EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 23, 2013

Belichick's best year? Don't go there

Bill Burt
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Get ready for the onslaught beginning this morning after the New England Patriots pasting of the Baltimore Ravens, 41-7, yesterday.

The stories and headlines touting “Bill Belichick is a genius.” Or, the one I really adore, “Belichick’s doing his best work in 2013.”

I laugh, particularly at the second claim.

Even ex-Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, now a TV star with ESPN, has fallen hook, line and sinker for the boring, unwinnable argument, calling this Belichick’s best work in a recent column.

No disrespect for Tedy, but it’s like asking a mother which child is her best.

Sure, this has been an amazing run in 2013, considering the loss of two starting tight ends, two starting middle linebackers, two starting defensive lineman, two starting offensive linemen and several other semi-regulars for most of the season.

Considering those losses are undisputable, and the fact that Tom Brady performed more like Eli Manning than his brother Peyton (who broke Brady’s 50 TD pass mark yesterday), this has been a special run.

But is it more special than 2001, the Patriots team that started the season at 0-2 and ranked 32nd in all of the national ranking services?

Remember the controversies with Drew Bledsoe? Remember the play of the “system” quarterback, Tom Brady?

Or how about the fact that the often-cut Otis Smith was a cornerstone at defensive back or another released player, from the Buffalo Bills no less, running back Antowain Smith, was the go-to back?

What about the Snow Bowl win over Oakland? The win in Pittsburgh to win the AFC Championship? Or, most of all, the stunner over The Greatest Show on Turf, the St. Louis Rams?

What about the 2003 or 2004 teams? Both of them finished 14-2, while combining for two Super Bowls and an NFL record 21 straight wins, beating the favored Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers along the way in January?

What about the 2006 team that shocked the world by knocking out the NFL’s best team, the San Diego Chargers, out of the playoffs, before blowing a 21-3 lead in the AFC Championship to Indianapolis with key pass catchers named Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney?

What about the 2007 team that won 18 straight, averaging 37 points per game, losing the Super Bowl on freaky plays in the final minutes to the Giants?

What about the 2008 Patriots, which finished 11-5 with Matt Cassel filling in for Brady, who was injured in the second quarter of the opener in September? I mean, Matt “Bleepin” Cassel?

The “decent” 2010 Patriots amazing finished 14-2, averaging 37 points a game the last eight games, but they won’t get any love after their playoff loss to the Jets.

What about the 2011 Patriots that finished 13-3 and made it to their fifth Super Bowl in 10 years, but lost another heartbreaker to the Giants?

Of course, nobody mentions the 2012 Patriots, which finished 13-3, despite being ranked 29th in pass defense and 25th overall? That defense was horrible, yet Belichick got them to the AFC Championship, which fell apart when Aqib Talib got hurt.

Which brings us to 2013, another remarkable run by the Patriots and Belichick.

But before waxing poetic about this being Belichick’s best work, be careful.

Maybe there is a simpler method of analyzing it all:

Maybe Belichick is the best. Ever. And let’s leave it at that.

Bill Burt is executive sports editor of The Eagle-Tribune. You can email him at bburt@eagletribune.com.