Kolpack: When it comes to picking Super Bowl winner, go with the system

New England Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick, left, and his quarterback Tom Brady have helped build a system that wins Super Bowls. Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports


Now that it appears we survived nature’s latest attempt to permanently wipe out North Dakota and northern Minnesota with an arctic cold blast that was at times pretty intense (I’ll admit, for a lifelong local, even that one caught my attention), there’s a football game to play on Sunday.

The New England Patriots vs. the Los Angeles-St.Louis-Los Angeles Rams. Forgive me if I still think Merlin Olsen is playing defensive tackle for the Rams. The Los Angeles Rams. Then it was St. Louis and now it’s LA again.

Whatever the case, it’s the Patriots vs. the Rams in the Super Bowl. It’s the biggest sporting event of the year, just slightly ahead of the Division I FCS title game.

If you’re not sure who to pick, if your brain is still frozen from minus-30, here’s a bit of advice: Go with the system.


It’s the system that consistently wins titles; not a hot offensive coordinator, a great trio of linebackers or a quarterback who’s having a career year. Go with the team that knows the formula for long-term success and is able to sustain it. Go with the program that knows the right guys to draft or the right guys to sign as free agents. Go with the program that knows the right high school kids to recruit.

It’s hard to do, no matter what level.

We know this, because it’s happening in our backyard.

North Dakota State has it down. The system. The Bison created it in the Division I era with former head coach Craig Bohl starting in 2006 with an FBS win over Ball State. The headline in the next day’s Forum was “Miracle in Muncie,” in reference to the town where Ball State is located.

In retrospect, it wasn’t so much as divine intervention but the beginning of the system. The basics were simple, but putting it together was difficult. Play a physical game in an era of football when the spread offense started to become trendy.

Teams went to more receivers and faster guys on offense. To counter, teams had to go to more defensive backs and faster guys on defense. NDSU, meanwhile, remained old school.

Here’s the other trick: Stay with the system and hope you get a good quarterback. NDSU had Steve Walker, Brock Jensen, Carson Wentz and Easton Stick. The Patriots have Tom Brady.

Don’t cave in to what everybody else is doing and by the fourth quarter, NDSU’s opponents took notice. How else do you go 9-3 against FBS competition.


You take the physical game of football. And then you play physical with players who also possess some quickness.

NDSU’s system at its core hasn’t changed since the arrival of Bohl. Chris Klieman took the baton in 2014 and further mastered it. Last month, Matt Entz was named head coach and by all accounts not much is expected to change.

It’s the West Coast offense. It’s the Tampa 2 defense. You find guys to coach the system, one that resulted in seven FCS national titles in eight years. The most amazing stat is 7-0 in FCS title games, but that’s the product of a program that is physically built for the long haul, both in a 15-game season and over the course of a decade.

Somehow, some way, the Patriots have figured out the formula to winning at the NFL level. I once covered a Minnesota Vikings game when Bill Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Afterward, he seemed like the most arrogant, miserable guy to be around for a few minutes of post-game questions.

The fact is, the guy can run a program. New England has been to the Super Bowl 11 times in franchise history, nine under Belichick. The Patriots have won five of them and a victory over the Rams on Sunday will make it three in the last five years.

They’ll do it because of their system.

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