Scouting has changed since Belichick’s dad did it

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Steve Belichick would sit in his booth above the field with his pencils and charts as he watched Navy’s future opponent through binoculars.

More than half a century later, the son of the renowned scout gets video just hours after his next opponent’s game ends.

That certainly will speed the process once coach Bill Belichick finds out which team will face his New England Patriots in the playoffs.

If Baltimore beats Pittsburgh on Saturday night, the top-seeded Patriots will host the Ravens in an AFC divisional game Jan. 10. If the Steelers prevail, the winner of Sunday afternoon’s game between Cincinnati and Indianapolis will visit Gillette Stadium.

Soon after the opponent is determined, video of its game will be scrutinized in Foxborough.

”Certainly by the next morning,” Belichick said. ”Depending on when the game is, maybe even later that evening.”

How much would it help in this era if a scout watches games in person, like his dad did during 33 years at Navy when he rarely saw the Midshipmen play because he was elsewhere on a scouting assignment?

”Less than one percent,” Belichick said. ”Now you can get the film just as quickly.”

But watching games live would be more valuable than on television, he said, ”especially if that’s all you had, which isn’t really the case for us. But there was a time …”

A time when Steve Belichick, who literally wrote the book on football scouting, would travel great distances to watch, take detailed notes and analyze teams on Navy’s schedule, and then report back to the coach and his players.

”I grew up watching my dad scout games live,” Belichick said. ”They played on Saturday. Sometimes they wouldn’t get the films until Monday (by) Sunday air shipping from wherever the college team was located, Starkville, Mississippi, or wherever the film was coming from.”

By attending the games, Belichick said, his father ”had that information pretty instantaneously: `Here are their substitutions, these are the plays they ran diagrammed, here’s the defenses they ran, here’s how they handled these different situations.’ He had it when the game was over.”

Steve Belichick, who died in 2005 at age 86, wrote the widely praised ”Football Scouting Methods” in 1962.

Today, massive amounts of data are readily available.

”You can get a lot of information now that’s already preset for you,” Belichick said. ”If you just want to watch all the plays with No. 79, you can click it and you’ve got them, whereas even five years ago, you were, `Is that 78? Is that 79? That’s the guy with the tape on his left hand.”’

Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner plans to pick up tips while watching this weekend’s playoff games on television. He’ll be guarding receivers from Indianapolis, Cincinnati or Baltimore in his next game.

”Bill’s looking at it as a coach. He’s got to watch 22 guys or 11 guys at one time,” Browner said. ”I’m watching the receiver and maybe the DBs so I can watch my keys. … You want to key these guys’ releases. You’ve got some guys who are quick at the line then you’ve got some guys who are big and strong who use their strength.”

Steve Belichick got to watch that in person. His son still sees value in that.

”When you do it yourself, you really know what it is and you remember it,” Belichick said. ”There’s still a lot to be said for grinding it out, doing the little things and really processing the information internally as opposed to just looking at it and being able to remember everything that you see at one glance.”

”That’s the faster way, that’s the way to cut the corner,” he said. ”In the end, is it better? I’m not sure.”

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