When the clock hit 0:00 after the New England Patriots’ 27-13 win over the visiting Cleveland Browns on Sunday, the team had reason to celebrate: not only it improve to 8-0 on the year against a talented opponent, Bill Belichick also joined the club of head coaches to win a combined 300 regular season and playoff games over the course of their careers. In fact, only two other men — Don Shula and George Halas — share this elite distinction.
Ever the historian, Belichick surely recognizes the accomplishment he now shares with two of the most successful coaches that pro football has ever seen. During his postgame press conference after the win over the Browns, however, he quickly deflected praise onto somebody else: the players and assistant coaches who worked alongside him during his stints in Cleveland in the 90s and in New England since joining the organization in 2000.
“It’s a great privilege to coach this team and to coach the guys that I’ve coached during my career,” said Belichick. “Fortunately I didn’t play in any of those games, that’s a good thing for us, but I’ve had a lot of good players, a lot of great players, and they’re the ones that win the games. I’ve had a lot of great assistant coaches on my staff — the ones in Cleveland and certainly here. I was a part of those, but I’d say players win games in this league and I’ve been fortunate I’ve coached a lot of great ones.”
For all the success that he has had over the course of his legendary career so far — no coach in NFL history has won more Super Bowl rings than the eight he has earned with the Patriots and as defensive coordinator with the New York Giants — Belichick has always been quick to praise those around him for the role that they have played. His reaction to earning his 300th win is therefore not a surprise, and on-brand for the 67-year old.
His players, meanwhile, were more open to discussing their head coach joining the 300 wins club. Quarterback Tom Brady, for example, called the accomplishment “amazing” and “pretty spectacular” when speaking about Belichick after the game against Cleveland: “He’s the best coach of all time and it’s a privilege to play for him for as many years as I have. He’s taught me so much on and off the field; just been a great mentor for me.”
“I think it’s crazy,” added linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who also mentioned that team owner Robert Kraft held a speech in the locker room for the future Hall of Famer after Sunday’s game. “I couldn’t name one thing that I’ve done 300 times. And for him to get 300 wins at this level, I think he says a lot about how hard it is to win in this league and for him to do it 300 times and the way that he’s done it is special.”
So what does make Belichick as special as he is? For safety Devin McCourty, who has been a part of 132 of his coach’s career victories, the secret lies in his consistency and leadership skills: “He comes to work every day the same way. His expectations don’t change, it doesn’t matter who the player is, it doesn’t matter what situation. He’s always going to remain consistent. And then I think his ability to give ownership to the players.”
“Being here 20 years ago, it was his first year and my first year, it’s been a great journey,” added Brady. “I’m just proud of him and everything he’s accomplished. Amazing to think that he coached for another place and they didn’t think he was good enough, and then he comes here and does a great job. It’s a great celebration for him and certainly hard earned, well deserved, and the only one better than 300 is 301.”