Bill Belichick ’65 has always been a student of the game, constantly revising formations, analyzing each position and playing to the edge of the rulebook. But Superbowl XLIX has been the stage that has showcased his brilliance.
The Patriots have only one first-round draft choice in the starting 22 players, yet they have been a perennial contender for 14 years. Everyone knows that Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft choice, but Bill had the eye not to overlook him. He has consistently rehabbed players dismissed from other teams; Dont’a Hightower was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles five years previously. Numerous lesser-known athletes were chosen in later rounds by the Patriots and developed; Julian Edelman was a quarterback at Kent State and was such a superlative athlete that Bill was going to find a place for him …like in the end zone.
But the pièce de résistance was the interception on the goal line. Malcolm Butler, an undrafted free agent from the University of West Alabama was put into the lineup because Kyle Arrington was ineffective in stopping Chris Matthews of the Seahawks. Bill Belichick rehearsed goal line defensive plays (which he had seen on tape) with each of the team members, including second string players, on Thursday before the game. He watched Butler miscue defending a slant pass. He stepped on the field to specifically instruct him to cut in front of the targeted player and waited for him to perform correctly, so when the biggest moment of the game occurred, Butler responded intuitively.
Bill Belichick has set a standard that will be nearly impossible to duplicate. There must be a reason he was elevated to the NFL from coaching a little-known Division III school. Obviously, a Wesleyan education was not wasted.
Rob Abel ’65, M.D.