Miller: Super gap between Belichick, Pederson

By Ira Miller, The Sports Xchange
Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson celebrates after the Eagles defeated the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 to win the NFC Championship at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Jan. 21. The Eagles will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson celebrates after the Eagles defeated the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 to win the NFC Championship at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Jan. 21. The Eagles will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- Super Bowl LII already set a record. It is the widest gulf, in terms of victories, by the two Super Bowl coaches -- a difference of 256 between Bill Belichick's 278 coaching victories and Doug Pederson's 22.

What that will mean on Sunday, of course, remains to be seen. But it is clear that Belichick already established himself as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, and Pederson is, well, just beginning on his resume.


The last league championship game featuring such a coaching disparity occurred in 1963, when the Chicago Bears, coached by George Halas (297 victories to that point), defeated the New York Giants, coached by Allie Sherman (33 victories), 14-10.

Halas, of course, is in the Hall of Fame as a coach, owner and one of the founders of the NFL. Belichick will be there one day, but he already has his fingerprints in the Hall because of his influence on Bill Parcells, who was enshrined in 2013. All of Parcells' 11 postseason victories, including two Super Bowls, came with Belichick on his coaching staff.


Pederson does have one edge on Belichick's background -- as a player. Pederson backed up two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Dan Marino in Miami for one year and Brett Favre in Green Bay for seven. Pederson was on the Green Bay roster but inactive for the Super Bowls following the 1996 and 1997 seasons. Belichick never played professional football.

But Pederson also must defy history for the Eagles to upset the Patriots. The last five first- or second-year head coaches in the Super Bowl all lost to more experienced coaching opponents: Dan Quinn's Falcons to Belichick last season, Jim Caldwell's Colts to Sean Payton's Saints in the 2010 Super Bowl, Ken Whisenhunt's Cardinals to Mike Tomlin's Steelers in the 2009 Super Bowl, John Fox's Panthers to Belichick's Patriots in 2004 and Bill Callahan's Raiders to Jon Gruden's Bucs in 2003.

The last first-or-second year head coach to win a Super Bowl was Brian Billick with the Baltimore Ravens following the 2000 season.


Their resumes also are evident in their demeanor. Belichick was his usual stoic self after the Patriots won the AFC championship, barely even touching the Lamar Hunt Trophy that goes to the conference winner. Pederson had no such inhibition. He admitted celebrating until 2 in the morning. Belichick probably was well into his Super Bowl game plan by then.

At least in the last couple of weeks, however, Pederson matched Belichick's talent in one significant area -- the ability to improvise.

Most of the so-called experts around the NFL thought the Eagles' Super Bowl hopes were done when second-year quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury in December. Nick Foles, the backup, hardly looked Super Bowl-ready as the regular season wound down; in the last two games, he completed only 23 of 49 passes for 202 yards.

Pederson, however, got Foles ready for the NFC Championship Game against Minnesota, and we all saw how that played out.

And, while there is nothing comparable in their records, there is something of a similarity between Belichick and Pederson in that neither made an immediate impact on the NFL.


Just as NFL know-it-alls advised Patriots owner Bob Kraft not to hire Belichick as his coach in 2000, former Eagles executive Mike Lombardi called Pederson the least qualified head coach he's ever seen before this season began, and suggested the team should cut its losses and get rid of him.

Belichick is known by many for bending the rules, from the incident involving sideline filming (a $500,000 fine and first-round draft choice) in 2007 to the deflategate saga that cost the team two draft picks and $1 million following the 2015 season.

Really, however, that should be only a footnote to a career in which Belichick shows a remarkable ability to adapt, and, perhaps unusual for such a successful coach, a marked willingness to accept advice and borrow concepts from others.

That may be most evident in Belichick's friendship with Nick Saban, the Alabama head coach who has been as successful in college football as Belichick has been in the NFL. The two visited each other's practices and spoke to each other's teams, and even before they became household names in the profession, they worked together in Cleveland and bounced ideas off each other.


It is, to say the least, unusual for a coach at the top of the profession, in the NFL, to admit borrowing ideas from another. But despite all his success, Belichick is not ego-driven; if anything he prefers anonymity and likes to be left to his game-planning. He is not exactly joyless, but he has been known to bristle at suggestions he has eased up through the years.

There is only one question left for Belichick, if the Patriots win another title on Sunday: Is this it? For the second time, he will have to replace both his offensive and defensive coordinators, who are leaving for head coaching jobs. Tom Brady will be 41 next year. Belichick will be 66 in April. It will end sometime. Could this be it? Worth pondering.

Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than five decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

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