Long before Bill Belichick was building a reputation as a defensive mastermind, Bum Phillips had one of the great quotes in NFL coaching history. In assessing what makes Don Shula (owner of a record 347 wins) so dang great, Bum explained: “He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.”
No summation could ever illuminate Belichick’s greatness any better. Not only does Belichick beat you with his own players, he can beat you with your players. And that’s exactly what last night’s humiliation of the Texans was, as well as this 3-0 start. He’s taken a Pats team without a healthy Gronk, a Police Lineup offensive line (Have You Seen These Men?), and two backup quarterbacks… and beaten all comers.
Belichick is not perfect, although his 15 year run of excellence in Foxborough sure is close. He gambled and lost on 4th and 2 in Indy, has constant trouble drafting wideouts, and lost a pair of Super Bowls to Eli Manning. But his ability to rectify careers, resuscitate lost causes, and find usefulness out of complete unknowns is second to none in NFL history.
I think it’s fair to say there’s not one other current coach that would’ve won last night with Jacoby Brissett under center. He only combined for 150 yards of offense and one score, plus the Texans mistakes and childishly simple play-calling helped. But find another sideline mind that beats a supposed contender by four touchdowns with a quarterback as limited as Brissett running the kitchen. There just isn’t one.
Does it put a slight dent into the legacy of Tom Brady? Only if you believed somehow Brady was carrying Belichick. Boston fans will always put Tommy Twelve on a pedestal, he’s developed an unimpeachable legacy in their minds. He’s handsome, and competitive, and fiery, and easy to root for. You wear jerseys of quarterbacks, not cutoff hoodies of coaches. And even Belichick can’t somehow summon Ryan Mallett to have a pristine fourth-quarter against Seattle in the Super Bowl, or coach Kevin O’Connell to march down the field for the game-winner against the Rams (I don’t think).
Brady’s composure under pressure, absurd accuracy when the house is on fire, and encyclopedic knowledge of the offense helps push the Patriots into rarefied air. But Brady doesn’t figure out how to convert Julian Edelman from MAC quarterback into madly efficient WR. He didn’t draw up the brilliant gameplan to slow down the Greatest Show on Turf. He has no hand in turning over the roster annually, cutting bait with popular and decorated stars, only to populate the roster with new nobodies that become household names.
My feeling has always been Belichick could turn any team in this league into a winner. Any single roster. Give him a few seasons with the Browns, the Bears, the Jags, they’d win the division. He’d need to find the guys who would buy in. He’d have to turn over some of the locker room. But he’d find a way to do it. I believe Belichick could take over any organization in the NFL and lead them consistently to the playoffs and occasionally into late January. It’s an elite quarterback like Brady though, that pushes them into Super Bowl champions, because once you get to the conference championship game or Super Bowl, even Belichick would have issues getting Blaine Gabbert or Tyrod Taylor good enough for the Lombardi.
Go ahead and pick a roster in the NFL, and ask yourself just how different it would be if Belichick was leading them. Then imagine switching that coach to the Patriots sideline. Jim Caldwell, Jay Gruden or Rex Ryan with Jacoby Brissett gets pulverized. Belichick coaching the Texans last night? There’s no doubt in my mind Houston wins that game. Bum was prophetic. He’ll take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Tw