- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Had a chance to watch parts of NFL Films' documentary "Bill Belichick: A Football Life" -- a private screening was held tonight at the Hall at Patriot Place -- and here are a few thoughts (hopefully striking the right balance between not revealing too much, but sharing some interesting sights and sounds):
"If you think you know Bill Belichick, think again."
Those words are heard and from there, the documentary includes various storylines from the 2009 season, when Belichick was mic'd up for every game to give NFL Films unprecedented access. Belichick recently explained that he agreed to the project as part of his 35th season of coaching and the Patriots' 50th anniversary.
Belichick welcomed cameras on his "V Rings" boat in Nantucket and also behind the scenes into high-level meetings, such as a roundtable discussion on how the team planned to handle contract negotiations with Vince Wilfork, and into his office, where a sign lists his three "head coach goals" for the season.
Viewers see Belichick's sense of humor come through, such as in a preseason game against the Eagles when Julian Edelman returns a punt for a touchdown. Belichick talks with football research director Ernie Adams through a headset, double-checking who iron man Lou Gehrig replaced, and when he gets the answer (Wally Pipp), he walks over to Wes Welker on the sideline and jokes that he could be the next Pipp.
Welker was an "ERW" for that preseason game -- "eat, ride, warmup" -- so he was watching in street clothes on the sideline.
That's the type of flavor that fills the documentary.
One of the more powerful moments came when Belichick reflected on his days with the Giants, touring old Giants Stadium before the team's Week 2 game against the Jets that season. He chokes up. Some of the memories were from behind the scenes, such as racquetball games against Bill Parcells, and others were on the field, like being lifted onto the shoulders of two Giants following the 1986 NFC title game -- a picture that ran on the front of the New York Times.
There are plenty of other interesting nuggets. One doesn't expect to hear Belichick trash-talking with then-Ravens receiver Derrick Mason during a Week 4 game, with some we're-going-to-have-to-bleep-this-out language. Belichick also tells Baltimore's Ed Reed that he thinks he's the best free safety who ever played the game.
Later, we learn that Belichick wanted to avoid a postgame handshake with Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, his former offensive coordinator, so he embraced him before the game and told him they'd just wave afterward.
Those type of loose ends are tied up for those curious about the 2009 season (fourth-and-2 in Indianapolis is naturally revisited), which didn't end as Belichick and the Patriots hoped it would. In fact, it was probably one of Belichick's most frustrating seasons as Patriots coach, the chemistry in the locker room not where it needed to be.
But still, as one would expect, NFL Films produces a documentary worthy of a Patriots followers' time, even if '09 was one of the team's least fulfilling seasons in Belichick's tenure.
One gets a better feel for Belichick, from the emotion in New York, his sense of humor, to his demanding coaching style, and a little bit of what he's like away from football.
The documentary airs on NFL Network on Sept. 15 at 9 p.m. Watch the trailer HERE.