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Bill Belichick: The modern-day Paul Brown

09.11.10 at 1:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — A famous and successful football coach once told his players that they’re only a product of their discipline, on and off the field.

“What my coaches and I accomplished during those years came from the way we handled our players,” he said. “To know and appreciate all that went into our football – in high school, college and the pros – and why we were successful, it is necessary to understand the principles that guided our teams.

“Everything had to do with people, from properly assessing a man’s character, intelligence and talent to getting him to perform to the best of his ability in a way that benefited our team. The ‘team’ was everything.”

That certainly sounds like Bill Belichick but those were actually the words of Paul Brown, the man Belichick credits for creating the system now employed by all NFL coaches and organizations.

And those words came from the 1979 biography “PB: The Paul Brown Story” co-authored with Brown by longtime Boston sportswriter Jack Clary.

Belichick, a voracious reader, is familiar with Brown’s words on coaching and the book. Before Bill Walsh‘s detailed work, “Finding the Winning Edge,” there was Paul Brown’s book. It’s no mistake that Walsh coached under Brown with the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1970s.

“Pretty much everything that we do now, he did when he was coaching 30, 40, 50 years ago,” Belichick said Friday of Brown. “He’€™s really the kind of father of professional coaches and the father of professional football. Not that other greats like [George] Halas and so forth’€¦ But the way it is now, is the way it was when Paul coached.”

And it certainly worked. Belichick won three Super Bowls in four years. Walsh led his 49ers dynasty teams to three titles in seven years. But together that’s one less than the seven NFL titles won by Brown’s Cleveland teams of the 50s and 60s. Brown led his team to the title game 11 times in 12 seasons.

“Nobody did more for football than Paul Brown did,” Belichick added.

After an ugly ending with then-Browns owner Art Modell in the mid-60s, Brown founded the Bengals in 1968. Brown oversaw a franchise that made two Super Bowl appearances in 1982 and 1989. Ironically, they were beaten both times by Bill Walsh’s 49ers. Brown passed away in 1991, handing leadership of the Bengals to his son Mike, whom Belichick says, has carried on the franchise in a way that would make his dad proud.

“I think that Mike [Brown] has done a great job with the organization. They had a terrific year last year. They have a good team. It looks like they’€™ve done some things to improve it this year. I think they do a lot of things well. They swept their division last year which is something not a lot of teams can say or have ever been able to say.

“When you have those kind of accomplishments, I think that Paul would be pretty proud of what the Bengals did last year and what they’€™re about, how they play, the way they’€™re coached, the way the organization is run. I think they do a pretty good job.”

Brown thought so much of his father that he turned away the chance for corporate sponsorship of the Bengals’ new stadium when it opened in 2000, instead choosing simply to name it after his dad.

What’s amusing to any Cincinnati native is to think how a disciplinarian like Brown would’ve handled the ‘Real World’ Bengals of 2010 with players like Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. But Belichick said Friday that while Brown was known for his discipline, every coach is smart enough to understand the different personalities on their team.

“Well, I think ‘€“ not that I was there for a lot of it ‘€“ but even when Paul was coaching, every team [had] personalities,” Belichick said. “I think that’€™s part of every group you have ‘€“ football or otherwise.”

Still, it’s hard to imagine what Paul Brown would do this Sunday if Ocho scores and grabs a rifle and fires it into the air after a touchdown. Very hard.

Read More: Bengals, Bill Belichick, Bill Walsh, Cincinnati Bengals
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