Author: Michael Holley
There are few people I respect, in any profession, as much as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. These are two men who simply win. It might not be pretty, and they might not be loved by all, but they get the job done. In fact, I think this book is a testament to what can be accomplished when you focus on achieving an objective, rather than pleasing the masses.
Going into this book by Michael Holley, my primary expectation was to learn more about Brady and Belichick and gain some insight into them as people. While this was accomplished, what this book actually delivers is a history of Boston sports during the 21st century, but from the very focused perspective of the New England Patriots. We start in 2000, with a depleted team in a city that has not tasted victory in a number of decades. By the time we’re caught up to the present, Boston has become a city of champions, with the city hosting victory parades for the Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox, and Bruins within this 20 year span.
This book dedicates a chapter, maybe two, to each Patriots season. We go through the events inside the NFL, but also how these games related to the events of both the city and the country. The city of Boston is a character in and of itself, personified by both the players and fans who live there. These are people who stick by their teams no matter what, and can defend them with passion and intelligence to boot.
While there are grand, sweeping narratives of Boston on the macro level of this book, on the micro there is a theme: succeeding in the face of adversity. We go through Brady’s story, which almost everyone knows, but it personifies the ideals of a winner. He comes to Michigan as the #4 quarterback, and though hard work and dedication, hustled his way to be a starter, though he had to share snaps. In the NFL, he was drafted 199 (as almost everyone knows), and once in the league, he simply put his head down and worked. He moved up the depth chart quickly, and when his number was called, he was ready. When he went down in 2008, he quickly got back up in 2009, and has embodied a champion ever since.
Belichick has faced just as much adversity. He inherited a hugely dysfunctional team, and engineered them into an army that could win even with me playing as quarterback. Belichick displays not only the value of pure dedication, but also resourcefulness and cleverness. He sees diamonds in the rough, and turns them into top tier jewelry. The book discusses Belichick’s “draft flipping” in depth, as he drafts a player late, makes them into superstars, and then can trade them for even greater picks. He instills a culture of thriftiness and dedication at the top, and Holley outlines how this trickles down to every member of the organization. The Patriots are not only a team, but a mindset that every player has seemingly taken with them far beyond football.
People in life make mistakes. Once they are made, you have two options: you can wallow in sadness and regret, or you can move and grow. The Patriots, as a franchise, represent the latter. Whether it is Spygate, Deflategate, or the irredeemable actions of Aaron Hernandez, this is a group that certainly has blemishes on the resume, but responds by making the best of a bad situation. While scandal can ruin a front office, The Patriots only got stronger using their minds and trusting their process.
On a more technical level, I really enjoyed this book! It is very well written, and spans a rather long time period in a concise and organized manner. Sometimes it was difficult to keep the characters straight, but someone with decent football knowledge should have no issue. The focus is not too heavy on the book’s namesakes, but the story is great anyways. I would’ve liked to learn more about Belichick personally, but it goes well with his workmanlike personality that we see him strictly in a professional light.
Overall, if you enjoy football, this is a great read. It takes some time, but you’ll get a very thorough history of an amazing team. It might not make you like the Patriots, but you’ll certainly respect them.
And, oh yeah, Goodell is the worst.