Bill Belichick outsmarts his rivals. The New England Patriots’ coach adds new plays mere hours before games and takes advantage of rules to dominate football like no one since Vince Lombardi in the 1960s.
In Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, the old curmudgeon will meet his polar opposite — the Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay.
There’s some symmetry in the QB battle between ageless wonder Tom Brady and young punk Jared Goff, but the difference between the two passers isn’t nearly as drastic as the one on the sidelines.
McVay, who turns 33 today and has a reputation for being a nice guy, is the youngest head coach in Super Bowl history. He has been with the Rams for only two years after serving as a Redskins assistant for seven seasons.
Meanwhile, Belichick won his first Super Bowl as head coach when McVay was 16.
Although the differences in experience and approach are stark, the geniuses have found similar success this season.
Los Angeles and New England aren’t the NFL’s two best teams, but New Orleans and Kansas City on Sunday were outsmarted by McVay and Belichick. Sure, the Rams got lucky when referees missed an obvious late pass interference call that would have likely assured a Saints win. But that’s football. And good coaches take advantage of breaks like that.
While Belichick is the epitome of old school, McVay is an old soul. McVay’s DNA is pigskin: his grandfather John McVay coached the New York Giants from 1976 to 1978, then was a San Francisco 49ers executive for 16 years. McVay’s father, Tim, was a standout college safety at Indiana. Even McVay’s housemate, Rams assistant linebackers coach Chris Shula, is a grandson of legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula. McVay was born for this moment.
Anyone who has met McVay wasn’t surprised that the Rams took a chance on him when he was just 30. He has the football mind of someone twice his age — like 66-year-old Belichick. McVay’s photographic memory allows him to remember every snap down to a 2006 college game he played.
But Belichick has seen it all. He has done it all. Blanking Kansas City’s top-scoring offense in the first half of last week’s AFC championship game proved insurmountable for the Chiefs. When the Patriots faced the St. Louis Rams 17 years ago in what would become the first of five Super Bowl wins, Belichick stunned “The Greatest Show on Turf,” jumping out to a 17-3 lead before the Rams rallied late. New England was a 14-point underdog in the 20-17 win.
Bettors stopped underestimating Belichick, and the Patriots haven’t been underdogs in their eight Super Bowls since that first title. On Feb. 3, expect the old man in the hoodie to have a few new tricks to show his young counterpart.
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