It is January 11th, 2024 and the Belichick era in New England is over. The greatest coach to ever lead a team is out of a job and he has been since 1995. No this isn't another claim to how great Bill Belichick is. This is a reminder that for all of his greatness, Belichick is still, and will always be, #2 to the great Don Shula.
The statistics are close, sure. Shula "only" took his teams to six Super Bowls while Belichick has been to nine. Yeah, Belly has won six, while Shula only has his two. The edge there goes to Bill. Least we should forget whom has the ultimate bragging rights when it comes to Super Bowls though. Shula has the only perfect season in NFL history. Sure, Darth Hoody, has a perfect regular season. But alas, he just couldn't quite reach that same pinnacle Shula willed his team to with two different quarterbacks. That would have been like Belicheat (sorry Freudian slip) accomplishing that task when Brady went down. Sure, what he did with Matt Cassel was impressive. But it sure wasn't perfect. Score a point for Shula.
Super Bowls are one thing, honestly the only thing some people seem to use to measure someone's greatness. As a Dolphins fan, though, we've learned that Super Bowls alone can't accurately gauge a person's rightful place in the hierarchy of greatness. Otherwise, Nick Foles is better than Marino. I think even Patsies, hell Jet's fans, would see the error in that thinking. So if not Super Bowls, what else can we use to gauge greatness? How about winning, and winning consistently? Shula only had 2 losing seasons in his 33 years as a head coach. Belichick? Well, he's had 8 in his 29 years. What's more, if you remove the Tom Brady years, which admittedly are a lot, Belichick has had 2 winning seasons and 8 losing. 8! That's not fair I can hear Pats fans crying now. Shut it! Shula was able to maintain excellence with 4 different starting quarterbacks. That's major starting quarterbacks, not the Don Stock's, Earl Morrall's or Scott Mitchell's that played when called upon. And let's not forget who holds the most wins all time at 347. Sure this point might not age well when Belly (I do think that might be my new favorite nickname) latches onto some team built (by someone else) to win now, achieves the 14 wins he needs pass The Don, but let's not forget that Shula also has a better winning percentage overall. Again this is close with Don at .660 and Bill at .652, but that's kind of the point. These two coaches are about as close to each other statically as possible.
There are probably 42 other ways to look at and compare these coaches. The truth is Belichick is one hell of a coach and had the greatest stretch of success a coach has had in the NFL. He was the greatest coach of the 2000s and that is for sure. But all time? Statistically you could build the argument that he is, in fact, the greatest coach of all time. If you pick and choose your metric right. Same thing could be done for Shula. Coaching, however, is about more than the mere stats that you accumulate over your tenure. Coaching, at its core, is about the man you are and the legacy you leave. This is where Shula separates himself, honestly, obliterates The Belly. If you've never heard the story of how Shula wouldn't use the Raiders game plan to beat them, here you go. Give that a read. To be able to accomplish the feats that he did AND have that integrity. That's unheard of. Now compare that to Belichick and all the controversy surrounding the Patriots and "rule bending" he used to get to where he is. Belichick may be neck and neck with Shula as a coach, but as a man Don out classes him like a pro team playing a high school squad. This is why, no matter what else Belichick is able to accomplish when he latches onto his next team, he will always be #2 to the great Don Shula.