Easier to catch a spy than to beat him

Through the early years of coaching with the New York Giants to the current years as the head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick has been called a champ and a cheater.

Yet no matter which category you placed him in -- and for every player who criticized Belichick, there was another who embraced him -- nobody could disagree with this assessment.

Belichick knew defense a whole lot better than he knew fashion, where he made the high school-ish hoodie what Tom Landry once made the fashionable fedora.

Yet even if Belichick's hoodie wasn't always up, his guard was.

For years Belichick treated his press conferences as if he had something to hide, sidestepping significant questions and avoiding meaningful answers. He thought dispensing even the slightest information was dispensing too much information. So his first notable shutout involved himself. He shut himself out to the public, shrouding himself in mystery as if the hoodie were always up.

Belichick shielded his assistant coaches even more, refusing to make them available to the media as if they couldn't be trusted. There was less information leaking out of Foxborough than out of the State Department.

Belichick believed the only things the public needed to know were what it saw on Sunday. What it sees this year is something that seemingly never has been seen before, certainly not in Foxborough, even on the three other teams Belichick coached to Super Bowl titles.

This year's Patriots are loaded. They are an unofficial Pro Bowl team, stars at almost every position. It is a team that a variety of people around the league agree has no apparent weaknesses. It is a team that has not lost. It is a team that already has some observers speculating it will not lose this season, not once.

It is Belichick's most talented team, providing him a chance to coach more history and match Chuck Noll's record for Super Bowl victories.

As if he didn't already know, the whole world is watching Belichick, following him, talking about him. As the season develops, the talk will only grow louder.

Of course, this isn't entirely new for Belichick. He already has been the subject of some of the greatest minds of our generation.

In one of his final books, The Education of a Coach, the late, great author David Halberstam wrote all about Belichick's coaching greatness. He traced Belichick's rise, starting with his entry-level job with the Baltimore Colts, when the aspiring assistant could study videotape and see things others coaches couldn't.

Belichick was so gifted even then that former Colts safety Bruce Laird was quoted in the book as saying, "It was like having a great spy working for us."

Still, even with controversy swirling around Belichick today, history will have no choice but to acknoweldge the obvious.

It's a whole lot easier to catch the spy than it is to actually beat him.

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