The roadmap was set long before any of Bill Belichick’s children decided to follow his legendary career path.
The legacy started with Steve Belichick. He made his impact in the coaching world from 1946 to 1989. That included a 34-year run as an assistant football coach with Navy. That also marked Bill Belichick’s start. As a boy, he was there in the press box or on the sideline watching football and his father.
Fast-forward decades later and Bill Belichick is the greatest football coach in NFL history and his three children are in the family business. Neither father wanted his children to follow in his line of work. Prior to winning his fifth Super Bowl with the Patriots, Belichick said he gave his kids the same advice his dad gave him:
“My dad’s advice was to not get into coaching. What I have always said to my kids or really any young people that have asked me that question is you have to follow your heart, do what your passion is.”
The family’s passion is clear.
Amanda Belichick is in her sixth season as the women’s lacrosse head coach at Holy Cross. Stephen Belichick is the Patriots’ outside linebackers coach and calls defensive plays. There was a time when the youngest Belichick sibling, Brian Belichick, wasn’t sure he wanted to follow the same route. Now in his fifth year with the Patriots, and his first as a position coach, he’s also making his mark.
It helped Brian Belichick see his older siblings join the coaching ranks.
“It gives you that reinforcement, but we’re all on our own separate path. We had to find our own lane,” said Brian Belichick. “I didn’t always think I was going to 100 percent be a coach. But as time went on, I thought it was the best thing for me to do and so I did.”
There might not be a greater challenge in coaching than following in Bill Belichick’s footsteps, but it says a lot that all three of his children have entered into the coaching world. Long before Brian Belichick decided to follow in his family’s historic line of work, signs were there of a coach in the making.
Brian Belichick entered Suffield Academy with a last name and a family history that made it easy for people to guess what his career path would be. But when you’re 16, who really knows what you want to do for the rest of your life?
Long before he settled on coaching, Bill Belichick’s youngest child showed the traits of a future coach.
“I don’t know that he knew he was going to coach,” said Suffield Academy football coach Drew Gamere. “I think that he loves football and loved being around it for sure and had to think about it when he was done with college. It’s not surprising at all. I think he naturally just knows the game.”
Brian Belichick wasn’t the most athletically gifted player at Suffield, but he was tough and smart. He was also willing to play hurt.
In 2010, he suffered a broken wrist in the fifth game of his senior season. He came to school that week with a giant cast on his hand, wanting to play against Williston Northampton. Gamere still had some reservations. That was until Belichick dropped back in coverage to intercept quarterback Andrew Luzzi with his one good hand and run the ball back 25 yards.
“We decided he could play, but in my mind, I’m going ‘I don’t know how you’re going to play corner with that thing’,” Gamere said. “But sure enough in the game, he winds up dropping out and getting a pick and he’s running with this big club on his hand.”
Belichick came to Suffield Academy in 2009. He split his time as a junior between varsity and junior varsity playing some quarterback, defense and special teams. He was also a standout lacrosse player. In his senior season, Belichick moved to defense and finished the year as an All-League cornerback. Despite being only 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, he had intangibles that set him apart.
“He was All-League without being all that athletic, but he would get up on receivers and play him, play him up at the line of scrimmage and use leverage and bang them up and run with them,” Gamere said. “It was obvious that he was passionate about the game and really thoughtful about the game as well. So it doesn’t surprise me at all that he’s a coach now.”
The plan was set in motion long before Brian Belichick decided what he wanted to do for a living. When he was a boy, he received a crash course in coaching — just like his dad did at Navy.
When he wasn’t in school, the self-described “kid on the sidelines” was at the Gillette Stadium practice fields helping the Patriots in training camp. That’s where he met Devin McCourty. The Patriots’ longtime safety was drafted in 2010 when Brian Belichick was 18 years old.
Fast-forward 10 years and he’s McCourty’s position coach after replacing his brother, Steve, who moved to outside linebackers.
“It’s been cool. Through all of that is our time and history together talking about some of the things that have happened on the team,” McCourty said. “Although he wasn’t a coach, him and Steve have been around the organization since they were kids. That’s been fun. … I’ve had a lot of experience of sharing that with those guys, my thoughts from a players standpoint, compared to what they’ve seen from a coaches standpoint has been a good mesh. We all work really well together.”
Brian Belichick joined the Patriots in 2016 after graduating from Trinity College. In his first year, he was a scouting assistant. When the regular season ended, he was bumped up to the coaching staff to help with game-planning preparations for the playoffs, including the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
From 2017-2019, he worked as a coaching assistant, which requires plenty of grunt work. After mainly working on the defensive side of the ball, he was promoted in his fifth year with the Patriots.
“I think Brian has worked extremely hard,” McCourty said. “When he first got in here, he was working in scouting. Then doing a lot of the grunt work from the defensive assistant stuff, then now as a safeties coach. I think he has a lot of knowledge overall from football, not just safety or playing defensive back. I think that’s always key for guys in our room when playing safety controls a lot of what we do defensively.”
As a career football coach, Bill Belichick admits he couldn’t spend as much time with his children as he might have wanted when they were growing up. Those early memories of his children helping on the sidelines were a way for the family to bond over their passion for the game.
The early experience has helped both Steve and Brian in many ways.
“One of the good things about Stephen and Brian is that they aren’t afraid to tell me when they think I’ve screwed something up — which is fairly regularly,” Belichick said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni and Fauria show. “It’s a good perspective there — keeps me in check, and that’s helpful too. They work hard, they know our system. I know they haven’t been on the staff, but they have been on the staff. They’ve been in team meetings and they’ve heard stuff for 21 years.”
The Belichick siblings have also helped each other. Steve Belichick is an obvious sounding board for his younger brother. He also relies on his sister, Amanda. After graduating from Wesleyan in 2007, she showed her brothers it was possible for another Belichick to make their own mark in the coaching world.
“For her to go into coaching and the way she’s interactive with her players and set a great role model for me has been great,” Brian Belichick said. “Being able to talk to her about stuff that comes up with us, relative to her team, and how she interacts with her coaches and players and everyone. A lot of it carries over to us too even though it’s different sports.”
All three siblings are following in their father’s Hall of Fame footsteps and while trying to create their own legacy. For Brian Belichick, the 2020 season is a big step as an NFL position coach. This season, he’s coached arguably the Patriots strongest position group in McCourty, Adrian Philips and Kyle Dugger.
“He’s done a great job learning and adapting,” Steve Belichick said. “We’re always eager to learn and he’s always been a sponge to pulling as much stuff as he can. I’m sure things have gotten a lot better and slowed down from what they were at the start. At least that’s how it was for me. He’s been doing a great job. He’s an extremely hard worker.”
It runs in the family.
By Mark Daniels, Providence Journal