Let’s face it, it’s been a long time since anyone could assume that the normal laws of NFL gravity would apply to the Patriots, and that the ultrasuccessful team would soon start dropping back to Earth. At this point, even if and when Tom Brady finally calls it a career, there’s no guarantee that he’ll take New England’s dynasty into retirement with him.
That’s because Bill Belichick, in the midst of orchestrating a remarkably dominant defense, is once again proving that he’s the league’s reigning mastermind, even at age 67. And while his age might provide hope, at least among some, that he’s not long for the sidelines, Belichick has a message: Don’t hold your breath.
In an appearance Monday on Boston sports-radio station WEEI, Belichick was reminded of a comment he made in 2009, when he said, “I don’t want to be like [former Bills coach] Marv Levy and coaching when I’m in my 70s. You don’t have to worry about that.”
Asked if he was joking when he said that, Belichick replied, “You know, when I said it, maybe I didn’t know what 70 felt like, so I’m not really sure if that’s an accurate statement today or not.”
“At the time, I didn’t feel that way,” he added. “Now that I’m closer to that age, I don’t know.”
OK, so that’s far from a declaration that Belichick will be around to torment Pats-haters for years to come. However, coming from the notoriously taciturn coach, who would rather swear off cut-up hoodies than provide insight into his thinking, it’s a fairly strong hint that he doesn’t feel a need to hang up the headset anytime soon.
In addition, age might be nothing but a number, but his win total after Sunday’s swatting of the Browns is a heck of a number: 300. That makes Belichick just the third NFL coach to attain that mark, after Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324).
It’ll take some doing to reach Shula, but who would bet against Belichick at this point? Given that his 8-0 Patriots are threatening to go undefeated again (at least until the Super Bowl), they appear to be a lock for their 17th straight season with double-digit wins, and their 19th with nine-plus.
That’s an absolutely ridiculous streak, and it’s among the many reasons — six Super Bowl wins would be another good one — to consider Belichick the greatest football coach of all time. He’s also been described as a “walking encyclopedia of the history of the NFL,” so there’s a decent chance that etching his name further into league annals by climbing atop its victories list has some appeal.
Hey, if nothing else, Belichick needs a challenge at this point, right? If we conservatively give him five more wins this season, and an average of 10 wins per season going forward, he’d need to be coaching at least until he’s 72.
That’s an interesting number in its own right, because it just so happens to be the ages of Halas and Levy, the oldest coaches in NFL history, in their final seasons. In other words, if Belichick goes for that record and coaches until he’s 73, he would then be an excellent bet to top Shula along the way.
Of course, this is all conjecture, and Belichick could just as easily retire this offseason, particularly if the 42-year-old Brady does the same. However, getting back to Belichick possibly looking for his next challenge, it’s not crazy to think that he might want to prove he can win big without Brady.
The fact that Belichick recently groomed two more quality NFL quarterbacks in Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, now with the 49ers and Colts, respectively, indicates that he might be capable of just such a feat in New England. Then there’s this quote, delivered shortly before the Patriots won the Super Bowl earlier this year:
“We have a good setup here,” Belichick said (via CBS Sports). “[Owner Robert Kraft] has been very supportive, gives us a great opportunity to go out and compete every week. We’ve done that. Hope we can continue it for a long time.”
“Continue it for a long time,” eh? That sounds pretty ominous for everyone hoping to avoid a third decade of Patriots dominance.
Heck, at the rate things are going, we all might be in our 70s before New England stops ruling the NFL universe.