PHOENIX – Bill Belichick will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame five years after he retires. The only problem: When, exactly, is five years after never?
At 62 years, 290 days, Belichick became the third-oldest coach to win a Super Bowl when his New England Patriots erased a record 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday night.
And yet does anyone think Tom Coughlin’s record of 65 years, 158 days is old enough to hold off Belichick three years from now? Four? Five? Ten?
It’s tough to fathom because the words Belichick and burnout have somehow never crossed paths in the same sentence through 40 consecutive seasons in the NFL.
Scott O’Brien, the Patriots’ special teams coach, was asked why that is. It took awhile for him to answer because he had to stop laughing first.
“Bill? Burned out?” said O’Brien, who was Belichick’s special teams coach when Belichick got his first head coaching job in Cleveland at age 39. “I don’t know how to explain Bill.”
Welcome to the club, Scott.
“I don’t know if you can get burned out doing something you love as much as Bill loves coaching,” O’Brien said. “I suppose anything can happen. You can get burned out golfing. I love to fish, and I guess I could get burned out fishing. Although I’m far from it right now.
“There’s no one I’ve ever worked with who compares to Bill. The way he prepares himself to prepare the team every year, year in, year out, every year, is absolutely unbelievable.”
In tying Don Shula with a sixth Super Bowl appearance, Belichick also tied Chuck Noll with a record fourth victory and moved two ahead of Tom Landry in postseason wins (22). Geez. This guy passes Hall of Famers as if they’re phone poles on the road to eternity.
How in the world does he do it, especially in today’s world? He posted the only 16-0 regular-season record in NFL history the year “Spygate” erupted. He won Sunday after two weeks of “Deflate-gate” controversy and being asked repeatedly about the perception that the Patriots are cheaters.
Why doesn’t this guy wear out?
Quarterback Tom Brady, who has been at Belichick’s side the past 15 seasons, had the best and most succinct answer when referring to Belichick’s core philosophy as a coach.
“Coach always says, ‘Ignore the noise,’ ” Brady said, “and, ‘Control what you can control.’ ”
Brady’s 13 years between his first Super Bowl win and Sunday night matched Raiders Hall of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks’ record for a player’s longest time between a first title and the most recent. For now, we’ll call it Brady’s “most recent” as opposed to “last” since Brady made it clear Sunday night that he’s nowhere close to considering retirement.
Belichick didn’t say anything about retirement because, well, who would even think to ask him that question?
O’Brien was asked that question earlier in the week. Again, there was laughter before answers.
“Who? Bill? Retire?” O’Brien said. “Oh, my God. Bill? You’d have to ask Bill, but I can tell you this. I’m 57 years old and I know he’ll coach a lot longer than me. A lot longer.
“My opinion, he really hasn’t changed. Ever. He’s improved and learned and gotten better, of course. But he’s had one idea of what he wants to do and how he wanted to do it and who he needed to do it, and he’s stuck with it for years and years.”
Meanwhile, the standard he has set has become so incredibly high that two Patriot fans could be overheard Sunday night in a Phoenix hotel restaurant fantasizing about how great things really could have been had a few plays not gone against the Patriots in their two Super Bowl losses under Belichick.
Don’t worry. With Belichick on board, 10 years between titles is Boston’s definition of suffering.
Belichick once said he wouldn’t coach as long as Marv Levy did. In 1997, Marv Levy, then 72, tied George Halas as the oldest head coach in NFL history.
Let’s just say we’ll believe it when we see it. But there probably is one record that’s out of reach for Belichick.
Halas went 42 years between his first title and his last title. Crunching the numbers, Belichick would have to win the Super Bowl in 2044 at age 91 to surpass Halas.
That will never happen. Probably.