By losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick caused a lot of doubt as to whether or not he is still the best coach in the NFL. He has now lost the Super Bowl twice in five years and is seeing the rest of the field catch up. So, is he still the best?
Before a definitive answer can be given, the criteria for best coach must first be defined. What makes someone the best or worst coach in football?
Best could be selected from the perspective of a player, or from that of a fan. According to a poll conducted by Sports Illustrated in 2010, 21 percent of players claimed they would most like to play for Rex Ryan of the New York Jets. Belichick came in fifth place with seven percent of the votes.
A solid argument could be made that players are in the best position to determine if a coach is getting the best out of them. Unfortunately, this sort of poll has a major flaw.
These polls are inconsistent because players are told to simply select an answer and are not told to give a reason or use certain criteria in making their selection. One player could answer based on which coach he feels he would get along with the most, while another could answer based on which coach he believes would lead him to a title.
This flaw in the results is apparent in a similar poll conducted by Sporting News in 2011. In this poll, players were asked which coach they would least like to play for. This time, Belichick was ranked third with 15 percent.
This anomaly could be explained by the fact that the Patriots' head coach is such a polarizing and leading figure in the NFL that he is on the forefront of the mind when coaches are brought up. Even so, this disparity in the results makes it impossible to determine who the "best" coach is from a player's perspective.
So how do we determine who is the best? Since this discussion is in the realm of sports, perhaps the choice should be based on the obvious. The coach who has won the most recent title should be considered the best, shouldn't he? Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
Although Tom Coughlin's two Super Bowl titles, including a win in the most recent edition, certainly put him in the discussion for best coach, naming him the top dog based on that one factor is also flawed.
The beauty of football is that any team can win on any given day. That isn't to say Coughlin's wins were a fluke since getting to the Super Bowl in the first place doesn't just happen. Only the cream of the crop even make it to the playoffs. The problem is winning two football games by a grand total of seven points cannot be the only determining factor in crowning a king. It is a factor, but not the factor.
In terms of Super Bowl performances, however, Belichick in unparalleled amongst active coaches. Since joining the New England Patriots in 2000, Belichick has coached in five Super Bowls. Of those five, Belichick has won three. In that span, no one else has even coached in more than two Super Bowls.
A second valid criteria that has to be considered is consistency. In that domain, Coughlin simply cannot be placed ahead of Belichick. Since being named head coach of the New York Giants in 2004, he has failed to ever finish the regular season with more than 12 wins and failed to reach double digits in half of his seasons.
Bill Belichick, however, has surpassed the double-digit wins mark in 10 of his twelve seasons with the Patriots and has gotten more than 12 wins six times. He also has achieved a winning record in every season since he first came to the Pats.
Belichick's consistency isn't only impressive when compared to the consistency of Tom Coughlin. In his 12 seasons with New England, no team has won more games than the Patriots. No team has been to more Super Bowls. No team has been to more AFC Championship games. He has always been on top.
It is extremely difficult to name the best coach in the NFL because a coach is so dependent on his players. Based on his resume though, it is very difficult to argue against Bill Belichick. He has won in the past, and he keeps winning. Until that stops, the crown is his.