Bill Belichick’s 5 Best Seasons as New England Patriots’ Coach
Bill Belichick's Best Seasons as New England Patriots Coach
You could make the case for against Bill Belichick being the 2013 NFL Coach of the Year, but regardless, he has to be in the discussion with the likes of Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals and Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles. Once again, the 61-year-old has his squad back in the playoffs despite all the injuries and offseason hoopla. With such unpredictable circumstances, one could make the argument that this is Belichick's best year ever.
This year, 2013, marks Belichick's 11th trip into the postseason his 14 years as head coach of the New England Patriots. Take a moment to let that last figure sink in. Eleven trips to the playoffs in 14 years is something that does not happen in this day and age in the NFL, with parity at what should be an all-time high and with the amount of head coach turnover that goes on immediately once the regular season has completed. This past offseason had eight teams give the keys to their franchise to a new leader while the year before saw four changes at the head coaching position. Under that wild and unforgiving fatality rate, the Patriots should have gone through two to three other head coaches since Belichick arrived in 2000.
Shining more light on how successful Belichick has been the last 14 years, consider that he has a 179-68 record (playoffs included) during his ongoing days in Foxborough, good for an absurd 72.5 winning percentage on top of three Lombardi trophies, five AFC titles and 11 division crowns.
Belichick has already been named the league's best coach three times, in 2003, 2007 and 2010, but that does not mean those were his best years on the sidelines. There were other years in which Belichick turned over some poor outlooks and made them into memorable seasons with deep playoff runs.
This team had talent that delivered up and down the board, but for Belichick to keep this team on track to go undefeated was one heck of an effort, even if they did lose the heartbreaker of all heartbreakers to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
This year's squad has lost All-Pros on defense (Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo) and offense (Rob Gronkowski), but Belichick has coached up the notoriously young squad to another division title; their eighth in nine years.
This team went 12-4 in the regular season and would have went to the Super Bowl if they did not blow a 21-3 lead against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game. It is miraculous how Bill Belichick pulled this off given that the offense had no 1,000-yard rusher and a receiving core led by Reche Caldwell (61 receptions) and Ben Watson (49).
Tom Brady goes down 7:22 into the season and all is lost ... Or so we thought. Keeping career backup Matt Cassel in town at training camp cuts made Belichick look like a genius again, as the team went 11-5 on the year. Cassel was a breakthrough performer and the story of the season, but people tend to forget how depleted the defense was. Belichick had to bring in former linebackers Junior Seau and Rosevelt Colvin during the stretch run as depth to the defense.
The Patriots were coming off a 5-11 season in 2000 and seemed like they were on their way to another forgettable campaign in 2001, especially after franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down in Week 2. When "Red, White and Drew," as he is known in New England, was healthy to return with the Patriots floundering at 5-5, Belichick made the gutsiest call of his career by sticking with the then unheralded Tom Brady. The young QB returned the favor by leading the organization to their first Super Bowl title in the dramatic 20-17 win against the "Greatest Show on Turf," the St. Louis Rams.