FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Bill Belichick played the AFC wildcard playoff game against the titans on Saturday night after winning 31 postseason games in his brilliant career, more than any coach in NFL history.
Belichick, the Patriots' head coach since 2000, has appointed eight former assistants to head the NFL – with mixed results.
However, Belichick's record against his former assistants was not what you might think. Indeed, this is an area where, strangely, Belichick has not dominated.
Belichick played the AFC wildcard playoff game against the Titans at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night with a 14:13 pedestrian record against his former assistants.
Why is that relevant?
Because the Titans are coached by Mike Vrabel, who was linebacker for Belichick in New England from 2001 to 2008 and was one of the smartest and most versatile players that Belichick has ever coached – clearly a Belichick favorite.
Vrabel's titans beat up the 34-10 year old patriots last week at a week 10 meeting when he first met Belichick as head coach.
Also remember, the only reason the patriots played on Saturday night was the loss to the Dolphins, who were coached by former Belichick assistant Brian Flores. A New England victory over the Dolphins would have brought goodbye to the first round.
A Saturday night loss to Vrabel could have meant a bitter end to the 2019 season for Belichick.
Saturday night was Vrabel's first playoff game as head coach. And Belichick had a 2-0 post-season record against his former assistants – he won Eric Mangini's Jets in 2006 and Bill O & # 39; Briens Texans in 2016.
Saturday's game was the first off-season coaching match in which a head coach had been competing against each other since 1985 when New Englishman Raymond Berry faced Don Shulas Dolphins in the wildcard round.
"I have a lot of respect for Mike as a person, as a coach," Belichick told reporters before the game. "He's been a friend for a long time. He was a really smart player, a very basic player, and I'm sure you can see these strengths in the way he coaches his team.
"Mike has a lot of great qualities as a person, and that means he's a good coach," Belichick continued. "He is very smart and takes things quickly in hand. I think the game is pretty easy for him when it comes to understanding concepts, situations and similar things. I think you saw that in his game. He was a great player here, one who hopefully will be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame. ”
As fervent as Belichick's praise for Vrabel was, their relationship was strained in 2009 after patriots Vrabel and Matt Cassel traded for a second-round draft pick to the Chiefs.
Vrabel admitted that he hadn't spoken to Belichick in months. This cold thawed after Vrabel finished playing and started training. Belichick became a valuable resource for his former player and helped him shape his coaching career.
"If you spend time there, there are some similarities that I believe in and you grow up as a player that you believe in," Vrabel told reporters before the game. "We have different personalities. I respect his friendship and guidance when I play there. We are now competitors. "
The participants trained against each other in the summer during some joint training sessions in Tennessee, where Tom Brady Vrabel jokingly presented a trophy with a result of 34 to 10 for the Titans victory of the previous season.
"We learned a lot," said Vrabel.
How much he learned had the potential to go a long way on Saturday night and further worsen Belichick's record against his former assistants.
"You cannot participate in any game or anything in life [afraid]"Vrabel told the Boston Herald last year before dealing with Belichick for the first time." You can't go inside [against the Patriots] Think: "I have to be careful." You cannot play this game carefully or tentatively. If you do this, you will not be playing very well. And when it comes to Bill, you really have to get rid of the feeling. "