Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick uses Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ as coaching inspiration

He has the Patriots back to their winning ways thanks in part to some old-school philosophy.

Bill Belichick Patriots
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. (AP Photo/Brian Westerholt)
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Two years ago, Bill Belichick told CNBC reporter Suzy Welch the Patriots only have one sign in their locker room to motivate players: “Every battle is won before it is fought.”

That quote comes from “Art of War” by Sun Tzu, a legendary Chinese general who lived around 500 B.C. whose works have influenced military strategy and philosophy for centures.

Belichick, the grandmaster of football’s mental game, has been a fan for years, referencing “Art of War” as a driver of his pre-game preparations for opposing teams.

With the Patriots suddenly looking like a new team on their current three-game winning streak, Belichick’s exploits could potentially garner him some Coach of the Year buzz when all is said and done.


When asked Friday morning about the adaptability of his weekly game-planning before Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns — the team that gave him his first head-coaching opportunity — the Patriots coach gave a simple yet poignant answer. And yes, his longtime inspiration was part of it.

“If you want to go back far enough, look at Sun Tzu. Look at the great generals,” Belichick said. “Play to your strengths and attack your opponent’s weaknesses.”

Nothing describes the Patriot Way, especially from a preparation standpoint, better than that. Take this season, for example.

After overhauling the team’s offensive plan last season to integrate Cam Newton into the offense, the Patriots returned to something more like their old-school blueprint with Mac Jones taking over the starting quarterback role.

From there, the Patriots have switched from week to week between bleeding opposing defenses with higher-volume quick passing attacks to grinding games out on the ground as they have for about the last three weeks.

On defense, New England has even changed spontaneously from heavily man coverages to more zone looks with its defensive backs mid-season, stifling the Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers in consecutive games.

Though they still commit a few more unforced errors than before, the Patriots have looked the part of one of the better-prepared and coached teams in the league during their three-game winning streak — something they’ve been for most of the past 20 years.


Perhaps that’s because Belichick and his staff, including Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, make it their business to know every assignment on the field — both on their own team and the other side — inside and out.

After all, as Sun Tzu would say, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”


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