Saturday 21 April 2018

Belichick and Patriots bid to defy Father Time once again

"If you sit back and spend too much time feeling good about what you did in the past, you're going to come up short next time" - Bill Belichick, New England Patriots head coach

Belichick: Speculation. Photo: Getty Images
Belichick: Speculation. Photo: Getty Images

Ed Malyon

Bill Belichick has not been short of success in his career. Indeed, he is the most successful coach in American football history, but that hasn't dampened the burning desire for more.

There is an argument that Belichick is the greatest sports coach on the planet, an argument that is certainly easier to make since Alex Ferguson's retirement, and his record speaks for itself.

Nobody has won more play-off games than Belichick, nobody has won more Super Bowls. Nobody has won three in four years, a feat he achieved in 2005 but could better with three in three if the New England Patriots emerge victorious in Minneapolis next month at Super Bowl LII.

And yet the problem with every great dynasty is that they must come to an end. Despite Belichick's advancing years - the Nashville-born coach is 65 - it is not his coaching mortality that is necessarily on the horizon but that of his 40-year-old quarterback Tom Brady, who for all his talents cannot play at an elite level forever.

One of sport's impossible questions to answer is who benefits most from the other - Brady or Belichick - a marriage that will see both in the hall of fame and their success impossible to untangle from the other.

As a pairing they have achieved unparalleled glory and dominated a sport that is designed precisely to prevent these sorts of dynasties. The draft system and the salary cap are supposed to guarantee competitive parity - the good teams will see their wings clipped while the worst will be helped - but Belichick and Brady have combined to defy normality. To defy the sporting certainty of their eventual demise.

Father Time, however, is undefeated. And this means we will never know who benefited most from the other - head coach or quarterback - as they're expected to ride off in the sun at the same time, albeit on different horses and in very different directions.

But life with the Patriots and Belichick is such that we know how this one ends already. Belichick's reputation for mind games and pushing the boundaries has people speculating that recent stories of a rift in the camp was a ruse to help him unite the team against outside influences.

Heading into the play-offs against Tennessee in the early hours of tomorrow morning (Irish time), the familiar refrain of us against the world is mounting and his team are talented enough to not need extra motivation.

Belichick can barely make a comment without an ulterior motive being inferred.

Talk about the Patriots ahead of this weekend's game should be of a steamroller of a team looking good for a historic third consecutive Super Bowl triumph.

Instead, the focus is on the coach, who can take it, a quarterback who is ice-cool under the microscope and a dynasty that has shown no signs of cracking before.

Whether there is truth in the exposé or it is as puffed up as another controversial publication that has had America fluttering this week, there is no doubt that Belichick has the focus of the world where he wants it and his team in perfect position to cement their, and his, greatness in the play-offs.

© Independent News Service

TONIGHT: Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles, 9.35; TOMORROW: Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots, 1.15am; New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings, 9.40

Irish Independent

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