John Steigerwald: Bill Belichick is Patriots’ true GOAT
Tom Brady did it again. He won another Super Bowl on Sunday.
You’ll be hearing that a lot in the coming days if you haven’t already. People will be telling their grandchildren about the time the Greatest Team Athlete in North American history held one of the highest-scoring teams in the league to three points.
He now has “won” six Super Bowls.
And, oh, by the way, so has his coach, Bill Belichick.
There are people out there, some of them with high-paying jobs in the media, who believe Belichick would be nothing without Brady. Belichick is a genius, and he would be the first to tell you — probably privately — Brady is a great quarterback but also a product of a great system. Brady probably would be the second to tell you.
Did you see how often Brady had wide-open receivers waiting for his throws during the New England Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams? It happens all the time. Julian Edelman had a quiet night and ended up with 10 catches for 141 yards and the MVP. Do you remember seeing him having to fight for any 50/50 balls? Rob Gronkowski had eight catches for 87 yards, including 29 yards off a nice throw that set up the only touchdown of the game. He was wide-open on at least six of his eight catches.
The Rams did a good job pressuring Brady and actually sacked him once. That was the only time he was sacked in the postseason. Once in 125 pass attempts. Would you say that’s a pretty good offensive line, or was it Brady’s amazing ability to escape the rush?
Do you know who led the Patriots in receptions in the regular season? James White with 83. He’s a running back. Do you know how many catches he had against the Rams? One. For 5 yards. There’s a pretty good chance Belichick figured the Rams would be looking for him to be catching a lot of balls out of the backfield.
If you’d like to give Brady most of the credit for the Patriots’ success, be my guest. I’m going with Belichick. He leaves no stone unturned, and that includes unturning illegal stones.
Did you know he makes Brady sit in on special teams meetings? He makes every player sit in on tape sessions involving all three phases. Did you know Belichick always has had a left-footed punter because he learned a long time ago return men have more trouble with a punt spinning off a lefty’s foot?
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post revealed that last week. Special-teamer Matthew Slater, who has been with the Patriots for 11 years, told Kilgore why Belichick makes the full squad review tape of all three phases together: “That sends a message to the entire organization that, ‘Hey, this is something that’s important to us, and this is something that’s going to help us win football games.’ It kind of gets a buy in.”
Do you think the Steelers have done a lot of buying in lately?
Another story from Kilgore sums up why Belichick is the mad scientist behind the greatest dynasty in NFL history. Ray Perkins was head coach of the New York Giants, and he needed a special teams coach. Belichick had been a special teams intern with three teams, so Perkins gave him a shot. Belichick spotted a flaw in the Eagles’ kick-return formation, and he convinced Perkins to try an onside kick.
On the opening kickoff.
In the first game of the season.
The Giants recovered and scored a touchdown on their first possession.
Belichick was on his way to becoming the GOAT.
The real GOAT in the Patriots organization.
John Steigerwald is a freelance writer.
John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.