The New England Patriots have taken their Super Bowl championship roster and made it even better as they head into the 2017 season. Head coach Bill Belichick has the respect and awe of the other coaches in the league and four AFC rivals praised the Patriots architect at the annual NFL Owners’ Meeting.
“I don't think he's slowing down,” Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said about Belichick. “I mean, the guy is winning rings. He's stumbling over all the rings he's winning, and it's for a reason. He's not slowing down any time soon.”
“I think the Patriots always do a great job,” Harbaugh continued. “Bill and his whole staff, his scouting department are phenomenal in what they do. They're having another excellent offseason.”
Belichick earned his seventh Super Bowl ring as a head coach or coordinator and he shows no signs of slowing down. He has maneuvered free agency and the draft to build a roster flush with young talent and has acquired some young veterans in WR Brandin Cooks, TE Dwayne Allen, and CB Stephon Gilmore to keep the Patriots ahead of the competition.
“The Patriots aren't going anywhere,” Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said. “We're chasing them. Everybody's chasing them. They're on top right now for obvious reasons. They have a great coaching staff, great players. They're doing what they need to do and everybody else is doing what they need to do to try to get better. They've done a good job of adding players they feel fit their system. I know the players they added- whether it's Cooks or Gilmore- those guys are good players and they're going to help them. The Patriots do a great job.”
O’Brien is a former Patriots offensive coordinator so he’s familiar with the franchise’s team building. The Patriots also eliminated the Texans in the playoffs this past year, so O’Brien has witnessed the recent success first-hand.
While O’Brien and the Texans (lovably known as Patriots South) have an understanding of Belichick and his ways, a new hire in the AFC East is finding it hard to sleep while Belichick keeps the Patriots in control of the division.
“That's why I wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning,” Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said about the Patriots offseason. “They do a great job with building their football team whether it's through the draft, late free agency signings, they find pieces that fit what they're trying to do and they're very strategic. Nick Caserio I know well does a great job on the personnel side, and then their coaching staff does a great job. Obviously, it's led by one of the greats of all time.
“It's one thing to have success, it's another thing to sustain it. To me that starts from leadership, and they set the tone, really. I'm sure they do a great job in that regard. It's obvious, it's out there. They've been able to sustain the success and we're all scrambling to be able to try to catch up to them.”
The Patriots have won 14 of the past 16 division titles (Jets, 2002; Dolphins, 2008), have reached the conference championship 11 times, played in 7 Super Bowls, and won 5 Super Bowl titles. It’s a stretch of success not seen before in the history of the sport.
It helps that Belichick has remained in control to ensure the team’s success continues, and it doesn’t hurt that coordinators Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia are entering their sixth seasons in the same role. The consistency in the coaching staff has allowed the Patriots to keep winning even as the players come and go through free agency.
“It's really impressive,” Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said about the Patriots success. “I've got a lot of respect for it from a competitive standpoint. Their résumé speaks for itself. It needs no endorsement from me. They have extreme consistency in the key components: Coach Belichick and that quarterback [Tom Brady].”
The Steelers have arguably been the second-most successful team in the NFL (behind the Patriots) since Bill Belichick was named New England’s head coach in 2000. The Steelers have the third-best regular season record, half a game behind the Indianapolis Colts (176-96-0 for the Colts; 175-96-1 for the Steelers), and they are tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the second-most postseason victories with 15.
The Steelers (2005, 2008) join the Ravens (2000, 2012) and the Giants (2007, 2011) as the only teams other than the Patriots (2001, 2003, 2004, 2014, 2016) to win multiple Super Bowls since 2000.
And the Patriots have often won at the expense of the Steelers, eliminating Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game en route to winning three Super Bowls: Super Bowl XXXVI vs the Rams; Super Bowl XXXIX vs the Eagles; and Super Bowl LI vs the Falcons.
Rivals have come and gone over the years, but the Patriots have been a consistent force in the AFC for the past two decades- and their rivals see no end in sight.