Preston: The gap between Bill Belichick and the rest of the NFL's head coaches keeps getting wider

Bill Belichick could coach another 10 years until he is 76 and still possibly win the Super Bowl title.

Each year, the NFL becomes more mediocre, and that widens the gap between Belichick and the rest of the league’s coaches.


There is a certain delight in watching Belichick coach the New England Patriots because of the way he dials up plays and installs schemes. But there is always a desire to see him lose because New England has been so good for so long.

Through the years, there was hope that some other coach would rise up and take over. Maybe it was going to be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin, the Ravens’ John Harbaugh, the New Orleans Saints’ Sean Payton or the Philadelphia Eagles’ Doug Pederson.


Of course, the latest prodigy is the Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay, the 33-year-old guru. Yet on Sunday night, on the NFL’s biggest stage, Belichick took apart another possible heir apparent.

It was a close game because the Rams were a play away from tying it or taking the lead for nearly the entire contest, but New England controlled most of the action and the pace. By late in the fourth quarter, the only question that remained was who is going to unseat Belichick as king?

Tomlin can’t control his players in Pittsburgh, and Harbaugh, even though the Ravens were better this year, can’t escape the same mediocrity that embodies the rest of the league. Pederson’s offense hasn’t been the same without former coordinator Frank Reich, now the coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and Payton couldn’t beat the Rams even though a missed pass-interference call cost the Saints in the NFC championship game.

McVay was the only hope, but that quickly disappeared late in the first half Sunday. By that time, McVay was jumping up and down on the sideline like a cheerleader, including when the Rams stopped New England on a third-and-short situation.

On the other sideline was Belichick, as emotionless and stone-faced as ever. It’s those times when great coaches come to mind, such as Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll and Don Shula, and how they gave the occasional smiles, but they were always in control.

McVay looked lost early. Quarterback Jared Goff looked out of touch for the entire game and the Rams have filled out a missing person’s report on running back Todd Gurley.

If you went down the rosters, clearly the Rams had better talent, but the Patriots have Belichick and a better coaching staff.

This is by no means a great New England team. Tom Brady is still great, but past his prime at age 41. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is soon to be 30, but at times played as if he was 39.


Who are the Patriots receivers? Guys named Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson, who might have been more effective as a running back than a receiver this season. Then there is Julian Edelman, a whopping 5 feet 10 and 200 pounds, who controls the middle of the field against every defense.

A lot of teams ran against the Patriots this season, but New England’s defense on Sunday held one of the NFL’s top offenses to three points. Goff was 19-for-38 for 229 yards as New England took away his short passing game with variations of zone defense and crashed the middle of Los Angeles’ offensive line to put pressure on Goff.

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One of the keys to Belichick’s success is that he doesn’t mind borrowing from other coaches. He admitted after Sunday’s game that his defense started out playing in the same manner as Detroit when the Lions had success against the Rams earlier in the season. In the AFC divisional game, he played a lot of Cover 0 against the Los Angeles Chargers after watching what the Ravens and coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale did against them in two games.

The Rams defense played well enough to win, but Los Angeles never found a way to stop Edelman. Belichick would have. On defense, the Patriots have taken a player such as Lawrence Guy and turned him into a starter. He couldn’t get on the field consistently for the Ravens.

They have taken another former Raven, John Simon, and turned him into a part-time third-down pass rusher. Running back Sony Michel is a rookie who has played well this season and had 94 rushing yards Sunday, 68 of those in the fourth quarter.

It’s about the system and the coaching in New England. Other teams, such as the Ravens, have tried the no-star approach, but they don’t have Belichick. Other teams have good coaches, but they need the star players.


There are few superteams in the NFL. The league is a blob of mediocrity. It’s all because of the salary cap, which is supposed to create a level playing field.

That’s good in theory, unless you have a coach such as Belichick. The cap has made the disparity between him and other coaches greater than ever.

He can stick around as long as he wants.