2018 Super Bowl Wagering Advice: Handicapping the Coaching Matchup
I would suggest that there is nothing that determines the fate of an NFL team more than a head coach - with a starting quarterback being a close second. And in a game as important and stressful as this one the difference can often come down to coaches making decisions -- just ask the Seahawks about the impact a bad choice can have or the Falcons about what failing to adapt at the half or adjust to overcome a collapse can do to a game. It only makes sense, then, that we spend some time comparing the coaches in this game. As is always the case when Belichick is involved, we have a disparity in experience here between Bill Belichick and Doug Pederson:
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Career: These two men are obviously at very different points in their careers. When Belichick took the job with the Patriots in 2000, Pederson was with the Browns - as a backup quarterback. He spent on season there and then four more in a second stint with the Packers before retiring after the 2004 season. He then went and coached a high school team for four years before joining the Eagles as a quality control coordinator - one of the lowest rungs on the pro coaching ladder - for two years. He then spent two years as quarterbacks coach. So, Pederson didn't take his first, and so far only, coordinator position until 2013 in Kansas City. That's a full 38 years after Belichick took his first NFL assistant job in 1975 - when Pederson was still in second grade. Pederson spent three years in Kansas City under Andy Reid and then returned to Philadelphia for the head job last year. He was just 7-9 in his debut working with a rookie QB in Carson Wentz. Pederson surely gets some of the credit for the huge leap forward Wentz took this year until his injury.
Bill Belichick's career story is far more familiar. His most success as a coordinator came with the Giants, where he won two Super Bowls as defensive coordinator. He left there to become head coach at Cleveland, and that went only slightly better than it ever goes for any head coach of the Browns. He was 36-44 and made the playoffs only once, winning as a wild card before losing the second game. He took the job in New England in 2000 in very odd circumstances - he had been named the head coach of the Jets but resigned just before his introductory press conference - one day after he was hired - and spent that time instead explaining his departure. And his time in New England, where he replaced Pete Carroll, has obviously been legendary. His first season, when he went 5-11, was the only season with less than nine wins, and he has only had less than 11 wins four times in 18 years. He has won the AFC East 15 times, including the last nine straight. His winning percentage in the playoffs (27-9, .750) is even better than his regular-season winning percentage. He played in his 12th AFC Championship Game this year, including the last seven, and is vying for his sixth Super Bowl as a head coach. I could go on and on, but the point is clear - he is ridiculously good at what he does.
Super Bowl experience: There is obviously a significant difference here as well. Belichick has won the game seven times, and he lost to the Giants two other times. He knows more about playing in this game, and preparing a team for it, than any other coach on the planet. Pederson's story is a little different. He did win a Super Bowl as a player with the Packers, though he was the third-string QB that year, appearing in only one game and registering no stats. And as a coordinator with the Chiefs Pederson won just one playoff game, so he never got any experience even close to what he is going through right now.
Familiarity with each other: For guys who have been in the league for as long as they have, they remarkably have had little overlap. They have never been on the same team, and their coaching trees haven't overlapped significantly. One of Pederson's 17 career starts at quarterback came with the Browns against Belichick's Patriots in 2000 - Pederson won 19-11 despite averaging just 3.7 yards per attempt. This is the first time they have met as head coaches.
Public affection: This is an interesting one. The public is obviously dramatically more familiar with Belichick than Pederson, but the veteran coach is also dramatically more polarizing than the rival here. People might be enthusiastic about Pederson, and many people will be neutral about him, but it would be very tough at this point to have a strong feeling against him - he just hasn't done enough to make people angry. With Belichick, on the other hand, there are people who respect and admire him and those who just respect him, and there are also countless millions who hate everything about him.
Assistants: The edge here is significantly on the side of the Patriots as well. Belichick is going to battle one more time with OC Josh McDaniels and DC Matt Patricia. McDaniels has won all five New England Super Bowls with Belichick, including the last two as offensive coordinator. Patricia has won three Super Bowls with the Patriots as well - the last two as DC, and the first as an offensive assistant. And there is plenty of other experience - like offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who won the first three Super Bowls with Belichick, retired in 2013, and then returned last year. This staff knows what they need to do to get ready for this game. Pederson doesn't have the same luxury to offset his inexperience. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz lost his only playoff game as a head coach, and he had little more experience as an assistant - though he was a quality control assistant for the 1999 Titans that went to the Super Bowl and lost to the Rams. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich has Super Bowl experience he'd rather forget - he was the backup QB in Buffalo for all four of their consecutive Super Bowl losses.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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