New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick finally has emerged from his self-imposed shell. He played with other celebrities in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. He's allowed yet another author to write a book about his world. He even let Howard Stern interview him, which is saying a lot for Belichick.
This is the same low-profile man who hides his stoic face underneath a heavy, hooded sweatshirt when he works. Still, it's good to see Belichick savoring his success after 31 years of coaching. Lord knows, he's certainly earned the right.
His Patriots finished the 2004 NFL season by celebrating their third Super Bowl title in four seasons, which is an accomplishment that shouldn't be taken lightly in an era in which free agency and the salary cap can destroy most dynasties. Ask the St. Louis Rams how hard it is to keep things rolling. Or the Baltimore Ravens. Or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They've all had their magical moments. What they didn't have was a guy like Belichick.
What makes him so impressive is the way he's led his team to the NFL's summit. The man has a knack for getting the most out of players that other teams didn't want, including a certain quarterback named Tom Brady.
Belichick also is a master at playing to his team's strengths, as he rarely puts his players in positions in which they can't succeed. And as is the trademark of all great coaches, he can adjust to almost any type of adversity. This was never more apparent than last season, when the Patriots entered the postseason with Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law sidelined with a foot injury. All Belichick did was insert a couple of unknown cornerbacks and wide receiver Troy Brown into his secondary to compensate for the loss. The result? Nobody ever noticed the difference as New England stormed to another championship.
That's the beauty of Belichick. His teams don't rely on a handful of stars to win games. He merely expects his players to do their jobs, and to trust that their teammates will do theirs. It's a simple formula when you think about it, one built on faith, selflessness and trust. It's also an approach that has led to one of the most impressive runs in recent sports history, one that should make Belichick the recipient of Sports Illustrated's most prestigious honor.
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Sports Illustrated will announce the 2005 Sportsman of the Year winner on Friday, Dec. 9 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Check back every weekday until then to read more Sportsman picks from SI writers.