Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching Dec 12, 2019 20:55:25 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Dec 12, 2019 20:55:25 GMT -5
Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching (2019)
Directed by: Ken Rodgers
Directed by: Ken Rodgers
Alabama Crimson Tide Head Coach Nick Saban (left) and New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick discuss their lives and legacies in a new HBO documentary.
"Few reach the peak of their profession. Even fewer stay there." - Liev Schreiber
To have the privilege of being a fly on the wall during a conversation between coaching legends Bill Belichick and Nick Saban would be an unbelievable experience. Of course, there's no way either man — particularly Belichick — would have those in their entirety made accessible to the public. Try as HBO Films and director Ken Rodgers (who was the man behind last year's The Two Bills, which examined the legacy of Belichick and former coach Bill Parcells) might, they probably couldn't make the version of Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching they wanted to. What they do make is an efficient feature that gives us a modicum of insight into what makes these two men and their legacies, frankly, insurmountable in achievements.
Narrated by Liev Schreiber (whose voice you might recognize from HBO's long-running series Hard Knocks), Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching chronicles the accomplishments and long-term success of two revered coaches. Since 2000, Belichick has been the head coach of the New England Patriots; his tenure can be measured by 19 straight winning seasons, nine Super Bowl appearances, and six Super Bowl victories. Since 2007, Saban has coached the Alabama Crimson Tide college football team, and presently sports a gaudy 151–23 record and six National Championship titles. The success these two men have maintained is absolutely improbable, but certainly Belichick's, as he's working with an NFL salary cap that practically insists several great players will have to be released year-to-year due to financial setbacks.
Belichick and Saban meet every year, at the conclusion of both of their respective seasons, usually at Saban's Alabama office or home, to talk football and their tribulations over the season (despite the fact that, regardless of them, they still often finish on top or close to it). The documentary begins aptly, with Belichick embracing Saban and asking the camera crew for a few minutes alone with his friend, through his usual tight-lipped scowl. Both "old Croates" raised by disciplined football fathers, the two climbed the ranks as assistant coaches and remained close for several decades. Most famously, perhaps, Saban served as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns during Belichick's five-year stint as head coach.
Beyond their ability to wax poetic about the days when "breaking down game film" was an arduous, literal process, the two loyal confidants gel well due to the command they have on their football teams. In their hearts, they're problem-solvers and culture-builders. The unofficial slogan of the Patriots' dynasty has been "do your job." Don't try to go above and beyond on a given play if it doesn't call for it. Run your route, block your man, and follow through on your read. Saban, on the other hand, gets a strong pool of talented but raw high school players, and molds them into complete, competitive players through similar tough-love coaching. There's a humorous bit where Saban runs across the football field while his team straggles behind him. Disgusted at the paltry effort, he informs a 22-year-old player that, in that moment, he looks like the 65-year-old coach while Saban has the energy you'd expect of a 22-year-old.
Belichick and Saban even touch on the time when Saban was named head coach of the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots' division rival. It was a forgettable stint for Saban and Dolphins fans alike, as he amassed a 15-17 record over the course of two seasons. The fact that in the four head-to-head matchups between the two coaches, their record stands at 2-2 couldn't be more germane. Had the Dolphins' medical staff cleared then-free agent quarterback Drew Brees, Saban could potentially still be playing in the NFL, and Belichick might not have six Super Bowl titles if Tom Brady had to go toe-to-toe with another all-time great at least twice a year. But after his short stint in Miami, Saban left to coach Alabama. I doubt he thinks about the "what ifs" in Miami half as much as fans do.
Sprinkled in the 73 minute documentary are brief interviews with several former general managers and coaches who have worked with Belichick and/or Saban in the past: former Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, Georgia Bulldogs Head Coach Kirby Smart, and one of my favorite faces in football, former Patriots' assistant Michael Lombardi all chime in to contextualize the impact of both men. Getting more info from these men would've been a welcomed addition to this film, even if it extended its length another hour.
There isn't much substance and insight into the way both coaches deal with adversity, losing (both have lost at the highest level), and combat the ostensibly nonexistent work/life balance required to be a successful head coach in the NFL/NCAA. This is where Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching falls short. It's somewhat disingenuous to refer to this as a puff-piece, given it does provide both context and glimpses into their friendship. However, it's tough to call this essential viewing for football fans when most will likely know about Belichick's tenure as the Browns' head coach, Saban's multiple stops at Michigan State and LSU, and their ongoing, unprecedented dominance. Rodgers' documentary is candid at times, but underwhelming at others.
NOTE: Belichick & Saban: The Art of Coaching will air throughout the month of December on HBO, and is available on HBO GO, the company's streaming service.
Directed by: Ken Rodgers.