Ever since Tom Brady left New England the spotlight has become even brighter on Bill Belichick. While Brady was in town, he shared that light and saved Belichick with game winning drives or ridiculous performances more times than you can count. On the flip side, Belichick made Brady look good and won plenty of games because of his schemes and adjustments, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
In the first season without his star quarterback, Belichick and the Patriots went just 7-9, their worst record since 2000. There were plenty of factors leading to that below .500 record – a shortened preseason, plenty of opt-outs, a lack of playmakers. However, the sign of a great coach is being able to coach around issues. So, the question becomes – is Belichick still the best coach in the NFL at the current moment?
Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr gave his answer to this question in an article that ranked all of the NFL head coaches. Orr put Belichick as number one, but said that he is trending “downward.”
“There is nowhere for Belichick to climb at this point, seeing as, at age 69, he is unlikely to pilot another 20-year dynasty yielding a Super Bowl title almost every other year,” Orr wrote. “That said, he is still the most destructive week-by-week game planner in the sport and has a chance to silence the small chorus of doubters who have arisen in the wake of Tom Brady’s most recent Super Bowl.”
Orr blames the offense for last year’s down season, saying that Josh McDaniels could have a bounce back year with either a heavy set approach with Cam Newton or testing the waters with Mac Jones.
“There is no one doubting Belichick’s potency or ability to reach the playoffs at this point … with or without Brady,” Orr wrote.
Second on Orr’s list is Andy Reid, who to many people has an argument to be first. He said Reid isn’t trending up or down, he is staying neutral.
“There are coaches who are brilliant schematically like Reid, and then there is an absolutely, steadfastly devoted savant who will win at any cost,” Orr said. “That, to me, is the thin sliver of a difference between Belichick and Reid right now.”
The interesting part to all of this is not the fact that Belichick is first in the ranking, you can make an argument for both him or Reid. What is interesting is the fact that Belichick is trending downward, while Reid and others, like Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh and Bruce Arians, are either staying neutral or trending upward.
So, if this power rankings of NFL head coaches was made again in a year, or two, or even three, would Belichick still be atop the list? It seems like Orr would say no. Someone else would probably overtake him. However, according to a panel of ESPN experts, the answer is yes.
ESPN just released a future power rankings that predicts the teams that are in the best shape for the next three seasons. The rankings were broken down into different parts, including a section for coaching. The Patriots landed eighth overall on the list in large part thanks to Belichick and his staff coming in first in their category.
Essentially, a panel is predicting that Belichick will be the best coach in the league for the next three seasons. They are agreeing with Orr that he is currently the best, but they are disagreeing that he is trending downward and the top spot will be taken by someone else.
If you look at the situation objectively, Orr seems more right. While you can’t take anything away from Belichick – he is the greatest coach ever – he is trending downward. He is getting up there in age, the game and playing style is changing, he doesn’t have the same amount of talent as the past, and his drafting ability has been steadily declining. Despite all of this, Belichick will still most likely go out and win more than ten games this year and make the playoffs. However, he is just not at the level of competing for a Super Bowl right now and he probably won’t be in the next few years.
It is very feasible that Reid takes over the number one spot in a year or two. Younger coaches like Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay or Sean McDermott are also primed for big jumps to threaten the upper echelon of head coaches.
Belichick will always be in the conversation for the best coach in the league. He is deserving of the top spot right now, but in a couple years, that may not be the case.