Rare company: Patriots' Bill Belichick closing in on 300th NFL win

What is the key to Belichick's success? (1:13)

Ryan Clark, Jack Del Rio and Dianna Russini break down why Bill Belichick has been so successful as the Patriots' coach. (1:13)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots honored Rodney Harrison at halftime of their Week 6 home game, the former safety reflected on when he signed a free-agent contract with the team in 2003, crediting Bill Belichick as the catalyst.

"I'd like to thank the greatest coach to ever coach in the National Football League," Harrison said. "Coach Bill, you believed in me when everybody else turned their back on me. I love you, Coach, and I appreciate you."

Such examples of Belichick seeing things others don't and putting the pieces in place both personnel-wise and scheme-wise over his 25-year tenure as an NFL head coach have him on the cusp of an impressive milestone.

With a victory against the visiting Cleveland Browns on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS), Belichick will notch his 300th victory as a head coach (268 in the regular season, 31 in the playoffs). Only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324) have more.

That Belichick can hit the 300 mark against the franchise that gave him his first head-coaching job in 1991 reflects how dominant of a run he's had in New England. Of his 299 victories, 37 came with the Browns over five seasons.

"His time in Cleveland wasn't nearly as bad as everyone tried to portray it," said Charlie Weis, who first met Belichick when they were assistants together with the Giants and later became his offensive coordinator with the Patriots. "He gets there, they make the playoffs, beat us [in New England], and then his last year is going OK and the owner dodges out of town. They didn't throw in the towel because of Belichick but because they were moving out of town.

"But I think he learned through that experience. Everyone goes through the first experience, and there are things where you say, 'Why did I do that?' Because he's so smart, he was able to pick that all up."

"The things he has been able to do over the last 20 years will never be done again. Never. He's one of the last old-school guys. All those old-school coaches from back in the day, they're gone. His ability to have guys buy in every single year -- there's nobody else that can do that, especially today." ESPN analyst Rob Ninkovich on his former coach Bill Belichick

Official NFL records count only regular-season victories, and Shula (328) and Halas (318) top that list. But Belichick, who at 67 shows no signs of slowing down, is in hot pursuit.

"He's got great competitive stamina, and in my view he's the greatest coach of all time," quarterback Tom Brady said. "So it's a privilege to play for him, and just to see him get all of these wins, he certainly deserves it."

As Belichick's victories and hardware continue to pile up, here's a look at some of his most impressive accomplishments, with thoughts from those who know him best about the secrets to his sustained excellence.

The victories

He will become the third NFL head coach to win 300 games including the postseason. Only four have even reached 250.

Tony Dungy, the former Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach, who is now an analyst on NBC's "Football Night in America," on the difficulty of reaching 300 victories: "As a coach, I know how hard it is to win 10 games in a year. That was always kind of a milestone, to say, 'We'll get in the playoffs if we win 10.' When you think of 10 for 30 years, it's hard to believe. Just a fantastic accomplishment."

Weis, on what he thinks puts Belichick among the elite coaches: "I've said this so many times, it comes down to two words -- insight and foresight. There are a whole bunch of things I could talk about, how he's a historian of the game and all that stuff. But let's start with insight. I've never been around a guy who always was as prepared as he was. Not just intelligence. I'm talking about preparation. I've been around a lot of good coaches, Hall of Fame coaches, but no one with his preparedness on a daily basis. Always being one step ahead.

"That same methodology comes true in foresight. While he's doing things today, he's thinking about tomorrow, and the next week, and the next month, and the next year, and three years from now. One of the reasons the Patriots have been able to thrive for such a sustained period of time is that he's always thinking down the road."

Matthew Slater, the current Patriots special-teams captain on Belichick's passion: "There are a thousand things that make him a top coach, but the thing that really stands out to me is his love for the game of football. I think that fuels everything he does. It's football around the clock with him.

"He's constantly thinking of ways to make this football team better. His ability to prepare is second to none. There are certain things that maybe you've never even thought about that he's making sure to cover with our football team each and every day. Obviously when you've done it as long as he has, there's a list of things that make him special. It's an honor to play for Coach."

The division titles


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He is the only NFL coach to lead his team to 10 consecutive division titles. He's won a record 16 overall.

Rob Ninkovich, the former Patriots outside linebacker and defensive end (2009-16), now a football analyst at ESPN, on the consistency of Belichick's approach: "You always know what to expect. That's the one thing he tries to explain to us -- you have to be consistent and it starts with every single day, putting in work to where you're building something. When you're starting out in [the] offseason, and you're starting out in OTAs and minicamp, you're building from the ground up. You start the new season and everyone is at the same point. And every single nail that you put into that building process is going to make you stronger as the season progresses. That's the consistency of every day that he stresses, and that has helped that streak [of division titles]. He has set the example of consistency for the players, and in return, the players are consistently preparing and getting themselves ready to be the best team they can be, not just in one season but multiple seasons."

Dungy: "I first got to know Bill when I played for the Giants for about two months, and he was the special-teams coach for Ray Perkins. That's where I first got to meet him and see how meticulous he was, very detail-oriented, and what a teacher he was on technique. Usually when you rise up the ranks -- become a coordinator and then a head coach -- you start thinking more big picture, X's and O's, and controlling the team. But you can see from watching his teams play that he still has that attention to detail as a head coach."

Tony La Russa, one of Belichick's longtime friends and a Hall of Fame baseball manager, described it this way on a visit to Patriots training camp a few years ago: "I believe his ability and his staff's ability and his team's ability to start at zero every year -- refuse to think about last year -- is an important part of why they are so consistent. It's easy to celebrate the next year. The ability to turn the clock to zero is really impressive and very hard."

Weis, on the competition in the AFC East: "That works both ways now. Right now, there might not be as much talent in the division, but that hasn't always been the case. There are a lot of years when there was plenty of talent in the division. They're just better than everyone else. Every day is the same. It's Groundhog Day. That's the best way to describe it."

The postseason wins

He holds the NFL record for postseason victories with 31. He broke Tom Landry's record with his 21st when the Patriots defeated the Colts in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 18, 2015.

Dungy, on Belichick's game plans: "He has the great ability, and his teams had it, to have a completely different game plan. When we played them in the playoffs, that was one thing we always talked about with our players. We said, 'We're going to have to adjust after the first quarter. We're going to show you some things we think they're going to do, but they probably aren't going to do these.' They might have been four wide receivers the whole playoffs, but then they come in against you with three tight ends and pound the ball, because they think that's your weakness. Or vice versa. You saw [Monday night], a ton of these all-out blitzes. They may play next week and not blitz at all. To me, that's kind of the genius of Bill Belichick -- to not only be able to come up with those plans but to be able to execute them when they change week in and week out."

Ninkovich, on an example of how Belichick's postseason experience manifests itself: "Before we played Seattle for the Super Bowl [in the 2014 season], he was talking to the team. He said: 'If at any point in this game you start to think beyond the next play, if you start to think about after the game, if you look at the score and think about what could possibly be if we win this game, stop and go right back to where you're at and focus on the play that you're about to play. Every single play is a new play and an opportunity to execute and do your job. Because if you don't do that, and your mind starts to wander from what the task is at hand, you're not going to be able to execute.'

"That really resonated with me, because in 2011 when we lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl, I can remember looking at the scoreboard and thinking, 'We're going to do this! We're going to win!' And we lost. So when he said that before the Seattle game, I was like, 'I remember doing that in the Super Bowl, because it's so hard not to look at the score and think about the outcome.' So for him to say that, that made a big impact for me as a player."

The 10-win seasons


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He holds the NFL record for consecutive seasons with at least 10 victories (16). He might extend the streak to 17 before Thanksgiving.

Brady, on how Belichick's sustained success doesn't surprise him: "His consistency, dependability, all of those things we talk about in a great player, it's the same thing in a great coach. His dependability, what he brings to work every day and his commitment to our team, I don't think you can ask for anything more than that as a player."

Weis, on how Belichick doesn't allow for selfishness: "He's better than anyone I've ever seen who has been able to get people to check their egos at the door. This is an ego-driven business now. For example, assistant coaches always bitch about the head coach. 'Can you believe he's doing this? Can you believe he's doing that?' He doesn't tolerate that. He'd let anyone go if he felt they weren't on board. I think that's what separates him. He's Steady Eddy. He makes every decision with a stern, full-speed-ahead approach. You know what you're getting and you know what the response is going to be. When a young player does something, the players don't have to wonder what's going to happen. They already can hear the answer and response before he even opens his mouth."

The rings

He is tied for the most NFL championships with six.

Dungy, on Belichick's ability to avoid complacency: "You win five championships, six championships. You win 10 games for 15 years in a row. What is the motivation? Many people can't sustain that. For him, I think it's always been the next game and how can I make this team a little bit better for the next game. To keep that motivation for so long is pretty unbelievable."

Ninkovich: "The things he has been able to do over the last 20 years will never be done again. Never. He's one of the last old-school guys. All those old-school coaches from back in the day, they're gone. His ability to have guys buy in every single year -- there's nobody else that can do that, especially today.

"Today's football player is completely different than 10 years ago. [Belichick's] ability to do that now is even more impressive, I think, than 10 years ago -- to get guys that are young, that are young and older, and [bring] them together. I think the one thing I learned in my time in New England is Bill's ability to put a team together that plays together -- and they win together."