With all the injuries and stunning comebacks, what still needs to happen for the 2013 season to go down as the finest coaching job of the Bill Belichick era?
Raj: It's been a much better season than I anticipated before September. I'm impressed despite the pattern of 2nd half comebacks. But honestly, BB has to find a way to bring back vintage Patriots football...aka blowing out the opposition by 20-30+ points. That's what I miss and want to see. Basically, have them play the way they played against the Steelers. If New England can blow out the enemy in 2 of the 3 remaining games and in the playoffs, then I think BB has done a very fine job with this 2013 Patriots team that was supposed to go through a transitioning period.
Jason: Only a Super Bowl win qualifies. That might sound a bit excessive with a roster held together with bubble gum, twine and prayers, but we're talking about a coach that has overcome significant personnel losses in the past and just kept on winning. He still has the best QB of his generation and a several playmakers at his disposal. He has set an extremely high bar.
Derek: For starters, let's look at the previous years that were particularly good for the Patriots. 2001, 2003, and 2004 are obviously up there, as they were championship years. Of the non-championship seasons, 2006 and 2008 stand out as the Patriots had a no-name receiving corps in '06 that were within a few seconds of reaching the Super Bowl, and the Patriots managed to go 11-5 despite losing Brady for the season in '08. Then again, you can't discount 2007 either with its 18-0 run.
When you step back and take it all in, it's mind-blowingly impressive what Belichick and the Pats have accomplished. So narrowing it down to one season is nearly impossible. I would personally knock 2008 off the list because the Pats didn't make the post-season, albeit due to a dumb tie-breaker. I'll take 2003 and 2004 off the list because those teams were stacked and performed accordingly. 2007is out, as the team ultimatley came up short from what should have been an achievable Super Bowl. That leaves us with 2006 and 2001, and ultimately, you have to go with '01 as the team made it to the promised land.
So in comparison with 2001, obviously a Super Bowl title would put this year on the same level. But given all of the adversity, could 2013 be considered an even better job, even if the Patriots ultimately come up short? I think if the Patriots can lock up this #1 seed, and win the AFC title game, just getting to New Jersey would make this as good of a coaching job as we've ever seen from Belichick. A Super Bowl title would make this a no-brainer.