He may be hated by many, almost everyone outside of Massachusetts you could say, but only a fool with their head in the sand would refuse to respect him.
William Stephen Belichick now stands alone at the top of the NFL coaching mountain, the only man with six Championship wins as a head coach. With the Patriots win over the Rams on Sunday night in Atlanta, the oft-proclaimed “AFC overlord” broke a tie with legendary Bears coach George Halas and Vince Lombardi, the Packers coach whose name adorns the trophy that Belichick has lifted yet again. It should come as no surprise that Super Bowl number six had the fingerprints of one of the greatest defensive minds of all time all over it.
The Rams came in to the big game boasting an offence that averaged 32.9 points per game in the regular season and then 28 PPG in the postseason. If the Super Bowl is the only NFL game you watch all year long, you are probably a bit confused as to what happened.
Well, the same could be said for Sean McVay, the prodigious young coach of the Rams. McVay has become the blueprint candidate for teams now replacing their coaches, the joke being that they have been looking to hire anyone who has ever exchanged even the smallest pleasantries with him.
He has turned a woeful Rams franchise around and in addition to that, he has created an offensive brand of football that has been the envy of the league. Oh yeah, all of this done at the absurdly young age of 33. Going up against Belichick, a man twice his age and already established as one of the greatest of all time, represented a mammoth challenge for the wunderkind.
The master proved too much for the apprentice, limiting the Rams offence to just three points, a minuscule 14 first downs and only 260 yards of offence. Jared Goff, the Rams quarterback who had looked like a draft bust until McVay took over in LA, looked like a deer in the headlights as the aggressive Patriots D repeatedly got to him in the backfield and swallowed up his receivers in the secondary. Huge credit must go to Brian Flores, the Pats defensive coordinator, for his game plan. But it is a staple of Belichick’s defensive philosophy to single out and challenge a single player on the opponent. Unfortunately for Goff, it was him.
The Patriots took away a seemingly anonymous Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson and did a tremendous job on standout receivers Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. The overlord was saying to the young Rams QB: “Try and beat us, I dare you.” Goff wasn’t up to the tremendously difficult challenge and as the game went on, it appeared that his coach wasn’t either.
It is said that superstars have an innate ability to self motivate and that is certainly true of Bill Belichick. He has eight rings now, what more is there for him to do, right? Keep winning. To do that, a person like Belichick will not focus on the wins, he’ll relentlessly dwell on the defeats.
Last year, he suffered a bone-crushing loss at the hands of Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles. They scored 41 points, marched up and down the field and outgunned the most dominant coach, team and quarterback of the last 60 years. It should be noted however that Tom Brady threw for a colossal 505 yards and three touchdowns. It would be fair to speculate that Belichick felt that he owed his legacy and Brady after that game. He came back a year later, planned and then executed an absolute masterpiece to shut down the Rams and the people that hoped he and his team had fallen off their perch for good.
In some sports, style is everything. The NFL is not like that. Winning is everything and you do that by reacting, adapting and constantly being a step ahead of the curve. Nobody has managed to do that as consistently as Bill Belichick. The NFL as we now know it is a passing league, driven by explosive offences. The Rams are one of the very best teams representative of that. But, when the rest of the league zigs, Belichick zags. His Patriots throttled three high powered offenses in the postseason, allowing just seven points in three first halves whilst using the running game to dominate the opposition. Offensive gurus around the league repeatedly tell you that offences should “take what the defence is giving you” – that is hard to do when facing a Belichick team in the mood that they were in on Sunday night. They refused to give the Rams anything.
Belichick doesn’t respond to trends, he does what it takes to win. Using that tactic has not let him down. The rest of the league and its followers get excited about the young coaches taking the regular season by storm, while the old guard keeps on winning when it matters the most.
At age 66, it is hard to say when Belichick will decide to retire to the comfort of his sofa. After winning ring number eight, he could decide to leave as a champion. Or he could go and win numbers nine and 10.
It doesn’t matter, because the throne at the top of the mountain belongs exclusively to him now. Halas’ name adorns the NFC Championship trophy and Lombardi’s name is on the biggest trophy of them all. Belichick is not as fondly thought of as the fabled Packers coach, but there will come a time when the NFL will have to acknowledge his greatness and name something after him. Astonishingly, Belichick has won 3 Super Bowls since he last won a Coach of the Year award. It would be fitting to name that after him. Regardless, as everybody knows, he likely won’t care either way.