What Andy Reid has done in Kansas City this season is impressive, but it’s overshadowed by what Bill Belichick has done in New England. At the beginning of the season, I did a list of the top-200 NFL players. New England had 11, tied with Seattle and San Francisco for the most. Of those 11 players, 4 are currently on season ending injured reserve (Sebastian Vollmer, Rob Gronkowski, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork).
One has fumbled his way to the bench (Stevan Ridley) and has been replaced in the starting lineup by a guy who was traded for a 7th round pick last April (LeGarrette Blount). Another (Danny Amendola) is 3rd on the team in snaps played at wide receiver behind a guy who is making less than a million dollars on a one year deal (Julian Edelman) and a guy who went undrafted in April’s draft (Kenbrell Thompkins). Another (Ryan Wendell) has not lived up to a strong 2012. Even their future Hall-of-Fame quarterback (Tom Brady) has showed his age and not lived up to expectations. Of those top-200, only Devin McCourty, who has quietly become one of the premier safeties in the game, Logan Mankins and Nate Solder have played 15+ games and exceeded expectations.
Add in Aaron Hernandez’s incarceration in June, Shane Vereen missing 8 games, Aqib Talib being in and out of the lineup with hip problems, Wes Welker leaving, and an improved AFC East and you have the perfect storm it would have taken to knock the Patriots off of their extended run of dominance, which had featured 11 seasons of 10+ wins, 10 division titles, 9 seasons of 11+ wins, 7 seasons of 12+ wins, 7 AFC Championships appearances, 5 Super Bowl appearances, and 3 Super Bowl victories. If they had gone 8-8 this season, no one would have been surprised.
Instead, the Patriots won 12 games and the AFC East by 4 games, got the AFC’s #2 seed and yet another 1st round bye, and didn’t lose by more than a touchdown all season, with all 4 losses possibly winnable. They seem poised for yet another AFC Championship appearance. They won by 34 in Baltimore, something that had never been done in the history of the Ravens franchise, shattering the previous record margin of victory by a road team of 27.
In that game, they started their left guard at left tackle and had 6 separate rookies play at least 50 snaps, including two rookies who went undrafted (Chris Jones, Josh Kline) and another (Duron Harmon) who everyone laughed at the Patriots for drafting in the 3rd round. Sealver Siliga, an inexperienced 2011 undrafted rookie signed off the street, also started that game, as he did in the week 17 game against Buffalo, a 34-20 victory in which Siliga shined against the run.
Fellow undrafted rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Joe Vellano also contributed significantly to this team this season, each playing over 500 snaps. Add in Chris Jones and that’s 3 undrafted rookies who played 500+ snaps for them. The Patriots had at least 58 different players play at least one snap on offense or defense and 46 different players play at least 100 snaps. Basically, if you made this team’s 53 man roster out of the pre-season, you played a significant role on this team this season, unless you got hurt, which you probably did.
Yes, Andy Reid improved the Chiefs from 2 wins to 11 wins, but being significantly better than Romeo Crennel sometimes isn’t enough to win you this award. This year is one of those times. If Bill Belichick is coaching the Chiefs, they win at least 11 games. You can’t say the same thing for the Patriots with Andy Reid. Never mind the fact that coaching is just Bill Belichick’s day job, that he also is the general manager of this team and makes all of the personnel decisions. I don’t know when the man sleeps, especially this season. Maybe that’s why he constantly looks like a zombie in a hoodie on the sideline every Sunday, but 75% of the time, they’ve won.
And if for no other reason, give it to him because he’s only won the award 3 times in his career, even though the vast majority of people would agree he’s the greatest coach of his era and one of the tops of all time. The fact that he’s only won it 3 times is borderline criminal and a testament to how messed up the Coach of the Year voting system is. The media almost always gives this award to a first year coach who saw a big improvement in win total (as it’s been 4 of the last 7 times), not the man who did the best job. This season, and most seasons, that’s Bill Belichick.