Assistant to Success
Bill Belichick is a hell of a football coach. Despite what some may think of him, based on his coaching techniques or lack of interest in speaking with anyone with a microphone, he is still a tremendous teacher of the game. This holds true every single time the Patriots make it back to the playoffs.
Some people credit Tom Brady more than Belichick for the Patriot’s success. It’s understandable, as they both have entered into an area of success that nobody else has seen before. As a QB, five Super Bowls is the most anybody has won at the position. As a head coach, five Super Bowls is the most for anybody in history. They have both been to eight Super Bowls together, making that the most appearances ever for both a coach and a player. They basically wrote a whole section of NFL history together, making it somewhat difficult to tell who deserves the credit. But that debate can actually be a strong one.
One thing that has never been debated over Belichick’s time as a head coach, is whether it’s him or his fellow coaching staff that makes them go. It’s him, proven time and time again.
Those who are not often credited with the Patriot’s success, is Belichick’s assistants. Over time, most of Bill’s coordinators that saw so much success under his guidance, saw their careers peak after leaving the Patriots. None of his assistants have seen near as much success as he has, and it’s not even remotely close. Bill O’Brien has probably been the “most successful” out of the bunch, residing currently as the head coach of the Houston Texans, and sitting at a career record of 31-36. Charlie Weiss saw intermediate success at the college level, but not much. This consistent lack of winning on the part of his assistants, once they get promoted to head coaching positions, is the reason people believe Belichick may be the best football coach ever.
His assistants have gone a combined 156-227, and 9-14 against Belichick himself.
One assistant that Belichick actually cares for, is Matt Patricia. He is now the head coach of the Detroit Lions, and goes way back in terms of Bill’s legacy.
Patricia joined the Patriot’s coaching staff in 2004 as an offensive assistant. After two years, in 2006, he flipped over to the defensive side of the ball as a linebackers coach. He was named defensive coordinator in 2012, although it’s worth noting that he had been calling the plays on the defensive side since the 2010 season. He retained that position for six years before moving on to become a head coach in the 2018 season. During his time in New England, they saw an enormous amount of success. They won three of their five total Super Bowls together and placed the Patriots dynasty among the elites.
When Matt Patricia left, it wasn’t quite understood what exactly the Patriots had lost. Sure, Belichick and Brady still remained, but Patricia had been around calling plays for the defense for eight seasons. He had also been there through every Patriot’s scandal you can think of, and he stayed. You don’t just move on from that. Although he was given much grief about the Patriot’s defensive performance in the Super Bowl against the Eagles, he has an outstanding track record of putting together consistent defensive units. This résumé is what landed him the Detroit Lions Head coaching job.
Coming into the season, people didn’t know what to expect from the Lions. They were 9-7 the year before, missing the playoffs, but returning a good team. Mathew Stafford at QB, two 1,000 yard receivers, and a defense that saw its best year in a while during its previous campaign. Patricia was lined up for at least mediocre success during the Lions’ transition to a completely different system.
Detroit started off a bit rocky, going 0-2 in their first two showings. Not ideal, but the real matchup was waiting in week three, when Patricia was slated to face his former teacher, Bill Belichick. The Patriots started the season 1-1, and not much had been made about the Lions’ chances of victory, as New England had been favored by seven points on the road. Many assumed Belichick would lead his team over the Lions, and continue his rolling success against his former assistants. Patricia had another plan.
Although they hadn’t won yet, it was just a matter of time before things started to mesh. With a newfound rushing attack, the Lions actually looked like a balanced offense for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime. They moved the ball without having to throw it, and looked like a team that can not only win, but dominate. They took it to the Patriots and won 26-10, giving Patricia his first win as a head coach, and quite a memorable one at that. Not only was he victorious, but it had been against his former teacher. This had to make it that much sweeter.
Belichick hates to lose, almost as much as he hates to talk. After a game, he’s not exactly the nicest of people. Even if you’re one of his former assistants, you’re most likely getting a half-second handshake with zero eye contact. It’s just the way he operates. Unless you’re Matty P.
After their contest, despite the outcome, Belichick met Patricia at mid-field for an embrace. It was better than a handshake, but less than a real hug. It was Belichick’s hug, probably the only kind he can give. Quick and to the point, and not a lot of smiling. It shows he cares, but only to a certain extent, because he still wants to beat you.
Although it’s still early and the sample size is small, the Lions may have got the right guy. Patricia seems to be earning the trust of his new team as each day passes, and the players are buying into his system more and more each week. 1-2 isn’t great, but it’s a start. It’s only one win, but it was a big one. Taking a game against New England can jumpstart any teams season. (See: 2017 Kansas City Chiefs)
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