Coaching Arcs: Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick Coaching Arc, header

With only 32 spots available in the National Football League, ascending to the top of the organization as the head coach isn’t an easy task. Less a gift, and more something earned through hard work and paying one’s dues, every current head coach boasts a unique story to how they crafted their resume.

Head Coach of the New England Patriots Bill Belichick is one of these 32 head coaches. How did he get there? Here, we look at his path to securing one of the most elusive jobs on the market and where his current team is heading.

How It Started

Belichick’s journey through the world of professional football started over 40 years ago, when he accepted his first post as a Special Assistant to Baltimore Colts Head Coach Ted Marchibroda. He would bounce around between two other teams – the Detroit Lions and the Denver Broncos – over the next three seasons as an Assistant Special Teams Coach. These jobs were part of the legwork that would carry him away from assistant roles as he made his way to leadership.

Beginning of Coaching Career

Bill Belichick Coaching Timeline


In 1979, Belichick joined the New York Giants as the Special Teams Coach under the Head Coach Ray Perkins. Two years into his tenure with the G-Men, his role expanded as he took accountability for the Linebackers too. When Bill Parcells joined the Giants in 1983, Belichick survived the changing of the guard and saw his focus shift fully to the Linebackers. By 1985, he would be serving as the Defensive Coordinator to Parcells. He was the architect of their 1986 defense, which helped to secure a 14-2 regular season record and a victory over the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.

Before leaving the New York Giants for his first job as a head coach, Belichick would win one more Super Bowl with the G-Men. This victory came after the 1990 season, when the New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills, 20-19. He was now the perfect target for several teams with head coach vacancies.

Cleveland Browns

Belichick, only 39 years old at the time, took over the head coach position for the Cleveland Browns. His first season saw a 6-10 record, which placed him third in the AFC Central Division. Eleven of the 16 games they played that season were decided by a touchdown or less.

Things didn’t get much better in 1992 or 1993 – both seasons ended with 7-9 records. It would have been fair for fans to question Belichick at this time, but he had an answer for them in 1994. Turning in an 11-5 record after three seasons with losing records, he was able to bring the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs. They would win their first game, against the New England Patriots, 20-13, only to lose in the next round, 29-9, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With a letdown the following year, where the team regressed to a 5-11 record, Belichick’s time with the Cleveland Browns came to a close. The 1995 season would be his last as their head coach, in addition to Cleveland’s last year with these Browns. They moved to Baltimore and became the team we now know as the Ravens.

New England Patriots

Belichick’s next chance at a head coach position wouldn’t come for several years, but he would get a chance to audition for that team as an assistant head coach for Bill Parcells and the 1996 New England Patriots team. He would be part of a Super Bowl run that saw the Pats lose 35-21 to the Green Bay Packers.

It would take a first-round draft pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, as well as fourth- and seventh-rounders in 2001 to acquire Belichick as their head coach from the New York Jets, where he had been serving as the assistant head coach. It could be argued this was the best trade in the history of modern football.

It only took two seasons before Belichick brought the first Lombardi trophy to the case at Foxboro, as he nurtured the then green Tom Brady to carry his team to a 20-17 victory over the St. Louis Rams. This would begin a history of dominance not replicated, and potentially never to be repeated. After winning their most recent Super Bowl in 2014, and ushering the Patriots to a 14-2 regular season record in 2016 without Tom Brady available for the first four games, is there a better head coach currently working in professional football today?

All-Time Best?

Lombardi. Landry. Madden. Shula. These are names you could consider as part of a Mount Rushmore of NFL head coaches. But with his success across multiple teams, and four Super Bowl rings as a head coach, it’s easy to make a case that Belichick is the greatest coach of all time. Will he continue to further his case with a Super Bowl win this year? Patriots fans can only hope.

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