Are Bill Belichick's Best Years Behind Him?

NFL NationContributor IApril 22, 2010

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

John Madden once said a coach has 10 years in him. History seems to bear him out. A great NFL coach can transform losers into winners. We've seen that many times. Some coaches like Chuck Knox and Don Coryell could change a perennial loser into a true contender. Others could build a loser into a dynasty.

But for whatever reason, a great coach seems to have 10 years of greatness in him before the magic disappears.

John Madden walked away from the Raiders after 10 years. He finished with a 103-32-7 regular season record and one Super Bowl victory. Bill Walsh walked away after 10 years and three Super Bowl victories. Vince Lombardi was taken from us by God himself after his 10 seasons in the NFL. But not before he had won five NFL titles.

A great coach is better early in his career than later. Chuck Noll won four titles in his first 11 years but couldn't win any in his last 12. Don Shula won his two titles in the first third of his career but none in the final 22 years of his career. Joe Gibbs won his titles in his first stint with the Redskins but failed in his second stint with the same team.

Bill Parcells won two titles in his first eight years and none in his final 11 seasons. Which leads us to Parcells one time defensive coordinator....Belichick.

Belichick has won three titles in his first 10 years in the NFL but has come up empty in his last five seasons. Are Belichick's best years behind him? Are the Patriots as strong now as ever or are we just kidding ourselves?

Starting with the Super Bowl defeat to the N.Y. Giants in 2008 to draft day of 2010, the Patriots have a 4-9 record against playoff teams. Clearly, an influx of star players are needed to supplement the team.

This is the day to do that. Many people consider this to be the best draft of the past quarter century. There is no excuse not to come up big today. Not when you hold four picks in the first two rounds. But is Belichick up to the task?

Which draft can be considered his masterpiece? Which pick is his greatest? When I look at past dynasties, the Patriots success doesn't measure up to others.

In the 1970's, the Steel Curtain drafted Joe Greene in 1969, Terry Bradshaw in 1970, Jack Ham in 1971, Franco Harris in 1972 and finished off with the greatest draft ever in 1974 when they added Hall of Famers Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster.

In the 1980's, the San Francisco 49ers added 1 great player in every odd numbered year. Bill Walsh drafted Joe Montana in 1979, Ronnie Lott in 1981, Roger Craig in 1983, Jerry Rice in 1985, and traded for Steve Young on draft day 1987.

But it was in 1986 that Bill Walsh had his finest day. In a draft that has not produced any Hall of Famers, Bill Walsh drafted Larry Roberts, Tom Rathman, Tim McKyer, John Taylor, Charles Haley, Steve Wallace, Kevin Fagan and Don Griffin. Taylor, Haley and Wallace became pro bowlers and it appears only a matter of time that Charles Haley makes the Hall of Fame.

As for the Cowboy's of the 90's, what can you say? That team was primarily built by one master stroke by Jimmy Johnson. He traded Herschel Walker to the Vikings for three number one picks, three number two picks and two number three picks. That is called highway robbery!

Bill Belichick's Super bowl teams were sprinkled with solid players from previous regimes. Ty Law, Ted Johnson, Lawyer Milloy, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, and Adam Vinatieri are a few that come to mind.

With so much talent on today's draft board, it is imperative for Belichick to come up big. If he does, the Pats can be a force again. If not, it's time to show Belichick the door.