Not wanting to suffer from recency bias nor pay too much attention to former generations when building dynasties had far fewer obstacles, I kept coming back to one name as coach of my Team for the Ages: Bill Belichick.
Choosing Don Shula or Bill Walsh makes perfect sense, and our sense of history shouldn’t forget them — or Tom Landry, Chuck Noll or Joe Gibbs. All made their marks at the highest of levels over extended periods. The length of the runs by Shula and Landry almost should put them in their own categories for discussion.
But if we’re just taking the past 50 years into consideration, it makes it easier — Lombardi and Brown are out of the equation, thank goodness. And Belichick might not have done it as long as some of the others, but he’s done it far better than anyone else.
In an era of salary-cap limits, free-agency redistribution, yearly rule changes and with a 32-team, 16-week, four-round playoff format, there is no better coach.
Belichick has won with all three phases doing their parts; this has not just been the Tom Brady show. Think of all the moving parts on this Patriots roster the past 19 years — all the great players Belichick let get away or shipped out — and you get an idea of how he seems to reinvent the identity of his team not just on an annual basis, but a weekly one.
Of the coaches with 150 or more games, only George Allen’s .712 winning percentage is higher than Belichick, who stands at an unimpeachable .679 — and that’s with his 41-55 mark prior to the year 2001. Think about that: The man has won more than two-thirds of his NFL games after winning only 42 of his first 100.
Five Super Bowl titles in eight appearances in this era? The era of ultimate parity? An era where the Patriots are everyone’s targets and the team everyone wants to beat above all others? There is no better mark than that among the group we’re considering.
Give me the guy who hasn’t lost more than four games since 2009 and who has won at least one playoff game in each of the past seven seasons. A month after his 66th birthday, Belichick remains at the top of his game — even following a questionable pregame decision to bench Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl LII loss — now and for the past half-century of the NFL.