When Bill Belichick was named the winner of the Maxwell Football Club’s 19th annual Greasy Neale Award as pro football Coach of the Year, he was typically low-key.
“This is definitely a team recognition, but one that I appreciate very much on a personal level,” Belichick said.
It was left to New England owner Robert Kraft to put the appropriate flourishes on the achievement, recognizing the coach who directed the Patriots to the NFL’s first perfect regular season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
If anyone is deserving of such an award it really is Bill,” Kraft said. “I know the energy and effort and planning and time he puts into it. He’s had his foot on the pedal all year, working so hard and always doing everything he can to put the team in a position to win first.
“I think back to sitting in the stands when we went 1-15 and 2-14,” Kraft told the Associated Press, reflecting on his days as a Patriots fan. “And, you know, I saw the ’72 Dolphins and to see this team perform the way it did this year and, in the end, (Belichick) is the conductor. He’s got some great players, but he’s the conductor and I just think the job he did was superb.”
Belichick led the Patriots to 16 consecutive wins in the regular season, dealing with the pressure that built each week and the questions about whether the team could actually make history by completing a entire season unbeaten and untied.
The Patriots answered those questions in resounding fashion. Not only did they win every game, but they set an NFL record for points in a season (589), touchdowns in a season (75) and largest point-differential (plus-315). Quarterback Tom Brady set a league record with 50 touchdown passes and wide receiver Randy Moss, in his first season as a Patriot, broke Jerry Rice’s mark with 23 touchdown receptions.
Great players, certainly, but as Kraft pointed out, Belichick was the conductor.
“It is probably the best year that I’ve seen Coach Belichick have because of all the distractions he has had,” said linebacker Teddy Bruschi. “With every distraction, he has come through it stronger. He has coached us harder and I think that is his way of saying, ‘I can only worry about one thing and that’s how I prepare this team.’
“He is not worrying about outside factors and he has continued to take that as motivation to just continue to be the best coach that he can possibly be.”
“He’s the Coach of the Year to us,” said safety Rodney Harrison. “To me, he’s the best coach I’ve ever played for. I think he’s the best coach that ever coached the game. He doesn’t care (about awards). It’s all about winning games. Individual awards are what they are, individual. We love team awards.”
Belichick joined the Patriots in 2000 after serving as head coach in Cleveland and defensive coordinator with the New York Giants under Bill Parcells, where he helped the team win two Super Bowls. He already is the winningest head coach in Patriots history (91-37 in the regular season) and the team has won the AFC East title five straight years with no fewer than 10 victories in any of those seasons.
“Belichick is simply the best coach in the NFL, both in weekly preparation and on game day,” wrote Gary Horton of Scouts, Inc., on the ESPN website. “On top of that, he is an astute talent evaluator and nobody in the league has a better handle on his roster and players and how to maximize their talents.”
Time Magazine called Belichick “the hoodie-wrapped Houdini of the sidelines.” It is true, Belichick may not dress for success, but he certainly coaches for it.
“There are three things that get better with age – good cigars, red wine and to me, it looks like coaches who have the ability,” Kraft said. “Bill has really hit his sweet spot and I’m really happy for him personally.”
New England Patriots