Bill Belichick in vintage form as he prepares for Ravens
The room was crowded with reporters and television cameras, all awaiting Bill Belichick's news conference in advance of Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Baltimore Ravens. And in walks the Patriots coach, looking very much like the rumpled genius we've come to know through the years: wearing his trademark cutoff sweatshirt with the "Patriots" logo on the chest, sweatpants and tousled hair.
Vintage Belichick looking as if he'd just emerged from yet another tape session trying to decipher any edge he can gain against an opponent -- in this case the Ravens in a rematch of last year's conference title game.
So it's no wonder Belichick was in no mood to reflect on the extraordinary accomplishments of his career, which include five Super Bowl appearances, five championship rings (including the two he won as the Giants' defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells), and now his seventh appearance in the AFC Championship Game. And add one more achievement to a dossier packed with Hall of Fame credentials: After Andy Reid was fired by the Eagles, Belichick is now the NFL's longest-tenured coach with the same team.
No matter. The guy wasn't interested in talking legacy, or the fact that he's the last man standing in a league where coaching turnover is at a record pace. This season, for example, eight of the league's 32 coaches were fired. That's a 25-percent attrition rate in one shot.
"I'm just trying to think about the Ravens," said Belichick, the Patriots' coach since 2000. "We're trying to get ready to win the AFC Championship Game. I'm not really too concerned about how long anybody has or has been with any other team, or how long I've been here, or anything else. I don't really care about any of that, with all due respect."
So no thoughts about where he might end up in NFL history?
"Right now I'm trying to beat the Ravens," Belichick said. "That's where our football team's challenge is. That's what we're focused on. The rest of it is for another time and another place."
And so it goes for the future Hall of Fame coach, who is once more a step away from the Super Bowl. In a league where parity routinely sends even the most successful teams into rebuilding phases, the Patriots have remained a contending team throughout Belichick's tenure.
Say what you will about Tom Brady being the biggest reason for the Patriots' success -- and there's no denying how essential he has been to the team's incredible run -- but Belichick's presence is equally indispensable. Spygate a blight on the resume? Undoubtedly. But still not enough to negate the overall brilliance of his career.
A genius on defensive tactics, no doubt. His work with the Giants and Patriots is at a level very few can even approach. But he's also a savant on offense, even if Brady -- a future Hall of Famer himself -- is the one at the controls. Belichick constantly is tinkering with the offense, going so far as to consult with former Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who was hired Wednesday to be the Eagles' coach, and incorporating elements of the Ducks' offense into the Patriots' attack.
But he isn't into the plaudits. For Belichick, the ring's the thing.