Before we begin, I must offer full disclosure: I hate the Patriots and I hope Bill Belichick loses to the Giants and then gets embroiled in some kind of awful scandal.
Now, despite all that venom, I have the utmost respect for that coldhearted scumbag, and any reasonable fan ought to as well. This will be Belichick’s fifth Super Bowl appearance as a head coach, which would leave him one shy of Don Shula’s record for most Super Bowl appearances (six), and tie Shula for most Super Bowl appearances with one team. If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, Belichick will tie Chuck Noll for most Super Bowl wins all time.
Belichick has now appeared in more Super Bowls than Marv Levy, Bud Grant, Dan Reeves, Bill Parcells, Dick Vermeil, Jimmy Johnson, Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, and Vince Lombardi. He’ll be tied with Tom Landry, and already has more Super Bowl victories than Landry's two. He’s already considered one of the most creative and adaptable coaches in history (Remember: he was also the defensive coordinator who orchestrated the Giants huge upset of the Bills in Super Bowl XXV).
Should this fifth Super Bowl appearance cement his legacy as the finest overall coach ever?
I say -- wait, hang on, let me just gouge my eyes out with my own toothbrush -- yes.
He’s the best of all time. You could argue that Noll still holds the most Super Bowl victories. You could argue that Walsh was Belichick’s equal in terms of innovation and overseeing a franchise’s entire operations, including picking players. You could also argue that Belichick was a lousy coach until Tom Brady came along, but I hate that argument.
It was Belichick who picked Brady, and it was Belichick who made the then-controversial decision back in 2001 to bench Drew Bledsoe permanently. To say one man’s success was solely dependent on the existence of the other man is insulting and stupid. Also, Belichick went 11-5 with Matt Cassel back in 2009. Lesser coaches don't pull that off.
You could also argue that Belichick cheated during all those years he won the Super Bowl. And I have no doubt that he did. I also have no doubt that other teams cheat any chance they get. The Niners were flagged for salary cap violations after the Walsh era ended. Who knows what kind of stunts Eddie DeBartolo pulled during the uncapped years. Furthermore, the Patriots still had to go out and beat other teams. It's not like Spygate was what caused Mike Martz to forget to use Marshall Faulk during the 2002 Super Bowl. Those victories still have merit.
And Belichick has managed to put together this string of Super Bowls in an era of unprecedented player and coach turnover. Belichick’s coaching staff gets raided on an annual basis, and yet the Patriots carry on undisturbed, because Belichick runs everything so effectively. I'm not even sure he needs a staff. They may just be there for show.
He may not be able to get his revenge on Eli Manning eleven days from now. After all, you never know what might happen in the course of a single game (ask Billy Cundiff). But the excellence that Belichick has sustained over the past dozen years in New England should offer clear proof that he's the finest coach ever to walk an NFL sideline.
Man, now I really hope he loses.