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Legacies: Father-Son Connections Embodied by Belichicks, Patriots

For the Belichick family, football is a legacy which has passed from father to son … and into the New England Patriots coaches room.

FOXBORO - Anthologist and author Terri Guillemets once wrote, “Every son quotes his father, in words and in deeds.”

Sometimes, it is done verbally. Other times, it's through actions. However, there are times when that connection between father and son becomes evident simply by example.

New England Patriots fans were once reminded of that bond by the way a man wore his hat.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is known for his ‘unique’ fashion sense. Some have grown to love it. Most others have used it as a fashion punchline. Regardless of one’s opinion, almost everyone can agree that it’s a style all his own.

After all, no one but Belichick could make a cut-off hooded sweatshirt become such coveted regional couture.

However, Super Bowl LII between the Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles [hardly a fond memory for any Pats fan] ironically provided the ideal backdrop for an anything-but-average moment in Belichick’s sartorial history. Upon his arrival at the game’s host city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Belichick was seen sporting a black fedora hat as he disembarked from the Patriots team airplane. It was a ‘classic’ look, but it was not exactly ‘classic Belichick.’

Upon seeing New England’s coach looking uncharacteristically dapper, the reaction of fans and media alike was instant. It became the subject of speculation, some praise and most of all a few laughs

(Even I could not resist..)

Despite the hoopla, it turns out that Coach Belichick had one of the best and most sincere reasons anybody could have for wearing a garment. During Super Bowl LII’s Opening Night media festivities, Belichick revealed the real reason behind his choice of headgear.

“That was my dad’s hat so I thought I’d just toss that one on today,” Belichick said. “I felt good about wearing it … it did the trick.”

When asked why he chose to wear the hat at this moment (besides Minnesota’s cold climate,) Belichick provided his answer.

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“I just thought it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Anyone familiar with the Patriots head coach is keenly aware of the reverence and respect with which he holds the memory of his father, Steve Belichick.

In conjunction with the great love between father and son, Belichick is also a staunch advocate of his father’s coaching philosophy. He often cites the elder Belichick’s highly-regarded book “Football Scouting Methods” as the greatest influence on his own coaching style. The elder Belichick, a legendary Naval Academy assistant coach, regarded the key to being a successful coach to mastering “the alignment, assignment, and execution of every move of every player visible on the screen.” Once he embraced this fundamental principle, Bill was able to put his father’s wisdom into a practice all his own.

“That’s who I learned from … Working hard, doing your job, paying attention to details, treating the players as fairly and honestly as you can treat them,” Belichick said in a 2017 interview. “If it’s good, it’s good, if it’s bad, it’s bad. Just being honest with them. I would say all of those things I got from a lot of coaches, but I certainly got it from him.”

Ultimately, Belichick has succeeded not by trying to ‘be’ his father, but by following his example. The results have more than spoken for themselves. Today, Belichick now imparts these lessons to his sons Stephen (outside linebackers coach) and Brian (safeties coach), who join their father on the Patriots staff. It is a truly unique legacy, once again poised to be handed down from father to son.

Attempting to carry on a father’s legacy is a tall task for any son. For Stephen and Brian Belichick, it is nearly insurmountable — especially when taking into account their father’s professional success. Still, the generations of Belichicks would agree that legacy is about more than just their respective gridiron resumes. Instead, the true definition of ‘legacy’ lies within the respect they feel towards each other — professionally as well as personally. Regardless of their last name, the coaches must earn their place on the staff with prowess and dedication.

“That’s how he raised me,” Stephen Belichick said of his father. “Those are the morals and the things that my grandpa used to talk about, too – ‘you’ve got to earn what you get.’ It’s also my Dad’s job to be the head coach and I don’t think, to leave me on the staff, he would compromise having a bad coach. I think he would probably pull me to the side and say, ‘Listen, this isn’t working out for either of us. So go do something else, whether it’s with another team or another thing in general.’”

For as honest as Bill Belichick is with his sons, both Stephen and Brian are equally so in return. The mutual candor among the Belichicks is a trait which Belichick pridefully described in a recent interview.

"One of the good things about Stephen and Brian is that they aren't afraid to tell me when they think I've screwed something up - which is fairly regularly," Belichick admitted.

As the younger Belichick coaches look to their father for wisdom, counsel and guidance on the sidelines, Bill continues to look to his father’s example for inspiration. The three generations of Belichicks are still learning from each other, both in words and actions. Sometimes, it is as simple as executing a play with Belichickian precision. Other times, it may be going against the grain by making an unusual fashion statement, just as Bill Belichick did four years ago.

In turn, one might say Belichick’s sons are now learning the proper way to wear their father’s ‘hat.’

Simply put, It’s a father-son thing — and once again, it is ‘the right thing to do.’