MINNEAPOLIS – When Super Bowl LII kicks off Sunday in Minneapolis, it will offer two of the most different head coaches in the history of the NFL’s mega-event.
New England’s Bill Belichick has been an NFL coach since 1975 and his 43 years of professional coaching experience include 23 years as a head coach – five with the Cleveland Browns from 1991 to '95 and the past 18 seasons running the New England Patriots.
Belichick also has nine years of experience as a defensive coordinator and is tied with NFL icons George Halas and Vince Lombardi for the most NFL championships as a head coach with five.
Having won all five of his titles in the salary cap and free agency eras, Belichick widely is recognized as the G.O.A.T.
Philadelphia's Doug Pederson has been an NFL coach for nine seasons, two as a head coach, three as an offensive coordinator, and nine years ago he was coaching high school football in Louisiana.
Pederson does have one Super Bowl ring, but he never got on the field in winning it, serving as the backup quarterback to Brett Favre in 1995 when the Packers beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.
Both the Patriots and Eagles are outstanding football teams with similar chances to win Sunday’s Super Bowl, but it would seem naïve to assume Belichick’s huge edge in experience and accomplishment might not have some impact on the game.
When asked Tuesday how he felt about occupying the same rare air as Halas and Lombardi, Belichick demurred.
“I don’t really," he said. "It’s hard for me to really picture that.
“I mean they’re such great, legendary coaches, I don’t really see myself – I don’t think of it that way because of how great they were, what they meant to the game and what they accomplished and how much respect I have for them.”
Belichick seemed completely genuine in his response even if no one in attendance agreed with him.
Pederson could only talk about how he and his team feel about being the new kids on the block and clear underdogs.
“Our guys don’t read in too much to what’s written or said," Pederson said. "We know what we’re faced against, we know the opponents we’re going against. A lot of respect for them, obviously, and what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished. It’s about what we do: how our players handle this week and eliminate distractions and eliminate the noise and how well they prepare and get themselves ready to go.”
It was left to the Pats' coach to trumpet his opponent’s accomplishments.
“I think the bottom line is more the matchups on these two teams, and I think Coach Pederson’s done a great job with this football team, certainly with the offense they’ve lost a couple of key players this year, but they’ve continue to roll along with tremendous production really in all areas of the game.”
Pederson indicated it’s all he can do to think about 60 minutes Sunday without being distracted by the reality Belichick will be coaching in his 10th Super Bowl (two won with Bill Parcells and the Giants).
“Yeah, you know, it’s obviously a challenge to go up against a very smart coach, an intelligent coach, a coach who has his team real well prepared and you know it’s not just the X’s and O’s it’s the situational aspects of the game," Pederson said. "Timeouts, fourth down, red zone, time outs, punt situations on fourth down.”
Belichick downplayed the significance of his huge edge in experience, saying, “I think it changes every year. The teams are different, the venues are different, the matchups are different and so, the road that the team has traveled to get here is different, as is the road that your opponent has traveled.
“So each one’s unique, each one’s special.”
While that may be true enough, one hurdle the Eagles must overcome is there is a great deal Pederson will be seeing for the first time Sunday that Belichick already has lived more times than he can remember.
• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.