The New England Patriots signed troubled NFL stars Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco yesterday, leaving NFL fans to wonder can work his magic and re-energize each player’s career in New England. Rehabilitating troubled star players has been Belichick’s forte, as a number of players have improved form their former “head case” status to born-again NFL star (Randy Moss and Corey Dillon are two players that come to mind). But can the great Bill Belichick do it again?
Many people are wondering how Belichick can risk bringing on players like Ochocinco and Haynesworth, even with the great talents that each man possesses. While other NFL teams look at players like these two as head cases and cancer to a locker room, something magical seems to happen once they arrive in New England. The question on every NFL fans mind is what does Belichick do to turn malcontent players around and reincarnated into the star players they once were?
While only the true insiders know for sure what Belichick does, you can safely assume that one thing he doesn’t do is enable his players. Unlike most coaches who tend to go overboard with preferential treatment for their star players (which happens at every level of sport), Belichick doesn’t tolerate players conduct that is detrimental to the team. His philosophy is to quickly cut ties with a player (even a very talented one) rather than keep him around at the risk of losing the rest of his team. Most coaches won’t do this out of fear they will lose if they don’t coddle the star player.
Belichick has figured it out all right – if you raise the bar, treat players fairly, maintain consistent messages, and exercise discipline swiftly and directly players will respond. This approach requires great conviction on behalf of coaches, and a confidence that letting go of a player – even a very talented one – is often the only choice when the player no longer plays within the team culture and philosophy. Belichick realizes that “addition by subtraction” is sometimes the only way to go, which is what allows him to bring on questionable players as he knows they wont be around for long if they don’t tune in to the Belichick message.
No, its not voodoo or magic at play in New England, nor is Bill Belichick the only coach capable of getting the most out of his players. What is different, however, is Belichick’s ability to not tolerate players with only their own self-serving interests.
Whether Ochocinco or Haynesworth work out in New England remains to be seen, but what we do know is that if either begins to make a show of himself he wont be around for long. Coaches can learn from the Belichick method and raise the bar on their own team, and at the same time cut loose players who are not 100% committed – even if they are great talent on paper.
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