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February 03, 2012


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Alfred Brophy

I'm guessing there are some parallels between this story and the careers of law professors.

Jarod Bona

As a long-suffering Vikings fan, I am indifferent about the Patriots, so I think I can be objective. I agree that there were instances of "luck" that year, but I think that he has also demonstrated his ability as a head coach over the many years since that time. I doubt that "luck" accounts for a significant part of that (as we would expect that "luck" tends to even out over time). His team has had continued success over many years in a league structure that is obsessed with parity. How much of that is him, versus other factors (like Tom Brady)? That is hard to determine. Perhaps we can do a regression analysis. But unscientifically, I have seen him come up with game plans against a team that the league ends up copying for the rest of the year. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I understand that he also has a disproportionate number of undrafted players on his roster--perhaps evidence of good coaching, or at least good talent evaluation.

Finally, often overlooked, I think, is the fact that coaches can learn and improve. As a young head coach with Cleveland for several years, he was likely able to really develop as a coach. No matter the profession, some people are better than others at learning from their mistakes and successes.

Gregg Polsky


My point is not that Bill Belichick isn't a talented coach. I think he is. My point is that, if Mo Lewis decides to let up on that sideline hit, it's quite possible that Belichick would be considered a failed head coach rather than the greatest coach of all time.

Kevin Jon Heller

Enjoyed the post, but I have one question: how exactly is it "luck" for officials to correctly apply a rule? (The Tuck Rule, in this case.) The rule might be dumb, but the officials were simply enforcing it as written. If that's luck, then the concept of luck has no meaning.

Gregg Polsky


Thanks for the comment. You're right that the Tuck Rule play might not be a great example of luck. Then again, the Patriots did benefit hugely from the obscure rule despite the fact that the purpose of the rule--to prevent balls that slipped out of the QB's hands when he tried to pump fake or pull the ball back mid-throw from being ruled a fumble--wasn't all at implicated in the play. This seems lucky to me.

But the Tuck Rule really isn't critical to my points: (1) that extremely successful people often (always?) have benefited from circumstances that were well beyond their control, and (2) that people (including the extremely successful ones) tend not to appreciate this.

Calvin Massey

"Luck is the residue of design." -- Branch Rickey

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