Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011
Posted 11:45 a.m.By John Mullin
Maybe it shouldnt have been a surprise but it was when Bill Belichick copped his third Coach of the Year honor. Belichicks New England Patriots finished 14-2 and pretty much had their way with virtually every opponent over the second half of the season before running afoul of the New York Jets in the playoffs (where Belichick arguably was out-coached by Rex Ryan, but voting is done before the postseason so never mind).
The head-shaker was that Belichick received 30 of the possible 50 votes to finish ahead of Raheem Morris, who guided the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to an 11-5 turnaround from 3-13.
Both were certainly impressive jobs. But Belichick was given credit for retooling the Patriots. Now, this is a team that has won no fewer than 10 games in a season since 2002 besides winning a Super Bowl in 2001. Retooling somehow doesnt work when youre starting with Tom Brady in his prime.
Morris is a reasonable part of the discussion, particularly after his team was tasked with an early season schedule that included Cleveland, Carolina, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Arizona among its first seven games, and Carolina, San Francisco and Detroit over a later six-game stretch (and Lovie Smith was getting doubts because of the Bears schedule?).
Todd Haley finished third, which isnt a bad consolation prize for losing three of your last five games.
But Smith (the Chicago one, the one who engineered a turnaround from 7-9 to 11-5), Mike Smith in Atlanta, Andy Reid in Philadelphia (who actually did retool his team in the post-Donovan McNabb era) and Steve Spagnulo (who came within a last-game loss of reaching the playoffs with a rookie quarterback after being 1-15 in 2009) each getting exactly one vote each wow.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler great Jerome Bettis dropped by Thursday on The Dan Patrick Show on Comcast SportsNet with a perspective worth watching for on Sunday in the Super Bowl.
Bettis was a teammate of a young Ben Roethlisberger when the Steelers were on the way to winning the 2005 Super Bowl over Seattle. Bettis recalled Roethlisberger getting upset with himself was he wasnt playing well in the game, and Bettis helped calm him down, with winning results.
Patrick asked Bettis if that experience was perhaps key in Roethlisberger being superbly under control in the game-winning drive in the 2008 Super Bowl, a drive which ended with Roethlisbergers pinpoint throw and epic catch by Santonio Holmes.
Bettis said immediately that it absolutely was crucial because Roethlisberger had learned that perfection on every play wasnt going to happen and wasnt the point anyway, that playing past a gaffe or poor play.
That may turn out to be a tipping point for the Green Bay Packers, who have Aaron Rodgers in his first Super Bowl in an offense that is exponentially more dependent on him playing well than the Steelers offenses have always been with Roethlisberger.
The Steelers led the NFL in sacks (48, one more than Green Bay), meaning there will be enormous pressure brought to bear on Rodgers. The Steelers also ranked No. 2 in takeaways, meaning there will be turnovers.
The key for Green Bay may be less the number of great plays that Rodgers makes than how he responds to the bad ones when they come. And they will.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.