FOXBOROUGH — While the Patriots beat the Browns by 14 points Sunday to improve to a perfect 8-0 on the year, the day was about Bill Belichick.
The Patriots coach won his 300th career NFL game, becoming just the third coach ever to reach the milestone. Belichick reached the number in 434 games, which is faster then Don Shula (445 games) and George Halas (455 games).
In the locker room following the win, it wasn’t about another dominating defensive performance, it was celebrating their head coach.
Owner Robert Kraft presented Belichick the game ball, while taking a slight dig at the Jets by saying how nice it was that win No. 299 came against the Jets, the team Belichick left to join the Patriots in 2000.
Of all the players to speak, each one was asked about Belichick’s accomplishment, and seemingly every player had a different reason why he’s the best at what he does.
“He is the best coach to ever do it, and I think in any sport — it is getting there,” Julian Edelman said. “You can put that in the record, you can put that in your pad — whatever. I may not know any other place, but I don’t think they get any better in any kind of sport, anything. He’s an absolute beast and you always feel like you have a shot to win a game with him at the lead.”
Edelman added: “I don’t know what keeps him motivated. That is one of the things that is the most extraordinary thing about him. He doesn’t ever let complacency kick in, and it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. That is something I really look up to him (on), and I try and pull from him. … My one word for him is machine. He’s a machine. He just does all the work all the time. He never lets up and he never cuts a corner. That is why he’s him.”
Tom Brady pointed to all the values Belichick preaches to his players he abides by himself.
“He’s had a big influence on me. He’s taught me about pro football. He’s taught me about leadership and consistency, dependability,” he said. “All the things I think he really preaches to us as a player is what we get out of him as a coach. His consistency, dependability, trust, confidence – all those things over a long period of time really add up. So, he’s just a very stable figure when he gets up and speaks to us. It’s about trying to win games, and I think we all appreciate that.”
And then there was special teams captain Matthew Slater pointing to his consistency.
“You know what you’re going to get from him and you know what is expected of you,” he said. “There is no guess work involved in that. You know what he expects from this football team and that consistency is something you appreciate as a professional.”
Slater added: “I think his core principles are the same. He is always going to preach accountability and discipline, team and working together and the fundamentals. The game has evolved and he has evolved. I have seen him evolve the last 12 years and do the little things to try and make this team better. I think at his core, who he is, it is the same person that started years ago.”
Heck, even opposing players were praising Belichick, including superstar Odell Beckham Jr.
“He’s a phenomenal coach,” he said. “I was looking at Don Shula, I don’t know how many wins he has, and I’m thinking, ‘Is Belichick trying to surpass that?’ And I just didn’t want to give him the 300th win today. But he went out and got it. He’s a phenomenal coach. You could argue he’s the best ever.”
But, perhaps Dont’a Hightower put it best.
“I couldn't name one thing I've done 300 times,” he said. “For him to get 300 wins at this level, I think he says it a lot about how hard it is to win in this league and for him to do it 300 times in the way that he's done it is speechless.”
The Patriots improved to 8-0 for the third time in team history on Sunday and are now preparing for their toughest test of the season next week in Baltimore.
But, all that can wait.
Sunday was about Belichick and acknowledging why he’s one of the greatest coaches to ever coach the game.