New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick just won his 226th regular season game as an NFL head coach, tying Curly Lambeau for the 4th most in NFL history. Belichick has coached 339 regular season games, the 7th most in NFL history, so he has won exactly two-thirds of his attempts.
Belichick has the 10th best winning rate of any coach with 100+ games, the 5th best of any coach with 200+ games, and trails just George Halas (68.2%, 1920-67), Don Shula (67.7%, 1963-95), and Paul Brown (67.2%, 1946-75) of the 14 coaches with 300+ games.
Belichick needs 24 more regular season wins to tie Tom Landry in 3rd place with 250, and 21 more total wins to tie Landry when you factor in playoff games.
There is no question that Belichick is in a league of his own when it comes to rating head coaches of the past twenty years, but for some reason he hasn’t been able to win the Coach of the Year (COY) trophies that he deserves. Despite taking the Patriots to five straight AFC Conference Championships and two Super Bowls, Belichick has failed to win the COY in each of those seasons.
Instead, Ron Rivera has won it twice and Bruce Arians has won it twice.
We’ve talked about how Belichick is held to a different standard when it comes to winning this award, and that he has to do something truly transcendent to receive consideration. He won it after leading the Patriots to 18-1 in 2007, and again in 2010 with a league-best 14-2 record.
The award generally goes to coaches that take a team from worst-to-first, like in 2008, 2009, and 2011, or to the coach of the team with the best record, like in 2007, 2010, and 2015. Arians deservingly won his first in 2012 as the interim head coach of the Colts while Chuck Pagano underwent treatment for leukemia. Rivera won the award in 2013 after developing his Riverboat Ron persona and saving his own job.
But I think it’s important to remember the 2014 Coach of the Year, Bruce Arians, as reason for why Belichick should win this year, even if the Patriots don’t post the best record in the league.
Arians won in 2014 after starting quarterback Carson Palmer was lost to an injury and back-ups Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley combined for a 5-5 record. The Cardinals reached the playoffs as a wild card team. He won 80% of the votes for taking the team to the playoffs “despite the loss of his franchise quarterback, his backup quarterback and a handful of valuable starters on defense.”
Those valuable starters were the suspended linebacker Darryl Washington, and two aging starting defensive linemen in 36-year-old John Abraham and 33-year-old Darnell Dockett.
And now let’s take it back to Belichick. He has navigated the Patriots to a 3-0 record with a back-up quarterback, and then a third-string rookie. He went on the road and toppled a team that reached the NFC Championship Game, and then shut out an AFC playoff team in prime time on a short week. He’s done it without the greatest tight end in the NFL and with two defensive captains sidelined.
Just because the setbacks for the Patriots happened from weeks 1 through 4 doesn’t mean they’re less important to individual wins than theoretical season-ending injuries.
I think most would accept these past three weeks as one of the best coaching stretches in Belichick’s storied career, and that alone should be enough to vault him to the top of the rankings. He’ll have to continue to win, of course, but even if the Patriots don’t post the best record it’s obvious that he’s the best coach in the league.
Week 4 brings new challenges as it appears that rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett is hurt and now the Patriots don’t have a quarterback to play against the Buffalo Bills.
It doesn’t matter. The Patriots will find a way to compete, thanks to Belichick.
But when the season is over and the ballots are cast for COY, the voters need to look back and remember the Patriots 27-0 annihilation of the Texans in week 3. They have to burn it into their memory.
The greatest coach in football put together the greatest game plan and shut out his former coaching staff. If that performance isn’t truly transcendent, then nothing is.