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How Does Bill Belichick Stack Up Against Today’s Head Coaches

With some lackluster seasons following the departure of Tom Brady, Cam looks at where Bill Belichick matches up against today’s coaches.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 30: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts during the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 30, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Everyone loves a good sports debate. Usually, it begins something like this: “Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams?”, or “Rocky Marciano or Joe Lewis”. And sometimes it’s between athletes in different eras: “Nicklaus or Tiger”? And then there’s the debate between greater dynasties…who had the greater run, the 49ers or the Patriots?

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With Tom Brady’s retirement, the greatest QB career ended, making TB12 the G.O.A.T. If there was any doubt or doubters, his Super Bowl away from Bill Belichick and the Patriots should have confirmed it. He proved without a shadow of a doubt that he could win without Belichick. Belichick hasn’t proven yet that he can win without Brady.

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The debate is raging, many consider Belichick the G.O.A.T of coaches. Until he can do what Brady did, and that’s winning without the other, he cannot be considered the GOAT. The fact is that Belichick was below .500 in Cleveland, and he was 5-13 in New England before Mo Lewis nearly killed Drew Bledsoe, giving us Tom Brady for the first time. Belichick has been nothing more than a very pedestrian head coach since Brady left for sunny Tampa Bay. 

In looking at all-time coaches, there are still Vince Lombardi and John Madden, as well as Tom Landry, Don Shula and Chuck Noll. There are more recent coaches too, Mike Shanahan and Bill Walsh come to mind…and let’s not forget Joe Gibbs who not only won with multiple QBs, but won three Super Bowls with three different QBs…(a record I don’t think will ever be broken). And let’s also not forget the “original” Bill…Parcells, who in many ways, created the legend of Belichick. The fact is, Belichick rode Parcells for many, many years. 

Belichick’s run with the Patriots, (and Brady), is second to none over 20 years. Going to nine Super Bowls and winning six is something to be unbelievably proud of, but until he can produce something close to what he had with Brady, he cannot be considered the GOAT. And the clock is ticking, Belichick is now 70 yrs old, so he doesn’t have many coaching years left.

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I don’t know who the GOAT of head coaches is, I just know it isn’t Bill Belichick. And if we are talking about the here and now, today, Belichick may not even be in the top 10 active coaches. If I were selecting a current head coach to run my team, I’d pick Belichick no higher than 12th. 

Here are the coaches I’d take before Belichick:

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

He’s five years younger than Belichick, he’s won two Super Bowls and has been named Coach of the Year three times. He’s made it to Super Bowls with two different teams and two different QBs. He has a .641 career-winning percentage and when it is all said and done, he could overtake both Shula and Belichick for most wins of all time.

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Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

Tomlin has never had a losing season with the Steelers. He led them to a Superbowl in 2008 and has a career .636 winning percentage. At age 50 he already has 163 wins under his belt.

John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

Harbaugh plays in the tough AFC North division and has managed a .607 winning percentage along with a Super Bowl victory in 2012. At age 60, he brings gravitas to his locker rooms, but he can relate to this new breed of player and hasn’t lost his voice.

Doug Pederson, Jacksonville Jaguars

In his second year in Philadelphia in 2017, he led the Eagles to a Superbowl victory over Belichick and the Patriots with a backup QB named Nick Foles. He is now with the Jaguars and in his first year, he led the team, behind second-year QB Trevor Lawrence to the playoffs, making it to the divisional round. He is a masterful offensive-minded coach and could very well make it to another Superbowl shortly.

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Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams

McVay is entering his seventh year with the Rams and is only 37 years old. In his first six seasons, he’s won 60 games, been to two Super Bowls and has won one.

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

Carroll is the oldest HC in the NFL, about a year older than Belichick. And although Carroll wouldn’t be my first choice to start a franchise at his age, he is still sharp and has proven he can maneuver a succession plan better than Belichick has. In fact, he coached the Patriots for three seasons, going 27-21 (.562%), with a better record than Belichick has had without Tom Brady at the helm. He has won a Superbowl and did famously lose one to Belichick…but again, Belichick had Brady in that game.

Sean Payton, Denver Broncos

Payton, along with the six coaches ahead of him on this list, has won a Super Bowl. He has a winning percentage of .631 and is a fantastic offensive mind. And he, like Belichick, comes from the Parcells coaching tree. For all of Belichick’s greatness, he doesn’t have a fantastic track record of coaching offspring to hang his hat on. If Payton can produce a winner in Denver, he’ll move up on this list.

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Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers

Now we move to the handful of coaches who haven’t won yet, who I’d take. Lafleur has had Aaron Rodgers, so his numbers are a tad skewed, the same way Belichick’s were with Brady. LaFleur has 47 wins in four years as head coach and has a gaudy .712 winning percentage. His biggest knock is his playoff record which is only 2-3. He’ll need to win with QB Jordan Love, or he will fall off this list.

Nick Sirianni, Philadelphia Eagles

This could be low considering all he’s done in just two seasons in Philadelphia. Or, it could be high with only a two-year track record. That being said, the shelf life in Philadelphia is like five years for every year anywhere else. It is not an easy place to play or coach. He’s produced two winning seasons, a fantastic .676 winning percentage and a Super Bowl appearance.

Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers

This could be a stretch too, and in many ways, his last name may have kept him where he is. He’s a winning coach but has only won .531 percent of his games. He is the rare coach who does have a better playoff record than a regular season record, having gone 6-3 in his six years as head coach. He does have a Super Bowl appearance under his belt, with the lead in the fourth quarter. 

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Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills

He’s been the head coach of the Bills for six seasons and has done remarkably well, but he hasn’t been able to get over the top yet. Although he has an amazing record over the last few years, he hasn’t made it to a Super Bowl yet. And he has a losing playoff record, only going 4-5. The team has a .723 winning percentage over the last four seasons and has absolutely dominated the division, including Belichick and the Patriots. But it will take a better run in the playoffs with at least an appearance in the Super Bowl to move him higher.

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

And now to Belichick; at this point, he’s just a J.A.G…Just Another Guy. He is in that next tier of coaches, along with Mike Vrabel and Ron Rivera who are fine. Or someone like Cowboys head coach, Mike McCarthy, who could have easily made this list. He’s a Superbowl winner, along with Payton, Carroll and Harbaugh. He has a winning percentage over .600 and is even over .500 in the playoffs. If he can finally get the Cowboys over the hump with Dak Prescott and make it to a Super Bowl, he will catapult into the top 10…but for now, he is in this tier of coaches. 

I realize this is a little bit of “what have you done for me lately”, but sports, and especially the NFL, is a meritocracy. When head coaches are hired, they all have an expiration date. Belichick’s is now long overdue. Frankly, if Mo Lewis didn’t send Drew Bledsoe to the hospital, Belichick realistically wouldn’t have made it through his second season with the team. They were 5-13 at the time. Brady replaces Bledsoe and the rest is history. But now, the expiration date is overdue again. Two out of the last three seasons have been under .500. They are only 25-25 in that time. And they’ve only made one playoff appearance, getting demolished by the Bills. 

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Many other coaches wouldn’t be around to see a fourth season. Belichick is getting that luxury due to his stature in the game and his history and relationship with owner Robert Kraft. Kraft is still sensitive to how it ended with Bill Parcells and doesn’t want any negative press all these many years later. He’s definitely giving Belichick enough rope to hang himself. The question is, can Bill slip out of the noose, and get back into the discussion of being the GOAT?

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