Just when Cleveland Browns fans thought things could not get any
worse after Super Bowl XXXV when former owner and public enemy No. 1 Art Modell hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy, former Browns coach Bill Belichick followed in Modell’s footsteps the following season as he and the Patriots upset the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
I can remember how irritated I was following Super Bowl XXXVI, and it was not because I lost $20 on a game which I thought would be a blowout. Most of my anger came from the fact people were praising Belichick on what a great coach he was.
I never really had much respect for Belichick when he was in Cleveland. Maybe it was his play calling, his lame attitude or his my-way-or-the-highway approach to the game.
I was not the only one, however, who had the same distaste for him, as fans would root against the Browns in the hopes that Cleveland would fire Belichick.
To me, Belichick just did not appear as if he had what it took to become an NFL coach, as posting a combined record of 36-44 with just one trip to the postseason.
But Belichick learned from his up-and-down tenure in Cleveland. During his time in New England, Belichick has proceeded to prove all of his former critics – including myself – wrong.
This season, Belichick has put together one of the best coaching performances of all-time, proving that he is well worth the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year.
At the beginning of the 2003-04 season, however, Belichick appeared to be anything but a coach of the year candidate. Just five days before his season opener, Belichick made what seemed to be a colossal mistake as he released fan favorite safety Lawyer Milloy over a contract hassle.
Along with the Milloy dispute, Belichick had numerous early-season injuries that knocked out half of his starting defense which led to an early season thrashing by the Buffalo Bills in Week One.
New England’s Week Four loss to the Redskins looked to be just as crushing as the Patriots would have to face the likes of Tennessee, Miami and Denver in the next five weeks of the season.
But Belichick kept the team together and proceeded to reel off 12 straight victories and enter the playoffs with the league’s best record of 14-2.
Once in the playoffs, Belichick proved once again to be worthy of his coach of the year award as he stopped both NFL Co-MVP’s Steve McNair and Peyton Manning.
Belichick is a defensive-minded genius, and he is so good that he has made Romeo Crennel one of the leading candidates for a head coaching position next season. The same Romeo Crennel that was replaced by Foe Fazio after Crennel’s defensive unit allowed 44 offensive touchdowns back with the Browns in 2000.
Back when Belichick was with the Browns, the release of a well-respected veteran such as Milloy just weeks before the season began might have ended the team’s season. But Belichick’s different approach to the game is what kept the Patriots together, and it is why they are in the Super Bowl.
Tom Symonds is a senior a journalism and can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.