FOXBORO, Mass. — There were scoffs and whispers of nepotism when both of Bill Belichick’s sons initially joined the New England Patriots’ coaching staff and then, subsequently, were chosen to lead positions years later.
The latest of those guffaws came earlier this summer when Brian Belichick, easily one of the youngest position coaches in the NFL, was named Patriots safeties coach, taking over the role from his older brother, Stephen, who moved over to outside linebackers.
Brian Belichick is only in his late-20s, and he officially has three years as a coaching assistant and one season as a scouting assistant under his belt. But that discounts the previous years of experience he had helping out his father from the sidelines when he was half the age of the players on the field.
Brian, then in high school, was regularly spotted on the Patriots’ sideline during games in Bill Belichick’s first decade as head coach. The youngest of Belichick’s children was an extra set of hands on the sideline. He’d stand in for a third quarterback, pencil and clipboard in hand, charting plays for the passers. He’d track information for the defense. He’d grab tablets and hand them out to players. Anything to be around the sport.
“Getting to experience being on the sideline of an NFL game is a lot different than the perspective of seeing it on TV,” Brian Belichick said Friday in a video conference call. “Things happen really fast down there. Just being able to get used to the speed of the players and how quickly they process things. And I think it helped me a lot just to learn about what’s really going on out there, not just standing behind a glass screen and seeing it. The real football that’s going down out there on the field.”
Bill Belichick made a candid admission Friday that his sons simply have a different understanding of the Patriots’ program than anyone else on the football staff.
“They’ve seen things done from a different perspective than other people,” Bill Belichick said. “But in the end, I don’t know anybody that knows our football program better than Stephen, who’s been in it a little bit longer, but Brian as well. They’ve just lived their whole life with this program. So all the things that we do, for all the different reasons and how it all ties together and so forth, they have a very good understanding of all the things that are involved and how it all is interwoven.
“And that’s valuable to me because they have a perspective of that. We have a lot of good coaches on our staff, I’m not saying that. Those guys are very, very good coaches and very proficient and they do a great job. But it’s a little different to see it from the perspective that Brian has seen it from, or Steve. They all help, they’re all valuable and I’m glad we have them.”
Basically, no one else on the Patriots’ coaching staff has not only been at the facility in an official capacity but then also gone home to have their head coach as a father.
Patriots cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino, another one of the youngest assistants in the NFL, knows that Brian and Steve have a leg up in experience.
“I think they’ve got about 15 years on me in the organization,” Pellegrino said. “It’s great. Just trying to be a sponge around them when they have some type of knowledge or something that happened in the past that they remember specifically that they brought up. It’s always good to learn, right?”
This is officially Brian’s fifth year and Stephen’s ninth on the Patriots’ staff (time flies). But despite his young age and perceived lack of experience, Brian is 14 or more years deep into helping out the coaching staff, and he’s been learning from the NFL’s greatest head coach for his entire life.
“Both Stephen and Brian have grown up a lot and they’ve come a long way, especially when I’ve had a chance to see them their whole lives,” Bill Belichick said. “But they’ve been around a lot of football, they’ve seen a lot of football.”