The Blueprint: How the New England Patriots Beat the System to Create the Last Great NFL Superpower
by Christopher Price
Review by C. Douglas Baker
This book lays out the reason the New England Patriots have been able to sustain a high level of excellence over the past seven years in an era of salary cap limitations that aggressively promotes parity.
Despite this, the Patriots have appeared in four of the last seven Super Bowls, winning three of them.
Last year they posted an 18-0 record before being defeated in Super Bowl XLII 17-14 by the New York Giants in a rather poorly played game on the Patriot’s part.
How do they do it?
First, Robert Kraft is no longer the meddling owner he was when Bill Parcels was the head coach. He lets the football people make the football decisions, especially on personnel.
Second, Bill Belichick is clearly one of the smartest coaches when it comes to strategy (Super Bowl XLII being an exception).
But he too has learned from his mistakes as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. He treats his players a little differently and has more control over personnel, even though his media skills still lack something to be desired.
Third, Belichick doesn’t try to do everything. It’s impossible. While he has final say over all football related matters, he relies heavily on Scott Piloli, head of player personnel.
Piloli has been with Belichick for a long time and their scouting department turns up high character players who fit Belichick’s system. Their drafts under Belichick have been very good, for the most part, which is critical for building a team.
Fourth, Belichick mostly lets the players police themselves.
The veterans on the team know what it takes to win championships and the team first philosophy that permeates the organization is not just lip service. The veteran players work to make sure everyone stays on this course.
Fifth, the Patriots adroitly manage the salary cap. Unlike a lot of teams they don’t sell out by signing players to huge contracts and guaranteed money to make a one time championship run.
Doing this can hamstring a team for years as players with large signing bonuses counting against the salary cap for years, even if they are no longer productive or even on the team.
Furthermore, there is no sentimentality to their decisions.
They cut Lawyer Malloy, a mainstay at strong safety for several years and a favorite of fans, players, and coaches alike, because of a contract dispute where they felt the amount of money he wanted was not in the long-term interests of team.
And finally they have Tom Brady.
Successful teams must have a decent quarterback at the helm. Brady, a sixth round draft pick, has turned out to be one of the best quarterbacks of his generation. Having mostly a solid defense and Brady at the helm of the offense has been critical to the team’s success.
Overall this book is reasonably well written and is an excellent modern day history of the New England Patriots franchise.
The first part of the book deals with pre-Kraft Patriots history. It was necessary to set up the rest of the book, but there is nothing particularly new here.
The rest of the book does a good job of laying out just why the Patriots have been successful over the past seven years.
That said this book needed a better copy editor. There are many places where conjunctions are missing, which is annoying to the reader.
In one chapter a quote by Belichick is repeated within a few paragraphs of each other. At times the author tells us something and then basically repeats the same information in different words, which is what happened with the redundant quote.
Nevertheless, this is a book that Patriots fans and football fans in general, should greatly enjoy.