When Matthew Slater first joined the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick had 142 wins on his head coaching résumé. 15 years and three Super Bowl victories later, that number has increased to 325.
The latest of those came on Sunday against the New York Jets, one of Belichick’s former teams as an assistant and one-day head coach. The 22-17 win over New England’s division rivals lifted him beyond the legendary Chicago Bears head coach George Halas into sole possession of second place all-time behind only Don Shula.
And while Belichick and his team are notoriously reserved when it comes to handing out praise for individual accomplishment, the importance of the moment was not lost on those around him. Among them was Slater, the longest-tenured member on his team.
On Monday, the team captain spoke with the media about Belichick and the reasons for his success.
“Look at his career, and all that he’s accomplished, and how long it’s been,” Slater said. “I can sit here for an hour or two and talk about why Coach is so great, but I think a few things really come to mind. I think it’s his love for the game, his competitive stamina. To be 70 years old and to coach as hard as he coaches now is really impressive. And with all that he’s accomplished he’s never let his foot off the gas. He’s been so intentional through the years in how he coaches guys; he coaches every position on our team.
“He’s intentional, and he really is so honed in on the details as to what each player’s assignment looks like, what we need to do to play winning football, the fundamentals. I’m marveling at how he’s been so consistent in his approach over the years. I think it’s hard for everyone to model that type of consistency in any area of their lives. And he’s done that for the entirety of the 15 years that I’ve been here. He’s done it over the course of his entire career.”
Belichick moving into second place on the all-time wins list came later than anticipated, thanks to a Week 7 loss to Halas’ former team, the Bears. However, that did not impact the mood in the Patriots locker room after Sunday’s divisional victory.
Team owner Robert Kraft awarded Belichick with a game ball, while Devin McCourty doused him with water in a celebratory gesture reserved for a player of his status within the organization. Slater also enjoys that status, and himself was honored on Sunday: he moved into second all-time in regular games played by a Patriot (214).
Needless to say that there were plenty of congratulations going around. The coach himself, meanwhile, spoke about the recognition he received from the players’ side on Monday.
“I’m very appreciative of it,” Belichick said. “I mean, our team has been great. They’ve worked hard. They’ve done what we’ve asked them to do. Certainly, satisfying to go on the road and beat the Jets. We were all happy in the locker room. Yeah, I appreciate it.”
The importance of win No. 325 was mentioned by several players in their postgame pressers on Sunday, including quarterback Mac Jones and linebacker Matthew Judon. One day later, Slater shared his own thoughts on Belichick’s milestone.
“It’s great to see him accomplish something like that. To pass George Halas, that’s phenomenal,” Slater said. “I hope he continues to add to that total, and I hope we all appreciate what we have in Coach Belichick.
“It’s easy to become a prisoner of the moment. You look at the new car, the new toy, and ‘Oh, that guy does this,’ or ‘That guy does that.’ Well, this is like that car that’s got 500,000 miles on it and it still runs. And it doesn’t break down and you can depend on it. That’s what we have in Coach. He’s just so consistent, and I hope the fans, I hope the game of football appreciates what he’s doing and what he means to the game.”