Bill Belichick found himself a long way from Sept. 8, 1991 on Sunday.
He wasn’t facing Dick MacPherson’s New England Patriots. He wasn’t starting Bernie Kosar at quarterback, calling handoffs for running back Joe Morris or passes for wide receiver Michael Jackson. He wasn’t devising a gameplan to block Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett.
But Belichick’s first win as an NFL head coach became his 300th.
The Patriots defeated the Cleveland Browns team that once hired him, 27-13, at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s a great privilege to coach this team and to coach the guys that I’ve coached throughout my career,” Belichick said of the milestone in his postgame press conference. “Fortunately, I didn’t play in any of those games. That’s a good thing for us. But I’ve had a lot of good players, a lot of great players and they’re the ones that win the games. I’ve had a lot of great assistant coaches on my staff through the wins at Cleveland and certainly here. I was a part of those. But honestly, players win games in this league and I’ve been fortunate that I’ve coached a lot of great ones.”
The 300 club includes just three. The list ahead of Belichick includes George Halas and Don Shula. They finished 324 and 347 games won, respectively, when including postseason play. And they are also the only coaches with 100 more victories than defeats.Today In: Business
Belichick, breaking in as a special assistant for the Baltimore Colts back in 1975, has gotten into that tier the fastest.
He’d be the recipient of the game ball from Patriots owner Robert Kraft soon after.
“It’s good to beat Cleveland,” the 67-year-old Belichick would add. “It’s good to beat anybody. It’s a tough league to win in, so I’m proud of what the guys did, proud of what this team accomplished today. But we’ve got bigger goals ahead. We know the Ravens are going to be tough next week. They don’t care about this game or what I did or what anybody else did. So, we’re going to have to turn the page quickly and move on to Baltimore.”
New England turns the page to next Sunday’s meeting with Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium. Belichick turns the page to a 300-124 record, with 263 of those victories coming as head coach of the Patriots.
“He’s the best coach of all time and it’s a privilege to play for him for as many years as I have,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who threw for 259 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Cleveland. “He’s taught me so much on and off the field, just been a great mentor for me. Being here 20 years ago – it was his first year, it was my first year. It’s been a great journey. Just proud of him, everything he’s accomplished. Amazing to think that he coached for another place and they didn’t think he was good enough, and then he comes here and does a great job. It’s a great celebration for him and certainly hard-earned, well-deserved. And the only thing better than 300 is 301. So, we’ll be back at it this week.”
But this week, in a soggy Foxborough, the Patriots managed to force three turnovers in the first quarter for the first time in Belichick’s tenure. They’d score their fourth defensive touchdown. They’d collect their 19th interception and fifth and sixth fumble recovery.
New England would advance to 8-0 for third time in franchise history in the process, and for as many times under Mr. 300.
“I couldn’t name one thing I’ve done 300 times,” reflected linebacker Dont’a Hightower. “For him to get 300 wins at this level, I think he says it a lot about how hard it is to win in this league, and for him to do it 300 times in the way that he’s done it is speechless.”
“I know for me, in my opinion, it’s two things,” saidsafety and fellow New England captain Devin McCourty. “It’s consistency. You know, he comes to work every day the same way. His expectations don’t change. It doesn’t matter who the player is, it doesn’t matter what situation, he’s going to always remain consistent. And then I think his ability to give ownership to the players.”
The players will let Belichick own this one. Even if this one is hard to describe in a word.
“One word? I don’t have a great vocabulary,” wide receiver Julian Edelman told reporters from his locker. “Extraordinary, that’s what I would say.”
I’ve written about the NFL and the New England Patriots since 2012, and my work has been featured on Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, NEPatriotsDraft, MassLive, 247Sports…