By Nick Shook | NFL.com
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Bill Belichick has long been known as a man of few words.
That alone made Tuesday’s Media Day performance a rarity. The coach who commonly mumbles and grumbles his way through weekly news conferences donned a hint of a smile while approaching his podium inside US Airways Center in Phoenix, serving as a hint that he would be a bit more expansive on a wide array of subjects, including his favorite type of stuffed animal.
But when asked about Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, the Super Bowl-winning czar of the Patriots was effusive in his comments on his relationship with his counterpart in Super Bowl XLIX.
“Good. Great,” Belichick said. “Not a coach in the NFL I respect more than Pete Carroll. He’s a tremendous coach. He and I have kind of come up together in roughly the same era. We’ve both been defensive coordinators, we’ve both been head coaches.
“I have a ton of respect for what Pete does as a coach, how good of a fundamental teacher he is, the way his teams play. I’ve studied him from afar — we’ve never worked together. Studied Pete from afar over a long period of time. I’ve learned a lot from what he does, and indirectly, I think he’s made me a better coach. I have all the respect in the world for Pete and his staff.”
It’s high praise for any coach to readily admit that one of his peers has helped make him better at his profession; it’s another thing entirely for a reserved man like Belichick, winner of three Super Bowls, to commend his opponent in such a manner.
As out-of-character as it is for Belichick to offer such a volume of complimentary words toward an opposing coach, it shouldn’t come as a massive surprise. The two share similar career paths, and similar philosophies when it comes to building and coaching teams with a goal of maintaining a high level of success.
Both Belichick and Carroll enforce an expectation of excellence, and aren’t afraid to part ways with those who don’t live up to it. The two also emphasize fundamentals over flash, an approach that has worked, as evidenced by their return to the Super Bowl.
The response also adds a layer to the Carroll-New England narrative, as the Seahawks coach faces his former team in football’s biggest game. Belichick, the man who replaced Carroll, rebounded from a difficult first head coaching gig with the Cleveland Browns to build one of the NFL’s modern dynasties in the Patriots.
Carroll needed a trip back to the college ranks to refresh and refine his abilities before returning to a league led in the coaching ranks by Belichick. Carroll proved his worth, winning a Super Bowl with Seattle last season.
Now, with respect shared between the two men manning each sideline and at least one Lombardi on each of their resumes, lies an opportunity for one to get a leg up on the other — but no matter who emerges victorious, he will have the other to thank in part for the journey leading to the winning podium.