Love him or hate him, Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in sports history



Bill Belichick is on to the next chapter of his life.

The six-time Super Bowl champion head coach and second-winningest coach in NFL history exited New England on Thursday after 24 years because his unprecedented, two-decade run of success didn’t continue when Tom Brady left the Patriots.

Still, despite a 28-39 record without No. 12 over the past four seasons, Belichick will go down as one of the all-time greatest coaches in sports. He built the Patriot Way, instilled in players the importance of doing their job and presided over a dynasty that withstood changing times, free agency, salary-cap restrictions and much more.

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Critics have labeled him a cheater because of the Spygate scandal but he’s more a mad, or maybe even evil, genius who always knew how to manipulate the rule book for his team’s advantage.

It’s unlikely that another coach will ever come close to matching what Belichick accomplished in New England: 17 AFC East titles, nine conference championships, six Lombardi trophies.

Belichick didn’t care about appearances — his torn, sleeveless hoodies made him look homeless. He wasn’t concerned with making friends in the media or filling up quote sheets, preferring to give terse responses to most questions.

Winning was his obsession and he did it better than any coach over the last half-century.

“We’re on to Cincinnati,” Belichick famously repeated several times after a lopsided loss to Kansas City in Week 4 of the 2014 season left reporters asking him if Brady had anything left and whether the team had enough talent to compete.

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The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that season. And again two years later. And again two years after that.

“Players win games in the NFL, and I’ve been very, very fortunate to coach some of the greatest players that have ever played,” Belichick said. “Some of the greatest players that have ever played for the Patriots, some of them are in the Hall of Fame, and many more are going. Again, regardless of how long the players were or weren’t here, what their role was, or how many games they played, or even if they didn’t win championships, I respect the way the players come to work here on a daily basis.”

That respect is reciprocated. Belichick has earned it from everyone in the game, including his current and former players and his opponents.

Four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers made a surprise appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” just to share his fondest memories of their relationship. The New York Jets quarterback pointed out how he’ll always remember that Belichick once waited for him to conclude a postgame interview on the field to shake his hand following a game between the Patriots and Packers.

“I thought that was one of the classiest things ever,” Rodgers said. “This is an absolute no-brainer, Hall of Fame, game-changer guy who was a trailblazer in the league and did things no one has ever done before, arguably the greatest coach in NFL history. … and he waited for me to finish my interview to say something nice so I have a ton of respect for Bill.”

Brady, who won his seventh Super Bowl title with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first season away from New England, has always credited Belichick for his success, even though they didn’t always see eye-to-eye, especially toward the end of his time with the Patriots.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have played for the best coach in the history of the NFL,” Brady wrote in an Instagram post. “He was a great leader for the organization, and for all of the players who played for him. We accomplished some amazing things over a long period of time, many of which will be hard to replicate. He worked every day to help us achieve the ultimate goal, in the ultimate team sport. And, although we were successful, some of the greatest lessons I learned were in the moments where we faced the most challenging adversities. He set the tone for the organization to never falter in the face of adversity, and to do what we could do, and what was in our control, which was to go out and DO OUR JOB.

“I could never have been the player I was without you, Coach Belichick. I am forever grateful. And I wish you the best of luck in whatever you choose next.”

Next for the Patriots is one of Belichick’s pupils. The team has agreed to hire assistant coach Jerod Mayo to succeed Belichick as the team’s first Black head coach, according to a person with knowledge of the plan.

Next for the 71-year-old Belichick should be an opportunity to try to build a winning team somewhere else despite his age. Seven other teams are seeking a head coach and Belichick made it clear he’s not ready for retirement. He has 333 wins, just 15 away from breaking Don Shula’s record for most in a career.

“I look forward, am excited for the future,” Belichick said.

No doubt, he’s eager to get back to work. It’s what he does best.

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