FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 21: Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts to fans after a 29-26 win over the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
The Sporting News interviewed 103 NFL players on 27 teams and asked them to identify the most overrated head coach. Not surprisingly, the Jets' Rex Ryan topped the list with a third of the vote.
Here's what one AFC offensive player told Sporting News: "His coaching style is over the top. Some of the things he does in front of the cameras are way over the top. You put that with the New York media and he has a pretty big reputation, I guess. I don't even know if you'd call him overrated anymore because it's gonna be a couple of years since he was in the AFC finals. He's pretty funny, and he's a pretty good coach. But not THAT good." Right behind him? Bill Belichick.
No, seriously. Apparently, 16 percent of the players polled think Belichick is overrated. This is … well, insane.
Look, Belichick may be many things: intense, dull, hyper-competitive and some critics might even call him occasionally loose with the rules. But overrated isn't one of the top 50 adjectives any rational person would use to describe him.
That said, we understand why some players would say it. For starters, they're jealous. There's also the issue that Tom Brady fell into Belichick's lap. And pre-Brady, Belichick was just another coach. Nothing special and certainly nowhere near as successful as the three-time Super Bowl winner he became.
You can argue that Belchick's story would be different if the Pats didn't take Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. But a franchise quarterback doesn't magically make a mediocre coach great (though it's fair to say that there are currently no great coaches who don't have the luxury of a great QB). Also: it's not uncommon for former Pats players to say that they loved playing for Belichick and would gladly do it again.
Then there's this from the Boston Globe's Tony Massarotti:
"(L)et there be no doubt that the Patriots have slipped some in recent years, most notably on defense. Once regarded as the preeminent defensive mastermind in the game, Belichick has seen his team allow 120 touchdown passes since the start of the 2008 season, more than any team but the Detroit Lions during that span. From 2009 to 2011, the Patriots drafted 33 players -- count 'em, 33 -- and yet Belichick is still playing musical chairs in his defensive backfield, recently going so far as to acquire the troubled Aqib Talib for a fourth-round pick last week."
This is a fair criticism but show us a team without a weakness. It's the NFL where assembling a roster is more art than science, injuries are random, and the old truism "Any Given Sunday" often holds. Perhaps "relevant" is a better descriptor than "overrated." Either that or people need to admit that their expectations for Belichick and the Pats are unreasonable. This is the team that went 13-3 and made it to the Super Bowl last year, after all.