By In Stuff

The Belichick Puzzle


Bill Belichick became a defensive coordinator in 1985 with the New York Giants.

This will be the 32nd Super Bowl since that day.

Belichick will coach in his tenth one. TEN. He coached two as defensive coordinator for the Giants. He coached in one as defensive coordinator for the Patriots. And this will be his seventh as head coach of the Pats. That’s 10. Think about that number for a minute. He has coached in almost one-third of all the Super Bowls that have been played since Ronald Reagan was just beginning his second term in office, since Madonna first went on tour, since Wrestlemania I.* The mind boggles.

*To give you an idea, Hulk Hogan was in seven Wrestlemania final matches. Bill Belichick will coach in his 10th Super Bowl. Ergo, Bill Belichick is greater at this than Hulk Hogan was at Wrestlemania.

There have been many, many, many, many, many, many attempts to explain what makes Bill Belichick so good at this coaching and winning business. It obviously cannot be summed up easily or else everyone would just do what he does. We live in a copycat world and always have. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I am writing a book about Harry Houdini. After Houdini began having great success with his handcuff escape act in the early 1900s, imitators showed up all over the world with handcuffs and comically similar names like “Oudini” and “Hourdene” and “Whodini.”

This, you probably know, drove Houdini mad. He was a fighter — “Do others,” he once wrote as his favorite motto, “or they will do you” — and he hated the imitators with the burning rage of a thousand suns. He would show up at the plagiarists’ shows dressed as an old man and with specially designed handcuffs. When the faker called for volunteers, he would come on stage, lock them up so they could not escape, and then rip off his disguise.

“I am the one and only Houdini!” he would shout. “And you are a fraud.”

Later, in order to squash the imitators, Houdini invented various new escapes — the milk can, the Chinese Water Torture cell, and so on — but in time (especially in the years after his death) others would do these too. The imitators always find a way.

In other words, if there was something easily copied in Bill Belichick’s coaching style, people would have copied it. Yes, you could argue that people HAVE copied Belichick’s coaching style and the reason they cannot catch him is because Belichick has Tom Brady, who is now making an almost indisputable case as the greatest quarterback who ever lived. There’s something to that.

And yet, as Michael Schur suggests, look at the Patriots starting lineup on offense Sunday.

QB: Tom Brady — 6th round pick.

RB: LeGarrette Blount — Undrafted free agent came to Patriots for 7th round pick.

WR: Chris Hogan — Undrafted free agent who played lacrosse in college.

WR: Malcolm Mitchell: 4th round pick, rookie.

WR: Julian Edelman, 7th round pick, college quarterback.

TE: Martellus Bennett, 2nd round pick of Dallas in 2008, on fourth team, came to Patriots for 6th round pick.

LT: Nate Solder, first-round pick, All-American at Colorado.

LG: Joe Thuney, 3rd round pick, rookie.

C: David Andrews, undrafted free agent out of Georgia.

RG: Shaq Mason, 4th round pick, second year.

RT: Marcus Cannon, 5th round pick, recovered from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

That is the offense that basically played a perfect game against Pittsburgh Sunday, an offense that scored 36 but probably could have scored 100 if necessary. It’s impossible, right? You should not be able to take an Isle of Misfit Toys team like that and make them into a Super Bowl team. And yet, that’s where we are.

The Patriots’ defense (which led the league in fewest points allowed) has a few more high profile players, a few more high draft picks on it, but the defense also revolves around some impossibly wonderful discoveries like cornerback Malcolm Butler, an undrafted free agent out of West Alabama or Elandon Roberts, a 6th round rookie out of Houston.

How in the world do the Patriots do this? How do they KEEP doing it after everyone has had years to study and catch up? There is not one answer, but I do agree with my friend Dave Fleming, whose ESPN story on Belichick late last year was one of the best (it is also one of the “manys” linked above). Dave tweeted this:

I think there’s a lot to that. For a while in college basketball, you might remember, a whole bunch of coaches tried to ape the 40-minutes of hell style of Nolan Richardson’s Arkansas. It was becoming something of a joke; you would go to media days in the SEC or ACC or Big 10, and every single coach would talk about how “We’re going to run!”

Well, we asked Richardson is he was worried that everyone would start playing like Arkansas and he just laughed and laughed. “Yeah, it’s one thing to SAY you’re going to run,” he said. He didn’t even need to finish the rest of the sentence.

And so it’s one thing to SAY, “We’re going to throw 70 times a game if that’s what it takes.” But it’s another thing to do it.It’s one thing to say, “We’re going to play the best players regardless of their contract situation, regardless of where they were drafted.” But it’s another thing to do it.

It’s one thing to say, “We’re going to play the best players regardless of their contract situation, regardless of where they were drafted.” But it’s another thing to do it.

It’s one thing to say, “We’re going to take their best player out of the game even if it means giving up play after play after play to others. But it’s another thing to do it.

It’s one thing to say, “Our star player is now hurting the team more than he’s helping” and just release him. But it’s another thing to do it.

Belichick is probably the smartest coach out there, but I don’t think his absurd success comes down to smarts. He’s probably the hardest-working coach out there, but he might not be — lots of coaches work insanely hard. He’s probably the best evaluator of talent out there, but he’s had his share of misses through the years too. And there are others who have done a nice job building teams.

The biggest thing with Belichick, I think, is that intense and utterly unshakeable focus he has on winning games. Nothing knocks him off course. He doesn’t try to “establish the run,” just because you’re supposed to do that. He doesn’t stick with the same gameplan, no matter how successful it might have been, because you’re supposed to “dance with the one that brung ya.” He doesn’t ever draft a player because the so-called experts like him or because other teams have him projected to go in that spot. He speaks cliches but he doesn’t follow them.

Instead, he looks at every situation — in the draft, in preseason, in practice, in games and in the Super Bowl — and asks the exact same question: “What, in my view, will give us the best chance to win?” And then, without exception, he does that thing. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Most of the time, though, it does. Ten Super Bowls. The style can be imitated. It cannot, as the old line goes, be duplicated.

“You will notice that some of these tricks are very simple,” Houdini himself wrote once. “But remember that it is not the trick that is to be considered but the style and manner in which is it presented.”






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130 Responses to The Belichick Puzzle

  1. Greg says:

    Wait, you’re writing a book about Houdini?

  2. invitro says:

    I don’t know much about the NFL, but I did notice that the Pat’s top two receivers are both white guys. Are there many teams for whom this is the case? It sort of reminds me of Popovich’s Spurs teams that have often been loaded with non-US players…

    • Daniel Prenat says:

      Technically their top 3 pass catchers are white if you include Gronk, I know he is hurt but was still a part of that offense for more than half the year. Not sure if thats happened in the NFL in the last couple decades.

      • Rob Smith says:

        It’s because they’re undervalued. That’s what Belichick looks for. It’s his own version of money ball & receivers are often overlooked if they’re white. That’s changing with the Jordy Nelsons of the world & others. But nobody collects undervalued assets like Belichick. I’d equate it to Gregg Popovich signing lots of foreign players (regardless of race). More teams do it now, but Popovich did it for a long time before others caught on.

        • Tepposdad says:

          Great comment, market inefficiency is what it is all about. Everybody is going after the same players, find out what the blind spot is!

    • MikeN says:

      Perhaps this was why Edelman even after a good season was passed over by the rest of the league. Patriots got him back after they released him, steal of the decade.

  3. Amy says:

    As a die-hard Browns’ fan, I have admired and rooted for Belichick since he got screwed over by Art Model. I have elaborate technicolor dreams about those seven super bowls as a head coach and they are in orange and brown instead of red and blue. I get tired of defending his genius to the many, many haters who call him a cheater, etc. He is the best since Paul Brown. Period. Thanks for illuminating that, and for the “many” links.

    • Rob Smith says:

      But, in the end, ownership is important. Incompetent ownership will do the wrong things always. You can’t win if your owner isn’t fully behind you & willing to live with some losses along the way. Pittsburgh has great ownership & has only had 3 coaches in the last 4 decades. They have the most Super Bowl wins. New England, under Kraft, almost there. The Cowboys won a lot until Jerry decided to take more control. He went from being a good owner to a bad owner. Lately he’s been tinkering less and letting the coaches coach (more). That’s helped. Arthur Blank has been a good owner for the Falcons. They had terrible ownership for 30 years and were always terrible. Ownership is key. That’s why the Browns will never win until they get better ownership.

  4. Darrel says:

    I always have a problem with the following conclusions. Belichick is the greatest coach ever. Tom Brady is the greatest QB ever. Seems to me one of those things simply can’t be true. I understand the sentiment and am awed by the success but if Brady is really the greatest QB ever then do we not have to downgrade the impact of coaching on the Patriots run. Conversely do we not have to take points off of Brady and credit much of his success to the dominance of his coach if in fact Belichick is the GOAT. They are obviously both fantastic but not sure they can both be the greatest ever.

    • Rob Smith says:

      True or False: Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest players ever. Phil Jackson was one of the greatest coaches ever. They’re both true. It’s not always the case in terms of “greatest”, but they certainly can go together. You certainly don’t see great teams without great players and great coaching.

      You can’t win without good players in any sport (at least you can’t win without players playing well, even if they have marginal reputations). In Football & Basketball, at least, you can’t win without good coaching. Managers in baseball have less of an impact.

      It’s not a zero sum game.

      • J Hench says:

        Michael Jordan is wondering why Kobe’s name came up when looking for a player counterpart to Phil Jackson in that analogy.

      • invitro says:

        “Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest players ever.” — It depends on how you define “greatest”. He’s #17 in career WS and #56 in career WS/48. He’s worthy of the HoF, but probably not one of the greatest players ever. He’s somewhere about the 8th-to-11th All-NBA team. (If you need a player to go with Jackson, use Jordan or Shaq.)

        • Marc Schneider says:

          If you are a Hall of Famer aren’t you, by definition, one of the best players ever?

          • invitro says:

            I suppose so… :*)

          • Charlie B says:

            Depends if it’s a “big hall” or “small hall” 🙂

          • invitro says:

            Oh, Kobe is definitely in a small HoF, too. I shouldn’t have started, I know. There used to be an impression that Kobe was an all-time 1st or 2nd team NBA player. That’s all I disagree with :). Maybe that idea is gone after his wretched final few years.

        • MikeN says:

          I hope you mean he’s ranked 8-11, and not 36-55, as would be for the 8th-11th All-NBA team.

          • invitro says:

            No, I mean #36-55.

          • MikeN says:

            Ouch! I would have disputed 8-11 too, but lots of people put him there.
            I can see Jordan Johnson Bird Russell Chamberlain Robertson AbdulJabbar Erving, the consensus top 8 when I was in school, with West and Baylor in the discussion. I found it strange that in a 6 team all-time draft, Kenny Smith got 5 of them.

            After this top 10, throw in James, Duncan, Bryant, ONeal, Barkley, Malone, Stockton, Garnett, Nowitzki, McHale.
            Tough to see Kobe out of the top 25 or even 20.

          • MikeN says:

            And Olajuwon

          • invitro says:

            That’s a fine list. If I went looking for omissions, I’d add David Robinson and Chris Paul. Current players Durant, Harden, and Curry are probably there. And the old-timers feel left out: Mikan, Pettit, Johnston, Schayes, Macauley. They’re never in such lists, but Yao Ming and Ginobili have super-high WS/48 and might be there. And maybe a couple of ABA superstars: Artis Gilmore and Dan Issel.

      • invitro says:

        And actually, using Kobe is a great example of Belichick’s thinking. You, and most of the NBA coaches, thought Kobe was one of the all-time greats. A Belichick or a Popovich would’ve known that was horse hockey, and taken advantage.

        • Rob Smith says:

          I think Kobe did just fine with five Championships. He won five championships. Brady and Belichick have four, btw. And I never used Kobe as an example of Belichick’s thinking. I was just saying that great coaches and great players are not mutually exclusive.

        • invitro says:

          But speaking of the Lakers, did you see what happened to them yesterday? They had their all-time biggest loss, 122-73 to the Mavericks. The Mavs were tied with the Lakers for the worst record in the West before the game. LAL got off to a decent start, but they seem to be gunning for another top-3 pick now…

        • Marc Schneider says:

          Football is far different from basketball in that an NBA team can win titles with one or two transcendent players. In football, lots of great players don’t win championships and the difference between having a great player and just a good player (except maybe at QB) isn’t that much. And I think that’s what Belichick realizes. Replacing a “great” with a good player doesn’t hurt the team that much as long as the other players are also good. I do think, however, that his system works because of having Brady.

      • invitro says:

        And… 🙂 I believe Jerry Krause and Jerry West deserve at least at much credit as Jackson for those nine rings. David Stern and the refs deserve a big chunk of the credit, too…

        • Rob Smith says:

          West got Shaq to come to LA and drafted Kobe mid 1st round. I think LA fans give “The Logo” a ton of credit.

        • MikeN says:

          Jerry Krause drafted a bunch of players who with the exception of Kerr were exposed once Jordan left. Give him credit for signing Pippen cheap, but at the time they could ignore the salary cap.

          • invitro says:

            He also gets various amounts of credit for bringing in Rodman (in a real hoodwink trade), Kukoc, maybe Cartwright, maybe Harper. He was always improving the Bulls with big deals, and that shouldn’t be taken for granted… many GM’s would’ve just sat around and watched Jordan & Pippen.

        • NevadaMark says:

          Not so sure about Krause. After all, he had nothing to do with Michael Jordan being a Bull.

    • JD says:

      I suppose we will never know since they’ve basically only ever had each other. Joe Montana was great even without Bill Walsh. Jerry Rice was great even without Joe Montana. But with Belichick and Brady, we don’t have a lot of evidence to look at.

      I would say this though: Brady has been an All-Pro, Super Bowl winning quarterback for the most part with a rotating group of receivers and running backs who were never all that good anywhere else in their careers (with the exception of Randy Moss and maybe Corey Dillon). And Belichick did have great success as a defensive coordinator with the Giants even before teaming up with Brady. I think those points speak to the greatness of both men.

    • SDG says:

      In situations like this I tend to go for the guy actually on the field, doing the football stuff. Still, apparently Belichick had great success with other teams. So which one do you think it is?

      And assuming you have players of above average (if not elite) NFL quality, can a coach be good enough, in any situation, to make that team consistent winners?

      • kehnn13 says:

        I would point out the record of tom Brady’s backup quarterbacks hen he has been injured or off the field for other reasons…Belichick is what makes that engine run.

        • Rob Smith says:

          I’m not a Brady lover or a New England homer. I’m rooting all the way for the Falcons in two weeks & I hope Brady throws five picks and leaves the field crying. That said, your point based on a handful of games is absurd. Anyone who watches Brady play sees that he’s one of the all time greats, if not THE all time great. And that’s said without taking anything away with Belichick’s great coaching.

        • MikeN says:

          Randy Moss had a tendency to make quarterbacks look good. Matt Cassel had an excellent team around him on both sides of the ball to go 11-5(and two plays from the #1 seed). So really this amounts to a 3-0 record of Jimmy Garoppolo who is going to get Osweiler money, while being better than him. And one of those wins was a steal courtesy of a missed field goal.

      • Bpdelia says:

        Football is the one sport where coaching is just as, if not more important than players.

        The vast majority of people think of it as a brutal and simple game.

        And it is brutal but the game itself is do insanelycomplex. There are 22 players whose actions are all completely scripted on every single play.

        I honestly could have managed the 98 Yankees to a world series and would have won a cup with the early 80s Oilers or a ring with the early 90s bulls.

        But football is something else all together.

        Its why it’s my least favorite sport now actually. Even assigning credit or blame on one play is seemingly impossible.

        Its also why Advanced stats are less refined.

        So much complexity and chaos on every snap.

        • invitro says:

          “I honestly could have managed the 98 Yankees to a world series and would have won a cup with the early 80s Oilers or a ring with the early 90s bulls.” — You’re full of shit. 🙂

        • Rob Smith says:

          I’ll agree that it’s far easier to coach the 98 Yankees than an NFL football team. I don’t agree with you on the Oilers. The scheme was a big part of their success. Nobody played like the Oilers. They changed the game.

        • MikeN says:

          I think I could have won a World Series with the 98 Yankees. I’d have just put Joe G in charge of everything.

        • MikeN says:

          Early 90s Bulls- lost their first game of the finals, had the third game go to overtime after coming back from 15 down. This was with James Worthy injured.

          In 1992 they were taken to 7 games by the Knicks in the 2nd round, Cleveland was tied 2-2, and so was Portland in the finals. Blazers had a 15 pt lead going into 4th quarter of Game 6.

          In 1993, Bulls were down 2-0 to the Knicks in the conference finals, and Phoenix was up with seconds to go in game 6 of the finals.

          But of course you would have won too.

        • moviegoer74 says:

          Well, if you could’ve won a cup in the early 80s with the Oilers you’d have been an improvement on their actual coach, who was not able to do that. (The Oilers didn’t win the Cup in 1980. Or 1981. Or 1982. Or 1983). Also, Mike Bossy says hi.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        Why does it have to be one of the other? Why can’t they both be important components. Both would probably be great without the other, but they are even better with each other.

        • Darrel says:

          My point I guess is this. Trade Peyton for Brady early in their careers. Now ask yourself is Brady still thought of as a potential GOAT and unanimous top 3 QB of all-time while playing for Dungy and Caldwell. Similarly if Bledsoe doesn’t get hurt and the Pats trade Brady for a pick(ala Mallet) to help win now is Belichick now coaching the LA Rams in a Dan Reeves like career.

          • BillM says:

            Belichick actually was planning on trading Bledsoe in the offseason and go with Brady, the injury just sped up the timetable.

            Peyton with Belichick is a fascinating what if. It probably works about the same, tho Peyton loved running the Colts offense himself, for obvious reasons.

          • MikeN says:

            Works about the same means what?
            Peyton would have won more, because Belichick has an extra gear that his other coaches didn’t. Manning Colts would have lost that Baltimore game that preceded the DeflateGate game, while Pats had Belichick to dial up an Edelman touchdown pass and a wide receiver as an offensive lineman.

  5. Bryan says:

    1) Get elite QB
    2) Play contract games to limit that cap hit
    3) Release or trade star players who aren’t enough of a net positive when factoring in contract
    4) Play in AFC East so you can amply rest injuries during year
    5) Play in AFC so for 16 straight years you almost never have to beat 2 elite QBs to reach the Super Bowl
    6) Once you’re dominant enough attract ring chasers who will play for team for below market value and/or have Kraft pay the difference under the table to sidestep the salary cap
    2014 – Flacco and Luck, 2004 – Peyton and rookie Big Ben. If Belichick/Brady are in New Orleans and Payton/Brees are in New England how different do you think their careers are? Payton/Brees went 1-0 against Manning, Belichick/Brady went 2-3. Thankfully for B/B they can get to the Super Bowl beating Osweiler and a one-legged Big Ben and people go “oooh, ahhh, another Super Bowl” while dodging the firepower of Alex Smith and Connor Cook.

    How many NFC playoff QBs are better than any AFC QB not named Brady factoring in health and age? How important is the QB position in football? How did Brady get to the Super Bowl 7 out of 16 seasons?

    • Rob Smith says:

      I do think that New England playing in the AFC East made it easier. The 49ers playing in the West in the 80s and early 90s with automatic wins against the Falcons and Saints every year certainly didn’t hurt then either. The Braves playing in a league with the Mets, Marlins and prior to their recent run a few years ago, the Phillies got them a lot of wins too.

      But I think it isn’t just winning, but great ownership, great coaching and a great QB…. the same ones every year creates a stable winning environment. That, along with playing in a weak division with a number of easy wins baked before the season starts. That will definitely draw in the ring chasers. But the thing is…. except for Pittsburgh, who else has really created that kind of stable winning environment? It’s like Joe noted. Anyone COULD do it. They just don’t. The Browns fire a coach nearly every year despite their obvious personnel issues. Almost every team over-react to losing seasons. They flush a young QB too early. They blow things up because of a rough season. If teams hired good GMs and coaches, stayed out of the way, and accepted that some seasons will be duds (often injuries are a huge factor), then they’d win more. But teams don’t do that. They react to fans screaming on talk radio. It’s panic really. That’s terrible leadership. Leadership is less and less likely to be patient. Therefore the teams that are patient, like the Pats, will win even more.

      • Rob Smith says:

        Let’s take the Falcons. Last year ended very badly. The fans and talk radio were yelling for Matt Ryan’s head. They wanted Kyle Shanahan run out of town. They were questioning Dan Quinn’s ability & making fun of his “brotherhood” stuff. They called him “Coach Bro”. I’m not saying Falcon’s ownership is super patient. They have blown a couple of guys out (although certainly not without cause & after plenty of time to right the ship). But they could have overreacted, fired Kyle Shanahan & shipped Matt Ryan out.

        Instead, they fixed the center position with Alex Mack who essentially fixed the whole line. They brought in Mohammed Sanu and guys like Taylor Gabriel to take the pressure off Julio Jones. And they brought in a lot of rookies to play defense, replacing mediocre to poor defensive players with exciting & athletic, but sometimes raw, players. They fixed the problems. They didn’t fire the coach or coordinator or trade their best player. It’s VERY hard to adjust to new coaches and new styles all the time. In fact, Ryan had to decide to adjust to Shanahan & vice versa, or it wouldn’t have worked. They were fighting each other last year. I suspect that Quinn and the leadership insisted on them coming together during the off season (neither one of you guys is going anywhere, so you better fix it). Now they’re in the Super Bowl with the top scoring offense and the league MVP.

        Teams really need to address their real issues. It’s usually not the coach. But the GM needs a good scapegoat when they pick the wrong players.

        • Patrick says:

          True story: the Falcons four non-Julio WRs (Sanu, Gabriel, Hardy, and Robinson) combined for zero touchdowns last season. It’s amazing the production Atlanta has gotten from them. I know having Jones helps a lot for obvious reasons, but still, talk about buying low and picking the right guys

          • Rob Smith says:

            Part of it’s Ryan, but the scheme and play calling has created guys running free in the secondary regularly. BTW: the only surprise was Sanu. Robinson didn’t play last year.Justin Hardy was a 4th or 5th receive last year & was famous for his drops. Gabriel was an afterthought with Cleveland. The scheme dictates involving everyone, including the running backs and Ryan spreads it around well. That makes Julio even more dangerous. You can’t cover everyone. That’s the issue for the Pats. Teams have taken Julio away & still lost badly.

      • Otistaylor89 says:

        The Pats have a worse record against the AFC East than against every other division over the last 16 years. The AFC East only looks bad because they are spotted at least one lost every year and most time two against the the best team in football, which no other division has to deal with.

        • MikeN says:

          No they don’t. AFC West is 12-20. AFC East is 22-76. Even NFC South and NFC West are better at 3-9 and 5-15.

          • otistaylor89 says:

            Sorry, I was meaning to say that the AFC has more total wins (508) and more non-divisional wins than any other division since Re-Alignment in 2002. Yeah, a lot of it are NE wins, but the rest of the AFC East would have great shots at the playoffs if they weren’t spotting the rest of the conference one win, at least, per year for 15 years.

      • Mark Daniel says:

        I’m not sure why you brought up the Saints. In their SB run, they beat the freaking Cardinals and Vikings, with 38 year old Kurt Warner and 40 year old Brett Favre as QB’s, respectively.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          The fact is, I’m sure you could take pretty much every team that wins over a long period and poke holes. The Yankees in the 50s/60s played in a weaker AL. The Packers of the 60s would not have won their last championship if they had been in the Rams’ division, on and on. It certainly helps that the Patriots have played in the AFC East, but why haven’t the other teams in the division taken advantage?

      • moviegoer74 says:

        The New York Mets wish to remind you that the Braves 1st 3 division titles came in the NL West, and that they won 88, 88, 97, 94 and 82 games from 1997-2001, smack dab in the middle of the Braves’ streak of NL East titles.

    • BillM says:

      “while dodging the firepower of Alex Smith and Connor Cook.”


      • MikeN says:

        I missed it too, but I think he was reinforcing his point about weak quarterbacks.
        That the conference had Roethlisberger, Manning, Rivers, is irrelevant to him.

    • MikeN says:

      Every Pats fan would have preferred to play the Chiefs, if only because Andy Reid is, err, not Belichick.

      AFC had Peyton Manning while Brady was getting those Super Bowls.
      His first year, there was also Rich Gannon who wold win MVP the next year.
      Philip Rivers has about 40000 passing yards.

      You speak of Payton and Brees. They aren’t exactly in a powerhouse division.

  6. Gerry says:

    The dogma is “Do your Job”! No other team, with the possible exception of Lombardi’s Packers, has been so ruthlessly committed to absolute execution of their assignment, each play, by every player on the field. This extends to preparation and each player on the roster. Lombardi had a brilliant run but primarily with the same core group of players and, as with many coaches, there was speculation that his message and tactics were losing effectivness as the roster turned over. Belichick’s tenure is almost 2x Lombardi.

    In addition, don’t believe any other coach, in any sport, uses the entire roster as well as Belichick. His philosophy isn’t dependent on overwhelming individual talent or dominant position group. So if someone goes down there typically isn’t a major drop off in talent or need to modify the game plan. Plus, if each of the 11 guys on the field is doing their job, and playing to the whistle, eventually they catch or cause a breakdown by an opponent who isn’t.

    I’m a Giants fan and remember an interview with Carl Banks about the Super Bowl vs. the Bills. They had a dominant, veteran defense that was also prideful. Belichick told them the best chance for them to stop the Bills offense was for Thurman Thomas to gain 100 yards on the ground. It was counter intuitive, both tactically and competitively. However, BB understood the quick strike capabilities of the Bills receivers on crossing routes. Having the linebackers drop deeper meant Andre Reed was going to get hit by a guy with a 50 on his back and not a 20. The receivers heads were on a swivel and it threw off the timing of the offense just enough. Levy eventually caught on but that change, as well as the Giants controlling the ball offensively, won the game. This wasn’t a long term recipe for success but Parcells and Bellichick knew they just needed for it to work for 60 minutes.

    Banks’ finished by saying the defense didn’t understand and balked but came around because “Hey, Bill said this would work”. The confidence and trust was just implied.

    • Rob Smith says:

      It’s hard to say that Lombardi’s tactics weren’t working in his final years. He ended up winning three straight championships, including the first two Super Bowls in his final three years. Lombardi had a goal to win three straight. Once he’d accomplished that, he wanted to be the GM only. He had effectively been in charge of player personnel, while coaching for quite a while. So he didn’t want to coach anymore. Of course, once he did that, he regretted the move. That’s why he ended up with the Redskins for his final year before he died. A very successful year, btw. But I do acknowledge the Belichick has done it for longer. But it was Lombardi’s decision to step down. Belichick will probably keep at it until Brady retires. After that? He’ll be in his late 60s. I can’t see him hanging on much, if at all, after Brady’s gone. He’s no spring chicken.

      • Gerry says:

        Lombardi was a great and successful coach throughout his entire tenure at GB. However, similar to Auerbach, there was some thought that he believed the run was coming to an end and wasn’t sure he could retool and transition his philosophy to a new roster.

        I don’t subscribe to any theory that he balled on the team as that implies he was a front runner which he was clearly not. But I do believe that he was probably exhausted from self imposed pressure to succeed and also losing his guys. Hornung, Taylor and Jerry Kramer were gone and Starr, Willie Davis, Nitschke, Willie Wood, Forrest Gregg etc were all near the end of their careers.

        The Lombardi Packers were an amazing blend of precision and power on both sides of the ball. This was driven by Lombardi. That group had about 10 HOF players and Hornung once said that Gregg and Adderley were the only ones that would have done so with any other team. The rest achieved success largely because their Coach got everything out of them.

        My intention wan’t to knock Lombardi but most coaching styles (probably more prevalent now) have a shelf life. Particularly those that drive commitment and execution. That’s one of the things that makes Belichick so exceptional. Think only Wooden has had a similar run with such diverse personnel.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          Jerry Kramer wasn’t gone. He retired after the 1968 season, after Lombardi had left. Basically, in those days before free agency, it was very, very difficult to stay on top (which makes what the Cowboys did more remarkable). The Packers had their run with the same group of players and then collapsed. They almost certainly would have collapsed if Lombardi had stayed. At some point, the players get old and their motivation starts lagging. Except, apparently, for Brady. But it’s a different time; he is rich and doesn’t really have to worry about what he is going to do after football.

          Not only was Lombardi exhausted, he was ill. The cancer didn’t just come on suddenly, he was having intestinal issues for several years, largely brought on by stress. Belichick strikes me as the sort that as intense as he is, he can somehow deflate the pressure so that it doesn’t eat him alive, while Lombardi could not.

          • Rob Smith says:

            Still, Lombardi won his last Trophy with Jim Grabowski, Donny Anderson and Ben Wilson at running back. Carroll Dale only caught 34 balls. Bart Starr threw 9 TDs to 17 picks. They did have several of the players get old, especially on defense and the OLine. That was a huge factor. They never brought in the young players to maintain the run of success. But that last year, they were running on fumes and Lombardi somehow got them that last trophy.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            It also helped that the NFL pre-selected home playoff venues at the time. So the Packers (9-4-1) in 1967 played the Rams (11-1-2) in Milwaukee. They had lost to the Rams in LA a few weeks earlier. And they played the NFL championship, of course, in Green Bay in -15 degree weather. Plus, 1967 was the first year of divisional player and the Packers were in a horrid division. Lombardi was obviously a great coach and they had the motivation to win the third straight championship. But they probably weren’t the best team, which I guess is Rob’s point.

          • Gerry says:

            They won 3 playoff games and beat the Rams 28-7 as Roman Gabriel was 11-31 and was sacked 5 times. Henry Jordan had 3.5 sacks and they just couldn’t block him or Willie Davis.

            This was the last, successful, gasp of a great run and Lombardi made full use of his roster. Four backs had > 100 touches with none exceeding 130. Travis Williams came on late in the year and had 4 TD’s on KO returns. He had more than 700 yds on just 18 returns. Average return was > 41 yds.

        • Quintin says:

          This has been a fascinating conversation to read. But definitely do not forget that Bart Starr was one of the greatest QBs ever. His numbers for the era are extraordinary. And the “great Packer moments” – most noticeably the Ice Bowl – have his fingerprints all over

          • Gerry says:

            On a team that featured so many HoF players and big personalities, Starr was the acknowledged leader. That really speaks for his contribution and personality.

            Lombardi also deserves credit for creating an environment where a soft spoken individual could lead by example.

    • SDG says:

      Saying “do your job” is simplistic. I don’t think the other teams are being lazy. I believe Joe’s point is Belichick has enough confidence in himself to take strategic risks. To not run the expected play because that’s what the situation calls for or because that’s what his players are good at. To not always draft the player one would expect, but to go with the one that fills a need even if there are better players available. He can either succeed hard or fail hard; if he does the latter he’s gone and no one remembers him, if he succeeds each successive decision is more likely to be adopted because he’s earned the trust of the players and owners. And it self-perpetuates.

      • Gerry says:

        You can say it is simplistic or simply an emphasis on fundamentals and execution. Other teams aren’t lazy but the Pats players have a broader job description For example, everybody on the field blocks for the Pats. Their wide receivers don’t just “engage” they block and hold their blocks until the whistle. That’s a big advantage in numbers. I’ve seen Brady blocking several times this year.

        “Doing your job” trumps talent in the Belichick system. That’s why Jaime Collins, and many other, are no longer with the team.

        • Patrick says:

          I think the Patriots are unique in that they’re a bit more likely to get rid of a talented player who isn’t rowing the boat, so to speak. Collins is a good example
          But I think this mentality among Pats fans that their players are so much more dedicated than everyone else’s is sort of tiring. Yes, there are some players elsewhere who aren’t focused all the time. But honestly, I think it’s sort of arrogant to pretend the Patriots have the market cornered on hard work/teamwork/dedication, while everyone else is just looking out for themselves while the Pats players are all about team. Obviously, the Patriots are dedicated towards winning the Super Bowl. But who isn’t? I’ve see these comments on articles talking about Matt Ryan possibly winning MVP. The idea that while other QBs concern themselves with individual awards, Brady is focused on winning; as if Matt Ryan is going into the playoffs with any other goal in mind other than winning a ring.
          The Patriots have arguably the greatest QB of all time in an era in which QB play drives everything, and they have a brilliant coach. They’re fantastic, and a model of success. But they’re hardly unique in their mentality of the team before the individual.

          • Gerry says:

            I’m not a Pats fan and agree they are not the only team that has dedicated players and coaches. But they have been able to sustain this culture and success for 15+ years.

            Obviously having someone as consistently great as Brady playing QB that entire time is essential. Playing in the sinkhole that is the AFC East doesn’t hurt either. It almost guarantees a playoff bye each year which is a significant part of the equation.

            So not looking to diminish anyone’s contribution or dismiss favorable external factors. But Belichick’s ability to calibrate and maximize roster talent is remarkable.

          • MikeN says:

            The Pats do do it better. You don’t see players taking plays off. That’s why seeing Logan Mankins get beaten in the Super Bowl by the Giants was so shocking- it just doesn’t happen and the Pro Bowler did it. Other teams do routinely see players giving up on plays. You have choices over what to emphasize as a coach. Belichick has chosen that and also not fumbling. Others thought deflation was the reason, and that this is not a teachable trait.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        Well, I think this sort of understates the importance of having Brady. Would Belichick be able to get away with using lesser players or running unorthodox schemes if he did not have quarterback that could adjust and keep things running? People are acting as if Brady has nothing to do with Belichick’s success.

        • MikeN says:

          Without Brady, they would probably be emphasizing defense more, and have an offense that centered around running and short passing.

  7. Scott says:

    When I watched football, I was a Patriots fan, but I don’t watch the sport anymore. But I remain fascinated by the team’s ongoing success under Belichick. One thing that I kept thinking was how much he always had flexibility in his drafts (extra picks) which he used to trade up or take additional players. This also carries over into games. It’s about being able to adapt as situations change.

  8. mark G says:

    I read the Dave Fleming article, which is in the format of quotes from multiple individuals in presumably separate interviews, grouped thematically. What struck me was the discussion of Belichick’s ethical issues. It very closely mirrored the debate over PEDs and baseball, with opinions ranging from making excuses, to it doesn’t matter, to it matters, but he would be great anyway, to it’s a significant tarnish. Fascinating

  9. SDG says:

    I don’t follow (or know about) any sports except baseball. So forgive me for what might be an ignorant question: isn’t this true in every industry, ever, that most people stick to the accepted way of doing things because if you fail you won’t get fired, while if you fail trying something new, you are seen as an idiot and it ruins your career? Conversely, every industry has innovators.

    I think this is different from the Moneyball argument. That was, in essence, that baseball teams are making dumb decisions on strategy and personnel, because the correct decisions are not obvious to the casual observer, but can be gleaned through statistical analysis.

    Joe is saying Belichick is doing something different – that the correct decisions ARE obvious to the naked eye, and everyone knows what they are but people do the wrong thing through tradition or inertia. Like, say playing a veteran too long when you have a rookie waiting and ready. Baseball teams do that all the time, for dumb reasons (sunk costs fallacy, the fans and sports media like the veteran, a bunch of nonsense about leadership and character). So Belichick, uniquely among football coaches, doesn’t do that. He will run different plays unique to the situation, rather than always doing the football equivalent of moving over the runner. He will do the football equivalent of pulling for a pinch-hitter in the first inning if that’s what the individual game calls for. Am I getting this?

    • Bryan says:

      Bill Belichick = Joe Torre, when he wins he’s a genius, when he blows a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox not so much, but in the end he won enough they stuck him in the Hall of Fame. Belichick/Brady lost the last 5 times they faced Manning (3 Peyton, 2 Eli) in the playoffs but same as Torre they won enough before that happened that it’s glossed over like the 2004 ALCS.
      The final Seattle play of the Super Bowl 2 years ago, maybe Belichick did notice something on either game film or illegally recorded practice and he specifically instructs the defender on how to stop that play. If they hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch maybe Brady and Belichick are 3-3 in the Super Bowl right now and haven’t won since Wrestlemania XX in Madison Square Garden.
      If Seattle scores then Pete Carroll is a genius who used a pinch-hitter in the first inning, throwing for the winning points when everyone expected the ball to be run. Instead Bill Belichick is a genius, either way it’s guaranteed that because of the close late game situation that one of the coaches was going to be a genius. Same as Jeter made an incredible defensive play because Jeremy Giambi doesn’t slide.
      Did Jeter make a great play or did Jeremy Giambi make a bad one? Did Malcolm Butler make a great play or did Pete Carroll make a bad one? As an added bonus after Butler makes the play does he get credit or does Belichick get credit? As extra bonus is Tom Brady a better player because of that play by Butler and a couple of Vinatieri kicks since he could be 1-5 in the Super Bowl? Of course it’s not like the last professional catch of David Tyree’s career (helmet catch) means Tom Brady is less great or clutch.
      A lot of things loom large if you judge the quality of a coach and/or QB based on 6 specific games that all finished with a 3 or 4 point margin of victory.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I don’t think the judgement on Belichick is based on the Super Bowls. The team has won consistently for almost 2 decades. Don Shula was 2 and 4 in Super Bowls and lost in one of the biggest upsets in sports history. I don’t think anyone is saying his legacy is based on the Super Bowl.

        • Rob Smith says:

          Still Belichick and Brady have four Super Bowls. I believe, at QB, only Bradshaw has four. If you go back to pre Super Bowl, of course, there’s Otto Graham. But Brady is pretty much at the top. I believe Belichick is tied with Chuck Noll with four rings too.

          • Gerry says:

            Lombardi and Starr have 5 championships including the 1st two SB’s.

            Also interesting about the Pats is how close all their SB’s have been. Four wins by a total of 13 points and two losses by a total of 7 points. The book isn’t closed on their run but the comparison could easily be about Levy and not Brown, Lombardi or Noll.

          • Mark Daniel says:

            Gerry, this is incorrect. It would not be easy to lose 6 close games. The Bills are 0-4 in SBs because they lost a close one, and got demolished in three others. If the Bills had played four close Super Bowls, they would likely have at least one win, if not two or even three.
            Thus, the Pats are 4-2 in Super Bowls (all close), they could “easily” be 3-3 or 2-4. It would have been extremely unlucky for them to be 1-5 and even more so to be 0-6.

          • MikeN says:

            They were not lucky to beat the Eagles in a close game. The Eagles played very methodical at the end and ran out of time.

            The Panthers were lucky to keep it close. Belichick decided to shut down the running game and Delhomme unexpectedly played excellent.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            True about Lombardi and Starr having five rings, but they only had to win one game to win the first three, and two to win the fourth. Not to take anything away from them, but it’s much harder to win the Super Bowl today than to win the old NFL or AFL championship.

          • Gerry says:

            True about only having to win one playoff games but there was also a greater consolidation of talent on each team and only two teams qualifies for the playoffs.

            For example, GB was 11-2-1 in 1963 and didn’t make the playoff. Starr only started 10 games that year because of injury.

            Also, don’t think either the Pats or Falcons broke a sweat this post season.

        • Bryan says:

          Ignoring the Super Bowl and giving credit to defensive differences for career record, Brady is basically Brees. Adjusted Yards per pass attempt is a decent overall metric for QBs without much of a run game. 7.8 for Brady in NE and Brees in NO, San Diego brings Brees down to 7.5 for his career. 3rd and 4th in all-time passing yards and TDs. 1st and 14th in career completion rate, advantage Brees. 2nd and 15th in career interception rate, advantage Brady.
          Being “only” Brees is still a Hall of Fame lock absolutely amazing career. But few people outside of Louisiana are going to put Brees ahead of Montana on an all-time list.

          • duffsovietunion says:

            The way the Saints have basically wasted Brees’ career is criminal.

            Yes, they won one SB, but that’s the only time they’ve even been close despite 11 years of a borderline top 10 all time QB. It doesn’t reflect well at all on Sean Payton or especially Mickey Loomis.

          • MikeN says:

            You give credit for defensive differences. Doesn’t that mean that the Saints have a better offense?
            Or did the Pats manage to build a better defense AND a better offensive personnel?

      • MikeN says:

        Watch the play again, and imagine what happens if Jeter is not there. OVERRATED.

      • Mark Daniel says:

        Bryan, this is ludicrous.

        • Gerry says:

          Mark…..agree with your point above and was not intending to create a binary measurement where the Pats would so either undefeated or winless in SB’s. However, can understand reaching that conclusion because of the Levy reference.

          Levy is still a great coach but is in the lower echelon of that group. Had the Pats been 2-4 in SB’s, he would probably reside (in my opinion) with coaches such as Cohwer and Shanahan but certainly below Shula, Landry, Parcells and Gibbs.


          However, some additional adjustment would be necessary if one of those wins came against the Giants in SB 42. Would be an interesting comparison against Shula.

    • MikeN says:

      Yes, you have it right. Joe is saying that Belichick is sticking to plan better than other teams. No one else would have dumped Jamie Collins like that. Lawyer Milloy just before the season, leading to turmoil at the start of a 14-2 season. Asante Samuel and Logan Mankins and even Mike Vrabel are probably moves other teams don’t do.

  10. Ben says:

    I can’t help but think that the Houdini book is some sort of meta-joke: Just as our great-grandfathers waited eagerly for an impossible escape by Houdini, so also do we wait eagerly for the seemingly impossible conjuring of Joe’s book. (Though I don’t think he can make the Top 100 appear. Some tricks God reserves for Himself.)

  11. Craig from Az says:

    Isn’t it somewhat ironic that this article starts with the statement that what Belichik does cannot be easily summed up, then both Pos and most of the commenters attempt to do just that?

    I have no idea why Belichik is so good. I would bet Belichik himself doesn’t really know which of the things he believes in is really the difference maker.

  12. Alter Kacker says:

    One remarkable aspect of the duration of the Patriots’ run — in the past 15 drafts, they have only been in the top half of the first round twice (Ty Warren, 13th, in 2003, and Jerod Mayo, 10th, in 2008). Three of those years (2009, 2013, and 2016) they had no first round choice.

  13. MikeN says:

    Scott Adams recently wrote about a talent stack. He is not the best at drawing, humor, etc, but he is in the top 10%.

    Belichick is near the top in a number of details, and they add up.

    • MikeN says:

      Drafting, he is good but Ozzie Newsome is better.
      Others maybe work harder. Drawing up plays, there might be better coaches. Late game situations, Belichick is not as great as people contend, but he is near the top. I do think he is the best in terms of trading draft picks.

  14. MikeN says:

    The AFC East has not been a doormat. Miami and New York outside the division are .500. Buffalo is 69-89. Even if Pats were 6-0 every year in the division, that would produce records of 7-9, 7-9, 6-10, not great but not like these are cupcakes. There just hasn’t been a dominant challenger(because they lose head to head). Pats still are winning 76% of games outside the division, about the same as 77.6% in the division.

  15. MikeN says:

    According to Bill Barnwell, Matt Ryan’s last 6 games match up with Brady’s best 6 game stretch, games 2-7 of the 16-0 season(right before Sammy Morris got injured).

  16. jalabar says:

    Sorry, I am still stuck on being boggled that this is the 32nd Super Bowl since Belechik started with the Giants. I felt all the air sucked out of my body at once and now I am very old.

  17. Brent says:

    “He has coached in almost one-third of all the Super Bowls that have been played since Ronald Reagan was just beginning his second term in office, since Madonna first went on tour, since Wrestlemania I.* The mind boggles.”

    This reminded me of something else I heard this week, and admittedly this is a total non-sequitor, but 18 of our 45 presidents (40%) were alive in the period from Benjamin Harrison’s birth in 1833 to James Madison’s death in 1836. That is truly mind-boggling. Add in the first 3 presidents and James Monroe, all of whom were dead by then, and nearly half our presidents were already dead or living in 1835, 182 years ago.

    • MikeN says:

      Cleveland was born in 1837. So that was 22 presidents. They lived to about 1900, which is about half the time. What’s even more impressive is this stat-
      Do you know the first President who was born after the Constitution?
      It was John Tyler, the 10th President, takes office after Harrison’s long speech in the rain gives him pneumonia, ancient history, right?

      John Tyler has grandkids alive today.

      • invitro says:

        I bet Tippecanoe doesn’t have any live grandkids…

      • moviegoer74 says:

        I love that fact about Tyler. For anyone wondering, Tyler was born in 1790. He had lots of kids, one of whom, a son, was born in 1853 when Tyler was 63. That son, in turn had kids very late in his life, in 1924 (when he was 71) and 1928 (75) (both sons). Tyler died in 1862, so he had been dead for 60+ years before those grandchildren were even born. Those grandsons have both lived into their 90s (actually, the one born in 1928 is still in his late 80s). So 227 years after his birth, and 155 years after his death, John Tyler’s grandsons still walk this Earth.

  18. jalabar says:

    I have been of the mind that Belichick is the second best coach of the Super Bowl era at least. But he could be the best. It kind of, to me, depends on what you value more, a Hall of Fame QB or a Hall of Fame offensive line. Belechick has had a Hall of Fame caliber QB for all his major success. As did Walsh, for that matter. Now, Belichick has had something of a revolving door everywhere else (except maybe kicker), but Brady has been a constant, and Brady may be the best QB in history. For a coach to have a great deal of success…. say win 3 Super Bowls in 9 years or so with three different QBs not much better than journeymen, that might be more impressive than Belichick. The three QBs , of course, being Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien, and the coach being Joe Gibbs. Now, understand that he didn’t have the success when he returned, which I am sure tends to tarnish his legacy. Some of that, not all, can be attributed to the death of Sean Taylor. But my point is that I have always though that Joe Gibbs FROM 1981 to 1991 was the best coach in history. Those three QBS between all of them have never had a sniff of the Hall of Fame, having I think maybe 2 Pro Bowl appearances between the three of them. Maybe three if Doug ever went with Tampa Bay. BUT, Joe Gibbs also had, through his entire tenure, one of if not the best offensive line in NFL history. So what is more important? Having that beastly forward wall to carry that run-heavy play-action offense that those Redskins ran so lethally? Or to have a Hall of Fame QB to run the show the entire time?

    • MikeN says:

      Not as much recognition, but BB considers offensive line as a top priority, just behind quarterback.

    • Gerry says:

      Think the debate for greatest coach is limited to four names: Lombardi, Noll, Walsh and Belichick.

      The second tier of great coaches gets crowded. There could be a reasonable case for some of these guys being in the top tier but there is usually some mitigating factor that causes them to fall short. In no particular order: Shula (2-4 SB record), Landry (2-3 SB record with 2 losses to Noll), Grant (0-4), Madden (1-1), Flores (2-0 and underrated), Parcells (2-1), Gibbs (3-1), Levy. Cowher (1-1).

      Shula and Landry just came up short in too many big games. Gibbs is great but two of his SB’s were in strike years. Might not be fair but holds him a bit short. Parcells is a personal favorite but think he is a bit shy of the top 4. Madden, Cowher, Levy and Grant just had great programs. Madden, in particular faced great competition. Flores won two with Plunkett in his age 33 & 36 seasons.

      Third tier are all terrific coaches but (IMO) fall short because of lack of championships or consistency of program: Stram, Gillman (innovation), Blanton Collier (understood how to use Jim Brown), Reeves, Schottenheimer (consolation prize), Coughlin (teams too inconsistent), Dungy

      I’ve purposely left off some worthy current coaches (Carroll, Tomlin, Reid, John Harbaugh) because their stories aren’t done yet. Belichick isn’t done yet either but his resume is already worthy. Left off Jimmy Johnson/Jim Harbaugh because I just find them irritating.

      Honorable mention: Vermeil, Holmgren

      Sure that I probably made at least one significant omission and certain there will be some disagreement. The three tiers totals 20 but way too much effort to rank within the groupings.

      • MikeN says:

        How many conference championships did Cowher lose at home? To the Chargers, to Elway’s Broncos, to the Patriots, twice. Nearly lost another to Harbaugh(as QB) on a Hail Mary.

        • Gerry says:

          Included Cowher in the 2nd tier because of the consistency of his teams at a high level. Made it to the conference championship 6x with a 2-4 record. Gets credit for the six and dinged a bit for the losing record in big games.

          Shula had a losing SB record, including the brutal loss to the Jets but also has 17-0 on his resume. Landry had two very tough losses to the Pack as well. Reverse those and maybe the Pats and Falcons are playing for the Landry Trophy next week. There’s really a lot of variables with these guys with the top guys seemingly having the fewest.

          Shanahan probably deserves greater consideration for the 3rd tier or at least included with Vermeil and Holmgren.

      • Chris K says:

        Paul Brown?

        • Gerry says:

          Limited the list to SB era coaches so great coaches such as Paul Brown, George Halas, and Jim Lee Howell were not included.

          Paul Brown is obviously a top tier guy if you extend the timeframe.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I disagree about Gibbs’ record being diminished because of the strike years. I think that actually enhances the coaching. It seems to me that, especially in 1987 when they used replacement players, it would be very difficult to hold the team together. The Giants collapsed in 1987. I think it was probably harder to coach during the strike years. In both cases, Gibbs was able to overcome a huge disruption in the middle of the season. I think that is a real testament to his coaching. (Although the championships themselves might be diminished.)

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Actually, I think Gibbs did pretty well the second time around. He made the playoffs twice, I believe. Given the talent level and the overall incompetence of the management, I think Gibbs did a hell of a job.

      • Gerry says:

        Gibbs is hands down one of the great coaches ever. Good call on his overcoming the Snyder plague to a large degree.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          I don’t think Gibbs, even the first time around, ever had the talent level of, say the Cowboys or Steelers. The Hogs were great, but those teams were not brimming with Hall of Famers.

  19. Chris H says:

    Two things occurred to me that I haven’t seen here – apologies if I have missed them, or given others short shrift, I’m really just pushing others’ thoughts a little further. And I acknowledge I don’t really know what I’m talking about.
    1) Whether Brady is great, or just working under a great coach, or the combination is great, the Patriots for 15 years have not had to be even tempted to overpay for a quarterback. In the modern NFL, a great quarterback is both indispensable and wildly overpriced. You almost can’t trade for one or sign one out of free agency – there are exceptions, of course, but they’re rare – so you have to draft one. And generally, teams are led to spend high draft picks, and even among those, even when drafting quarterbacks not named Manziel, they’re lottery tickets. Teams end up spending huge amounts of draft capital to replace their quarterback, and the Pats have been free to spend that capital on much better bargains.
    2) One of the things that sets Belichick apart is that he’s the talent guy and the coach (someone above referred to the “talent stack” and I think this is the idea). A lot of the great coaches he’s compared to – Lombardi, Brown, Parcells – basically had both roles. It’s obviously exceedingly rare to have someone who’s both a great judge of talent and a great coach, but I think Belichick has mastered wearing both hats. He seems to know exactly the skills he wants in a player, and he seems to know exactly how to use the players he has. Being good at the one makes him better at the other. It’s possible, of course, to have GMs and coaches working well in tandem, but the relationship is more fragile; the coach burns out, the GM retires, whatever. Being in both roles maybe has avoided an interruption that might have happened.
    How Belichick has avoided burnout himself is a mystery to me.

    • moviegoer74 says:

      Well, nobody is arguing that Brady and Belichick aren’t both great. Just whether one, the other or both are the actual greatest ever. But your larger point is an excellent one. There’s a second level to Brady’s value to the Pats beyond his play, which is that the Patriots have not had to spend the organizational capital on QB that virtually all 31 of the other teams have. That’s not just dollars and draft picks, it’s also the time and reps not spent developing other QBs. Even the front office time (mainly BB himself) not spent just THINKING about what to do about QB valuable.

      It’s very similar in that way to secondary benefits the Yankees got out of Mariano Rivera. Unlike most other clubs, the Yankees didn’t have devote any organizational resources to the closer position. It freed them up to focus on other things.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      Chris, I think that’s a good point. Having lived in Miami during Shula’s last great run and after, it always seemed to me that the team went into decline once Shula got power over personnel. He had always had someone to get him the players. Later, he just could never put together a decent defense, running game, etc.; it was all Dan Marino.

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