On opposing sidelines for the Super Bowl you had two very different coaches.
One one side was Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who appeared in Super Bowls just a few years ago as a member of Pete Carroll’s staff with the Seahawks as their defensive coordinator, but is still in the infancy of his own head coaching career. On the other sideline stood Bill Belichick, who will go down as one of the greatest football coaches ever, making his seventh Super Bowl appearance. The Super Bowl veteran of veterans among coaches.
One can only imagine that their approaches for their respective teams leading up to the game were very, very different. While I haven’t seen anything out there about Quinn and Atlanta’s approach in the weeks leading up to the game, this nugget in USA Today from Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater stood out to me about Belichick’s approach to the big game.
While some coaches would taper things off and make sure players went into the game with fresh legs and plenty of rest, Belichick’s squad apparently took the opposite approach.
“We paid a serious price to get to this point. We put in a lot of work. We’re practicing in pads on Super Bowl week. We’re squatting 80% of our maxes on Super Bowl week.”
“I mean, we worked for this. Our bodies were ready. Our minds were ready, and we just kept believing one another.”
I think it’s always interesting to look at how coaches approach the days (and weeks in the case of the Super Bowl) leading up game day. Many coaches go back and forth about the right balance of creating that mental toughness and edge, and having guys fresh for game day. Which one is more important? Some will pull back on the reigns during the week in an effort to keep players fresh, similar to the approach Mike Gundy talked about at the AFCA convention, while others will continue to press forward – sometimes even harder than usual – and bank on the approach improving their overall mental toughness.
Each approach has merit and a track record of success with different programs, and for Belichick, his approach clearly worked out pretty well as we all know how Sunday’s Super Bowl shook out.