FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The hoodie is about to join the fedora.
If the New England Patriots beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday night, Bill Belichick will move into a third-place tie with Tom Landry on the all-time head-coaching list for wins, with 270. He would then be looking up at only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324).
What has contributed most to Belichick being in a position to join such elite company?
“He’s just so consistent. I think he has such an approach and an urgency to his coaching and how he gets his whole staff prepared, and the players,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “Everything is important -- the walk-throughs, the OTAs, minicamp, training camp. I don’t think you’d notice many times between an OTA day and a Super Bowl week in the way that he approaches the preparations.”
Landry, who was often recognized by his trademark fedora, accumulated all of his wins as coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1988, posting a 270-178-6 mark in the pre-salary cap era.
The victory total for Belichick, who has made the hoodie with cut sleeves a trendy fashion statement, is from his time as Cleveland Browns head coach (1991-95) and his Patriots tenure (2000-present). His current record as a head coach is 269-127, with the .679 winning percentage ranking second all-time among coaches with at least 160 wins, behind only Halas (.682).
There is some coincidental symmetry with Belichick’s win total becoming a notable storyline now, as the last time it happened -- when he tied Curly Lambeau for fourth place all-time in 2014 -- the Patriots were spending the week on the road while playing away games against the Packers and Chargers.
This week, the Patriots will play at Denver and then remain in Colorado Springs before visiting Mexico for a game against the Raiders on Sunday, Nov. 19.
Then there was the time in 2010, when the Patriots were visiting the Steelers and Belichick was about to draw even with one of his idols, Paul Brown, on the all-time wins list at 170. That night, Belichick wore a fedora to the stadium as a tribute to Brown.
When it comes to a connection with Landry, Belichick said there isn’t a strong one. Most of it, he said, came through stories shared by mutual friend and former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach.
As for the stories that Patriots players share about Belichick, they are filled with a familiar theme.
“Preparation,” safety Devin McCourty said.
“Just the details,” added tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“Singular focus,” relayed special-teams captain Matthew Slater.
Meanwhile, for some of those on the outside looking in, there is something else that stands out that can be easily overlooked: maintaining a productive partnership with Tom Brady, as most great coaches have been paired with a top quarterback.
“One of the most amazing things to me is that he and Brady have been able to work together, coexist together, get after each other, push each other, but keep their egos in check,” said longtime Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, who will provide analysis for the Patriots-Broncos game on Westwood One’s radio broadcast.
“You have maybe the greatest quarterback of all time and one of the greatest coaches of all time, and their ability to get along in good times and bad times and not care who gets the credit -- that’s one of the things I really admire.”
Taylor, who mentioned Belichick in his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech in August, added that Belichick’s ability to exploit opponents' weaknesses, negate the impact of top players and adjust is among the trademarks of his approach.
Added Taylor: “One of the things people look at, and kind of scratch their heads sometimes, is how Belichick will move a player right when you think he’s still playing at a high level, and it’s kind of a head-scratcher. But more times than not, it seems to work out.”
That highlights how Belichick has accumulated his wins in the salary-cap era, where economics can often be the primary reason for those types of decisions. Shula, Halas and Landry didn’t have that challenge in their careers, and Belichick’s adeptness at understanding it was one reason owner Robert Kraft was so drawn to him when hiring a head coach in 2000.
It was, as the win-loss record shows, one of the best decisions Kraft has ever made.
Meanwhile, Brady has met with Belichick weekly for each of the past 16 years and said, “He gets us all ready to go. That urgency helps us get ready and keep us focused. ... I think he’s just a great coach.”
Added McCourty: “He always says, ‘Players win games, coaches usually lose games.’ So I think as players, we know going in -- especially for me -- no matter who we play, how good they are, what they’ve done, we’ll be prepared to have a chance to win.”
McCourty also talked of watching “countless plays” and focusing on various situations in the game, which was a point Gronkowski and Slater echoed as well.
“Just how much knowledge he has about the game of football and how much he can go into depth on the details about just one single play,” Gronkowski said. “That’s what puts him to the next level, gets him all those wins -- just an unbelievable job of knowing the game and applying it to the players to help us out on the field.”
Added Slater: “Preparing this football team, not just to be competitive but to win every week, is easy to detect -- from meetings to the practice field. You can tell that’s what he cares about most, and his approach has never changed. There’s been no complacency. The standard has never been lowered. If anything, it’s been raised each and every year.”