Following the 2011 World Series, legendary manager Tony La Russa shocked everyone with the announcement of his retirement. With the MLB All-Star Game approaching and La Russa in charge of the National League it brings the question of the longevity of La Russa’s good friend, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
Both La Russa and Belchick have had comparable success over their careers. La Russa won his first World Series in 1989 with the Oakland Athletics before moving to St. Louis where he would win two more in 2006 and 2011. Belichick has won three titles as a head coach as well winning three Super Bowls in his first five years in New England in 2001, 2003, and 2004. Both men were also honored as coach of the year in their respective sports three times throughout their careers.
So how much longer will Belichick continue in his current position? The job of an NFL head coach is one of the most grueling occupations in sport. Spending 12-hour days in an office and on the practice field preparing the team for the upcoming game is unlike any coaching job in any other sport. Certainly that kind of dedication must weigh on a coach and make him contemplate a simpler life without it.
For Belichick in particular, there isn’t any more he would need to prove to anyone about his capabilities as a coach. After a tough four year stint in Cleveland from 1991-1995, he got his next head coaching job in 2000 with the Patriots. Since joining the team, he’s produced three Super Bowl titles and five AFC Championships. Those statistics put him in a class with other legendary coaching Bill’s, Walsh and Parcells.
Some would question the idea of Belichick retiring considering that he’s the coach of the best team in the NFL, he’s never mentioned retiring, and he’s not even the oldest coach in the league. La Russa’s retirement came as a shock as no one knew he was even considering the option. In his final year, La Russa won baseball’s ultimate prize taking his third World Series title with a young crop of players returning the following season. And even at 67-years old, La Russa was not the oldest manager in baseball with Jim Leyland still managing in Detroit and last year 80-year old Jack McKeon returning to the game for one season.
It may be unlikely that Belichick would retire or be replaced in New England but the team hasn’t enjoyed the same success recently as they did ten years ago. Despite returning to two Super Bowls following their 2004 victory, the team has yet to win another one. They still have the league’s best quarterback in Tom Brady who leads a stellar offense but haven’t been able to replicate the success of the early 2000’s. If the team doesn’t win another Super Bowl soon you wonder if Belichick and owner Robert Kraft will think about making a change in the organization.
In a recent interview, La Russa insisted that Belichick is not yet close to retiring but that statement must be questioned. After all, it was he who retired unexpectedly following the 2011 season in much the same situation as Belichick sits today. If Belichick does retire with only his current accolades, he will be considered one of the greatest coaches in NFL history.