AP’s Nancy Armour says Bill Belichick, despite the horrible sideline wardrobe and some personality quirks that make him “the guy everybody except New England fans love to hate, football’s version of George Steinbrenner,” there’s no denying he gets it done on the field.
His career regular-season record of 111-81 translates into a .578 winning percentage. Take away those five calamitous seasons in Cleveland, and it jumps to .670. That’s better than any active NFL coach and would put him ahead of George Halas and Don Shula.
He finds ways to win even when the Patriots have no business doing so, exploiting mismatches nobody else sees. He makes adjustments better than anyone, and his team rarely looks the same from one half to another, let alone week to week.
He doesn’t need a roster full of stars, either. Defensive end Richard Seymour was the Patriots only Pro Bowl selection this season, and Brady is their only superstar. They’re certainly not like the Colts, who have Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and uberrookie Joseph Addai.
Belichick prefers guys who are happy to fill holes and get it done. More often than not, they do.
Take this year. Losing Adam Vinatieri, Deion Branch, Willie McGinest and David Givens would send most coaches into rebuilding mode. The Patriots won their sixth division title and are playing for their fourth AFC crown in six years.
This is the time of year when Belichick’s true genius comes out.
The Patriots are 12-1 in the playoffs under him, a staggering display of excellence. Consider that the run has come at the same time the AFC has been flexing its muscles as the tougher of the two conferences. Indianapolis, Denver, San Diego, Pittsburgh – there are no bunnies in that group.
Three Super Bowl titles is impressive enough. Joe Gibbs and Bill Walsh managed it, but other coaching greats like Parcells, Shula and Tom Landry? They’re stuck at two. And Belichick managed to do it in a four-year span.
Add another title next month in Miami, and Belichick can claim a dynasty to rival Chuck Noll’s Steel Curtain of the 1970s.
With a record like that, nothing else matters.
It would seem rather obvious that Belichick is the best active coach in the NFL. Still, it’s really hard to compare great coaches as contemporaries, let alone across time. Conditions constantly change and the situations aren’t always comparable. How much of Belichick’s success in New England is owing to his genius with the X’s and O’s and how much of it is Bill Polian’s mastery of the salary cap and free agency?
And then there’s Tom Brady. The Pats must have done their homework and get kudos for drafting him. Then again, they waited until the 6th round and had a then-young superstar named Drew Bledsoe as their starter. Mostly likely, they had no clue he would be this good. Remember the old ESPN commercial hypothesizing what would have happened had the Falcons not traded Brett Favre to the Packers? “June Jones, coach of the year!” A lot of coaches would be a lot smarter if they had Brady under center.
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