Friday, January 17, 2014

Belichick's "Due Diligence" on display with scout team

"Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things."

Sir Isaac Newton

Bill Belichick lives by the mantra of "Due Diligence".

His truths lie in causing the disheveled to become orderly, the chaotic to the systematic, the absurd into the reasonable - and to turn those truths into weapons that confuse his adversaries...

...which in coach-speak means leaving no stone unturned in preparing his New England Patriots for their weekly battles against both foe and attrition - his micro-managing style so permeating of the organization, his influence so complete, that one can not speak or think of the Patriots without having simultaneous conjuring of Belichick's nefarious glare.

Universally recognized as the best game-planning and on-the-fly tactician to ever roam an NFL sideline, he is also known as a master innovator, certainly at least one step ahead of his contemporaries - his matter-of-fact demeanor often confused for arrogance, his manipulation of everything from the injury reports to press releases causing him to be viewed with the same fear and loathing as one would the NSA.

So, should it come as little surprise that when speaking of Belichick, anyone that has had to deal with him on a personal level recants their tales with a nervous chuckle and a paranoid peripheral glance, choosing their words as carefully as a child would to avoid a stern punishment.

But all that is, is an acknowledgement that Belichick is so thorough with his preparation that on game day it appears he knows what's going to happen before it actually does, his influence on the team and their adversaries such that he is perhaps the most hated - yet most iconic - figure among fans of the other 31 NFL teams.

Jealousy?  Perhaps, and this sentiment is fostered to the point that whenever Belichick does something that makes no sense on the level of multiplicity that Newton was referring to, his detractors figure he must have finally gone over the ledge into the megalo-maniacal realm that all evil geniuses eventually fall into, and which Patriots' fans dismiss with a shrug and the axiom, "In Bill we Trust".

A perfect example is his usage of the team's practice squad, an eight-man unit comprised of what are essentially developmental-type players, a well of untested depth that a coach can dip into in the event of injury and, particularly in Belichick's case, to simulate an impending opponent's most dangerous weapon in an attempt to give his own players a real-time feel for what they will be facing in an upcoming game.

Case in point, two and a half weeks ago Belichick signed journeyman wide receiver Greg Orton to the teams' practice squad - an under-the-radar move at the time now prominently on display on the Patriots' practice field, a virtual mirror image of Denver Broncos' wide receiver Demaryius Thomas...

...a 6' 3", 205 pound pass catcher who has lined up across from shutdown corner Aqib Talib to give the second-team all pro a living, breathing avatar in which to prepare for Thomas - and though his 4.49 speed is nowhere close to the world-class speed Thomas possesses, Orton's other physical attributes and, perhaps more importantly, his ability to mimick Thomas' mannerisms come into play in Belichick's meticulous preperation.

And it doesn't hurt that Orton spent the last two seasons as a member of the Broncos' practice squad who was released in August and was worked out by the Patriots in early November.  Orton's size also translates well to that of New England's injured rookie receiver Aaron Dobson, though he is unlikely to fill Dobson's role on the playing field this Sunday - but one never knows.

"I don't know where he finds these guys," former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt told the Wall Street Journal this week "Every week, they bring in someone. Same height, same speed. It's like they practice against your twin brother."

But it's not too hard to figure out where he finds these players, as his mantra of "Due Diligence' leaves no stone unturned in player evaluation, Belichick constantly bringing in players for workouts, stocking his rolodex with all of their attributes and, of course, their phone numbers.

There are numerous examples of the ostentatious head ball coach preparing his charges for their next opponent using journeyman free agents as inexpensive "temps",  it's record of success speaking for itself - and it has to, because Belichick is less than forthcoming when it comes to discussing - well - anything, and his players are similarly instructed.

"Our big thing is taking the practice field and bringing it to the game," safety Kyle Arrington offered as indulgently as a Patriots' player dares, "The saying here is 'practice execution means game reality.'"

And with an overall record that is 110 wins over .500 for his Patriots' career, there are few in the football world that doubt his genius but many that question his tactics, for no coach in the history of the National Football League can boast such a legacy...

...and as it is true that the many that question stratagem are just in fear what they do not understand, in reality Belichick works in these ways to simplify the process, giving his team the best chance of success in the limited time between games that they have to prepare - and if that causes the bad guy to be confused, that's where Belichick's approach gives his team the upper hand.

In Bill we trust.

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