Even Joe Montana Couldn’t Figure Out Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick has faced every great offense and every great quarterback of the last 30 years. He has pretty much shut all of them down. If you weren’t already sure of his greatness (despite the 9 total Super Bowl appearances) then let the following provide you with a little more evidence.

Joe Montana is widely regarded as the best quarterback ever to play the game. He’s also considered the greatest big-game quarterback in NFL history. He played in 4 Super Bowls, winning them all. He won 3 Super Bowl MVPs. The only game where he didn’t win the MVP was in Super Bowl XXIII against the Bengals. All he did in that game was lead a 92-yard game winning drive and throw the go-ahead touchdown pass with 34 seconds left. He was 23-36 for a then Super Bowl record 357 yards with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. In his 4 Super Bowl wins, Montana fired 11 touchdown passes without any interceptions. Yet even he couldn’t crack the Belichick code.

Against the Giants in the playoffs with Belichick as the defensive coordinator, the greatest big-game quarterback of all time was 0-3. His high-powered offense scored just 19 points in 3 games. Montana completed 59.1% of his passes and threw just one touchdown. He also threw 3 interceptions and his passer rating was a paltry 68.6. The Giants beat him up physically in these games, knocking him out of two of them.

What about the big 3 quarterbacks from the 1983 NFL Draft – John Elway, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly? Dan Marino never played against Belichick in the playoffs. He did face him 9 times throughout his career though, once when Belichick was the defensive coordinator of the Giants, twice when he was the head coach of the Browns, and 6 times when he was the defensive coordinator of the Jets from 1997-99. Marino was 4-5 against Belichick with 10 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions, and a meager 73.7 passer rating.

John Elway fared a bit better than Marino did. He was 1-1 against Belichick in the playoffs, but completed less than 50% of his passes. He lost Super Bowl XXI to the Giants in 1986, but defeated the Jets in the 1998 AFC Championship. Elway was actually 5-3 in his career against Belichick (although 4 of those wins came when Belichick was the Browns Head Coach – Elway always beats the Browns). However, his Broncos only averaged 18.8 points per game over those 8 contests.

Jim Kelly was knocked out of his first game against Belichick. In his only other game, Super Bowl XXV, the Bills were held to just 19 points after scoring 51 the week before against the Raiders in the AFC Championship. Here is where we get into Belichick’s ability to shut down the best offensive systems of the last 30 years.

The 49ers’ West Coast Offense was revolutionary in the 80’s. We already documented how Belichick’s Giants defense was able to shut them down. The Bills’ no-huddle offense of the early 90’s was nearly unstoppable, especially in its early stages. Heading into Super Bowl XXV, few thought the Giants would be able to stop a team that dropped 50+ against the Raiders a week earlier. The Giants did though. They emphasized punishing the Bills’ receivers so as to limit yards after the catch, which was what made Buffalo so dangerous. The Giants conceded the run, and often rushed the quarterback with just 2 or 3 defenders. In true Belichickian style, the Giants tried to take away what the opposing team did best, and they came out on top (with a little help from the Giants’ ball control offense).

Fast-forward 11 years to 2001 and the next big thing on offense – the St. Louis Rams and the “Greatest Show on Turf” led by Kurt Warner. This offense scored 500+ points in 3 straight seasons and had already won a Super Bowl 2 years prior. According to most experts, Belichick’s 11-5 New England Patriots didn’t stand a chance against them in Super Bowl XXXVI.

However, once again, Belichick employed an unconventional tactic designed specifically for that week’s opponent. He had his defensive ends hit Marshall Faulk every time he tried to run a route out of the backfield. This was a huge part of the offense, and disrupting it threw off the timing of the Rams’ passing attack. Additionally, the Patriots played a lot of snaps with 7 defensive backs. The point here was to get speed on the field. They wanted to close passing windows, limit yards after the catch, and pound St. Louis’ receivers. New England ended up generating a pick-6 and 17 points off of turnovers. They limited the greatest offense of that time to just 17 points.

Belichick’s success against Peyton Manning, another all-time great quarterback, is well documented. Manning is 10-13 against Bill Belichick-coached teams with just an 85.2 passer rating. Manning has actually fared better than the previously mentioned legends of the quarterback position. But his offenses have not operated at the same high level against Belichick as they have against other teams.

So let’s recap. Bill Belichick has made a living out of making the best quarterbacks and offenses ever to play the game miserable. He shut down Joe Montana and the West Coast Offense, the best quarterbacks from the 1983 NFL Draft, the 1990 Buffalo Bills and their no-huddle offense, the St. Louis Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf, and the best offense of the first decade of this century in the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts. Throw in 5 Super Bowl rings and you’ve got a resume that is pretty difficult to top.

If you still don’t think Bill Belichick is the best coach of all time, that’s fine (Did we mention that 3-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Troy Aikman was 1-6 with a 66.1 passer rating in his career against Belichick?). What can’t be denied is that Belichick has gone toe to toe with the best the NFL has to offer and won the majority of the time. He has adapted to the game as it has evolved over the last three decades, and he has stymied football’s greatest offensive inventions. The NFL has changed drastically during this time, but one constant has remained – Bill Belichick continues to win.