Pro Football Focus has shared some, let’s call them interesting opinions about the New England Patriots through the years — from proclaiming Tom Brady’s decline ahead of the 2014 season (one that kicked off arguably the greatest four-year stretch of quarterback play in NFL history), to advocating for a tank throughout the current offseason, to calling Tyreek Hill and not Randy Moss the league’s best ever deep threat.
With all that in mind, this weeks head coaching rankings do not come as that big of a surprise. Still, seeing Bill Belichick ranked sixth is still pretty baffling.
PFF’s Eric Eager had to say the following about the ranking:
6. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
I’ll admit that there is some legacy built in here, as Belichick has lagged behind for the past decade in terms of making correct decisions on fourth downs, with the 2020 Patriots going for it on just 39% of admissible situations. That ranked 24th in football, and the team surrendered 0.5 expected points in the process.
That said, last year’s team earned just the 21st-most wins above replacement in the NFL but still managed to win seven games in a division where the Bills and the Dolphins reached double-digit victories. It remains to be seen if they can win with Cam Newton or Mac Jones moving forward. But if someone can, it’s likely Belichick.
Using fourth down aggressiveness to rank Belichick behind Andy Reid, John Harbaugh, Matt LaFleur, Sean McDermott and Sean Payton is curious, to say the least. On top of that neither his track record nor the unprecedented challenges his team faced in 2020 — multiple high-profile departures, a league-high eight Covid-19 opt-outs, getting a new quarterback up to speed in limited time — seem to have been considered in the ranking.
Sure, Belichick and his team had a disappointing season last year, in part due to shortcomings in terms of roster construction. However, they still managed to go 7-9 despite bottom-five quarterback play, arguably the worst skill position talent in the NFL, and a shaky defense that lost multiple core contributors either to free agency, the opt-out clause or injury.
If there is one coach that deserves the benefit of the doubt even though he is coming off a losing season, it is Belichick. He is not the sixth best coach in football.