BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — It takes a lot to throw off New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, especially during Super Bowl week.
But Belichick is a football historian, and trying to assess his place in NFL history gave him pause on Tuesday. With a win on Sunday in Super Bowl LII, Belichick will have six NFL championships as a head coach. That will tie a record, held by George Halas and Curly Lambeau (who won theirs before the Super Bowl era).
But when asked to compare where he ranks among legends like Halas and Vince Lombardi (five NFL championships), Belichick gave a brief acknowledgment of his legacy, something that’s very rare.
“It’s hard for me to really picture that,” Belichick said when asked about where he stands with some of the other great coaches in history. “They’re such great legendary coaches. I don’t really see myself … I don’t think of it that way. I just think of how great they were, what they meant to the game, what they accomplished and how much I respect I have for them.”
Being up on his history, Belichick then said Paul Brown should be in that group. Brown won four AAFC championships with the Cleveland Browns before they joined the NFL, then three more NFL titles for seven total.
Belichick already holds the record with five Super Bowl championships, and could add to that Sunday. Given his run with the Patriots, there’s no question he ranks among the greatest coaches ever. But given his reverence for the history of the game, it’s not surprising he doesn’t see himself that way.
There’s also a question of how much Belichick will add to his legacy. Belichick will be 66 years old before next season. An ESPN story earlier this month indicated many have wondered if this is the last season for the Patriots with Tom Brady and Belichick. While there have been no further indications that is the case, it’s not like Belichick will coach forever. He was asked Tuesday how long he’ll coach, and he gave a typically deflecting answer.
“Right now my focus is on Sunday against the Eagles,” Belichick said. “That’s my window right now. Just do the best job I can for our team the next few days, be at our best Sunday afternoon against the Eagles.”
If he’s nearing the end, he seems to be enjoying it in his own way. When the Patriots sealed an AFC championship game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Belichick was shown on the sideline pumping his fist and smiling. He rarely shows any emotion, but the fourth-quarter comeback was obviously meaningful.
“It was a great win,” Belichick said. “We played from behind the entire game and played our best football in the fourth quarter, made some big plays when we needed to make them and I was proud of our team. Happy for our team. Happy to be a part of what our team had accomplished. It was a great feeling.”
That win also got Belichick one step closer to more history, even if he’s not ready to put himself on the same plane as some of the coaches he could catch with another championship.
– – – – – – –