On Jan. 24, 1986, the New England Patriots were days away from playing in their first Super Bowl.
Undoubtedly, that same day, current Pats head coach Bill Belichick was beginning preparations for the next season, when he would help the New York Giants achieve their first Super Bowl victory in his second season as defensive coordinator.
Also that day, current Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay, who will square off against Belichick on Sunday in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, was born.
Theirs is a Big Game coaching matchup like none before it. Belichick, 66, has helmed New England to eight previous Super Bowls — including four of the last five — with an all-time best five victories. McVay, 33, is a coaching wunderkind who took over in Los Angeles barely two years ago, shortly before his 31st birthday. Belichick is twice the age of his counterpart and has coached more playoff games (41) than McVay has coached regular-season and postseason games combined (35).
As unique and eye-popping as these numbers are, they only scratch the surface of these brilliant NFL minds. Belichick’s reputation, for better or worse, precedes him. His ability to cater game plans to specific opponents is a key factor in his nearly two decades of consistent success with the Pats. His teams are known for flexibility and the two weeks of preparation before each Super Bowl only enhance his strength in this area.
McVay, meanwhile, is the face of the new wave of offensive gurus tasked with helming up-and-coming teams. His rapid 10-year ascent from Miami of Ohio wide receiver to Super Bowl coach came with the help of the Gruden brothers, Jon and Jay. Jon, who currently coaches the Oakland Raiders, hired McVay as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ assistant wide receivers coach right out of college. Two years later, he joined the Washington Redskins staff, with current head coach Jay naming him offensive coordinator before the 2014 season at age 27. Three years there was enough to impress the Rams and become the youngest head coach in NFL history.
As the grandson of former Giants head coach John McVay, the job is in the Rams’ coach’s blood. That much he shares in common with Belichick, whose father Steve was on the Navy coaching staff for more than three decades.
Maybe McVay and Belichick aren’t so different, after all.
Super Bowl LIII coaches by the numbers
Bill Belichick (Patriots)
NFL seasons: 24
Regular-season record: 261-123
Playoff record: 30-11
Super Bowl record: 5-3
Sean McVay (Rams)
NFL seasons: 2
Regular-season record: 24-8
Playoff record: 2-1
Super Bowl record: 0-0