Sunday, January 16, 2011

Understanding the Competition

Bill Belichick is one of the best "strategic" coaches.  He knows how to identify a competitor's strategic deficit  and their various tactical weaknesses.

In the past, he has told the news media that he was a reader of the Sunzi's Art of War (AoW) classic. (Whether the trivia can help him win a relevant game is a different story.)

By being well-prepared, Belichick rarely errs in his game decisions. He always plays the percentages. Occasionally, he calls a gadget play in order to surprise his opponent.

Strategically, the superior strategist always believed that the success of the play is usually based on the execution not the decision.

One similar Art of War exploit is his indirect involvement of the 2007's Spygate event.

This past Sunday, he discovered the NY Jets was their opponent for today's game. The press asked him about his view on the Jets.

Following is an excerpt of his Sunday news conference:

Q: What stands out to you as different about the Jets from what you saw when you played them Dec. 6?

BB: They’re pretty much the same team. Obviously, they didn’t have a good night that night. But, they do a good job running the ball. They’ve got big play receivers and tight ends. They do what they do on defense – a lot of man coverage and they’re pretty physical on the front line. [They're] very good in the kicking game. Good return game – that was a big play for them last night on the kickoff return after the Indianapolis field goal. They’re a solid team. Their record reflects that. I don’t think they’re a whole lot different than really what they’ve been all year. They do a lot of things well.

Q: You mentioned familiarity. Is it hard for teams at this time of the year to change anything or does the familiarity really come into play?

BB: You’ve had 16, 17 games, whatever it is, not counting preseason and another 100 and some practices, so I think everybody probably has got a lot of options in their playbook or in their system. It’s a question of what you want to do, what you feel like is best to choose from and the inflections that you have – how you match up and how you want to play against the team that you’re up against. I’m sure they have a lot of options at this point.

Q: When a team is coming off that kind of emotion and experience in that game and you all have had the bye week, is there any concern about them being able to take that momentum into this week having had that game while you all had the bye?

BB: I think the most important thing is the week of preparation and how the teams prepare on Sunday. I think that’s what it really comes down to. I don’t think what happened last week or in some game in December or some game in September or some game in October, I don’t think that’s going to have too much bearing on it. I think what happens between now and kickoff and how the teams perform once the game starts, I think that’s what will decide the winner.

Q: Have you seen a growth for Mark Sanchez from the beginning part of the season through the middle to where he was last night and how he’s able to be effective?

BB: I thought he did a good job last night. [He] made some clutch plays that they needed to make there at the end of the game. He’s obviously a good quarterback; he’s led them to the playoffs two years in a row.

Q: Last week, Rex Ryan said he thinks that you help Tom Brady with studying and game preparation more than what Peyton Manning gets in Indianapolis. What do you think about that statement?

BB: I really don’t think a whole lot about stuff like that. I just try to coach our team. I think you have to ask Rex or somebody else about that, whoever said it, whatever the context was, I don’t know. I’m worried about getting our team ready.

/// As usual, he preferred to talk about his own team rather than the opponent.

Some of our clients have asked us about how do we think Bill Belichick assessed this week's competition.

Our usual response was: "At this moment of the competition, each principal has a video library of each and every play. They almost know what are the usual tendencies. The focal point is to  to know and anticipate the decision making process for the current circumstance. ..."

Defining the Strategic Power (Shi)
Strategic Power (Shi) is an advantageous circumstance that an AoW strategist uses against their opposition. It begins by knowing the opposition in terms of their strategic foundation.

Understanding the Tactical Imbalance of Strategic Power (Quan)
Step 1: Know the injury factor
The objective of each football strategist is to know who is injured (on both sides) and what is the quality of each injury. The quantity of injuries occasionally determines the quality and quantity of the strategic options.

Step 2: Know the decision habits of the play callers and the players
Another key point is to know the tendencies of the opposing play caller and the positional players in terms of various decision making scenarios (strategic situations, various tactical situations, adjustments etc.) ...

Step 3: Know the state of the terrain and the performance state of your competitors at the day of the competition.
By combining data from each of the earlier steps, one begins to understand who has the superior strategic power.

In terms of the tactical side of the strategic game, the successful strategist usually focuses on the deployment of formations and the relative strength of each competitor in each tactical situation.  During the game, he is searching for a slew of situational matchups that would give his team the advantage. 

This is how the "real" professionals play the strategy game. ... It is this simple. ...

Theoretically, one gets the big tangible picture by filtering the reality and the illusions of the competition and the terrain. Then he or she can exploit the weaknesses and strengths of the overall situation.

Whether Belichick's team wins, we will not find out until Sunday evening.

An update on 01.16.11
The New York Jets toppled The New England Patriots, 28-21. Regardless of the injuries and the poor execution, the outcome is what counts.

Ruminations from the Compass Desk
Implementing the AoW principles as a strategic direction, can be challenging for some people. Choosing the right tactics and being able to execute them on time and on target are some of the other difficult challenges that a game strategist usually encounters.

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