Following the New England Patriots' 38-15 win in Cleveland on Sunday, coach Bill Belichick suggested some of his players go back out onto the field at FirstEnergy Stadium and look at some of the names in the Browns' Ring of Honor that circles the bowl.
With a locker room full of men who are active in social justice and causes for racial equality, Belichick felt five names in particular represented more than just Cleveland football greats, but individuals who changed the game in that regard. This reflection was the latest history lesson given by the longtime head coach about the league.
What he didn't mention, though, was that the victory helped Belichick get closer to making history himself. With the Week 6 win he earned the 324th win of his head coaching career, tying George Halas for the second-most of all time.
Matthew Judon: "He really didn't bring it up. He didn't bring it up and nobody told us."
Jalen Mills: I don't know if everybody knew about it, but I knew about it. Somebody took that last knee. I gave coach a high five and a hug and told him congratulations. I mean, that's big. He is a part of history and he deserves it.
Matthew Slater: "We didn't talk about it because he tied, but hopefully we get a chance to celebrate him pulling into second place by himself sooner rather than later. Unbelievable what he's done, and I think it's only fitting that we're here in Cleveland, the place that ran him out. I think he's, all these years later, proven that he's the best to have ever done it."
Belichick's head coaching career began in Cleveland in 1991 following his departure from the New York Giants, and he took over the Patriots in 2000.
On the way to Sunday's milestone win came six super bowls, three AP NFL Coach of the Year awards, and a 324-159 career record. Belichick was bashful in acknowledging his own achievement.
Bill Belichick: "You can't win games in this league with good players, so I've been very fortunate to have coached a lot of great players and have a lot of great coaches on my staff through the years. A lot of those guys have gone on to have tremendous careers, and the players, obviously, many of them are (in the) Patriots Hall of Fame, NFL Hall of Fame or are going to be. Winning games in this league is about having good players and I've been very fortunate to have a lot of them. I had them at New York, had them at Cleveland, and I've had them here."
As much as Belichick will blame the quality of players he's had for his success, the ones he drafted and developed had to weigh in.
Deatrich Wise Jr.: "I'm very excited for him getting that milestone. Every year he's achieving something new and that's wonderful. As a player I think it's very cool to be coached by a legendary coach like himself."
David Andrews: "I think it's huge. It's a lot of hard work. I've never played for another head coach. He obviously gave me my start in this league so I have so much respect for him and gratitude to be standing here today talking to you eight years later. He's a great football coach. I have a lot of respect for him and I really enjoy playing for him. It's tough sometimes but it's because he wants what's best for us."
Even for those who didn't come up in the NFL playing home games at Gillette Stadium, the head coach's reputation has helped in recruiting.
Belichick's lure has brought handfuls of free agents to New England over the years, all seeking the chance to absorb his knowledge of the game.
Jalen Mills: "The reason why I'm wearing a Patriots uniform. The reason why I signed here -- wanting to be coached by if not the best, one the best coaches to ever do it. Just learning from him, learning the game from him, I think that's the biggest thing for me."
Jonnu Smith: "Going back to last year and free agency, when I knew I had the opportunity to become a Patriot it was a no brainer for me. Not just because it's a historical franchise and all the wins -- all that is great, you know? But coach Belichick, he's such a football mind. Kind of like a football maniac, and I just knew that I was going to learn the game from a different set of eyes, a different perspective. Being able to take that in, as a football player, as a competitor, as a student of the game, that meant a lot to me. He's a hell of a coach, but just a great person. He always gives us no presentations on the history of the game and I appreciate that. Some guys may be falling asleep, but the guy, when he gets to rambling on about, you know, 'these are the first guys that invented this formation' -- it blows you away how much he knows. Like I said, just being around him and being able to see the game from his perspective, that was a good deal right there."
The longest-tenured head coach had a lot to say Sunday, telling his team about all Cleveland greats like Jim Brown, Marion Motley, Ozzie Newsome, Bill Willis and Paul Brown did for Black men and the sport of football.
Before departing the stadium, Belichick had team buses detour to see the Jim Brown statue outside of FirstEnergy Stadium one more time. Next week against Chicago on Monday Night Football, he'll have the chance to surpass Bears coaching great George Halas to trail only Don Shula in all-time wins.
Bill Belichick: "George Halas, Paul Brown -- I probably shouldn't be included with them. That's what I think. They were my idols. ... They paved the way for us as coaches and paved the way for the National Football League to grow to what it was today. They laid down a lot of the building blocks."