I would surmise Bill Belichick's skills as a coach were called into question more so in 2007 than in any other period of his life. Reeling from the Spygate scandal, many talking heads proclaimed Belichick's success was inexorably linked to videotaping signals. That had to be the reason for his success, right? I mean, how else could a coach, who's won 3 rings in such a short period of time, do it? There's no way he's that smart. There's no way he's that good.
And then...there was 2007. Seemingly feeding off of the controversy, gaining strength and grit from the slings and arrows, Coach went on a scorched earth policy, the likes of which haven't been seen in the NFL. It was insane. It was ridiculous. Teams were not only beaten, they were carried away in body bags. In the second half of the season, teams began catching up, but simply couldn't seal the deal. It was sick. It was an Optimus Prime beatdown.
And then, Eli Manning launched an improbable pass after narrowly getting sacked and David Tyree made an impossible catch on his helmet. An Eli to Plaxico reception later sealed the deal. The mighty had fallen. The scrappy New York Giants had put lightning in a bottle and ended hopes for THE perfect season, a 19-0 perfect season. It's hard to hate the Giants. It's hard to loathe them without thinking the Patriots have done the same thing to 3 other Super Bowl contenders. Winning all 3 by 3 points, we've bottled lightning in the form of Adam V's foot. I now know how those fans feel. For me, watching Burress make that Super Bowl winning catch must've been like opposing fans watching Adam smack field goals through the uprights. Put away the party mix. Cancel the parade. The party's over.
Becoming one of the youngest head coaches in the league at the time, Belichick took over the Cleveland Browns from 1991-1995. The Browns steadily improved until a mid-season announcement to move the team threw their 1995 season into a tailspin. Serving as an assistant head coach under Bill Parcells in 1996, Belichick helped coach the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI, where they lost to Green Bay. Following Parcells to New York, Belichick took the same role from 1997-1999. When Parcells left the Jets for the 'Boys, Belichick got the nod as head coach, a job he promptly resigned from the next day to accept the head coaching position at New England. The 2000 season is the only losing season for Bill as head coach of the Patriots. The rest is history.
If you've made it this far, you've made it to the meat of the story. As Bill Cosby is known to say, I told you that story so I could tell you this one. Many have decried Bill's success as being directly linked to Tom Brady, the backup quarterback who stepped in for an injured Drew Bledsoe on September 23, 2001. This sixth round draft pick has turned into one of the greatest quarterbacks of this era. There's probably examples of franchises doing great without a great quarterback, but not many. The pundits claim Belichick is riding on the coattails of greatness, that his success as a head coach is inseperable from the success of Tom Brady. But, It's ridiculous to think the ONLY reason for Belichick's success is Tom Brady. It's also, well, immature and childish, showing a lack of understanding of even the most basic of team concepts: the leader is nothing without his team and vice versa
The best hammer in the world, in the hands of an unskilled carpenter is, at best, a paperweight and at worst, a dangerous weapon. Conversely, a bent and broken hammer is worthless to a skilled carpenter. With a skilled carpenter and great tools, you get the Sistine Chapel. With a skilled carpenter and good tools, you get a nice log cabin. Bill may not build the Sistine Chapel like he did in 2007, but I think he'll at least build a nice cabin even if he has to fell the trees himself. And, along the way, give us all a pretty darn entertaining show.
Belichick's skills as a coach will be put to the test this year like no other year. Lose a safety? Not a problem. Lose a receiver? We can recover. But, lose your onfield coach? Apollo 13 bad things can happen. Without smart people on the ground, the module explodes. Without good people in the capsule, it explodes. The 2 are inexorably linked. The 2 need each other to succeed.
And Coach Belichick is ready to prove just how good he is.