When Bill Belichick’s Patriots take the field against the Falcons for Sunday’s Super Bowl LI in Houston, the figurehead behind New England’s 16-season run of sustained success will have coached the big game more than any man in NFL history.
With his seventh Super Bowl appearance, Belichick will break a tie with Don Shula. If the Pats claim their fifth Lombardi Trophy under him, he’ll move ahead of Chuck Noll for the most ever.
And that’s just from his tenure as head coach of the Pats, which began in 2000. Aside from a four-year stint as the Browns’ coach - immediately before they moved and became the Ravens - Belichick won two Super Bowls with the Giants as their defensive coordinator. Plus, he coached defensive backs when New England lost to the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI.
The grumbly coach has his critics, to be sure. Jets fans are sure to hold a grudge over his brief offseason stint as head coach (“I resign as HC of the NYJ”). And he may never outrun the decade-old videotaping controversy known as Spygate. But above all, the 64-year-old Belichick is a winner.
His counterpart this weekend, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, is relatively early in his coaching journey. The 46-year-old North Jersey native broke into the NFL the same year Belichick’s Patriots upset the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002.
The former Division III defensive lineman spent much of his NFL career coaching the D-line with the 49ers, Dolphins, Jets and Seahawks before taking over the defense in Seattle. A little more than a year after his hiring, the Seahawks topped the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium three years ago.
His success guiding Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” earned him the role in Atlanta. Despite his background as a defensive mind, Atlanta reached this point thanks to a high-octane offense that makes up for its defense’s inability to hold opponents in check.
Needless to say, Quinn has a lot of ground to make up to catch Belichick.