Inside the hoodie: What makes Bill Belichick tick?

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Belichick Has Two Mountains To Climb

Mount Halas and Mount Shula, namely. After reaching his 300th win (regular season and playoffs), two men are in his way on the all-time victories list: George Halas with 324 and Don Shula with 347. It’s easy to calculate the numbers and figure he could pass Halas in 2021 and Shula in 2023 or ‘24, but a few notes about that.

One: Belichick is 67; if he’s still coaching in 2023, he’ll be a 71-year-old man. Though he could pass for 55 today, age is age, so we’ll see.

Two: Soon, maybe starting in 2020, Belichick will have to win without Tom Brady, who will be 43 in the 2020 season. The Patriots did win 11 games in the only season Brady missed due to injury, but Belichick has basically had the best quarterback of all time—arguably—for 18 of his 20 New England seasons, and 244 of his 300 wins. Can he win without him? As competitive as Belichick is, he has to feel what many around the league wonder in whispers.

Three: Maybe the guy just wants to do something else. We just don’t know that.

Four: Lots of times people retire because of stress in the job, but those who know Belichick best say he’s done this for so long in part because nothing football-related provides his stress; he’s had such great role models (starting with his flatliner brilliant dad, the late Steve Belichick) and realizes all he can do is prepare the best he knows how and whatever happens happens.

After Sunday’s game, owner Robert Kraft presented Belichick with a game ball for reaching 300, and he mentioned his first win. The details:

• Belichick win 1: Browns at Patriots, Foxboro, Mass., Sept. 8, 1991. Belichick’s Browns 20, Patriots 0.

• Belichick win 300: Browns at Patriots, Foxboro, Mass., Oct. 27, 2019. Belichick’s Patriots 27, Browns 13.

Perhaps the biggest difference in the games:

• New England quarterback in the first Belichick win: Tom Hodson (lifetime wins: 1).

• New England quarterback in the 300th Belichick win: Tom Brady (lifetime wins: 245).

I asked some of the people who have known Belichick over the years about a trait or story they have illustrating his football mind:

Cris Collinsworth
NBC “Sunday Night Football” game analyst

“This week, we met with Aaron Rodgers and talked to him about how well the Green Bay offense is playing, and how his relationship with the new coach is developing. You know, good news stuff. But, in the beginning, when I did this job, I was at the bottom of the NBC NFL TV teams. I’d do a lot of games with teams under .500. Invariably, I’d be asking, ‘Why do you stink?’ With Bill in Cleveland, asking him that question in some form, you’re not going to have a lot of fun. And believe me, when Bill is mad at you, it is bad. But he is also my favorite interview when he is engaged.

“People have never appreciated what a brilliant teacher he is. One time I asked him about how well one of his defensive tackles was playing—the way he got his hands inside, the way he controlled his man—and then Bill went on a 30-minute deal about defensive tackles. Everything about the position. I was stunned about the level of minute detail he went into about defensive tackles. I said, ‘You should write a book about defensive tackles.’

“He said, ‘Cris, I could write a book about every position.’

“Bill’s ability to develop talent is what separates him. He knows he can develop and train younger players, or improve players on the back-end of their careers, which allows him to let high-priced players walk. That ability to control his salary cap allows him to build depth on his roster. When injuries are destroying other teams late in the year, he still has quality players coming off the bench for the playoffs and Super Bowl.“

Louis Riddick
Safety, Cleveland, 1993-95

“January first, 1995. Single-most memorable day of my football career—high school, college, pro.

“Stevon Moore, the regular safety, was hurt. I was ready to go. Nick Saban’s my defensive coordinator and my DB coach. Bill Belichick’s my head coach. Playing Drew Bledsoe in a playoff game. Going to the stadium, I wasn’t nervous. Nick is one of the great coaches of all time, and he had me totally prepared. We were playing a lot of single-high safety. On this one play, [safety] Eric Turner rotated down, and I was playing the deep part of the field. I remember getting good depth and seeing Drew throw it. He overthrew it. I thought, ‘This ball is coming right to me! Don’t drop it!’ I caught it. And that day I had like 10 tackles. Great day. Next day, we go into the team meeting, and I figure I’m getting a game ball. I sat down. I figure, had an interception, all these big hits. I am at the edge of my seat. Bill says, ‘This guy had so-and-so tackles, had an interception.’ Bill says, ‘The defensive player of the game is …’ I literally start getting up out of my seat, and he says, ‘Eric Turner.’ I was like [exhaling air]. I sat back in my seat. And Eric, God bless his heart, says, ‘Uh-uhn. No.’ He tosses the ball to me, and everybody is clapping.

“So we’re walking out of the team meeting room. Bill’s there. He looks at me. Just like this he says: ‘What are you gonna do next week?’ I’m thinking, ‘Man! That’s rough!’

“But this league’s about what you’re gonna do, not what you just did. Great lesson. And that is exactly how Bill Belichick is.”

Chris Simms
Coaching assistant, New England, 2012-13

“One of the dirty secrets of the NFL is how the Patriots’ attention to detail and creativity goes way beyond other coaches I’ve seen. Their building is as on edge and in the same full grind mode on May 25th as it is on Nov. 25th. Preparing in the offseason is like preparing for a playoff game. After a while—I was there about 16 months—I started to realize that bulletin-board material doesn’t exist for the Patriots. They don’t care about anyone else. They care about internal motivation, not external.

“It was Mother’s Day weekend one time, and we’re in there on a Saturday, and we’re thinking, ‘Sunday off! Great!’ So we’re working hard on a Saturday and in a staff meeting, Bill says, ‘I’ll let you guys sleep in tomorrow. Let’s come in at 11.’ Someone says, ‘Bill, tomorrow’s Mother’s Day.’ Like, if you’re married with kids, you need to do some family things Mother’s Day. He’s like, ‘Oh that’s right.’ He gave everyone the day off, and he was fine about it. But he was oblivious to it.

“I remember watching the Super Bowl against Seattle when I was with Bleacher Report. Seattle’s down near the goal line, ready to score and win the game, and Bill’s not calling a timeout. I was sitting there, like, ‘What is he doing! Call a timeout!’ And of course it worked out, and Bill knew that by not calling the timeout he was putting pressure on the Seahawks to make a quick decision about their play-call at the goal line. In New England, nothing happens without it being thought out.”

Mike Vrabel
Linebacker/tight end, New England, 2001-08

With the Patriots in cap trouble entering Belichick’s second year, 2001, New England signed 17 mostly backup or bit players in the 2001 offseason, including Pittsburgh special-teamer/backup linebacker Vrabel.

“I had kind of stalled in Pittsburgh, and you always wonder what you’d do if you ended up getting cut one year. I would probably have gone back to school. I’m not sure I’d have been as eager to get into coaching when I was that young. When the Patriots gave me the offer, I was going to have more of a chance to get on the field. I brought it back to Pittsburgh and told coach [Bill] Cowher. He said, ‘We can match the money, but not the opportunity.’ So I went to New England.

“One day that first year Bill walked up to me and said, ‘Remember in that Miami preseason game last year—how you played the power block? That’s how we want to do it here.’ There wasn’t all that much tape on me in Pittsburgh, but he found something he saw in me.”

“I used to warm up with Drew Bledsoe before games, and he’d throw me quite a few passes. Drew told [offensive coordinator] Charlie Weis, ‘This guy can play tight end if we need it.’ So eventually they started asking me to come over on Fridays and get the tight end plays, and maybe they’d use me. [Vrabel caught 12 passes for 12 touchdowns in the last nine years of his career.] What that taught me is Bill uses the whole roster. He puts more stuff on guys who can handle it.

“I’ve taken a lot from a lot of coaches in my life—Urban Meyer, Bill Cowher, Bill [Belichick], Bill O’Brien—but what sticks with from New England is that Bill held the best players the most accountable. He wants everyone on the roster to know he’s going to demand the most from the best players.”

Matthew Slater
Special-teams player, New England, 2009-present

“In our first playoff game in the 2016 season, we did not play well at all. We beat Houston, but we knew after the game it wasn’t a good game for us. Honestly, it was like we lost. I don’t know any other place in the league where you win a playoff game and it feels like that.

“Bill wasn’t emotional, he wasn’t loud. He was just matter-of-fact, straight to the point. He said, ‘If we play like that again next week, we’re gonna get beat.’ Nothing dramatic. Just the truth. Regardless of the outcome, he was going to tell us the truth.

“As people in life experience great success, and things come a little easier for them, they tend to change. It’s human nature to become a little complacent. It can be exhausting to maintain the all-in mentality in anything in life year after year, decade after decade. But he has. Bill’s most unique ability, I think, is to avoid complacency. His standard, his love of football, his preparation every week, every year, it’s never changed.

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft CB Rankings: Devon Witherspoon highlights loaded draft class


The 2023 NFL Draft is growing nearer, with just weeks remaining until teams make selections that could alter the future of their franchise forever.

A solid secondary is crucial to any team’s defensive prowess, and for the teams looking to tighten up in coverage, this year’s draft is the one to do so.

The 2023 NFL Draft cornerback class is an incredibly deep one, but which corner will be first off the board? Chris Simms unveiled his 2023 NFL Draft Cornerback rankings this week on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast, posting Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon at the top of his list of corners in this year’s crop.

But trailing Witherspoon very closely are four other potential NFL superstars, with Simms ranking Michigan’s DJ Turner at No. 2, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez at No. 3, Maryland’s Deonte Banks at No. 4 and Georgia’s Kelee Ringo at No. 5.

The 2023 NFL Draft will begin on Thursday, April 27, and end on Saturday, April 29. The first round will take place on Thursday with rounds two and three airing on Friday and rounds four through seven on Saturday. Click here for Simms’ quarterback rankings,and here for his list of top wide receivers.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Simms’ Top Five CB prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft

Tier One

1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

2. DJ Turner, Michigan

3. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

Tier Two

4. Deonte Banks, Maryland

Tier Three

5. Kelee Ringo, Georgia

RELATED: 2023 NFL Draft order: Complete list of every pick from Round 1 through Round 7

Simms Breaks Down 2023 Draft CB Rankings

The following are highlights from Simms’ CB draft rankings. For Simms’ in-depth analysis, read below for a breakdown on each prospect and be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

No. 1: Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

What Simms said: “This guy is must-see TV. He’s up there with one of the most twitchy, sudden people I’ve ever seen in my life to the point where when he takes off, you’re like, ‘Wait, is that real? Did he really get to full speed in half a step?’ … Bump or off, both are phenomenol —  it’s rare to have that. He’s got very good play strength for a guy that’s 5’11” and a half at 181 lbs. He doesn’t know that, he thinks he’s 220 … It’s efficient and easy. He’s sudden and can see the ability to accelerate whether it’s downhill or sticking the foot in the ground and changing direction. As compared to my No. 2 and No. 3 guy, he might be a hair tighter in his hips, but his twitchiness and explosion and acceleration … you just start to go, ‘What does this guy not have, besides the fact that he’s not 6’2” or over 200 lbs.’ He’s phenomenol.”

No. 2: DJ Turner, Michigan

What Simms said: “To me, (DJ Turner is) the most technically sound corner in the draft. There’s nobody better at technique. Like Witherspoon, the ability to mirror receivers at the line of scrimmage, the quick feet, it’s phenomenol. His hips are better than Witherspoon … His ability to flip those hips, turn and break on the ball, it’s right up there. It’s actually more smooth hip-wise than it is for Devon Witherspoon … What more can you say about the guy? Start-stop ability, amazing. Make-up speed, amazing. Other than Witherspoon, I think he’s put in the second-most tough spots out of anybody I’ve watched in this. He plays man-to-man, in your face a ton against big-time receivers. He’s awesome defending double moves. He could be the best nickel or outside guy, and he’s also the fastest guy in the draft. He’s got it all.”

No. 3: Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

What Simms said: “There’s not much to pick apart here … He’s got a little more size and meat on his bones. The Tee Higgins of the world, the bigger receivers of the world, they’re gonna have a harder time pushing him around and doing that stuff. He’s got incredible ball skills … He looks prototype. He looks Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey-ish in his uniform …  He just wasn’t as edgy as the other guys … He’s gonna match up better with DeAndre Hopkins than the other two. But I don’t know if he’ll match up better with Jaylen Waddle or Ja’Marr Chase than the other two … But his technique is real. He’s a top-20 pick. You talk size, technique and straight speed, of course this guy is one of the top corners in the draft.” 

No. 4: Deonte Banks, Maryland

What Simms said: “He has more measurables like Gonzalez. 6 foot, 197 lbs., there’s a thickness to him and a power and strength element that certainly jumps out. Let alone, speed is Real Deal Holyfield … man-to-man, great legs, runs easy … He’s comfortable in his speed. He’s never panicked. He’s comfortable in going, ‘You have a step on me? That’s fine, I’m good,’ … But he’s also incredible, like Witherspoon and Turner, at getting on top of people when they try to run a go-route. No one can ever really get around him for the most part … He’s sticky as hell, he’s got very good feet, but he doesn’t know how to use his hands at all yet. So he’s not really that great at jamming people at the line of scrimmage, but he’s never not there … I thought his ability to play the ball and create PBUs in those 50/50 situations where the quarterback tries to throw the ball back shoulder and all that, he’s got a great feel and vision to be able to cover and see the throw at the same time that I was very impressed with.”

No. 5: Kelee Ringo, Georgia

What Simms said: “When you turn on the film, you go, ‘What? This guy’s a corner, he’s not a safety?’ Because he has a prototype safety vibe … Against the bigger, straight-liner guys, nobody’s gonna push this dude around. That’s certainly not going to be an issue, that along with the straight speed. Hey, the change of direction stuff is not beautiful. He’s a little heavy-footed because he’s a bigger guy … but it’s not bad … When he opens up, he can really go; obviously with a 4.36 second 40 time … He’s very smooth as far as an athlete overall.” 

For more preview content of the 2023 NFL Draft, stay tuned to Chris Simms UnbuttonedProFootballTalk and NBC Sports EDGE for all the latest updates, player analysis and mock drafts.

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings: The top QBs, WRs, RBs, and more ahead of draft weekend


The 2023 NFL Draft takes place on Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29 in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here for the full first-round draft order to find out when your team is picking.

Ahead of this year’s draft, Chris Simms has already started analyzing the top prospects by position on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. So far, Simms has revealed his highly anticipated list of the top 5 quarterback prospects and wide receivers. See below to find out who made the top 5 names for each position and be sure to check back for updates!

Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL Draft as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings:

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings:

  1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  2. Bryce Young, Alabama
  3. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
  4. Anthony Richardson, Florida
  5. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA and Will Levis, Kentucky

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings:

  1. Zay Flowers, Boston College
  2. Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Ohio State
  3. Quentin Jonston, TCU
  4. Michael Wilson, Stanford
  5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Chris Simms 2023 NFL Draft Cornerback Rankings

  1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
  2. DJ Turner, Michigan
  3. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
  4. Deonte Banks, Maryland
  5. Kelee Ringo, Georgia

How can I watch the 2023 NFL Draft live?

ESPN, ABC, and NFL Network will air all seven rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

What time does the NFL Draft start?

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft will get underway on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds two and three will commence Friday at 7 p.m. ET, with Saturday’s final rounds at 12 p.m.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Season and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!