War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team

( 18 )

Overview

Football games aren’t won on Sundays in the fall. They’re won on draft day in the spring—in the war room.

In this landmark book, New York Times bestselling author Michael Holley takes readers behind the scenes of three contending National Football League teams and into the brilliant minds of Bill Belichick and his two former protégés Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli.

Holley masterfully shows how a single idea conceived by Belichick in ...

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Overview

Football games aren’t won on Sundays in the fall. They’re won on draft day in the spring—in the war room.

In this landmark book, New York Times bestselling author Michael Holley takes readers behind the scenes of three contending National Football League teams and into the brilliant minds of Bill Belichick and his two former protégés Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli.

Holley masterfully shows how a single idea conceived by Belichick in 1991—how to build the perfect team—triggered a journey filled with miraculous finishes, heartbreaking losses, broken relationships, and Super Bowl championships. Readers are given unprecedented access—from the draft room to the locker room to the sidelines—and insights into why Belichick is considered to be the NFL’s best coach and premier strategist.

Before he achieved success, though, Belichick was barely surviving as a coach. War Room opens in Cleveland, where Belichick, a young head coach, worked in an office with two employees in their late twenties: Pioli, a low-paid scouting assistant, and Dimitroff, a groundskeeper and part-time scout. After Belichick was fired by the Browns in 1996, the three men were in separate cities and seemingly a lifetime away from being recognized as leaders and champions. But soon they were reunited in New England, where they refined and burnished Belichick’s method for constructing a winning team, overseeing one of the greatest franchises in modern NFL history.

These three master strategists are now competitors. Belichick continues at the helm of the New England Patriots, while Pioli is now in charge of the Kansas City Chiefs and Dimitroff is running the Atlanta Falcons. And even though they no longer work for the same franchise, they do have a common goal: building the perfect team, one draft pick and one trade at a time.

War Room is their unique and often astonishing story. It is packed with never-been-told anecdotes and new observations from team officials, players, coaches, and scouts, all leading to surprising and groundbreaking insights into the art of building a champion. 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Holley (Red Sox Rule: Terry Francona and Boston's Rise to Dominance) has written the ultimate book for pro football geeks. From the front office to the draft room, the author provides an intimate look at three NFL teams-the New England Patriots, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons-and the men who built them. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, with protégés Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli, created a dynasty in New England that won three Super Bowls in four years. With fly-on-the-wall immediacy, Holley chronicles their unorthodox approach, even as Pioli and Dimitroff became general managers of, respectively, the Chiefs and the Falcons. War Room begins in 1991 with Belichick head coach of the Cleveland Browns (at 39, the league's youngest) and concludes following the 2011 NFL draft and player lockout. Holley objectively captures on- and off-field episodes, including 2007's infamous "Spygate" videotape scandal, and humanizes his subjects with reports of job interviews, dinner conversations, private meetings, and personal traumas.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist
“Fans will want to read how Belichick transformed the once-lackluster Patriots into the mostsuccessful franchise of the past decade, which Holley explains in an engaging chronological narrative.”
Boston Globe
Crisply written, the story moves along like a two-minute drill. It also sparkles with interesting anecdotes and tidbits….WAR ROOM is a lively, fast-paced insider’s account that will please ardent and casual fans alike.”
Peter King
“WAR ROOM is going to take you into the inner world of pro football. I recommend it highly.”
Kirkus Reviews
A longtime Patriots chronicler goes inside the brain trust of the NFL's most successful team. In the NFL, team building--drafting, trading and signing fee agents--is a multimillion-dollar business with many livelihoods and professional reputations at stake. The widely acknowledged virtuoso of this peculiar blend of art and science is Bill Belichick, GM and head coach of the New England Patriots. Holley (Red Sox Rule: Terry Francona and Boston's Rise to Dominance, 2008, etc.) traces the genesis of Belichick's "Big Idea" back 20 years when, as the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns, he began piecing together notions--particularly, the idea of a uniform player-evaluation system--about how best to construct a consistent winner. Working for him then were scouting assistant Scott Pioli and young groundskeeper Thomas Dimitroff, both of whom, after extended apprenticeships under Belichick in New England, would go on to helm NFL franchises elsewhere, spreading the gospel of The Patriot Way. With Belichick as the principal and Pioli and Dimitroff in supporting roles, Holley dives deep into the complexities of the draft and the subtleties of an appraisal system sufficiently exact to rely upon, flexible enough to allow for exceptions. There's plenty of inside-football, but the narrative soars when the author's in storytelling mode, drawing sharp portraits of the three very different franchise architects and other prominent NFL figures, supplying behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the Patriots' glorious run (three Super Bowl championships, one perfect regular season), the team's infrequent failures (e.g., the notorious Spygate episode), the contributions and departures of key assistants and pivotal players, the abiding brilliance of quarterback Tom Brady and the emerging efforts by Pioli in Kansas City and Dimitroff in Atlanta to reshape the football culture--to replicate, albeit with their personal stamps, Belichick's master plan. A deeply reported, thoroughly engaging look at what it takes to succeed in the NFL--and a perfect complement to the NFL Network's compelling miniseries Bill Belichick: A Football Life.
The Barnes & Noble Review

When Bill Belichick became head coach of the New England Patriots in 2000, the team was coming off a last-place finish and had never won a championship. Expectations were low, so the canvas was his for the painting. In War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team, former Boston Globe sportswriter Michael Holley studiously charts the rise of Belichick and his two closest lieutenants — Scott Pioli, then New England's vice president of player personnel, and Thomas Dimitroff, the head of college scouting. This trio, which came together when Belichick was coaching the Cleveland Browns, became the brain trust behind three Patriots Super Bowl victories and the architects of a 2007 team that's the most famous runner-up in Super Bowl history.

Football games are won and lost on the field, but those sixty- minute outings are the results of months of preparation, even before training camp begins. Holley's book follows the behind-the- scenes work of team building and tells how Belichick, Pioli, and Dimitroff aimed at victory by transforming the Patriots' scouting. What Belichick sought was a means of seeing not only a player's talent but where he might fit into the larger picture,

a grading scale that was easy to understand yet complex enough to reflect, for example, the value of an average offensive lineman who could play two positions vs. an above- average lineman who could play just one?. He wanted to assign letters, numbers, and words that would accurately describe every player in pro and college football.
The ultimate goal was a system that would let them work "scientifically" to build a team with an edge in size, toughness, and drive.

The 2001 Patriots were "a starless group, the story went, that was powered by heart, luck, and Belichick's brain." They were led by a second-year quarterback, Tom Brady, who had been drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan. He ascended to the starting job only after Drew Bledsoe was injured, and he led the Patriots to a stunning playoff run, capped by a victory over the heavily favored Rams in the Super Bowl. But while this anti-glamour reputation made the Patriots "embraceable," it was also true that Belichick's icily brilliant intellect seemed at times to be paired with an equally cold heart. "Over the years, making tough decisions and replacing seemingly indispensable players would become the Patriots' way of doing business."

The natural tension between the good of the organization and the good of the players is the paradox at the heart of the so-called Patriot Way, which demanded that players buy into a team-first approach, sublimating their egos for the betterment of the group — an approach that had mixed results, notably in the case of wide receiver Randy Moss, who bought into the team philosophy until he became disgruntled during his 2010 contract year. The closest the Patriots came to creating the "perfect" season was in 2007, when they nearly became the first 19-0 team in NFL history but lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl. Thanks to the controversy known as Spygate, when the team was caught taping an opponent's defensive signals during a game and subsequently disciplined by the league, that year's squad has been lauded and derided in equal measure. How most football fans feel about the 2007 team is largely determined by how much they love, or hate, Bill Belichick himself.

Holley's book goes on to detail how Pioli and Dimitroff left New England after the team's Super Bowl successes and created variations of the Patriot Way in Kansas City and Atlanta, respectively. He follows the three franchises up through the 2011 draft, just months after all three won their divisions. The narrative is jumpy at times, and even diehard football fans will feel their eyes glaze over when years-old game recaps are delivered in toe- stubbing prose, as when Holley describes the infamous "Tuck Rule" game in 2002:
In a season of unintentional poetry, it was fitting that the next play would practically be a catch by all who had been with the Patriots since their local TV blackouts, one- and two-win seasons, and franchise coffers that had more singles than hundred- dollar bills. Jermaine Wiggins, a tight end from East Boston, was the only Patriots player who had been born and raised in the area.
If the writing occasionally suffers from such disorienting circumlocutions, Holley's access to Belichick, Pioli, and Dimitroff unearths some intriguing revelations, as when Pioli admits that he was too focused on winning to properly enjoy the successes in New England and that Belichick advised Dimitroff "as your friend" not to trade up and select wide receiver Julio Jones of Alabama in the most recent draft.

Compared with the driven Belichick and Pioli, Dimitroff is revealed here as a relatively laid-back figure. With his moussed hair and vegan lifestyle, he runs counter to the usual man's-man NFL type. He learned a lot under Belichick and Pioli, but he clashed with them on certain issues. For instance, he could never understand why they didn't allow all of the team's scouts into the so-called war room on draft day, when the front office makes its picks. And he bristled when the scouts were not given all-access passes at the Super Bowl, a perceived slight that didn't allow them to celebrate on the field with the rest of the organization.

In the end, Holley suggests that this book is a study of friendship among competitors, and the unique bonds of camaraderie and even love that grow when men like these work together — bonds that persist even as they become rivals. "But," he adds, "in this business, at some point, your love is forced to be conditional." It's a sentiment some fans might, however reluctantly, understand.

Cameron Martin is a columnist with CBS Sports, Comcast SportsNet New England, and Hearst newspapers. From 1996 to 2007, he was a columnist and feature writer for the Greenwich Time and Stamford Advocate newspapers in Connecticut. Email: cdavidmartin@yahoo.com.

Reviewer: Cameron Martin

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062082404
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/4/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 226,818
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

MICHAEL HOLLEY is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Patriot Reign, Never Give Up (with Tedy Bruschi), and Red Sox Rule. He was a Boston Globe sportswriter for ten years, and he is the cohost of The Big Show on Boston sports radio station WEEI. Holley lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife and two sons.

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Table of Contents

1 The Incubator 1

2 The Patriot Way 38

3 The Culture of Winners 78

4 Losing the Core 131

5 The Desert 149

6 The New Falcon Vernacular 220

7 New England Departure, Kansas City Arrival 260

8 A Tale of Three Cities 308

9 Let's Make a Deal 343

10 Shelf Life 380

11 Three and Out 400

12 The Mobile Dinner 429

13 Chief Assembly 454

14 Picking and Dealing 473

15 War Room 491

Epilogue 523

Acknowledgments 531

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2012

    Book Not Part of Legacy

    Unfortunately, the level of excellence achieved by the New England Patriots does not translate to this book.

    I was hoping for specific outlines and philosophies of their winning formula, but found a poorly written accounting of relationships.

    Don't bother, not even a good read about inside a football team.

    Must have been written in two days.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2014

    Balcony

    Balcony over the beach/sunset.

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  • Posted December 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    For True Football Draft Fan

    This was a well written albeit very focused story on the NFL drafting process as practiced by 3 different teams with deep roots to Bill Bellicheck. The details we super and the pace and subject matter always interesting without bogging down. If you are a NFL draft-nik this book is for you

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2013

    War room

    Its a book pertraying the inside to coach bill belicheck's coaching ups and downs

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted November 15, 2011

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