Baltimore Ravens

Bill Belichick's history with Ravens, good and bad, makes for a unique showdown

Bill Belichick cares about football history more than any coach in the NFL. He speaks minimally on the current state of his playoff-bound New England Patriots, but get him started on Amos Alonzo Stagg, Paul Brown or the 1941 Detroit Lions (for whom his dad, Steve, was a fullback), and stand back for a discourse that will have the depth of a Ken Burns documentary delivered with the eloquence of Winston Churchill.

All of which makes New England's "Monday Night Football" match with the Ravens much more interesting than your run-of-the mill routs that have dotted the Patriots' 2016 schedule with alarming and boring regularity.


This game is better. This game is different. There is great recent history between the teams, a distinct thread of hard feelings, and Belichick's everlasting connections to both Baltimore and the Ravens franchise.

Let's hop into the way-back machine and remember that Bill's first job in coaching was with the Baltimore Colts. Belichick grew up in Annapolis, where his dad coached at Navy for 33 seasons. After graduating from Wesleyan, Bill got his first job in the NFL as a special assistant to Colts coach Ted Marchibroda in 1975.


According to the late David Halberstam, who authored "The Education of a Coach," the words that got Belichick hired were when he pitched Marchibroda with: "Look, you don't have to pay me, but give me something real.'' Belichick wound up making $25 per week, but he ate all his meals with the coach and experienced complete immersion in all things NFL.

This led to real staff jobs with the Detroit Lions and New York Giants, and at the age of 38, Belichick became the NFL's youngest head coach. He lasted five years with the Cleveland Browns and won the original Browns' last playoff game (a New Year's Day joust in which Belichick's Vinny Testaverde outplayed Bill Parcells' Drew Bledsoe). When the Browns abandoned Cleveland and moved to Baltimore, they took Testaverde with them, along with Anthony Pleasant, Matt Stover and Eric Turner. But Belichick was fired ... and replaced by Marchibroda.

So there's some history for you: Belichick's first pro team played at Memorial Stadium. Then the first team he head-coached moved to Baltimore, playing its early seasons in Memorial Stadium, and replaced him with the man he started under in Baltimore.

Technically, the Ravens are the descendants of the Browns. And they represent the city where Belichick first worked for an NFL team.

The "modern" history between Belichick and the Ravens is less nostalgic, more emotional.

History suggests that the Patriots have reached the end of the Tomato Can Road. (Really, could they have faced more impotent offenses, horrible quarterbacks, frightened coaches and teams whose best player was injured?) This entire Patriots season has been nothing more than a layup drill with an 8-foot rim. Week after week, we have learned nothing about the Patriots.

Even their fumbles have been blessed in holy water. Fourteen of New England's 21 fumbles (a pretty high number) have magically bounced back into the hands of the Pats. It must be something they work on on Fridays. All of this swell fortune has put New England in the standard position for an easy path to the Super Bowl: win division, first-round bye, divisional-round home game, AFC championship at home.

Baltimore Ravens Insider


Want the inside scoop on the Ravens? Become a Ravens Insider and you'll have access to news, notes and analysis from The Sun.

But history suggests that this Monday night game against the Ravens could be a speed bump. The Ravens have two ingredients you need to beat New England in Foxborough. They have a quarterback (Joe Flacco) and head coach (John Harbaugh) who are not afraid to come here and do their job.


Flacco plays some of his best football against New England. He has a troika of deep threats and can expose an untested and shaky New England secondary. He has a history of winning here, twice in the playoffs.

We all have the memory of Harbaugh getting his pants pulled down here in the playoff game two years ago. It was weak to hear him complaining about deception and illegal formations, but he routinely has his team ready for the Patriots in Foxborough. His Ravens beat the Patriots, 33-14, to knock them out of the playoffs in the 2009 season, and then again in the 2012 season. Both games were played at Gillette.

Two years ago, Baltimore led New England by two touchdowns twice, before losing, 35-31. The Patriots have not been able to win by more than six points in any of their past six games against the Ravens at Gillette.

It is the 2014 divisional-round playoff game that is on everybody's mind as the teams prepare to meet Monday night. That was the game that might have triggered "Deflategate." A week after that game, the Ravens' special teams coordinator called Colts coach Chuck Pagano, saying the Ravens had issues with the footballs used in the game. This led to Indy's vigilance, sour grapes and the Wells Report, which led to penalties of a million bucks, first- and fourth-round draft picks and a four-game suspension for Tom Brady.

And thus Harbaugh — even though Belichick recommended him for his job — has moved next to Eric Mangini ("I know it was you, Fredo") in the Patriot Place Hall of Shunned alongside Roger Goodell, Charley Casserly, Tom Jackson, Jeff Fisher, Microsoft tablets, and a rogues gallery of talk-show hosts and columnists.

It's all about the history when it comes to the Patriots and Ravens. The games are generally good, but some of the history is bad. Which is why we can't wait for Monday night.