Bill Belichick has a lot of experience watching Super Bowls.
From the sideline, of course.
During his 45-year NFL career he’s had that chance 12 times, twice with the Giants and 10 trips with the Patriots.
But Sunday evening, for the first time in four years, Belichick will be just like the bulk of the football-loving world watching Super Bowl LIV action between the 49ers and the Chiefs as an unaffiliated observer at a much greater distance from the field where history will be made at Hard Rock Stadium.
So that begs the question, with his horse sitting this one out who exactly might Belichick be rooting for in Sunday’s battle between teams from San Francisco and Kansas City with which he has a handful of personal ties on each sideline?
First one has to ponder, will Belichick be watching at all?
Will he be like so many others, cracking open his beer of choice, downing a few belt-loosening snacks and palling around with friends while this biggest game in all of sports unfolds?
Whether he actually sits down and watches the full game – or the J. Lo-led halftime show – one has to assume that on some level Belichick will be rooting for one of the teams and its participants.
The argument for cheering on the Chiefs is pretty simple. Belichick and Kansas City coach Andy Reid have long been pals. Remember that time they made a draft-weekend trade, swapping consecutive late-round picks simply to keep some cockamamie trade streak rolling?
Even though Belichick dismissed Reid’s Eagles back in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, it’s not hard to imagine nearly two decades later that he might want to see his football fraternity friend get the ring that would almost certainly secure a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the accomplished offensive-minded coach.
Other, lesser motivations to root for the Chiefs might include conference loyalty and the fact that Belichick’s former defensive line coach, Brendan Daly, is appearing in his fourth Super Bowl in a row in the same role for Kansas City.
Now, of course, we get to the more sexy reasons that Belichick might just be turning to temporary 49ers fandom.
Two words. One name.
Most everyone knows both the New England-bred facts and the now-accepted narratives with the quarterback who’s led San Francisco to the Super Bowl.
He was a second-round pick of the Patriots back in 2014. Upon arrival at Gillette Stadium he won the backup job and, seemingly, lit a new-found fire under Tom Brady.
As legend has it, Belichick wanted Garoppolo to be the heir to Brady’s quarterback throne in Foxborough until he had to – forced by either unfortunate timing or word from above, depending on your interpretation -- trade him at the deadline in 2017. With things not working out locally, Belichick found a cushy landing spot for the passer he’d taken a clear liking to, sending him to Kyle Shanahan’s quarterback-friendly offense for a mere second-round pick.
Belichick sold the 49ers on just how good Jimmy G. could be. Word was that Belichick used to text Garoppolo after every win. Still texts him occasionally these days.
And if Garoppolo wins a record-tying sixth Lombardi Trophy for the storied San Francisco franchise, you don’t think Belichick will be given credit for developing the 49ers leader? It will also strengthen the notion by some that Belichick might have been right in wanting to keep Garoppolo in a Patriots uniform, maybe – gasp -- at all costs.
Make no mistake, Garoppolo and the 49ers beating the Chiefs on Sunday makes Belichick look good. (Unless of course you’re breaking down the return he got in exchange for franchise QB, but that’s another column for another day!)
And let’s not forget the longtime respect and admiration that Belichick has had for the Shanahan family. Few Belichick press conferences were more unexpected and strange than his rare, unscheduled monologue at the Scouting Combine podium in Indy that seemingly had the lone purpose of lamenting the fact that Mike Shanahan didn’t have a job in the NFL at that time.
More recently –certainly in the wake of his team’s historic 28-3 comeback over the then-Atlanta offensive coordinator’s Falcons in the Super Bowl LI – Belichick’s taken a similar liking to the younger Shanahan.
Oh heck, it now seems so obvious.
Sorry Andy Reid, I’ve convinced myself.
Cheering on a ol’ pal is one thing. Pulling for personal I-told-you-so rights is another.
Belichick’s rooting for Garoppolo, Shanahan and the 49ers this Sunday in Super Bowl LIV.
Prove me wrong.