ATLANTA – I get it. Everybody loves the young guy.
He’s new, he’s fresh. He has the dynamic good looks, featuring great hair that stands at attention, to go along with the dynamic personality. The beaming smile and high-energy voice can light up a room. And his team reflects his persona, with an offense that is quick-striking and explosive.
At the tender age of 33, Sean McVay is so much of an “in thing” as an NFL coach that owners of other teams want their version of him. Worked for or with McVay? You’re hired. Know him casually? You’ll probably get an interview.
Here’s the problem with “McVay Mania.” It has created the illusion that besides getting better production out of a top young quarterback – as he has with Jared Goff – he also possesses the chops to guide his Los Angeles Rams to victory in Super Bowl LIII.
Not so fast.
Not with Bill Belichick on the other side of the field in Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday.
I get it. Everybody hates Belichick.
He has plenty of gray in his hair, which droops to the side and is thinning. There are age lines all over a 66-year-old face that does far more scowling, sometimes through that grim-reaper hoodie, than smiling. He looks and sounds surly and smug in front of cameras and microphones. He speaks on a monotone voice that, if played on a loop, would be an effective form of torture.
Belichick is the very definition of the term, “familiarity breeds contempt.” You’re tired of always seeing his New England Patriots win. You’re disgusted that they always go home with that Tiffany trophy. You simply want him to go away and take Tom Brady with him.
This isn’t just part of what it means to be a frustrated fan of the Buffalo Bills. The rest of the AFC East and NFL followers everywhere have long experienced the pain and nausea associated with “Belichick-itis.”
Great coach? You won’t give him that. No one can possibly be good enough to lead his team to nine Super Bowls and win five. Belichick’s success is a combination of luck and cheating.
Or so goes the common refrain.
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ll be seeing Belichick, again, at the top of that podium Sunday hoisting the silver piece of hardware named after Vince Lombardi but probably should be renamed after the greatest coach of them all – the guy you love to hate.
The Kid doesn’t stand a chance against The Master.
McVay is a superb coach. He’s done amazing work in a mere two seasons as a head coach, turning around a Rams team that was a rudderless ship under Jeff Fisher. Not only did he turn Goff into a star, but he also made necessary adjustments to his offense that went from leaning so heavily on its quarterback to incorporating a balanced running game.
Nevertheless, Belichick is the better coach. It isn’t merely because he’s 33 years older, although that is actually a plus when it comes to coaching.
“He’s bringing vast experience and he's got a lot of players,” former New York Giants quarterback and CBS studio analyst Phil Simms said. “The difference is, he's got a lot of players that can do it in a lot of different ways because he's taught them that. Sean McVay hasn't had enough time to teach a group of 10 players to do special things for their team that we don't know.”
Just as with the 41-year-old Brady, Belichick hasn’t allowed age or success to cause him to take any shortcuts in his preparation or be any less driven to be the best than he was after the Brady-Belichick combo won their first Super Bowl 17 years ago.
Belichick will have an offensive game plan that takes advantage of the Rams’ struggles against the run with a heavy dose of Sony Michel. As brilliant a defensive coordinator as Wade Phillips might be, the persistent ground attack will slow down the Rams’ pass rush and help open things up for Brady to connect for chain-moving and game-breaking passes to Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.
Belichick’s defensive scheme will lure Goff into attempting what will look like safe throws against man-to-man coverage, but actually have defenders lurking in the weeds to emerge at the last second to make an interception or knock the ball to the ground. The Patriots will do a sufficient job of making Goff uncomfortable with a variety of pressure packages.
The Rams are going to see things from the Patriots’ offense, defense and special teams that didn’t show up on any of the videotape they studied.
What makes Belichick such a great coach?
“It's a desire to be prepared,” former NFL quarterback and CBS studio analyst Boomer Esiason said. “I mean, even at the parade,” after the Patriots won Super Bowl LI, “when you think a guy could just let loose, it was, ‘No days off!’ I mean, come on. Can’t we just enjoy ourselves for just a week?”
Sorry. Joylessness is how The Master likes it.