A Football Life Director’s Notes: A Decade with Bill Belichick

A Football Life, Behind the Scenes, Ken Rodgers, New England Patriots

Berj Najarian (Patriots Director of Football Operations/Head Coach Administration), Steve Sabol, Ken Rodgers, Bill Belichick

It’s funny how things work out.  My relationship with the Patriots began 10 years ago today – September 12th, 2001.  The previous day was, of course, a tragic occasion in US history.  Maybe that’s why everything from that week is so vivid in my memory, including the moment when I was given my first long term assignment at NFL Films, to produce the year-end highlight film for the New England Patriots.

I knew the score.  I was the new guy and the Patriots were picked by everyone to be the worst team in the league.  The assignment was considered so terrible that a few fellow producers kiddingly consoled me about it.

When the NFL returned to action, I watched the first Patriots’ game of my life, against the New York Jets.  In the 4th quarter, Bledsoe went down, Brady came in and well…you know the story from there.

At least you know most of the story.

Because if you’re like a lot of my friends, throughout the Patriots’ dominant decade and 3 Super Bowl wins, the one person you could never figure out was New England’s head coach.  Even after I’d made a dozen different films about New England and its dynasty, people asked, “What’s the deal with Bill Belichick?”  They still saw him as an enigma.

Belichick fishing off Nantucket during production of "Bill Belichick: A Football Life"

So in 2009, when Robert Kraft and the Patriots agreed to let me follow Coach Belichick for an entire season, I figured I’d finally get the full story.  And boy, did I.

I could list a hundred things that surprised me about Bill Belichick – his fishing ability, his golf putter, his sense of humor, his incredible knowledge of football history, his rapport with players, his care as a father, even his choice in Halloween costumes – but you’ll see all those things and more in the film.

The thing that surprised me the most, however, is something you won’t see much of at all: sideline reactions to what just happened on the football field.

I swear, if I showed you footage of Bill Belichick after a Patriots touchdown and Bill Belichick after an opponent’s touchdown, you’d never know which one is which.  By the time the referee has signaled the score, Belichick is already on to the next play, the next drive, the next situation.

NFL Films crew shoots Patriots practice for "Bill Belichick: A Football Life"

That uncanny ability to control his emotions may be the side of Bill Belichick people refer to when they throw around that word “enigma.”

Luckily, there’s more to the story.  And just as luckily, I got to be part of it – all thanks to that “terrible” assignment back in 2001.

A Football Life: Bill Belichick” Part 1 – Premieres Thursday, Sept. 15th 9:00 p.m. EST
A Football Life: Bill Belichick” Part 2Premieres Thursday, Sept. 22nd 10:00 p.m. EST

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