David Baker, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, assures us that metallurgists have assured him that an enshrinee’s bronze bust will last 40,000 years.
Some of us will have to take their word for it.
We’ll assume Bill Belichick will be retired and eligible by then. Then again, the 65-year-old Patriots coach doesn’t discuss the “R” word in public.
“Right now, my focus is on Sunday against the Eagles,” said Belichick, referring to Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium. “That’s my window right now.”
Belichick will be coaching in his 11th Super Bowl. Going back to Super Bowl XXI in January 1987, he’s 7-3 overall and 5-2 as a head coach.
Detractors can throw “Spygate,” “Deflategate” or the whole-kitchen-sink gate at him, and it won’t matter. Belichick, deservedly so, will sit forever among the legendary coaches of a league that will turn 100 in two years.
The only question is whether he’ll ultimately be seated at the head of the table among Hall of Fame coaches. Considering all five of his championships — and counting, probably — came after the advent of modern free agency, the salary cap and unmatched leaguewide parity, that’s where I’d plop down his placard.
Earlier this week, Belichick was asked what goes through his mind when being compared to George Halas and Vince Lombardi.
“It’s hard for me to really picture that,” Belichick said. “They’re such great, legendary coaches. I don’t really see myself … I don’t think of it that way. I just think of how great they were, what they meant to the game, what they accomplished and how much respect I have for them.
“And I’d put Paul Brown in there for all he has done for this game. When you start talking about the great coaches, I don’t see how you can leave him out of it.”
Belichick has the record for Super Bowl victories as a head coach. In terms of NFL championships, he is tied with Lombardi and is one behind Halas and Earl “Curly” Lambeau. Brown won seven professional titles, but four came in the All-America Football Conference, an upstart league that lasted only four seasons before three of its teams, including Paul’s Browns, were merged into the NFL.
Belichick obviously can’t match Halas and Lambeau in terms of being a legendary figure. “Papa Bear” Halas was a founding father of the Bears and the NFL, which he was a part of for 64 years until his death in 1983. Lambeau founded the Packers and assembled a dynasty that won three consecutive titles (1929-31) and saved a franchise at a time when the small-town NFL teams began to disappear forever.
Halas and Lambeau were player-coaches in the 1920s. They made the All-Decade team and each won his first title as a player-coach. Halas had his jersey number (7) retired. Lambeau’s No. 1 isn’t retired, but no other Packer has ever worn it.
In terms of coaching, Belichick’s degree of difficulty is higher because of the league’s evolution. Belichick has coached 38 postseason games (28-10), while Halas coached nine (6-3) and Lambeau five (3-2).
Halas’ first league title came in 1921, the league’s second year. Called the Chicago Staleys that year, Halas’ team finished 9-1-1. The Buffalo All-Americans finished 9-1-2.
The league had no postseason, no limit on the number of games and no season end date. Ties weren’t counted, so both teams had a .900 winning percentage.
In the ’20s, the champion wasn’t decided until the league meetings after the season. Buffalo argued that it was league champion because it beat the Staleys 7-6 on Thanksgiving. Halas argued the Staleys were league champions because they won the second meeting 10-7, 11 days later.
The All-Americans claimed the second meeting was only a postseason exhibition. The day before that game, they played a game in Akron before hopping a train to Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The league sided with Halas.
The league’s first championship game was an impromptu setup the Bears won on a 60-yard field inside Chicago Stadium in 1932. Halas, who stepped away from coaching from 1930-32 after a dispute with his co-owner, moved the game indoors because of the weather.
The league began scheduling championship games in 1933. Halas bought out his co-owner that year, returned to coaching and won titles in 1933, 1940, 1941, 1946 (after three years of military service) and 1963.
Lambeau’s first three titles came before there was a championship game. He did win title games in 1936, 1939 and 1944.
Patriots fans will get a kick out of this. The 1936 title game was supposed to be played in Boston, home of the Redskins. But Redskins owner George Marshall moved the game to the Polo Grounds in New York because of the team’s poor attendance that season.
Some never will accept Belichick. Most notable on that list is Hall of Famer and career wins leader Don Shula, who has publicly derided Belichick while calling him “Beli-cheat.”
Shula’s 347 wins, including playoffs, rank No. 1. Halas is No. 2 at 324. Belichick is No. 3 at 278.
That means Belichick needs 70 more victories to pass Shula. At his current Patriots pace of 13 wins a season, Belichick would need a little more than five seasons to do so.
Talk about the perfect storm. His quarterback, a fella named Tom Brady, wants to play until he’s 45.
That’s five more years on the field together and, eventually, another 40,000 on a shelf in Canton, Ohio.