Thursday, July 14, 2005

Making the "Patriot Way" the "Notre Dame Way" | by Mark

"I'm a copycat, plagiarism guy. I don't believe in reinventing the wheel." - Charlie Weis

One of the big differences between being average and being truly outstanding is having the good sense to know when to steal someone else's idea. If you think about it, few truly successful people have achieved greatness without ripping someone else off at some point along the way: Van Gogh borrowed heavily from Rembrandt; the Rolling Stones took Chuck Berry's rhythms and made them their own; Quentin Tarantino lifted everything from Hong Kong directors; Bill Gates waited for Steve Jobs to come up with something cool, then copied it for himself.

The New England Patriots, under the guidance of Bill Belichick, have a winning formula. And based on his words and his actions thus far, Charlie Weis is doing his best to steal that formula and make it his own. Weis is rebuilding the Notre Dame football program around the fundamentals he learned and refined as one of the top men in Belichick's organization -- and with Belichick's full blessing. Belichick's always been concerned with sustaining success, and this goes for the legacy of his assistants as much as anything:

"[Belichick's] concern is helping his assistants succeed, whether in New England or elsewhere."

"A few of them are quietly talented strategists themselves, destined to one day lead their own programs. Followers of pro teams usually don't call them programs, but that's exactly what Belichick is trying to build in New England. He wants be developed in the Patriots systems."

Those quotes were lifted (stolen?) from two books, "The Managment Secrets of the New England Patriots" by James Lavin, and "Patriot Reign" by Michael Holley. Both books do an excellent job explaining the culture of exellence that permeates the Patriots organization, and lay out the blueprint that Charlie has no doubt taken with him to South Bend.

What follows are some key themes that the Patriots consider vital to their success, followed by a quote or two from Charlie that seems to reflect Weis' application of the principle to his own football program at ND. Consider this a One-a-Day tear-off calendar of New England/Notre Dame Successories; in fact, we provided some perforation lines so you can print these up, cut 'em out, and steal them for your own use.


"We are building a big, strong, fast, smart, tough and dedicated football team that consistently competes for championship" - New England Patriots' Mission Statement, created by Belichick and his staff after taking over in 2000. (Management Secrets, pg.22)

"I can tell you this. You are going to have a hard-working, intelligent, nasty football team that goes on the field. -- Charlie Weis, Introductory Press Conference.


"When you ask Belichick about his coaching style and philosophy... he talks not about X’s and O’s but about building a team, finding players with character who will put the team first, and building systems that will take advantage of his players’ abilities rather than finding players to fit his schemes." (Management Secrets, pg. 76)

''My team will be known for being a team, for being prepared, for going into each game expecting to win, for playing for 60 minutes." -- Charlie Weis.


"Before they can know what they need, they need to know who they are. This is one of Belichick's core philosophies." (Patriot Reign, pg.139)

“The first thing you have to do is identify your own strengths and weaknesses. Now, this gives us an opportunity over the next few months to say ‘Okay, we have to cover for this weakness and play to this strength.’ That’s how I coach and that’s how we will play ball.” -- Charlie Weis.


"Belichick has surrounded himself with smart, competent people who are encouraged to be original thinkers...they are encouraged to disagree with him. Belichik has no problem listening to any counterargument - provided that it can be supported with some type of evidence." (Patriot Reign)

"I went ahead and hired one of the best staffs that you can possibly assemble and I think that for me, trying to think I have all the answers is wrong. What I try to do is lay out a basic format based on what I know and utilize the assistants to work together, mesh together and try to come up with something I deem acceptable." -- Charlie Weis.


"Belichick...solicits constructive criticism from both his assistants and outsiders he trusts and respects, like (former) LSU coach Nick Saban." (Management Secret, pg. 24)

"Weis said (Andy) Reid was one of the people that he had leaned on for advice since taking over the Fighting addition to Belichick, Reid and Carolina Panthers coach John Fox are the 'two guys I lean on for advice the most.'" - the Philadelphia Enquirer, after the Super Bowl.


"The best way you could say something positive about yourself is to fit in within the structure of you're already working and be successful doing that" -- Charlie Weis, when he was OC for the Patriots (Management Secrets, pg. 29)

"To get what you want in life, make sure others around you get what they want in life. If we help Notre Dame get what it needs and deserves, and Charlie Weis gets what he needs and deserves, I've got to think somewhere along the line I'll be satisfied." -- Rick Minter.


"Cardinal's QB Jake McCown...was awed by the Patriots defenders' hustle. 'Everyone runs to the football. I got outside the pocket a few times, and there were people coming from everywhere. It's rare to see guys coming from the other side of the field at full speed. They are coming and the play the whole play." (Management Secrets, pg. 261)

“The one thing that Rick [Minter] tried to stress and we as a coaching staff tried to stress is rallying around the football, getting 11 guys running to the ball. If you noticed, that was one of the biggest points of emphasis going on out there. I really think that showed one major step towards being an unselfish defense.” -- Charlie Weis.


"Humility begins with Belichick. ...Asked about making Time magazine's list of 100 most powerful and influential people, Belichick said his family 'thought it was a joke'. (Management Secrets, pg. 296)

And his reputation as some kind of offensive savant? "That’s a true joke," Weis said. -- South Bend Tribune.


"Belichick tells his assistants that he expects them to emulate his standards of professionalism and dedication because players will emulate their coaches if the entire coaching staff sets a strong example." (Management Secrets, pg. 25)

Weis will hit the road himself during the spring evaluation period for high school juniors, something almost unheard of for a head coach to do...“I think I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t. If I told you how important recruiting is and that you have to go pound the pavement and have to get out there, how can I say that and not be there? They just don’t go together.” -- South Bend Tribune.


"If you are one of the players flinching at the harshness of these words...there is no way you are going to last as a New England Patriot...scouts are asked [by Patriots coaches], 'Can this player handle tough coaching?' What they really want to know, without the euphemism, is whether a prospect can deal with being 'motherf---d' when things are not going well." Patriot Reign, pgs. 84-85)

"I'll talk about John Latina and Jappy Oliver. I mean, these are guys who are...tough guys themselves, who like to coach the guys tough. In other words, I wasn't looking at - when we were talking about line coaches, I wasn't looking just at guys that are there to pat them on the back and say 'That's okay', because that's not they way I am. It's not okay... And I think both those guys fit that bill, fit that mold". -- Charlie Weis.


"Everybody takes accountability, good or bad, players and coaches. It's about being accountable for what happened and owning up to that instead of pointing fingers. Belichick's always been that way...When you start having coaches point fingers at their players, it makes an adverse won't get you where you need to go. - Rick Lyle, former Patriot DL (Management Secrets, pg. 281)

"I think the head coach needs to be the focal point of the program. And I think he's got to be willing to be the dart board. When things go bad, the head coach has to be up there and make himself accountable first and kind of shield the team." - Charlie Weis


"Belichick's system relies heavily on smart, adaptable players. The intellectually-rigorous, team-centric Patriots system would flop without smart...players...Belichick's staff relentlessly squeezes maximal performance from players whose 'excellence' is defined by their heads and hearts as much as their arms and legs". (Management Secrets, pg. 52)

"Sometimes people overplay the downside of wanting kids with higher academics. I think it's real important to understand that you can definately play that to your advantage too. You're playing the upside of how much more mental pressure you're going to put on guys, and how quickly you can put things in due to how much they can mentally handle." -- Charlie Weis


"We've tried to build the depth all the way through the system. The preparation comes earlier rather than the week a crisis hits." - Bill Belichick (Management Secrets, pg. 98)

"I have a contingency plan if I lose anybody. No matter who we would lose, there's a contingency plan. You never know what's going to happen in life and what directions you're taking." - Charlie Weis


"From Day 1 as Patriots head coach, Belichick emphasized 'position flexibility': the ability to play multiple positions and to use multiple techniques. This enables defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to reconfigure his defense almost compensate for injuries, confuse the offense, exploit offensive vulnerabilty, or react to an unexpected move". (Management Secrets, pg. 131)

“We build depth from within. We build position flexibility. Position versatility is a very critical factor. Can a guy playing defensive end play defensive tackle? Can a guy playing linebacker play safety? Can a guy playing cornerback play wide receiver?" -- Charlie Weis


"Each Patriot manages himself and helps manage his teammates. In fact, players also help manage the coaching staff. In weekly Friday meetings, player representatives make clear to coaches the issues that are troubling players. Patriots coaches' responsibilities differ from Patriots players', but coaches want players to monitor themselves." (Management Secrets, pg. 317)

"Leadership is something we often talk about but is usually an intangible quality. Leadership has to come from many places - the head coach and the coaching staff, for sure - but ultimately it must come from the players themselves. That's why the Leadership Committee will be such an important facet of our football team". -- Charlie Weis


"Bill Belichick doesn't want to hear whining about scheduling challenges. He expects his team to be prepared and play its best, no matter the circumstances: 'We are not going to worry about it. We are going to look at whatever it is and try to make the most of what we can with the opportunities in the time frame that we have to work in. When the games are scheduled, we will show up and play them.' (Management Secrets, pg. 46)

"They schedule them and we play them...And I think that the people complaining about those things are looking for excuses...That's the way I have to get the kids thinking, because once they are thinking like that, it doesn't make a have to sell the fact to them, number one, don't make excuses." -- Charlie Weis

It's not hard to hear the the echo of Belichick when listening to Weis's comments. The delivery might be more like Parcells, but the content is pure Belichick.

And what will the college verion of this system look like if Weis can get the right mix of players and coaches assembled? The following is probably the most accurate description of what the Patriots have achieved and what Weis seems to be striving to replicate at the college level:
The Patriots win because their selflessness and intense preparation enable them to perform their collective best on game day. Belichick style preparation systematically covers every aspect of winning football games: opponent analysis, clock management, strength and conditioning, strategy and tactics, situational practice, two-minute drills, advance planning for inevtiable injuries, matching player talents and skills to roles, recognizing what the opponent is doing, forcing and avoiding turnovers, managing emotions, preventing penalties, avoiding trouble on and off the field, substituting players smoothly, etc." (Management Secrets, pg. 16)
It is vital to remember that creating an organization with this kind of collective mindset and culture does not happen overnight. It is achieved in small increments, step by step, over time. It takes the right combination of coaches, players, support staff, timing and luck. That said, it's comforting to know that there is a vision for success, and even if we're at the beginning of that journey, there's at least one man who can see over the horizon.

As John Heisler recently commented about the new man in charge at ND:
"Charlie has made it very plain that he is going to be the spokesman for Notre Dame football. It's part of a master plan of how you run a football program."