Two decades of dominance

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 10, 2006



We were munching on ribs and drinking beer the other day when – right there in the middle of breakfast – we started thinking a bit more about what's turning out to be the "year of the coach" in the NFL playoffs.
 
We chronicled the "year of the coach" last week heading into the wild-card playoff games. Of the eight remaining head coaches, six have led a team to the Super Bowl, four own at least one Super Bowl ring and three own multiple rings. Coaching, in other words, matters in the NFL, perhaps more so than in any other sport (though NBA fans might have an argument).
 
When it comes to coaches, our respect for Washington's Joe Gibbs (pictured here) knows no bounds. He now has a remarkable 17-5 postseason record and all you need to know about him is this: Gibbs was out of football for 12 years, but he has still won a Super Bowl more recently than King of the Blowhards, Bill Parcells, who may stand as the most overrated coach in NFL history.
 
We're also quickly becoming big John Fox fans. Hey, the guy is in just his fourth year as a head coach and has already pieced together a 4-1 postseason record. Three of those four wins have come on the road, and the one loss was a game for the ages, a tooth-and-nail battle with New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII. And now, Fox has a very legitimate shot at leading Carolina to its second NFC championship in just three years. (His quarterback, by the way, is the top-rated postseason passer playing this year.)
           
But the reputation of one coach surpasses all others right now. That coach, of course, is Bill Belichick, the NFL's resident "genius" and the leading defensive strategist of our time.
 
As a head coach, Belichick owns a well-publicized 11-1 playoff record and 10-game postseason win streak, each of which stand as the best of all time. But his postseason dominance precedes his years as a head coach.
 
Two decades of dominance
We looked back on Belichick's entire career as a head coach AND defensive coordinator. Belichick has been a defensive coordinator or head coach in the NFL for 21 seasons (his list of jobs appears as the bottom of the page). His teams have made 11 playoff appearances in those 21 seasons and have played in 26 postseason games.
           
Belichick's teams have a 21-5 (.808) postseason record. 
           
It's a record that's been built upon defensive dominance. In those 26 games, Belichick's teams have surrendered just 392 points, an average of 15.08 PPG, facing some of the best players and offenses the NFL could throw his way.
 
Staring down the legends
More specifically, it's a record that's been built upon an ability to embarrass some of the best quarterbacks in modern football history.
 
We compiled the record of every opposing quarterback Belichick has faced during his years as a defensive coordinator or head coach. He's faced 22 different QBs in these 26 games and, with a handful of obvious exceptions, the list of opposing QBs reads like a Who's Who of modern NFL legends:
  • In 6 of 26 games, he's faced a quarterback who went on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Montana 3 games; Elway 2; Kelly 1).
  • In 3 of 26 games, he's faced a bona fide future Hall of Fame quarterback (Manning 2, Favre 1).
  • In 11 of 26 games, he's faced a quarterback who has won an NFL MVP Award (12 MVP awards total: Favre 3, Warner 2, Montana 2, Manning 2, McNair 1, Gannon 1, Elway 1).
  • In 22 of 26 games, he's faced a quarterback who has appeared in at least one Pro Bowl (opposing QBs have made a total of 60 Pro Bowl appearances).
  • (Hall of Famer Steve Young made a token appearance against a Belichick team in 1990, but we did not include his two MVP awards or seven Pro Bowls in the above calculations.)
Despite the long list of accolades, these NFL legends have looked like lost, lazy-eyed rookies in postseason games against Belichick defenses. In fact, they've posted the following cumulative stat line in 26 postseason games:
  • 496 for 950 (52.2 percent), 6,033 yards, 28 TDs, 37 INTs, 65.6 rating
Here's a breakdown of every single quarterback who has faced a Belichick-led defense in the playoffs. For most, it turned out to be an extremely infuriating experience.
 
 
Quarterback
Comp/Att/YDS/TD/INT
Rating
1985
 
 
 
NYG, 17 SF 3
Joe Montana
26 for 47, 296, 0, 1
65.6
Chicago 21, NYG 0
Jim McMahon
11 for 21, 216, 2, 0
120.3
1986
 
 
 
NYG 49, SF 3
Montana
8 for 15, 98, 0, 2
34.2
 
Jeff Kemp
7 for 22, 64, 0, 1
22.2
NYG 17, Washington 0
Jay Schroeder
20 for 50, 195, 0, 1
43.3
NYG 39, Denver 20
John Elway
22 for 37, 304, 1, 1
83.6
1989
 
 
 
L.A. Rams 19, NYG 13
Jim Everett
24 for 44, 315, 2, 1
83.0
1990
 
 
 
NYG 31, Chicago 3
Mike Tomczak
11 for 36, 205, 0, 2
28.1
NYG 15, SF 13
Montana
18 for 26, 190, 1, 0
103.0
 
Steve Young
1 for 1, 25, 0, 0
118.8
NYG 20, Buffalo 19
Jim Kelly
18 for 30, 212, 0, 0
81.5
1994
 
 
 
Cleveland 20, NE 13
Drew Bledsoe
21 for 50, 235, 1, 3
38.3
Pittsburgh 29, Cleveland 9
Neil O'Donnell
16 for 23, 186, 3, 0
133.3
1996
 
 
 
NE 28, Pittsburgh 3
Tomczak
16 for 29, 110, 0, 2
35.1
 
Kordell Stewart
0 for 10, 0, 0, 0
39.6
NE 20, Jacksonville 6
Mark Brunell
20 for 38, 190, 0, 2
44.8
Green Bay 35, NE 21
Brett Favre
14 for 27, 246, 2, 0
107.9
1998
 
 
 
N.Y. Jets 34, Jax 24
Brunell
12 for 31, 156, 3, 3
80.3
Denver 23, N.Y. Jets 10
Elway
13 for 34, 173, 1, 0
65.0
2001
 
 
 
NE 16, Oakland 13
Rich Gannon
17 for 31, 159, 1, 0
79.9
NE 24, Pittsburgh 17
Stewart
24 for 42, 255, 0, 3
45.2
NE 20, St. Louis 17
Kurt Warner
28 for 44, 365, 1, 2
78.3
2003
 
 
 
NE 17, Tennessee 14
Steve McNair
18 for 26, 210, 1, 1
90.2
NE 24, Indy 14
Peyton Manning
23 for 47, 237, 1, 4
35.5
NE 32, Carolina 29
Jake Delhomme
16 for 33, 323, 3, 0
113.6
2004
 
 
 
NE 20, Indy 3
Manning
27 for 42, 238, 0, 1
69.3
NE 41, Pittsburgh 27
Ben Roethlisberger
14 for 24, 226, 2, 3
78.1
NE 24, Philly 21
Donovan McNabb
30 for 51, 357, 3, 3
75.4
2005
 
 
 
NE 28, Jacksonville 3
Byron Leftwich
18 for 31, 179, 0, 1
61.1
 
David Garrard
3 for 8, 68, 0, 0
68.8
 
In these 26 games:
  • 5 QBs posted a passer rating of better than 100 (excluding Young).
  • 6 QBs posted a passer rating of better than 90.
  • 19 QBs posted a passer rating of less than 80.
  • 10 QBs posted a passer rating of less than 50.
Interestingly, Belichick's defenses have often turned out their best performances when facing the best quarterbacks. Consider the cases of Peyton Manning and Joe Montana, two of the best and most productive quarterbacks in the history of football. In the five postseason games these two quarterbacks have played against Belichick defenses:
  • They lost all five games.
  • They scored just 36 points (7.2 PPG).
  • They posted a cumulative stat line of: 102 for 177 (57.6 percent), 1,049 yards, 2 TDs, 8 INTs, 59.7 rating.

Needless to say, Jake Plummer, who's had a career year for Denver and faces New England this weekend, is probably not a name that's likely to make Belichick shake in his shoes. After all, he's faced his fair share of quarterbacks more accomplished than Plummer over the past 21 years – and had his way with almost all of them.

Belichick's coaching career
Years
Team
Position
Playoff Record
1985-90
N.Y. Giants
defensive coordinator
7-2
1991-95
Cleveland
head coach
1-1
1996
New England
assistant head coach
2-1
1997-99
N.Y. Jets
defensive coordinator
1-1
2000-05
New England
head coach
10-0
 

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