Surely, there are plenty of worthwhile anecdotes contained in Jeff Benedict’s new book, “The Dynasty,” which details the ins and outs of the Patriots’ two-decade run of dominance.
But one, in particular, highlights the mentality New England head coach Bill Belichick strives to instill in his players regardless of circumstance.
It involves a football, a shovel and an important message.
The Patriots had just lost to the Miami Dolphins 30-10 in Week 4 of the 2001 NFL season — Tom Brady’s second career start following Drew Bledsoe’s injury — and thus owned a 1-3 record. The defeat, which came on the heels of a 44-13 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3, dropped Belichick’s overall record in New England to 6-14.
Clearly, the Patriots needed to turn the page. As such, Belichick took a very theatrical approach to preparing his team for its next challenge.
Here’s more from Benedict, as shared Wednesday by The Athletic in wake of the book’s publication:
One of Belichick?s strengths, however, was his ability to focus on things within his control and ignore circumstances outside his control. He also made a point of constantly driving that mentality into his players. If he was sweating, he wasn’t going to let his players see it.
When the Patriots returned to the practice field after losing in Miami, they discovered a large hole that had been hand-dug. Belichick was standing next to it, with a football in one hand and a shovel in the other.
“You guys see this ball?” he said. “This is the ball from the game yesterday.“
The players nodded.
“And this is what I think of it,” he said, tossing it into the hole.
The players watched as Belichick shoveled dirt on top of the ball. When he finished, he stuck the shovel in the ground.
“That game’s over,” Belichick told them. “We’re burying it and moving on.“
The imagery of Belichick burying the past had an impact on the entire team. The message especially got through to Brady. After everyone else walked away from the interred ball, Brady stomped on the dirt. “It’s over!” he said under his breath.
The Patriots rallied to overcome a late deficit and defeat the San Diego Chargers in overtime in their next game. They finished the regular season with an 11-5 record and ultimately upset the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Belichick, whose job once seemed like it might be in jeopardy, suddenly looked like a genius. And that reputation only has grown since, with the Patriots hanging six Super Bowl banners in Foxboro since his arrival.
Thumbnail photo via Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports Images