FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill Belichick said Tuesday that being part of the blue-ribbon panel to select the NFL 100 All-Time Team has not only made him a better coach but also motivated him during his 45th season.
“I learned a lot. I watched a lot of film of players in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and the ’60s — quite a bit of that over the summer and last spring, and it was very enlightening in studying the great players in different eras and how the game was played,” he said, taking a rare break from his usually laser-focused approach on the New England Patriots‘ next opponent to elaborate on what he called a “great experience.”
The NFL 100 All-Time Team is part of the NFL’s celebration of its 100th season and is a roster of 100 players and 10 coaches.
The process to select the team began in early 2018 with the appointment of a 26-person panel made up of coaches, team and front-office executives, former players and members of the media.
“The interaction with some of the great people that are on the panel and their insights — people like Ron Wolf and John Madden — sparked me to go back and look more closely at some of the things they brought up and enlightened me on,” the 67-year-old Belichick said. “The whole process was great and, I think, in a way, definitely made me a better coach from the things that I’ve learned. It was a very great honor to be a part of it, very educational, informative, and I would say motivating to indulge those in the process.”
NFL Films has produced a six-part series to unveil the team, with the first segment having aired Friday on NFL Network to introduce the top 12 running backs.
Belichick joined host Rich Eisen and Cris Collinsworth on the program and will be part of the next five segments as well. The first show included roundtable interviews with team members Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders.
“Actually being able to talk to some of those players and get their perspective and reflections on the game and other aspects of their career and life, that was great,” Belichick said.
Belichick enjoyed talking about early-era running backs to make the team, such as Earl “Dutch” Clark (1931-38), Steve Van Buren (1944-1951), Marion Motley (1946-1955) and Lenny Moore (1956-1967).
His research on their careers and others brought him back in time. One of the things that stood out to Belichick was “two-way football.”
“It’s all just continuous film. It’s not really broken up into offense and defense. That didn’t start until a little bit later in the ’60s. The earlier games, it’s just sequential, so you’re watching guys go both ways and both sides of the ball,” he said. “I learned a lot about the players, a lot about the history and how things evolved.”
The NFL 100 All-Time Team will include 10 coaches, with Paul Brown and Belichick announced as two of the initial selections.
As for Belichick’s current Patriots team, it is atop the AFC with a 10-1 record and visits the Houston Texans on Sunday night. Although Belichick usually doesn’t stray far from talking about his team’s next game, he made an exception Tuesday when asked about the NFL 100 All-Time Team.
“It’s reinforced some things and also opened my eyes to some other areas of coaching on certain fundamental things that I think are critical to the foundation of successful plays, successful teams and successful football,” he said.