Bill Belichick would give cash bonuses to underpaid coaches, according to a new book.
The wads of cash known as “green balls” could sometimes be worth thousands of dollars.
Patriots assistants were often overworked and underpaid, but Belichick provided key stability, too.
It doesn’t always pay well to work for Bill Belichick, but it pays to impress him.
According to Seth Wickersham’s new book on the New England Patriots, “It’s Better To Be Feared,” Belichick often gives the hardest-working coaches cash bonuses.
“Green balls,” as they’re known within the organization, can be worth hundreds, even thousands of dollars, according to Wickersham.
“Belichick would reward the coaches who made little, out of his own pocket,” Wickersham wrote. “During the season, he gave out what were called ‘green balls,’ wads of cash that could reach thousands of dollars. After the season, he would write a personal check to staffers who had overperformed – sometimes up to the six figures.”
As the book details, working for Belichick could be a blessing and a curse.
Belichick often makes his staff work long, rigorous hours. He would reportedly be in his office by 4:30 a.m. and not leave until after midnight on some nights. As Wickersham wrote, Belichick’s “19 hours were different than anyone else’s” – spent watching film, trying to answer some schematic question, only to unearth more things to learn.
According to Wickersham, coaches met in the early evening to watch film. Belichick would replay mistakes over and over, criticizing players and coaches. There would be a five-minute break to grab food, then back to the film room before sending coaches on their own to dissect the problems.
Wickersham described the atmosphere in the Patriots’ building as unique to the NFL: “quiet and lifeless and focused.”
According to Wickersham, after the Patriots’ first Super Bowl win in 2001, two assistant coaches asked each other, “At what price?”
Furthermore, Belichick was known for underpaying coaches. There were two nicknames for lower-level staff in New England: “PHDs” for “poor, hungry, and driven” and “20/20s,” young coaches working 20 hours a day for $20,000 a year.
Despite the tough conditions and poor pay, working for Belichick also had its benefits. As Wickersham noted, Belichick rarely fired coaches – “once you were in, you were mostly in.”
In a profession with high turnover rates and instability, the Patriots became the face of stability. Coaches could stay put for a long time, allowing for local friendships and their kids to stay in the same school.
Working for Belichick also provided a springboard for many coaches’ careers – assistants like Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels, and Matt Patricia all got head-coaching opportunities after flourishing in New England.
According to Wickersham, Belichick even tried to help coaches earn more, telling assistants to take one-year deals, so they had more flexibility and leverage year to year.
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