comes from being prepared.
"One of the questions I'm often asked is, 'Coach, how do you know when your team is prepared?' It's an easy question to answer because for me, I know the team is prepared when everybody knows what to do. Not just one guy. We can't just rely on one guy."
Clearly, the Patriots, who have earned the reputation as sports' ultimate team, don't rely on just one guy, but all 53 and even more throughout the course of an NFL season. Belichick credited leadership, which in his winning formula is directly tied to preparation, for the Patriots ability to master teamwork.
"Leadership is an important part of our football team," he said. "I'm fortunate that we have a lot of players on our team that are outstanding leaders. Leadership is about one word on the New England Patriots. One word, and that's attitude. If a player comes to work with a team attitude and he's well prepared and he's worked hard, that's what leadership is. And everybody who is part of a team, whether it's a Big Brother-Little Brother team, a team of two, or a team of 100, anyone that brings a good attitude shows tremendous leadership."
He then cited different types of leaders, specifically naming Bryan Cox, a vocal leader, and Patriots fan favorite Troy Brown, a quiet leader.
"I haven't been around a better leader in 30 years in the NFL than Troy Brown, and he would never, ever stand up in front of the team and give a speech. There's no chance of that. But because Troy has a team attitude, works hard, is always prepared and is willing to do whatever I ask him to do -- return punts, play corner, play wide receiver, come in and block a linebacker -- anything you ask him to do, he'll do and he'll do it for the good of the team and that's a leader."
After discussing leadership, it was only natural for Belichick to relate it to teamwork, his other point of emphasis.
"This organization (Big Brothers of Massachusetts Bay) epitomizes the attitude that we need more of in this community, in this country, in this state, in this city, and we need more of it on our football team. This is what it's about – giving for the good of the team –a team of two or a team of 100. Leadership is leadership. And leadership leads to teamwork, which is the understanding of a common goal and a common commitment – people that are all committed to the same thing and to each other."
Belichick then relayed the now famous story about the Patriots being announced as one before their Super Bowl XXXVI win over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams. He explained how a league official came to him the Thursday before the game and asked who would be announced, the offense or defense. "I told him, 'I don't think it will take that long because we're all going to come out together as a team.' Then the league representative said, 'You don't understand. It's the Super Bowl and we're going to announce the offense or the defense, whichever you want, but that's the way we're going to do it.' And I said, 'I don't think you understand because our whole group is going to come out as one.'
After a short applause, Belichick continued, "And think about this for a minute, every player on that team had been playing football for 10, 15, 18 years or whatever it was, all dreamed about that day playing in the Super Bowl and hearing their names called in front of 70,000 fans. And they didn't want that for themselves because they wanted to go out as a team because of their commitment to each other. That's so powerful."
Belichick, who grew up in a disciplined environment around the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where his dad, Steve, was a football coach, went on to name some of his own mentors -- Navy football players like Heisman Trophy winners Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach and current Navy admirals Tom Lynch and John Stufflebeem – strong leaders in their own right and people that made solid decisions in their lives.
He concluded his remarks by congratulating all the finalists for the Massachusetts Bay Big Brother of the Year award. "You're the real champions here," he said.