Belichick's genius was hidden in Cleveland

February 01, 2005|by TIM KOELBLE

When Bill Belichick was head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 1991 to '95, he spent countless hours talking to Hall of Famer Jim Brown. They'd talk about all the things that go into making an NFL team a winner, just like the Browns were in their heyday.

In fact, Belichick said last week in a postgame conference relative to the New England Patriots making another Super Bowl appearance that "a lot of the things we do today are things I did when I was in Cleveland, the same things that Paul Brown did."

Well, Mr. Belichick, there's one important aspect that you forgot while you spent five miserable seasons in Cleveland - WIN!

Granted, he managed to pull off one playoff appearance in 1994, managing a victory over his organization of the future, beating New England in the Wild Card round. That year was his only winning season (11-5) in five tumultuous years on the Lakefront under the ownership of Art Modell, and those two didn't really act like big brothers together as the years wore on before Modell picked up and moved to Baltimore.


To watch Bill Belichick, as I did living in the Cleveland area for so long, it is amazing to us Browns fans that he has succeeded, going for a third Super Bowl ring with the Patriots on Sunday.

In Cleveland, he was gruff with the media, often showing up for press conferences looking like he had just come out of the wilderness, where many of us eventually wished he would have stayed.

In 1993, he personally determined that fan-favorite Bernie Kosar was quickly becoming a quarterback of "diminished skills." That fervor caused quite a stir in Cleveland, one that Belichick managed to keep his head above water on until the demise of the Browns in 1995.

Belichick has been labeled an innovator and one who has built his reputation on defense. His game plans are never the same week to week. All you need to do is ask the Indianapolis Colts how they feel about the New England defense two weeks ago. He devises a defensive plan and then his coordinator, Romeo Crennel, goes out and executes it.

Guess who is the leading candidate to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns? Uh huh.

Going even one step further, Belichick's offensive coordinator is Charlie Weis, who soon will be 100 percent devoted to Notre Dame.

After Belichick wins his third Super Bowl ring Sunday, we'll see in the years to come if it is all his own wizardry once he has new coordinators on both sides of line of scrimmage.

I mean, the guy has been around football all of his life. His father was a scout at Navy and he got his first job 27 years ago in the NFL.

He joked in the same conference last week: "Maybe I'd like to think I learned a little bit over the last few years."

My question to Belichick is: "Why couldn't you have been preaching all these successful schemes and brought a Super Bowl to Cleveland?"

Tom Koelble is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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