CLEVELAND — Young coaches in the NFL through the years often have talked of the admiration they have for Bill Belichick and the legacy he has carved in the league.
Sunday afternoon, following a Patriots win over the Browns in which the New England coach tied George Halas for second place all time in wins (324), Belichick reflected on his role models as he was climbing the coaching ranks.
“George Halas, Paul Brown they were my idols,” said Belichick, who began his coaching career as an assistant in Baltimore in 1975 and who has a well-chronicled, deep appreciation of the history of the game. “Coach Halas was a friend of my dad’s, ton of respect for [him] and the McCaskey family, and what he did for professional football. He and his peer, Paul Brown, and others like them, paved the way for us as coaches and paved the way for the National Football League to grow to what it is today.”
The Patriots have many players who are actively involved in social justice and inequality issues, and before the team boarded the buses to leave the stadium, Belichick, who received his first head coaching stint in Cleveland in 1991, suggested they go back on the field and acknowledge a few significant names on the Browns Ring of Honor.
“I told them after the game how important five of those names are; the Mount Rushmore of this conversation,” said Belichick, citing Paul Brown, the former Cleveland coach, for “re-integrating the NFL” and including Bill Willis, Marion Motley, Ozzie Newsome and Jim Brown “who stands above everyone in terms of what he’s done for equality and what he was as a football player.
“I told them they should go out there and just think for a minute about some of the sacrifices those guys made. Not just on the field and as players, but as people and what they stood for.’’
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Scott Thurston can be reached at email@example.com.